A reader sends the above video for the thread tangent on the “shitting log”:
This short documentary explains the Catalan Christmas – and how the shitter has become an expression of political/cultural resistance.
Thanks to your reader for the info about caga tió. Also relevant is the French Easter tradition regarding les cloches de Pâques (is France in Spain’s “vicinity”?). In France church bells go silent on Jeudi saint (Maundy Thursday) and stay silent until Easter Sunday. The silence of the bells is rationalized by telling the children that the bells are off to Rome (to confer with the Pope?) and that they will return bearing colored eggs and candy and whatnot. I think pretty much the same story is told by Catholics in Holland, Belgium and parts of Germany. So both the French and their Catalan neighbors have invented “impossible narratives” involving the delivering of holiday goodies to kids. And these continental types go the Anglo tradition one better by having the gift givers be anthropomorphic versions of inanimate objects.
Another circles back:
Yesterday I told my 4-year-old daughter that there is no Santa Claus.
I realized I was uncomfortable lying about Santa prior to becoming a mother. I wasn’t naive enough to think that I would never lie to them, but I felt the Santa mythology did not justify actively lying to someone so dependent upon me. We made it through last Christmas without having to address the issue, though she clearly recognized him and knew the general story thanks to her school peers. Around May of this year she asked when Santa comes – as if she belatedly realized an expected guest never arrived.
This Christmas is different, as her understanding of the world has increased. Yesterday she asked when she could see Santa. I told her that we could go to a store and see someone dressed up like Santa but that there is no real Santa. My only hesitation was the risk that she would now “ruin” it for others, but ultimately I decided that was not a good enough reason to lie.
She cried and wanted to know why her friend gets to see Santa. I told her that the friend’s parents decided to tell the friend a story and pretend that there is a Santa. She asked why they lied and played a not-nice trick on her friend. I defended the other parents’ choice while also telling her that I wanted to tell her the truth.
The whole Santa myth seems contrary to the other lessons I am trying to teach my children. My kids are fortunate because they were lucky to be born to the parents they have (not bragging, but being born to two educated parents, in the U.S. and at this point in history, puts them ahead of most). And their material possessions are the result of their parents’ own luck and hard work and the efforts and generosity of family. I hope my kids will use their advantages wisely, work hard and share with others. This is all in addition to my initial reluctance to lie when not absolutely necessary.
In this world, being “good” is not enough. How would I explain that the coats we bought last week are going to kids who may be good but still didn’t make Santa’s list? What about the Heifer International donation she made from her piggy bank for a flock of chicks? If the recipients were good, couldn’t Santa just provide for them? These are small things, sure, but this is the reality of daily parenting. The emphasis on being good/writing a list to a benevolent god-like figure seems completely divorced from teaching our kids to be productive and to share their good fortune.
I admit some pettiness: as a white, working mother with a Chinese, stay-at-home husband, I kinda resent the fact that we are supposed to share gift-giving credit with an old, white guy. Additionally, perpetuating the Santa myth would emphasize the gift part of the holiday season instead of the more meaningful and joyous parts.
We shall see if there are any reports that she has ruined Christmas for all of her classmates. I asked her not to, but she is 4.
We homeschooled our children and never told them lies of the type described. Part of that was our homeschooling mentality; we believe that children learn by observing their parents and those around them, and how they react to life events. When my youngest was not yet three and my wife was having a miscarriage, he went with us to the midwife and we answered his questions accurately. Telling our kids the whole truth was actually helpful around Christmas (we’re Jews); we told our children that there is no Santa Claus but they had to keep the secret so that their Christian friends would not feel bad. When they were 5 or 6, we explained to each of them that I was infertile and that we used donor insemination. And when my youngest was diagnosed with Leukemia when he was 7, we were honest with all of the kids about everything that we knew throughout the next difficult three years. We’d get into arguments (or as a friend once described it, “developmentally appropriate power struggles”), but honesty was never at issue.
When I was a kid, about 6 years old or so, a television ad for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus came on television. Naturally, I thought this looked like the greatest show on Earth and wanted to go. My very quick-witted parents, aware of how much it cost to attend things like this, recognised that the ad was being aired on a cable television channel (WGN-TV, I think). They informed me nicely that, no, we couldn’t go because we lived in Texas and the circus was only happening in Chicago. I was disappointed, but understood and didn’t press the point. It wasn’t until years later, in my late teens that I found out it was all a lie. Now my parents and I share the joke any time we can’t afford or don’t want to do something: It’s only in Chicago.
For the record, I loved the Jimmy Kimmel prank. I also loved believing in Santa but still found ways to justify my doubt by analysing handwritten notes he left for me and counting the carrots I left out for his reindeer. I loved wondering how on earth the Tooth Fairy didn’t wake me up when she took my teeth and left a beautiful half-dollar under my pillow. I’m not having kids myself, but I encourage this kind of behaviour, so long as the motives are good or there’s opportunity for a good laugh after the ruse is over.
This is Miss Elf’s House on the busy bike/jogging path along Lake Harriet in Minneapolis:
We live in Chicago but spend Thanksgiving every year with family in Minneapolis. My daughters love to leave a little note for her each trip. Two years ago, they received a package at Christmas -return address Miss Elf, Lake Harriet, Minneapolis MN – with books for both kids. Their wonder and excitement at this mysterious delivery was a joy to see.
Reality reared its ugly head soon after. That spring break we took a road trip which included a stay at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis (famous for its resident duck population). As we walked to our room my way-too-perceptive younger daughter collapsed in sobs in the middle of the hallway. The old-fashioned locks on the hotel room doors were identical to Miss Elf’s – indicating to her that some mere mortal was behind the Miss Elf fairy tale. I can see how other parents might choose to tell the truth at such a moment, but I lied my ass off trying to persuade her that Miss Elf’s key hole was different and couldn’t possibly be picked up at a hardware store.
The great-granddaddy of pernicious and evil lies to children has to be the Australian father who convinced his young daughter that the tune played by the traveling ice-cream van (“Greensleaves” it is in Australia) was the signal to the public that the van was out of ice-cream!
And the Dish discussion is spreading:
One of the Parents.com bloggers offers his take here, which I thought you would enjoy. He compiles the biggest lies he’s found himself telling his kids. My favorite lie?
I’m in charge here. I wipe their butts, change their diapers, feed them appetizing meals according to their personal taste preferences like they’re czars….and I’m in charge?