Why Doesn’t Santa Come to Ethiopia?

My wife and I took a firm stance that we would not lie to our kids about stuff, our mentality is there is a sense of distrust that comes with lying, especially when we are saying there is a magic fat dude that delivers presents, but you can’t see him, and he delivers these presents for a birthday of a God you can’t see as well….. It’s this same logical progression that we have always used the anatomically correct wordings for body parts, no need in instituting a sense of shame or secrecy at this early age that we will have to try to reverse later in life. As we all know there comes a point that the baby language disapears, and there comes a point that the kid realizes Santa died a long, long time ago. Well eventually the kids moves to the point that they realize you have been lying about Santa, and there is a part that has to say, wait, if they are lying about Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, what about this other stuff………………. like God?

Well I was presented with a question I had never pondered before, and that is from the perspective of our Ethiopian children, and it came from that of an Ethiopian child, simply put “Why doesn’t Santa come to Ethiopia?” When I heard the question I was suddenly really struck with the question, why does the American culture idolize this white privilege fat white elf on a holiday that started with Jewish family in a barn with a bunch of goats.

Now we have never celebrated the Santa thing, but we aren’t against it either. We just chose not to do it in our family, and we have explained the story behind Santa to our kids, as they ask, and to an age appropriate level. My daughter, the eavesdropper she is though has picked up a lot of tidbits by listening to conversations between the adults around my house as well though.

So what happens every year is our kids are feared around the church, as they have been known to get in fist fights over Santa (my daughter is more prone to this) When we ask why, she tells us, and I quote “He believes a LIE and that’s a sin to lie and if he believes a lie and keeps telling a lie then he keeps sinning and I want him to be good and to know the truth, he is my best friend and I don’t like him to not know the truth”
Now one would think we are on an anti-Santa crusade by her answer but we aren’t. In fact our kids get “Santa gifts” at their grand parents house, but they know it is a game the grandparents like to play, and they have asked if we can play the game at our house too, so they get 1 present from “Santa” at home as well…. Which always turns into this long speech (from my daughter) about how they are just playing Santa, they don’t believe the lie, they know Santa is Dad and Mom, but it is ok to play games as long as the games don’t hurt anyone and everyone knows you are just playing a game.  Of course the really funny thing is last year was the first year Santa ever came to our house, and it was because our kindergarten daughter asked if we could play the Santa game. She didn’t want to be the only non-jewish, non-muslim kid in her class to not have a Santa story after the school break. So we did Santa, and everyone had fun, and it was no big deal.
Now if you ask my daughter about Santa she will give you quite the earful. She will tell you about Saint Nicholas, and how we venerate his charities by supplying gifts to orphanages at Christmas time, and by participating in biker toys runs. How Saint Nicholas has given us an example of good things to do, and a good life to live. Depending on her mood she may then tell you about the German Christ Child (Chris Kindle) who much of our tradition comes from. How the story was that he would travel around giving presents to Christian boys and girls, but had an evil elf that would leave coal and switches for non Christian (un baptized) boys and girls. And how American marketing used no historical reference and combined all 3 characters, plus made up some extra nonsense, to create a fat white elf that lives in the North Pole and wears a red suit.
She is 6, so her explanation is often discombobulated at best, but she does actually understand most of this.
Both of our children have pointed our to us, unprompted, that they are sad for the other kids they know, because they are only excited about Christmas because of a lie, and they are missing the real reason for Christmas, and that makes them sad.  They have asked us on occasion why other parents perpetiute the lie, and defend it so vehemently, when they know Santa is dead. I don’t really know that I’ve ever satisfied them with an answer, they understand playing a game, and pretending, but they also understand that some of the people are taking the pretending just a bit too far.
I know this e-mail makes it sound like we totally just bash Santa, but we really don’t, and our kids actually know they get in trouble if they tell their friends that Santa is dead and died a few hundred years ago. They are to respect other families traditions and not ruin their “game”. But it breaks down on their close friends, because they don’t want their good friends to believe a lie…. but I’ve told you that part before.
We do honor the historic Saint Nicholas (even though there is controversy as to whether he ever existed or if he is just a compilation of assimilated pagan deities) We make sure to follow his stories lead and be sure to focus part of our energy on the orphans and widows and desolate during this time.
Personally I feel it’s sad the church has gotten so enamored with the consumerist lifestyle that Santa has become such a divisive topic. Santa has been around in some form or another since the 1500’s and although there has always been some historic objections from the Protestants to Santa, it wasn’t until the 1900’s that Santa was introduced as to bringing tons of consumerist crap. And it was by our lovely mega stores is New York that we can thank for the fact that our kids want, want, want, from the magic elf who has no budget and just gives to kids because he has to on Christmas day. 
People are always amazed at how little we give our kids for Christmas, but we always fell like we are giving too much. But we try to make sure we also take care of others, and we invite families who don’t have anything to come over and join us for a Christmas dinner. Our home is always a hub of friends coming in and out to celebrate the real meaning of the real gift of the season, and our kids have taken notice of that. And through that our kids have a heart that they want to make sure every one has something for Christmas to have a tangible reminder of the love that our Heavenly Father had for us in giving us the best gift of all.

I’ve never really liked the concept of Santa, there is just something wrong with the immortal fat white dude that watches little boys and girls with and unblinking all seeing eye, tallying a score of good deeds versus bad deeds and then seemingly rewarding the rich kids more for being rich and the poor kids get punished for being poor. I’ve always thought it to be rather appropriate that the very image of Santa is trademarked by Coca Cola, how much more consumeristic do we have to get? And I’ve always been a huge fan of collecting the multi ethnic Santas just to irritate the Santa defenders.

But now I have a new question, one that is going to be very personal to my kids, and one I know I can’t answer, “Why doesn’t Santa come to Ethiopia?”

10 Responses to “Why Doesn’t Santa Come to Ethiopia?”

  1. What? There’s no Santa?

    Seriously, great — no GREAT — post. I don’t know if I have the kutspah to actually raise Max without Santa but I really respect how you explain it to your children. What we do plan to do is incorporate the spirit of giving in Max (not just the receiving end of Christmas). I don’t want to say cliche but it is a point of contention for me each year that American consumerism took the “Christ” out of Christmas to the point where now it is “Happy Holidays.” Well, Wal*Mart and other consumer giants if Christians stopped buying “Christmas gifts” let’s see how well your bottom line would look.

    But that’s just my 2 cents….

  2. I believed in Santa when I was little, but always understood the true meaning of Christmas, and when I discovered Santa wasn’t real, never once did I question my parents’ integrity, believe they had “lied” to me, etc. It just wasn’t that huge a deal. I think it’s okay to incorporate cultural traditions (for example, Santa) into the season of celebrating the birth of Christ.

    As for our kids, I don’t think we’ll do the Santa thing, just because I’m not that into it. I do want Christmas to be a magical, special time in our home for our children however, blending the celebration of Christ’s birth with some of the cultural stuff (Christmas tree, egg nog, candy canes, etc.) and also using the time of year to encourage them to be generous, give to those less fortunate, etc.

  3. I am not a Santa person either so I guess we will tell Yihun that the gifts are from Mommy and Daddy. And that we are able to give him the gifts because God has blessed us through His son Jesus Christ.

  4. My, my…I need to keep my kids away from Kaitlyn until January! 🙂 We do the Santa thing, but I have to say that we really try to keep gifts to a minimum compared to other families that I know. As Brianna stated above, I grew up believing in Santa and never felt like my parents “lied” to me. (I guess they did in all actuality.) I feel that my children are really focused on giving to others and that is probably because we have incorporated that into our family life, not just during the holidays, but all year long.

    I have to say, as a mom who enjoys playing the Santa game, that I would be a little crushed if at 5 my daughter found out the truth.

    You raise a very valid and interesting question about Santa not coming to Ethiopia. Glad that you are being asked that question instead of me!

  5. Amy Hancock Says:

    We have also raised our kids with the historical Saint Nicholas story. (Same with Easter) That said,we do fill our stockings. We watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. We do “play” Santa to others, wear the funny elf hats,and sing ‘you better watch out…’ because it’s FUN! They have always known the truth and to be discretionary around other kids, though. As they and their understanding grow more mature, we are trying to focus even more on giving, not getting. It helps to more closely monitor tv time as toy ads increase tenfold this time of year.

  6. Amy Hancock Says:

    Referencing Elizabeth’s comment: My favorite christmas movie is the original pilot for The Walton’s called The Homecoming. It’s Christmas eve and Dad is late coming home from a faraway job. The movie ends with his late arrival and the kids each getting ONE PRESENT EACH for which they were very thankful. I make sure we watch this movie as a family as it is a fairly accurate picture of rural life during the Great Depression. History and a moral lesson, that’s a combination I like.

  7. I’ll have to try and find that! My daughter loves shows like the Walton’s, Little House on the Prairie, etc…Thanks for the suggestion.

  8. Totally identify with this post. Your opening statement is exactly how I feel. Truth is huge to me.
    Good luck on being number 1000 for Mary’s comment party

  9. charolette Says:

    I think it is sad that so many of us has forgotten the true meaning of christmas. Jesus birthday, we are to celebrate his birth. i remember the stories of santa and it is ok to let your children know about the real santa and what he did for children where he lived. Not the north pole. But to always tell your children about god and what he gave to us was so much more than santa.


  10. Hey Avery, now that Max is walking I don’t have much time on the computer but I am thinking about staying up late with a cup of tea and catching up – seems like a lot is going on. So why am I commenting on a really old post. Today over lunch Brian and I were talking about the merits of your family’s position on Santa and we are actually contemplating keeping Christmas magical and incorporating the fun stuff but not pretending Santa is real but making him what he is — a character of the season, not unlike Elmo or Barney. We are still mulling it over. I would love it if you would tell me a little more about how you and your wife handled it, how it stays magical and exactly how you keep them from ruining it for other kids. you touch on it in your blog but if you have anything more to offer, we’d be much obliged. This isn’t a big deal for this year but by next year he’ll be old enough to have the discussion on some level. (Of course, we are STILL going on Santa’s Christmas Train ride up the mountain tomorrow. LOL

    Take care.

    Laura 🙂

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