Oh, Santa where are thou?

by Marina Leyenson

The holidays are upon as and my children are happily writing their wish lists for Santa. It is a great time of the year and we love winter holidays. It is however a bit confusing time of the year as well. My children love Santa and believe he is as real as they are. The confusing part is we are Jewish and we do not celebrate Christmas. It all becomes even more confusing since my entire family came from Russia, and since Christmas was not a communist sanctioned holiday, Santa had to assume an identity of a very old Russian folk character, Father Frost. The aforementioned Father Frost on the eve of December 31, has been joyously depositing gifts under a Christmas tree, code name – New Year’s Fir for years. All throughout my childhood we celebrated New Year with a dinner and a show and eagerly awaited the morning of January 1 to open our gifts. When we immigrated to the United States the tradition immigrated with us as well. Since I was much older and did not believe in a kindly old man with the beard and slay any longer, gifts under a tree on December 31 became just a nice family tradition.

When my own children were very young and calendar was still a mystery, gifts that appeared on 31th instead of 25th did not raise any questions. After all as long as they appear and there is a lot of them who cares when. However, when they became older, the questions started to pile up. How to explain the intricacies of holiday mechanics without ruining the belief in magic? My little pragmatist of a daughter is especially tough. She can logic a parent into oblivion. “If we are Jewish and do not celebrate Christmas how come Santa visits us every year? And why do we have something that called a “Christmas” tree in our house every year?” Think quick, mommy, and be glad you have a lot of imagination. It made me feel like a big and anxious wolf interrogated by very small, very perceptive Red Riding Hood. In my story the wrong answer would lead not to dinner but to ruination of the entire childhood. So I went in to family history, and explained that since we came from Russia, Santa comes to us the Russian way, on December 31. Also the second identity of Santa had to come out, he is also turned out to be Father Frost, that has a lot of important jobs and responsibilities in Russia, beside making presents for children.


As it turned out, since the cultural references were unavoidable, he has not only a wife but also a granddaughter called the Snow Maiden. Why the tree, well my dear, because it is nice and smells good, and grandpa insist on bringing it every year. Besides, where will the presents go if there is no tree around? Whew, one disaster averted, but crisis is not over. “Ok, but how would he bring the presents to my friend’s house if she doesn’t have a chimney, and how did he know to bring our gifts to grandma’s house (where we celebrated New Year that time) and not to our house?” “Well my dear that is because of magic.” Magic turned out to be a very useful tool, when one needs to explain glitches and peculiarities in behavior of Santa, tooth fairy, dragons, and unicorns. “Santa has loads of magic that he uses a lot nowadays since it’s hard for him to assemble Kindles and DSI’s in his workshop at the North Pole.” I thought I did pretty well by then, but my daughter wasn’t quiet finished with me, and The Abominable Santa yet. “So Santa comes out twice a year?”

There I decided to elaborate and educate my children on some aspects of Christianity. I explained that Santa actually comes around three times a year. Once on December 25 for all Catholic children, second time on New Year’s night for us, and the third time in January for little Greek Orthodox Christians who celebrate Christmas then. Santa turns out to be much busier than we thought, and I congratulated myself on not introducing my children to the concept of Southern Hemisphere and the idea that children there celebrate Christmas in June. The next question I kind of expected and had come up with a plausible answer in advance: “How come there is Santa in the mall and the one at our party, and the three Santa’s with bells we saw while walking in Manhattan?” This one was easy, ” Since the Santa, or Father Frost, or whatever his name is, a very busy magicking Kindles and iPads, he has people who help him celebrate the holidays by dressing up like him, and taking requests from children all over the world. Do not worry, all the messages get to him on time.” “Ok” goes my daughter,” but why Santa doesn’t bring gifts for you and Daddy?” “Well Santa is “children only kind of guy. Plus I have daddy, and he is the only Santa I need.”

This seemed to work, my children had all their questions answered, all doubts vanquished, and belief in magic preserved. Little glitch in the system happened when I overheard my daughter telling her brother that mommy doesn’t need to spend money on a new laptop, she got it covered, she will ask Santa to bring one. I guess, magic and budget do not mix. Now, I have to come up with the ways not to get broke during the holidays upholding Santa’s reputation. Last year after the hurricane we discussed the idea of charity, by making very short inexpensive lists, so that Santa will have extra things for children that lost so much during the disaster. That worked very well, this year I’ll have to come up with something new to keep up charitable feelings and make sure Santa still looks good. I believe that everybody has to believe in something and want my children to believe in all magical as long as possible. After all if we do not see something doesn’t mean it does not exist.

P.S. “I do believe in fairies.”