Years ago in my final panel interview for my very first teaching job in a Catholic school, a priest (who was part of a ten-man panel) asked me about my thoughts on Santa Claus.
He was basically asking me if I was going to include Santa in my Christmas curriculum. I think it was at this moment that it became clear to me that my role as a teacher should not include talking about Santa and his gifts.
In my interview, I said that Santa is a family matter. I said that I would defer to the parents who I believe, know what is best for the family. I really wanted to be sensitive to the families whose holiday season may not include him.
Receiving gifts from Santa was not my own family’s tradition.
Santa Claus was a character that I only saw on Christmas cards as a young child in Manila. I was not the least curious about him because my parents never talked about him when I was growing up. Because of this, I always thought that he was a fictional character similar to the Disney princesses.
When my own children became old enough to understand the concept of receiving gifts from Santa, my husband and I had to decide if we were going to support this or not.
We are now living in the US and not the Philippines. I know that they are going to ask questions because Santa can be seen everywhere–TV advertisements, print ads, and retail and grocery stores. We even see him in the mall for photo ops.
What tipped the scale for me was when my son came home from school with a wish list for Santa.
Lillian Katz, an international leader in childhood education, said in an interview regarding the distinction between child’s culture and heritage:
We want children to appreciate their heritage. At the same time, we must acknowledge that a young child’s culture represents his or her actual day-to-day experience.
With that in mind, my children expect Santa to visit our house in the early morning of Christmas day. Santa drops by and leaves presents under the tree with my children’s name. When cookies and milk are left on the dining table for him to eat, he happily takes the treat and leaves a thank you note.
Santa even uses a different wrapping paper when wrapping his presents. Even the manner that the presents are wrapped is very different from how presents are usually wrapped in my household.
Yup, we are loving Santa. We anxiously await his visit and grateful for his generosity. We compare his ability to give to God’s generosity.
And to make sure that the cultural heritage is not forgotten, we go to church on Christmas eve, we light the Advent Wreath during the Advent season, and we celebrate Noche Buena with family and good friends.
My children are making new Christmas tradition that I am hopeful will always reflect our Filipino cultural heritage.