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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

The magic of Christmas

Posted: 19 Dec 2013 08:00 AM PST

Is Santa Claus real? Or is he just a man in a red suit? What would you tell the little ones when they ask?

CHRISTMAS celebrations are steeped in traditions passed from generation to generation. Santa Claus is probably part of children's favourite Christmas memories because he brings presents on a reindeer sleigh for those who have been good all year long. A few families share how they celebrate Christmas and what it means to them.

Spirit of giving

WHEN Tristan turned six, his friends told him Santa did not exist.

"He got really upset. One day he just came home and asked: 'Is there really a Santa?' I wasn't prepared for that at all. I didn't know how to say, 'No, he doesn't exist', because that sounded so blunt. I had to quickly think up an explanation," says mother-of-four Sasha Joanne Wee, 36.

That was a year ago, and the former accountant decided there was no two ways about it – honesty is the best policy.

"I told him Santa exists. He was St Nicholas and he used to give to the poor. He was the one who started the spirit of giving. After he was gone, his spirit lived on. Everybody remembered what he did and that's how he remained alive during Christmas."

Thankfully, Tristan accepted that explanation (though he did tell his younger brother and sister, aged five and four, that Santa was dead). For a lot of kids who grew up believing in Santa, it is surprising to find out he is not real.

"My parents told me about Santa very early on. It was a matter-of-fact kind of thing, and he was just like a character in stories. It's the same for my husband. But I believe that for some people, what they remember about Christmas is the whole magic of Santa. There is no right or wrong, just what's best for the family," says Sasha. While Sasha prefers to go easy with the truth, her husband, Sheldon Wee, feels that it's only logical to cap magic to a certain age.

According to the 37-year-old entrepreneur, parents should keep it real.

"Children grow really fast these days and they're very smart. You can't hide them from bad words and bad movies because they are going to find out on their own. When your child questions the existence of Santa, it's always best to be honest and open. There's no need to hide anything because he's going to find out you're lying to him and he's not going to come to you the next time."

The message you should be sharing with your children is that Christmas isn't about Santa coming to visit; it's about the spirit of giving, adds Sheldon.

Countdown to Christmas

CHRISTMAS is the holiday the Jeremiah children look forward to the most.

Their excitement and anticipation start as soon as their family tree goes up. Michelle Long and her husband Raphael Sidney Jeremiah involve their children in the festive preparations; from decorating the Christmas tree to baking cookies and wrapping presents.

Hannah (left) and Aiden (far right) look forward to Christmas all year round with mum and dad, Michelle Long and Raphael Jeremiah 

Hannah and Aiden look forward to Christmas all year round with mum and dad, Michelle Long and Raphael Jeremiah.

Long and Jeremiah have explained to their children, five-year-old Hannah Marissa and two-year-old Aiden Zachary that Christmas is celebrated to observe the birth of Jesus Christ. Curious Hannah, however, cheekily questioned her mother recently, "How many times is Jesus born, then, mummy?" remembering that she has celebrated Christmas a few times with her family.

"We had to explain to her, that just like her birthday, Jesus has a birthday each year too," laughs her mother, who was quite tickled by her child's curiosity.

Both Aiden and Hannah believe that if they are good all year, Santa will leave them presents on Christmas Eve.

"If I am naughty, Santa won't come and visit. Santa also says I should be thankful and happy with any gift I receive. I shouldn't demand for this and that," says Hannah who is hoping to find Monster High dolls in her stocking this Christmas. Hannah is also curious about how Santa will come into their house, since it doesn't have a chimney.

Each year, her parents come up with creative answers. "We give her interesting answers because we think both Hannah and Aiden are too young to know the truth about Santa," says Long. "As long as they have fun with the idea and it doesn't cause them any harm, it's OK for them to still believe in the existence of Father Christmas.

"When they are older, they learn to figure things out on their own. For now, they are just too precious for us to tell them the truth," explains Long.

Hannah and Aidenare taught that Christmas is about giving, receiving and sharing.

They bake gingerbread cookies and distribute them to their friends and family. This year, the family distributed party bags to refugee children there.

Let the magic last

SHELDON'S aunt, Deirdre Theseira and her family, are happy to keep Santa well and alive.

The youngest two in her family, Miguel and Manuel Gomes, aged 12 and eight, are strong Santa supporters. Each Christmas Eve, the brothers would leave a glass of milk and a plate of cookies for Santa. The reindeer, too, will get a carrot.

Come Christmas morning, there will only be crumbs and an empty glass left behind. And at the foot of the boys' beds would be Santa's gifts for them, taken off a wish list mailed to the North Pole.

Favourite day: The Gomes children loves Christmas celebrations. 

The Gomes children love Christmas celebrations. They would leave a glass of milk and a plate of cookies for Santa each Christmas Eve.

"We started this tradition from the time my kids were born. We never really explained it. On Christmas Eve, we would just say that you have to go to sleep otherwise Santa won't come. If you've been good, Santa will come and bring you a present at night," explains Theseira, 47.

"There were a few times when we saw costumed Santas at different malls and my kids had asked why there were so many of them. My answer was: Well, Santa is really busy and those are his helpers, just like the elves."

She tells her children, "The day you stop believing in Santa, is the day the magic stops. Santa won't be coming by anymore after that."

But no matter how hard parents try, children eventually grow up and discover that Santa doesn't slide down the chimney.

Theseira's eldest, Tatianna, 15, was about 11 when she came to realise that Santa's gifts were probably from her mother.

"I remember I used to like reading this series of books. One day, my mum asked me which books I had and which ones I didn't. And on Christmas morning, I received the ones I didn't have, supposedly from Santa. That's when the realisation hit," Tatianna recalls.

"I was a bit disappointed. But after a while, the thought of a sleigh flying couldn't be real and I used to always wonder how Santa came into the house because we didn't have a chimney. So I just accepted that."

Tatianna still receives presents for Christmas, just not from "Santa" anymore.

"Compared to when I was younger, the excitement I'd feel about Christmas is very different. I used to have a tough time going to sleep on Christmas Eve. I used to try peeking to see if I could catch Santa. When I woke up I would quickly go to the end of my bed to see what Santa has given me. I would take everything and lay it out on my bed and then go running to my mummy and daddy saying: 'Look what Santa brought me!' I guess that's one of the childhood experiences I miss most. I think I would've liked it if I could still believe in Santa."

Tatianna has since kept the "secret" to herself. "I still feel that sense of magic when it comes to Santa. Whenever my brothers talk about Santa, there's like this special light in their eyes, and I didn't want to spoil it for them."

Theseira says: "My parents did Santa for us as children. It's something I've just passed down to my own children. I think it's a nice aspect of Christmas, that you're getting a surprise from Santa. If you've been bad, you obviously don't get what you ask for. So it also serves as a form of motivation to get them to be good the whole year, or make promises of wanting to be good.

"I don't feel like I'm deceiving my kids. I think when they do eventually uncover the truth, they aren't going to be angry at me, because that's the magic of Christmas. There are so many horrible things happening in the world these days, I think parents will go to any extent just to hold on to a tiny bit of magic, even if it's just for Christmas."

'The ghost of Christmas'

AMIDST the festivities, Sharon Bright is determined her sons Shawn Sanjay Raj, nine, and Shane Shanjeev Raj, three, learn the true meaning of Christmas.

"To my sons, Christmas really is about gifts, toys and cookies. It's a little easier with my elder son since he learns from his teachers and friends in school," says Bright.

But they have also been attending Sunday school and know about its religious meaning.

"The boys have also been taught to pray and think of the less fortunate on this special day," she says.

But Bright also encourages her younger son to believe in a little magic.

Sharon Bright with her two boys, Shawn (L) and Shane 

Sharon Bright with her two boys, Shawn (left) and Shane, to whom Christmas is all about gifts, toys and cookies.

"I don't see any harm for my boys to grow up with some made up stories. Shane is only three and I want his growing years to be memorable."

While Shawn is well aware that Santa is just a myth, Shane believes that Santa is really the ghost of Christmas.

"Shane's explanation is that Santa is all white and since bad children don't get presents, he must be a ghost!" she shares. Both boys agree presents is the highlight of Christmas and they usually write up lists of things they want.

"This year, my eldest son Shawn, slipped me a note telling me what he wants for Christmas is a Samsung S4, complete with smiley faces and a Christmas tree. Unfortunately, his request is going to receive a rather large 'No' note in return," exclaims the cheeky mother.

"We all really look forward to Christmas. I enjoy the day off and being surrounded by my family and children," says Bright.

Is Santa real?

Posted: 19 Dec 2013 08:00 AM PST

Before you respond, consider your child's question carefully.

WHEN your child comes to you questioning if Santa is real and asking you, the parent, to confirm – one way or the other – I suggest taking a step back and a deep breath before responding.

Begin by asking your child why they're asking this question in the first place.

Did they hear something from another child at school?

Or did they determine on their own that "Santa's job" is seemingly impossible?

If they've thought about it long enough and critically enough to determine on their own that Santa might not be real then it might be time to explain to them that they're, in fact, correct.

Don't forget to put a silver lining on it; something like, Santa is able to personify the spirit of Christmas; the joy, happiness, love, selfless giving, empathy and more that encompass the whole idea of Christmas, and when you think about it that way Santa is simply the face of Christmas.

If, on the other hand, your child explains to you that another child from school just happened to claim loudly that Santa isn't real then your child still likely believes in Santa and is looking to you for answers; if this is the case, I suggest letting them know that not everyone believes in the same things, and that's perfectly OK, but that if your child believes Santa exists then nobody can take that belief away from them.

With seven kids of my own ranging in age from one year old to 27 years old, I have kids who believe, and kids who now know better.

It can be fun to get your older kids involved in keeping the idea of Santa alive and real for the younger kids in your family.

Include your older children in the shopping, the wrapping of presents and more while your younger kids still believe he exists.

Tackling the "Is Santa Real" question is tricky and not the easiest subject to tiptoe around.

Remember to be sensitive, understanding and even creative in your response!

Additionally, it's important to keep in mind there's no one-way to handle this sensitive issue, and different techniques will likely work for different families.

Happy holidays!


Daddy Nickell – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Robert Nickell, aka Daddy Nickell, father of seven, offers his five cents' worth of advice to expectant and new parents. Daddy Nickell is the founder of, delivery room duds and daddy gear for dads, and the blog where he covers topics about parenting and the latest baby and kids' gear, all from a dad's perspective.

Beyond mummy duties

Posted: 19 Dec 2013 08:00 AM PST

Finding an outlet in blogging.

AFTER my daughter was born, all I wanted was to be a stay-at-home mum. I imagined I'd spend my days pushing my daughter in a stroller, scrapbooking our family memories as she napped in the afternoon, and then I'd prepare a pictorial-worthy family meal every night.

It didn't exactly happen that way.

I did eventually leave my full-time job when my daughter was four and my son was one. I was ready.

But what happened the next six months shocked me – I was miserable. The reality of spending most days waiting for a child to fall asleep or wake up, and the stark loneliness of staying home with two small kids, wasn't what I imagined, but I didn't dare tell a soul.

Are you kidding? After all the dreaming, planning and sacrifice, I couldn't acknowledge I was two "Dora the Explorers" shy of a total breakdown. That's about the time I came across this thing called a blog and decided I would start one of my own. I had been a journalism major in college and always loved to write and tell stories. I had my own blog, and a local newspaper asked me to blog for them.

After the kids went to bed, I'd stay up late writing, making videos and connecting with other mums online. Blogging was just the spark I needed to keep me from leaping into the waiting arms of a deep depression.

I love my kids. It wasn't being a mum that was causing me to spiral, it was the lack of connection to the "pre-mum me" and to other people. I'm a social person and I needed to spend time being creative and then share that part of me. I discovered that being a mum was just like anything else. I couldn't rely on other people to flip that happy switch. Once, I took it on myself to find what made me feel balanced and content – ta da! I was happy.

Blogging is undeniably dominated by women – mostly mums – and here's why: Our blog is all ours. Mums rightly spend most of their days pouring their energy into everyone else's needs; the kids, the boss, the husband.

But a blog is our own space and we can make it look, say and be anything we want, and that's empowering.

I believe the Internet and Etsy, blogs, message boards and Twitter have been revolutionary for women, especially mums. Through online networks, a stay-at-home mum can sell her handmade scarves internationally, or a working mum can take night classes online to help her career.

Or, as in my case, she can write on her blog and become a columnist, writer and local TV host, all while her kids are asleep or in school.

For some mums, it might be volunteering at a women's shelter or selling Avon. Whatever the spark is, I encourage mums to stay connected and keep pursuing their passion. It helps keep you sane and secure. When I started blogging, I didn't know I would eventually become a single mum. Now I have turned my passion into a full-time career. I just kept moving towards what I loved to do, working hard and taking every opportunity that came my way.

That's a good recipe for success, either in a career or as a mum. – The Orange County Register/ McClatchy Tribune Information Services.


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