Tara Nanayakkara

Santa, The Great Equalizer?

When my children were old enough to understand the concept of Santa as he relates to Christmas, I had a specific take on the situation. Rather than giving into the societal pressure of buying the hottest, trendiest toys on the market for my son and daughter I did this instead; I had "Santa" give them inexpensive gifts like board games, dolls and cars and made sure the children understood that their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles gave them the more generous gifts of Thomas train sets, Easy Bake Ovens, doll houses and a remote control airplane that would impress a licensed pilot.  I didn't do this to get brownie points with my children. I did it this way to show that Santa was the great equalizer and didn't favour the affluent in society. Never once did my children question why Santa gives better gifts to the wealthier families and less to families who had little or no means to put fancy gadgets and trendy toys under the tree.

Seriously, isn't it curious that we have all these toy drives at this time of year and no one wonders what is going through the minds of young children as they hear parents, teachers, preachers and store keepers trumpet the urgency of collecting money for food and toys for the less fortunate. Surely, they must wonder why Santa put the high tech, bank-breaking computer game under their tree but the little boy across town who lives alone with his unemployed mother received a dollar store puzzle instead. Was it because the little boy's name slipped through the cracks of the benevolent social agency or church organization and the mother had a last minute scramble to find something small for her son to unwrap? Or is it because Santa likes rich children better than poor children?

Although my own children had their requisite photos taken with the jolly old elf at the mall, I didn't encourage them to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard with their long list of demands to be published in the local paper.

When my son wasn't even three, I asked him what he wanted for Christmas.

"I have plenty of toys, Mama" was his earnest reply - and he did.

Ultimately he and my daughter received more gifts than they could have imagined. Yet the magic of Christmas was never lost on them. I honestly believe they got more of a thrill wondering if Santa enjoyed the Christmas cake and milk than they did from the greedy anticipation of wondering what he was leaving under the tree for them.

My children learned at an early age that at Christmas, it's more fun to pick out presents to buy for other people than to spend more than a few minutes dwelling on what they would like for Christmas, and that in turns makes it even more fun for me to surprise them.