Santa… He Works for the Baby Jesus
When I was a child I didn’t believe in Santa Claus. At least, I didn’t believe in the Santa Claus with the belly like a bowl full of jelly and the “ho, ho, ho”. Nope, my mother didn’t buy into Santa. Mom explained that Saint Nicholas was a real person and did a lot of good things and that Santa Claus is loosely based on good ‘ol Saint Nick. She told us that it was okay to pretend to believe in Santa (just like when we play make-believe) and that we shouldn’t destroy it for other children who were taught to believe in Mr. and Mrs. Claus. My mom said that any story about giving is a good story … the kind of story that should be told.
So, I never believed in Santa Claus, nope. Kids like me, southern Europeans who were Gen X or older, were brought up on Christmases with the Baby Jesus. The Baby Jesus was awesome, He made things happen! On Christmas Eve we’d put our little boots under the Christmas tree and when we woke up we’d find boxes under our boots. There was this understanding that we didn’t actually believe that Baby Jesus placed those boxes under the boot. My mother knew it and I suppose some of us could have fallen for the tale but none of us did and our parents never tried to hide the fact that they were struggling to get gifts for eight kids. Mom just wanted us to keep our faith in our hearts around the holidays. She hated how commercialized it got.
There was this unspoken understanding that because of our beliefs, Christ was the focus of the holiday, even if we were just telling made up stories about the gift giving. Christmas was about the Baby Jesus and we talked about the Baby Jesus at home and Santa at school even though we knew our parents put those gifts under the tree. It was always important to my mother to prioritize Christ in every holiday. Easter was about bunnies but only after we talked about Christian values. My mother can do without the tree if she has to but you will never find the absence of a nativity scene in the house around the holidays.
As adults we sit around the fireplace with our well-spiked eggnogs and discuss all our traditions, especially the one of the Baby Jesus placing gifts under our boots. Talking about this happens every year for several reasons. There is something wonderful about how the story is true to who my mother has always been: a good and compassionate woman accepting of other cultures and religions (philosophy of live and let live as long as you’re not harming others) but despite her accepting nature she is the faithful Christian she has always been and always will be. We also enjoy seeing our own children, nephews and nieces laugh as if they’ve never heard this story before. Telling the stories about traditions is a tradition. It reminds us of stories my mother used to tell about how the Baby Jesus left oranges and walnuts in her boots because in those days those were luxury items. It is fun to see my nephews and nieces trying to stump my mom. It is always in good fun. When asked how a baby can get all this done she smiles and says “Ah, that is where Santa comes in … he works for the Baby Jesus.” We all laugh, including my mom.
Mostly, though, as Christians we are reminded that despite sharing our parents’ beliefs that people should have the right to believe what they want or live their lives how they see fit and that we are all equal in the eyes of God, we are Christians. More than that: we are happy to be Christian. It has grounded us and has, more than anything else, made us into who we are today … but specifically we have been impacted by our parents’ version of Christianity. We are open, accepting and loving people, for the most part. No one is perfect but we strive to be better and I am grateful to have been raised that kind of Christian.
Written by: Leni Sosa; Permanence of Wings