Santa, known as Father Christmas in my family, is a jolly man who every Christmas Eve travels around the world on a sledge pulled by flying reindeer delivering presents to good children while they sleep. He comes down the chimney leaves behind all sorts of wonderful gifts. It’s coming up to baby’s first Christmas, an exciting time and a time to think about our own family traditions.
Every Christmas morning I woke up with a stocking on the end of my bed, stuffed with small presents from Father Christmas. If we were living in the West, we would be surrounded by Christmas, but living in India, it’s our job to cultivate the spirit. Since leaving England, I have been learning about Indian traditions. I made it my mission to learn so I could understand my new family and the world around me. Now it’s time to think about how we can introduce our child to his other culture, the one thousands of miles away.
I don’t want to lie about Father Christmas, it makes me feel uncomfortable, for starters we don’t even have a chimney. I still remember how disenchanted I felt with life when I found out Father Christmas wasn’t really the person leaving presents in my stocking. Growing up in England, everyone at school was excited about Father Christmas, he was everywhere, it was easy to believe that he visited every child in the entire world. Wouldn’t this be confusing for our son when his friends don’t receive a midnight visit? Nevertheless, I still remember the unexplainable joy I got every Christmas morning. I want my son to experience the magic of Christmas, and deep down I don’t want to lose one of the very few family traditions I have, especially when my husband’s family have hundreds.
To Santa, or Not to Santa?
Well, I’ve thought about this extensively (probably too much) and came to a realisation. There is a ten day Hindu festival we celebrate dedicated to Lord Ganesh, the wise remover of obstacles. The tradition is that families bring a clay idol of Lord Ganesh into their home, bringing his spirit and energy into the house. It’s a huge festival here and you can feel there is something different in the air, and it’s festive magic.
Father Christmas, while not a God, was a 4th century saint. St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, was a mysterious gift giver who left a bag of gold coins in the stockings of three young girls in need. Father Christmas embodies the spirit of Christmas (joy, charity, children etc.) and we will welcome him into our home. This is the way I plan to explain it to my children, symbolically and not literally, maintaining the magic and tradition whilst hopefully avoiding the metaphysical crisis I experienced when I was about seven.
There is something magical about Christmas, it’s not an actual man who can fly around the world in one night. It’s the twinkle in child’s eyes when they look up at a decadently decorated tree, the extra dose of generosity “just because it’s Christmas”, and the almost compulsory coming together of family.
Christmas magic does exist. Merry Christmas