Tis the Season and it always raises questions about the man in the Red Suit, aka Santa Claus. What do parents who want to be honest with their children tell them when they start asking if Santa is real?

My sons are now 31 and almost 34. When they were younger, I told them exactly what my mother told me.

“Of course I believe in Santa. I believe in the spirit of giving to others. I think sharing is a good way to live. I hang my stocking because I like the idea that on Christmas morning I will be surprised by what I find in it and I almost always like surprises. If you believe in giving and sharing then you believe in the spirit of Santa Claus. If you like finding surprises in your stocking on Christmas morning, then we’ll hang your stocking up by the fireplace. On the other hand, if you don’t believe in this, then by all means don’t hang up your stocking. You can choose.”

About the stockings. They are felt with hand sewn appliqués, sequins and beads. The first kit I bought, the sales person told me I could make one in an evening because they were just glued together. Ha. She had not read the instructions. It took me 40 hours. Then of course I couldn’t do less for the second child, or the visitors. I was committed.  Now I have made them for my grandchildren.

There was a transition from the question about what is real to a belief in a value and not a mythical person. As they got older they started contributing trinkets to the other stockings hanging by the fire.  With the one exception when a nine year old put an unwrapped piece of banana bread in my stocking, this was really fun.

My boys, when they were 8 and 11 informed me that they were pooling their savings to buy good winter gloves for Marc, the 19 year old Parisian who was living with us that year. Marc was spectacularly unprepared for a Minnesota winter and had bought himself a thin pair of knit gloves. They were worried about him and also worried that they wouldn’t have enough money left for other presents. Thus was born the tradition of giving “service coupons”.  This coupon is good for helping Mom XXX.  The coupons are still a part of our gift giving practice today.

Other than the fact that I am beginning to hate Christmas music with a passion, I love the season for bringing out the best in people. I wish someone would declare war on Christmas music, or at least declare a cease fire for a few hours everyday.