30 Nov 2012

You Can’t Spell Christmas Without “Guilt”

4 Comments Uncategorized

I was raised Jewish, so the only real holiday-related lies I was told were about giant arks and burning bushes. There were no Hanukkah characters like Bernie the Gift Guy who magically came to our house, or Yom Kippur elves to help us atone. The closest thing we had, or have, is Elijah… And all he does is come in for a minute during Passover and have a few sips of wine. He doesn’t leave presents. Hell, he doesn’t even close the freaking door behind him when he leaves!!

So now I have a son and we celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah, and sure Hanukkah is great. But Christmas is FANTASTIC!  Christmas also has all these little white lies tied to it. With those white lies come a barrel-full of holiday magic that I never got to experience. But it also brings its own brand of horrible guilt about lying to my kid.

Sure, we’ve been telling him about Santa since his first Christmas. Santa comes down the chimney, he leaves gifts, we leave him milk and cookies. He even comes to the mall to find out what we want, PERSONALLY, because he cares so much. Whenever we’re somewhere Santa happens to be, G will ask if it’s the real Santa. I always say the same thing: It might be. It also might be someone Santa hired to be Santa because Santa can’t be everywhere at the same time. But every Santa that Santa hires has Santa’s ear and will tell him exactly what you tell him to tell him. (Say that 10 times fast!)

Last night my friend was telling me stories about when she and her friends were around seven or eight and found out there was no Santa, and how truly sad they were. I never really thought about how devastating it will be to him one day to find out this is all bunk. But do I want to rob him of the Christmas Magic of the Present, just to save him from the Christmas Pain of the Future? I mean, everyone makes it through okay, right? I don’t know because I NEVER HAD IT TO BEGIN WITH! (Christmas magic, that is. Are you following?)

Today my dear friend brought us The Elf on the Shelf. From what I understand, this is a rather new tradition and it’s one I only heard of last year. I was SO EXCITED we were getting to experience it! To sum it up, the Elf comes to your house sometime around Thanksgiving. He watches you all day, waits for you to sleep, then flies to the North Pole to have some mulled wine with his elf buddies and tell Santa how you’re doing. Then he flies back in time for you to wake up, and he’s never in the same spot twice. When you get up in the morning, you must find your Elf and start your day. You are not permitted to touch your Elf, and your Elf is not permitted to speak to you. But you may share with your Elf all of your secrets and wishes, and he will tell Santa anything you want him to know… As well as anything you did well or completely screwed up during your day. Your Elf flies back to the North Pole on Christmas Eve and doesn’t return until the next holiday season.

When my friend was reading the book that comes with the Elf to G, I ran to his room to put the elf atop G’s shelf. The book ended, and we started to look for him. When he was found moments later, we followed the first rule and named him. G called him Zizzy, initially, then changed it immediately to Bicky Zizzy Itchy. He likes formal names. He then excitedly began to tell Bicky everything about everything and ask question after question, which remained unanswered.

As the evening wore on, G mentioned Bicky frequently. When his friends came for dinner, he introduced them to Bicky and found out all about their elf, Elvy. When his friends left and G was about to brush his teeth he said, “Mom, please don’t joke now. Did you put Bicky on my shelf?” I paused for a brief moment, every ounce of Jew in me wanting to scream, “YES! YES, OF COURSE I DID! But even though we know the truth, Garrett, we can still pretend that Bicky is real and we can still tell him our secrets, okay?” But instead I said, “I didn’t, buddy! I’m telling you, I think that book is magic!”

And then I instantly felt sickening guilt.

I’m just the worst liar ever. I hate the way it makes me feel.

But why did I make that choice? Is it peer pressure? Or did I know that if I told him I had put Bicky there, he would instantly be a little less kid and a little more cynic? Is it because I want his childhood to last a little longer?

I think one of the reasons is that I want him to have the kind of magical, mystical holiday I never had as a kid. And I want him to believe in, I don’t know… Fun stuff? But I’m truly terrified to my core that when he finds out the truth, and puts together that we lied to him… I’m terrified a part of him will stop trusting me. Because I never lie to him about anything else. Ever.

When we went to his room so he could get in bed, we read the book again. G told Bicky how happy he was to have him and that he was really, really going to miss him come Christmas Eve. He asked me if Bicky would always be his Elf, even when he was a grown up. And I told him he would be. That wasn’t a lie, at least.

There is a lot about Christmas that plays on, even takes advantage of, the innocence of a child. And I know we do it to see the looks on their faces, and because there’s so much less magic when you get older, and lose your innocence. I’ve seen the look on G’s face on Christmas morning when there were presents in the living room that weren’t there when he went to sleep. I love that look. I love all that is heart is willing to take in. I just don’t want to crush it in a few years.

So, tell me. Are we doing the right thing, letting them believe in all this stuff? Are we actually FORCING them to believe in all this stuff?? I want G’s Christmases to be spectacular. I want him to remember them as warm, and filled with family and friends, and I want him to learn how to be generous and giving, and that the holidays are about…. Well, magic. And I don’t want him to be the only one of his friends to not have that gift. I just wish so much that we could give it all to him without the lies, big or small.  And I even think we could. It would just be a different kind of magic.

I’m at a bit of a loss here. And it’ll take a Christmas miracle to sort this all out in my head.

I think I’ll ask Bicky to ask Santa for me. I hope he hasn’t already flown off for the night.

written by
Lisa Arch likes being a working actress... but LOVES being a Mom!

4 Responses to “You Can’t Spell Christmas Without “Guilt””

  1. Reply Michelle says:


    I cannot help you here. I have 2 (adopted and twin) Christian children and one Jewish child. By the time the Jewish one came along, the other knew the truth. I suffered the same guilt feelings and didn’t want to lie anymore so we told the Jewish kid the truth. She knows not to say anything to her Christian friends and we also tell her that we believe in the spirit or message of Santa Claus. For me, I was relieved to tell her the truth and not have to lie anymore. We still talk about the spirit of Christmas and being kind to people, etc.

    (Oh, in order to make Hanukkah more “important” to the Jewish kid, she gets her big presents during Hanukkah and smaller stuff for Christmas and vice versa for the Christian kids.)

    Now, for the older two. I became their mom when they were 6 so I was stuck and had to keep the lies going – Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, etc. One day, when they were 8 or 9 years old, we were driving somewhere and they were whispering in the back seat. Finally one of them said, “Can we ask you something and you tell us the truth?” I said, “Of course.” “Is Santa Claus real?” Uh, oh. “Do you really want to know the truth?” Silence from the backseat then, “Yes.” “Okay, no he is not real.” More silence from the backseat – for quite a while. Then a little more whispering and “What about the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy?” “Do you really want to know the truth?” In unison from the backseat, “OH, MAN!!!!!” And that was the end of it.

    In the end, it will all work out.

  2. Reply Carla says:

    I don’t have kids, so I am kind of useless here…..
    But what I can tell you is that I was brought up believing in Santa, and the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, and it was UPS who killed the Santa thing for me….
    I was totally ready. I mean, I had my doubts, and when these packages keep showing up at your house, and you sneak peeks at them wellllllll….Ya kinda know.
    I had 2 younger sisters who TOTALLY still believed, and I was now in cahoots with my mom to figure out what they wanted for Christmas. Not what they asked for in their 10 page christmas lists, but narrow it down to one or two special things. It was great. AND I usually asked for one special item, and was given that from Santa too.
    G will remember and continue these traditions with his own family one day. And you have the knowledge that YOU and Russ gave him those traditions. I hope your Elf has a long life, and can watch over your grandkids one day…and it is all because of YOU:)

  3. Reply Christine says:

    My daughter is 12 1/2. She believes. Bill is 42. He believes. I am 43. I believe. It doesn’t have to be a guiltful indulgence, its simply an indulgence. Santa is the magic of Christmas. Santa was indeed a real person, so no lie there. And it is the spirit of the story that creates the magic, so no lie there, either. In our house, the answer to “Is Santa real?” Has always been, “He is in my heart.” And as for the whole presents under the tree thing? Well, we always say, “If you don’t believe, you don’t receive.” That keeps the magic alive for sure. Happy Merry Christmahannukah to you and yours. xoxo

  4. Reply Milaka says:

    First, I would like to say that I thank God above that my kids were older when this Elf on a Shelf thing came out. I applaud anyone who does it, but I do not have the bandwidth. Plus, I would probably get bored and start having the elf do inappropriate things. Or forget to move the thing. Either way, it wouldn’t be pretty and would probably scar my kids for life.

    Before we had kids, we went through a phase where we were determined that we wouldn’t tell our kids about Santa because we wanted them to celebrate Jesus’ birth rather than shake down all the relatives for stuff. Well, that lasted about as long as Frosty lasted in the greenhouse. We’re suckers for all that Christmas “magic” and stuff. Yes, we do read the account of Jesus’ birth in Luke on Christmas Eve, but we also snuggle in our jammies and read Twas the Night Before Christmas. We watch “Elf” and “A Christmas Story” about a dozen times each. We get pictures taken with Santa at the mall. Oh, we’re in to the “reason for the season” and “you better watch out”.

    Just FYI – half of my husband’s family is Jewish so we get Hanukkah cards from them and we also talk about that holiday. (The kids were really disappointed we didn’t celebrate that, too, as there are MORE NIGHTS OF PRESENTS!!!!)

    I struggled with the same issues that you do – would my kids trust me after all those years of “lies”? Would they be mad at me that I “caused” disappointment when they found out? What, if any, repercussions would there be? Would it be worth it? Princess took it in stride when she found out. She thought it was cool that she now got to be a part of the “secret”. Buddy cried and told me that he was mad and then decided that he was going to believe anyway. And I mean BELIEVE in those capital letters – believe everything about the North Pole and Santa and elves and all of it. If we even hint that it’s not real he gives us a VERY sharp look and corrects us. I’m not sure how healthy that is, but we’ll see how it plays out. *grin*

    Of course, I did have an “in” with Santa – for several years I was an elf at the mall. That got me a LOT of cred with the kids when they were little. I have pictures to prove it. Oh, and I have some stories. David Sedaris and I should have dinner some time.

    My dad to this day says that he believes in Santa with all his heart. I think that’s sweet. And I’m not even going to have him tested. 😉

    Don’t know if I gave any useful information. This comment is a bit rambling and disjointed, but I substitute taught middle school four days this week so I’M a bit rambling and disjointed right now. Looking forward to watching Elf tonight with some spiked hot cider!

    Much love to you! You are doing a GREAT job with G!!!!

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