I am going to confess it, I am not the biggest fan of Santa. I don't hate him but there are certain things that, over the years, have made me fall out of love with the whole thing.
The most important one is the fact that it creates a lot of social disparity. I read a post some years ago about a working single mum thing asking people to stop telling their kids that the big and fancy presents came from Santa. She explained how difficult is for her to give her kids an answer on why Santa gave the mean kid a bike and only gave them socks and a pyjamas. Santa seems to always have a sweet spot for kids with more money and so the association of wealth = being just fairly compensated for having been a good kid is one that will remain in their heads. There will be a sense of entitlement "I deserve it" and one of shame and guilt "what have I done" that is not great for anyone in the short or long game.
I love the idea of gifting, but I think it shouldn't just be one way - we all need to give and we all need to receive. We, adults and children, should get excited about finding or making something for others to like and also be open and grateful to receive things too. Making a tradition of being grateful for those that worked hard to give us those presents can me more magical.
The other thing that really creeps me out a bit is the idea of Santa being always watching. As an atheist I imagine this is particularly difficult for me to digest because the idea of someone knowing everything and always ready to punish me or reward me for following his rules doesn't resonate with me. I get how easy and tempting it is as a short term measure to control the behaviour, but surely self assesment can be a less scary way to deal with behaviour. Anyway, that is just me.
And don't worry, we do celebrate Santa here - I am not that much of a grinch! The kids have a sock in the end of their bed and we fill it with small presents that fit (that is why they always choose their dad's big thermal socks!). Kids love it and are excited, they like the magic and the stories and the whole events.
What I really want to talk about is not so much Santa, but his completely erased wife, Mrs Claus. Do you know her name?
This poor woman is rarely represented and when she is she is we only see her baking for the elves, caring to her husband and waving good bye for the long night ahead that he has. If there was ever a representation on how women exist in the shadow of a big figure that everyone loves and doesn't seem to exist outside that role, it is her. I bet she is tortured with "omg, you are so lucky to be his wife, he is the loviliest, isn't he?"
But we can turn that around, we can use her to spark the best conversations! Conversations about invisible labour, about the expected roles of women around caring, about how she must feel when nobody includes her in the letters, about how we imagine her, how we think she feels...
When Laura Fabian designed her in the summer she originally was wearing a dress and an apron. We showed the drawing to my kids and asked them what they thought...
They of course noticed that she was black and asked about it. "Well, we don't know that she is not, so we want to believe that she is. If you were black, wouldn't you be excited to know that Santa is married to a black woman?"
Then we talked about her name, and we discussed in depth that she doesn't seem to have one. We talked about married couples changing last names and the tradition that is in some countries that women do. Someone on my instagram suggested the other day that maybe Santa is the one that took hers, and you know what?, that is the version that I am choosing to believe now.
Eric pointed out that the clothes suggested that she was going to cook and clean, so we agreed and Laura gave her a new warm and cosy outfit. We felt that we had found our new christmassy feminist icon.
So we don't need to completely ditch traditions, but they can grow and evolve, we can make them more inclusive, we can use them to have important conversations. We can make traditions work for us instead of the other way round.
This year I also wrote a letter to Ms. Claus, I have learnt from her husband's tale that Santa is all of us, but why can't we all not be Ms. Claus too? I think she is the one that brings the hope that we need to keep on fighting, the anger to know why we do it, the sisterhood to celebrate the wins, the joy of seeing progress, the one who's there to support us in our losses... Remember to write to Ms. Claus to, or get your kids to write to her too, for all the important things that don't fit in the sock!