Like many children my daughter is very intrigued about the jolly old fellow whose face is everywhere at this time of year.
She is obviously delighted at the idea that he will bring her presents, and therefore was excited about the prospect of meeting him. But when faced with the reality of a strange and large, old man with a booming voice – she was suddenly not quite so trusting and confident in Not-So-Little Old Saint Nick.
His legend still holds much promise and fascination. But encountering him (again and again in the run up to his big night) has invoked mixed emotions.
Father Christmas can be a source of wonder and woe for a toddler, and thinking about it – it’s not much of a surprise. These are just a few reasons they may have not to trust him.
1. He’s a stranger!
Despite being discouraged from running off and attempting to befriend every stranger in sight, suddenly their family are pressing a child to engage with a rather odd looking man they have never met before. His face is obscured by a huge bushy beard, hat and glasses, so even if their own hipster father’s appearance is not dissimilar, it can be hard to establish if he is smiling and friendly. He speaks very loudly and asks a lot of personal questions – no wonder it can all become a somewhat overwhelming.
2. He’s watching you!
The premise of Santa Claus is that he will only bring you presents if you are well behaved. And as the old song goes, “He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice.” Therefore he must have eyes on you at all times. Are his elves living a double life as your contemporaries and reporting back to him? Are your own parents employed as spies? Or does he have some kind of magical surveillance equipment wired up in your home? However he does it – it could be seen as pretty ominous.
3. He’s a threat!
If as parents we do purport to be working as spies for Saint Nicholas, we don’t do a very good job of going undercover. We use his name in vain: “If you don’t stop being so naughty I’m going to have to tell Father Christmas not to give you any presents this year.” The image we conjure is not so much that of a merry old soul, but a thunderous storm cloud that hangs over our children all year round, pressurising them to be good. And yet somehow we remain the villains, and Santa Claus comes out of it as white as snow.
4. He’s an intruder!
Bolted doors and locked windows are no barrier to this visitor, who one must concede has been invited and is not unwelcome. He sneaks down the chimney in the dark of night and tiptoes around the house while we lie nestled snug in our beds. How fortunate that the visions dancing in our heads on the night before Christmas are that of sugar plums, and not anything sinister.
5. He doesn’t pay attention!
If your child does actually meet Father Christmas, it will more than likely be in the run-up to Christmas – a stand-in playing a part and doling out token gifts as part of the enterprise. They will not therefore have read the detailed letter that has been written or dictated and dispatched to the North Pole with great anticipation. So when a child has recovered from the trauma of encountering Santa face-to-face and tears open his offering, they may likely be confused as to why the Pound Shop toy inside does not match up to the specifications given.
Despite any flaws some may find, Saint Nicholas also brings great joy to many. And children are able to see past a lot of failings. Thank goodness.