Friday, 6 December 2013
Father Christmas and the tangled web
I'm sure it's not just me who gets in a pickle with the complicated lies required to perpetuate the Father Christmas myth. Thinking up instant answers to tricky questions without contradicting previous FC "facts" is something of an art. Explaining why FC will not be bringing computer games to any boys in this house, although he will be bringing them (apparently) to almost all the other children in the school can be awkward. Surely it's not because he likes them more, or they were more good.
This year it's been slightly easier, as the eldest knows the horrible truth, and he's also told the middle boy, who therefore also knows, but never refers to the fact that it's all a big fat untruth. Because of course we are now all trying to pretend for the sake of the littlest one, who is still in blissful ignorance that everyone is lying to him and making stuff up. Although his questions are getting more perceptive. "How does Father Christmas come and get his letters? Is it like at the Hippodrome" (we watched the panto with school last year) "when there's smoke and he's there and there's more smoke and he's gone?" Well, yes, I expect so, I haven't actually seen him do it...
I remember spending quite a lot of time when I was little worrying about how FC could actually get to every child in the whole world. Surely it wasn't possible? The littlest is also puzzled by this. But on a day to day basis he's far more concerned with what FC will be bringing in his sack. He wrote a long list, all by himself, with his very own spellings. I'm an expert at reading what he writes now. The secret is to sound it out phonetically and remember that the "b"s and "d"s are usually the wrong way round. Thus "dussoob" is "buzzard". He wrote that in the book at the wetlands reserve. I was desperate to subtitle it, but I couldn't manage it without him seeing me. And we don't like to tell him he's got it all wrong, mostly we're just happy he's writing stuff.
So The List. It was long, as I say, and varied. Everything from "arsnl kit" to "abfent kalinber" (sound your letters out remember, and swap those b's and d's). "ifoan" was on there, even though I'm sure he has no idea what one is. I tried to explain that he wouldn't be getting everything. To which he stated that yes he would, because he did last year (last year's list was very modest) and that that is what Father Christmas does, he brings whatever you ask for. He very much has it in his head that by asking FC for things he will be saving us money, because of course FC will be footing the bill. Previously the other half has told the biggest boys that we have to give FC money so he can buy the things. I'm not sure I'm quite happy with that lie though, I don't think it's been thought all of the way through. I can foresee even more awkward questions arising. How do you pay him? Where do you send the money? What if there's some left over? See what I mean? A tangled web.
There's also the thing that makes me most uneasy. The fact that we don't actually give the children anything. FC does. Nanny does. Aunts and uncles do. Friends do. Parents? No, they don't bother. You'd think they would, wouldn't you? A little token at least. Something that says "I love you". But no, nothing. Although to be fair, this hasn't been raised in this house. Yet. I like to think ahead though, just in case.
Another tricky part is stopping them changing their minds every day. How to explain that FC has already been to the shop and bought what they asked for last week. I got them to stuff their letters up the chimney last night. A kind of "final answer?" moment. They've gone now, so the order is in, it's final. Except, that when FC went to the shops today, one of the items requested is no longer available, so he's had to buy a different model. How to broach this so as to avoid Christmas Day disappointment? Did he maybe send me a letter or a text? But really, he's Father Christmas for goodness sake, he can deliver anything requested to any and every child in the world, except he couldn't get the one thing we wanted right. Actually, the boys are always very good about being thankful for what they have. The eldest got watercolour paints and paper last year, as well as some books and some other little things. And he was absolutely thrilled and declared it the best present ever. Just as well, as by Christmas morning I was panicking that he would be disappointed. But he always blows me away with his attitude, so grateful, so pleased. I'm hoping this year will be the same.
The pictures are from a beautiful book I happened upon in Oxfam. I'd been lured in by something else, and when I got to the book area, there it was on the table. "Letters from Father Christmas" by JRR Tolkien.
Every year when his children were little, Tolkien sent them letters purportedly from Father Christmas. And they are utterly exquisite. Filled with stories of life and adventures at the North Pole, wonderful drawings, lovely calligraphy and special writing for the bits written by Polar Bear and the elf. Lucky, lucky children to have such an imaginative and talented father. Who clearly loved the whole FC myth. Makes me feel a little better about it all. Because what is life without imagination and tales?
Even the envelopes are things of beauty. Oh to be able to produce things like this.
The children were enchanted. I thought maybe they wouldn't get how special and amazing this was, but they did, and it made me happy. The oldest two tried their hand at the Arctik writing like Polar Bear does (he has his very own spelling too). The letters are such enchanting stories, interspersed with little comments from Polar Bear. I really can't emphasise how wonderful they are. And voluminous - the letters were sent for over twenty years. The book is 157 pages long, and every page is filled, and still not everything he wrote is included.
Hours and hours were obviously spent producing these for his children. With probably no thought that anyone else would ever read them. It puts me to shame a little. But I'm thinking he probably had a wife somewhere baking the mince pies and scouring the shops for the exact things on The Lists...
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That looks like a fantastic book. I would really enjoy reading it. I'm very impressed with Tolkien's efforts there. He's clearly a much better parent than I; twenty-plus years of this? Wow. I still have two believers here but I don't think it will be much longer for my son. Maybe one more year after this? He's eight this year. They didn't really make any lists, though. I think they feel afraid to ask for things specifically for some reason. I did my shopping earlier in the year for the most part and tried my best to find what they'd want. I enjoyed your son's requests, especially the "ifoan." My kids seem to think every single electronic device has an "i" in it's name these days. I was asked to put on an "i-DVD" recently.ReplyDelete
So much better when they don't ask for anything specific I think. You probably know better what they would like. A couple of years ago one of mine asked for a horrible plastic toy. I really didn't want to get it for him, but eventually I gave in. They played with it for two or three days, then never again. Mum knows best! I'm laughing about the i-DVD.Delete
I saw that book last year in a local bookshop and loved it. What a wonderful gift to his children.ReplyDelete
It was, they were very lucky.Delete
Oh the joy of Christmas! I don't really celebrate it much nowadays but sympathise with the tangled web that you find yourself in.ReplyDelete
Thanks for a lovely, interesting post. Flighty xx
Thank you Flighty.Delete
Our youngest seems to have worked out the FC riddle this year, and actually I've found it a relief to not have to keep the secret for him, while the older ones know. For several years now we have been getting our names in a hat, and buying a present for one other of our family at a fixed small price. It has shifted the focus to giving rather than receiving, and it has introduced a different way of secrecy which the boys love. My boys usually are not able to get exactly what's on their list, but I always have pointed out that Santa has known what they like, and they have to agree. The old man seems to know them well!ReplyDelete
I like the names in a hat idea. It will be easier when they all know and can have full and frank discussions about what they can have. Of course I will so miss the whole FC thing. Hanging up stockings, putting out carrots for the reindeer. Oh I will miss it so much.Delete
I've heard of that book, it does look very special indeed.ReplyDelete
When my nephew was little we used to have to take his presents over to my sister's by Christmas Eve as she had told him FC delivered everything from everyone. That made things tough for the grandparents who didn't see him open his gifts. We have told ours that FC buys and delivers stocking gifts only. Found that much easier!
Yours is a good idea Lisa. Everyone does it slightly differently don't they.Delete
I can remember a teacher at primary school putting us straight )at 7 year old -old enough not to believe such nonesense) about FC so from then on I had to pretend so my parents wouldn't be disappointed.ReplyDelete
When I was teaching I got a class of infants to write FC letters and wrote one back from FC complete with North Pole stamp which mentioned each one and pointed out things like 'x' must remember not to 'y' if he was to receive a visit!
Oh that's so sad Sue, what a dreadful teacher! Love the idea of writing and telling them what they mustn't do. Back in the summer the littlest boy had a handful of postcards from a toy rabbit at the local country park telling him he must practice his reading.Delete
It is a tangled web, but such a magical one that it is sure fun to do. As you have already experienced it with your two older boys, it is hard when they do not believe. When I was growing up Santa filled a stocking and brought one present, the rest were from Mom and Dad. I have also done this with my children, of course they are grown now and don't believe. But it worked wonderfully.ReplyDelete
I think it was similar when I was growing up. You are right that it is magical. And the older two, especially the middle one, never actually refer to the fact that they know. So we're all very good at pretending.Delete
This is lovely, I love the magic of Christmas. Those illustrations are gorgeous too. I hope you have an equally lovely christmas again this year even though not everyone is believing in FC this year! - AnnieReplyDelete
Thank you Annie, and I hope you have a good Christmas too. Thanks for visitng my blog, I enjoyed reading yours.Delete
Your lovely post shows that parents have to balance a mixture of truths, half-truths and fantasy at Christmas, but it's always wonderful hearing that it's magical for children. The Tolkien book looks beautiful.ReplyDelete
It is a beautiful book Wendy, I'm blown away by it. And of course the magic is lovely for them.Delete
It's all these little fibs which makes Christmas truly special. I wish I still had to do it for my two, I kept it up for as long as I possibly could. We told them that we bought the presents then sent them to Santa for him to deliver. That book looks beautiful and full of the magic of Christmas.ReplyDelete
You're right Jo, and I'm enjoying it while it lasts, Even the non-believers get caught up in it and the excitment of it all.Delete
Yup, he did - have the said wife, that is. Think maybe I need one of those.... Not sure what OH would think about that idea though ;)ReplyDelete
Me too, me too Allegra.Delete
What beautiful illustrations! I imagine it would be hard to answer all those questions, especially when what they ask for isn't available. I remember when I asked my mom one year if he really did exist. Since I was getting a bit older, she handed me a clipping from an old newspaper, titled "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause". It basically says that Santa Clause, or FC, represents all the romance and magic in the world and fills childhood with a special light. Here's a link to the article. http://www.newseum.org/yesvirginia/. I think it's so sweet that the oldest boys are keeping the fun alive for the littlest one:)ReplyDelete
The joys of FC my son could'nt understand why one of his best friends had a computer from FC and he only had a toy! We didn't let FC take all the credit and he only gave them something relatively small. That book you found looks delightful it looks full of a magical things. Good luck with your tangle. Sarah xReplyDelete
We're in exactly the same position with our three. It's surprisingly hard to keep the myth going for child number 3 when the older two know the game...but so far so good. In our house, FC brings one big main pressie and fills the stockings with wee goodies, but other pressies (wrapped in Different Paper) are labelled with love from Mum n Dad. I also buy new pj's and a new book for each of mine and wrap them, allowing them to be opened on Christmas eve evening, a special present from Mum....it's always a special time seeing them all in their new pj's on xmas eve.ReplyDelete
I'm having a blog catch up. Stuff has been hectic...
I'm dead envious that you scored this beautiful book in Oxfam. I have had it on my Amazon wishlist forever. How amazing to have had those letters from Santa when you were a child.
Your post was very thought provoking. Sam and Olly no longer beleive. It was a bit of an anti climax when the penny finally dropped for them. Sam was eleven, which is quite a respectable number. Alfie was ten, but held out until eleven. I think he was worried that the gravy train would disappear if he admitted that he no longer beleived. One good thing - Sam never let on to Alf. And the pair of them are creating the magic for Olly, as this year is his first year proper in believing. I have asked them to keep it low key, and at the moment they are complying. Sam is really looking forward to Christmas Day this year, because of Olly. It's the first year since his realisation that he is excited about Christmas. I knew having my children spread so far apart would have some benefits!!
Love, love, love this post CJ!!
Who capture those pic?????? Really Awesome........ReplyDelete
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I didn't know about the to Tolkein book - it's lovely. Thanks for blogging about it. Managed to keep Santa going until my girl went to high school with a range of increasingly tall tales. One year, not so long ago, she made individual collars for each of the reindeer. Last week she asked if I'd kept them - she's now 14. Terribly guilty that I hadn't, Though I do have all the letters to and from Tabitha our tooth fairy written in gold on green paper. She says it's not the same now at Christmas now she doesn't believe. It isn't, so cherish the magic for as long as you can with your little one.ReplyDelete
Sorry for late comment - never have time to read blogs but school Christmas hols have started so am able to slob in dressing gown for once ignoring housework!