Halloween was a month-long event this year. Between school parties, play dates, moms club parties and the actual night, I think my kids dressed up in their costumes every other day for the entire month of October. I thought that was a little excessive.
Then it was a quick transition to hand-print turkeys and construction paper pilgrim hats, we scarfed down some stuffing, and we were on to Christmas. If you had gone to the mall in early November, however, you would have thought that Thanksgiving was long over. There was Santa, the day after Halloween.
That’s nothing compared to our home improvement warehouses, though. I kid you not, they had the Christmas stuff out at our Home Depot in September. September, people! Now, that’s excessive.
It’s not so much the commercialization of Christmas that I’m worried about. I actually kind of like the fact that businesses try to drag out Christmas as long as possible. It ultimately serves to give more exposure to my favorite Christian holiday, hopefully giving more people a chance to remember that it’s really all about the birth of our Lord.
And since the Lord blessed me with a complete lack of sympathy toward whining children, I can easily dodge the “your parents will buy you this toy for Christmas if they love you” advertising onslaught by simply telling them, “No, you can’t have one of those. We’re not the Rockefellers.”
“What’s a Rocker-Fella, Dad?”
“Zip it, kid. Get in the car.”
What I am worried about is the amazing over-abundance of Santa sightings these days. I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, we saw Santa maybe once before Christmas if we were lucky. And that was only if we could convince our folks to take us to the mall, which was the only place you could find him.
I did a count this year, and my kids saw Santa no less than thirteen times this year, and actually sat on his lap at least five times. Five times! I don’t think I sat on Santa’s lap five times total in my entire childhood. Most years we had to write him a letter, because we could never find him to talk to him in person.
Now, the mind of a five-year-old is not as perceptive as an adult’s, perhaps, but they do pick up on more than you think they will. This can be an issue, because as with any commodity, when you start flooding the system with Santas, you’re going to get wide swings in the quality department.
At our number two son’s preschool Christmas party, we had the Santa by which all others shall be judged. His beard and hair were real, he was the spitting image of old Saint Nick, his voice was perfect, he had real black boots, and his outfit was real hand-made satin and fur that puts anything else I’ve seen to shame. Pair him against the 18-year-old Santa that came to our house in the red felt and white acrylic “fur” suit. The entire suit, hat, fake beard and hair appeared as if they were made from the same materials as one of those ultra-thin, bright red Christmas stockings that come in a six-pack from the dollar store. He had the black vinyl “booties” with the elastic strap that covered only the top half of his tennis shoes, and he was apparently too young to attempt to muster a Santa voice, so he just went with his own 18-year-old voice, complete with phrases like “little dude,” “oh, man,” and “super cool.” As it turned out, however, Number Three, who is one and a half, was OK with surfer-dude Santa, but scared to death of the real deal. Go figure.
The wide variety of realism with the Santas in our encounters have left me fielding more than a few questions, like, “How come Santa’s beard doesn’t look the same as yesterday?” and, “Why does Santa smell like Grandpa’s adult drink?”
Other questions arose this year when we ran into a proximity and time puzzle. When I took the boys to the mall to shop for Mommy, we spent a few minutes on level two peering over the railing at Santa, below in his chair, in Westfield’s version of Santa wonderland, diligently taking orders from all the little boys and girls who have parents willing to wait in the Santa line at the mall. Then, off we went toward the Sears tool department, where we shop for Mommy. Along the way, not thirty seconds after we left Santa in his chair, there he was again at the portrait studio on level two. Come on, fellas! Work with me, here. At least spread out a little!
“Daddy, why is Santa right there?”
Hmmm. “So that boys and girls can get their pictures taken with him.”
Crunch, crunch (sound of five-year-old’s brain working overtime)
“But, he was just down there.”
Hmmm. “Well, he’s magic, of course. He can be in two places at once. How do you think he delivers presents to every boy and girl in the world on one night? Oh look boys, a 10-inch compound miter chop saw with a laser cut line! I’ll bet Mommy would love that!”
The thing I’m most concerned about is not the questions, and it’s not the daunting requirement for spontaneous yet non-conflicting answers. It’s the loss of wonder that I want to avoid. The boys will only be young for a short period of time, and I want them to be mystified by Santa for as long as possible, not bored with him.
This year we have seen Santa five times at the mall, five times at Christmas parties, once on the Polar Express, and once on a fire truck in our neighborhood. Oh, yeah, and once driving a Hyundai. That one was hard for my wife to explain.
Next year we’ll do our best to whittle that number down a little, because I never want to hear, “Oh, look over there. It’s Santa again. Ho-hum. Boring!” At least not until they’re fifteen.
Have a wonderful Christmas, everybody!
See you soon,
Copyright © 2009 Marc Schmatjen
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