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Dan Calabrese
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December 25, 2006

No Santa, No Problem


Santa Claus has never been to my house. Actually, Santa Claus has never been to anyone’s house, but I’ll just deal with my own domain.


For the seventh Christmas of his life, Tony Calabrese woke up this year without the excitement and wide-eyed wonderment brought on by the thought of a globe-traversing fat dude coming down our chimney and bringing him toys.


I keep meaning to enroll him in therapy to deal with his heartbreak over this terrible deprivation, but since he keeps bouncing out of bed every day as a perfectly happy, well-adjusted boy, it strikes me as a serious waste of money.


No, Virginia, Tony has never believed in Santa Claus. He has never been fed the fable. It gets even worse. On Christmas morning at the Calabrese house, the opening of gifts has never been much of a focal point, and in recent years it has faded into a virtual non-event. In fact, if you promise not to tell anyone, I’ll let you in on a little secret.


Promise? OK. We didn’t even put up a tree this year.


Actually this is not such a big deal for me. In my bachelor days, which lasted until I turned 30, I never had a tree in any of my various bachelor pads. My wife has always put one up, which is fine with me, but this year things have been a bit harried and she decided she couldn’t be bothered.


Tony doesn’t seem to care one way or the other, so long as I’m willing to play ball with him in the living room and buy him French fries.


We decided before Tony was born that he would never be told there is a Santa Claus, simply because feeding him this line would go against everything else our family says (always tell the truth), does (very little emphasis on materialism and “stuff”) and believes (Christmas is about the birth of Christ).


What’s more, he has plenty of stuff. His grandmother buys him clothes without even being asked. He gets more toys at every birthday party than he will ever find time to play with (or than I will ever have a big enough house to find room for).


He also has plenty of fun. Whether it’s games, toys, Cub Scouts, post-Tiger game rituals or tickling, the child is hardly lacking for merriment.


But most importantly, he is starting to get a pretty good grasp – at the tender age of six – of the fact that we celebrate a savior who came to redeem us from any number of ungodly habits, and that one of them is loving our stuff more than we love God.


How exactly does that jibe with some fat dude coming into your house and bringing you an X-box because you picked up your clothes, which you’re supposed to do anyway? It doesn’t, especially when the fat dude isn’t real and the savior born in the stable is real.


The hardest thing about being a no-Santa family – and believe me, it’s not that hard – is the assumption some folks make that you’re somehow preventing your child from having fun. This makes me wonder how their children possibly handle life the other 364 days of the year, when, tragically, no overstuffed elf is landing in their fireplace and bringing them racetracks.


There is also the issue, of course, of what happens if our clued-in son inadvertently spills the beans to a playmate whose parents still have him under the illusion. Actually, in a magnanimous concession to the rest of the civilized world, we have cautioned him not to be too quick to share his insight. But to be perfectly honest, it’s neither my job nor his to cover for you if you decide to feed your kid a load of crap.


My son needs to get it through his head that doing what’s right is its own reward. And I certainly don’t want him worrying that he needs to mind his Ps and Qs because some Arctic reindeer rancher sees him when he’s sleeping and knows when he’s awake.


Of course, he understands very well that God has that kind of insight about him. He also understands that God doesn’t send him DVDs just because he minds his mother and picks up his toys.


How this child managed to stay happy this long without Santa Claus in his life is indeed a profound mystery. But don’t you worry about him, and whatever flies your sleigh on Christmas, I hope your kids are as joyous as he is.

© 2006 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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