This post was written by Contributor Jodi B.
One thing I have learned as I have left and watch others leave Christian Science, is that while there are some beliefs that are strong with the Christian Science belief system (for instance: there are exactly 7 names for “God” in Christian Science – they are known as “the Seven Synonyms.” The Synonyms are: Principle, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Life, Truth and Love.) There are also other things that apparently varied from household to household – drinking coffee, wearing band-aids, going to doctors, and getting immunized, among many others, I am sure.
Every year around this time, the whole topic of “is Santa real?” comes up in conversation. I think the last few years it has also come up on the Ex Christian Science Facebook group. A few points got made there recently, and it made me remember my own history of what I was and wasn’t taught about Santa, and it all has to do with the attitudes of my parents towards Christian Science.
My dad was a staunch believer in Christian Science. He taught me that “we Christian Scientists don’t lie to our kids, so I let you know that Santa isn’t real.”
When I was about 3 years old, my mom worked as a chef in a girl’s college dorm. A day or so before Christmas, she spent all day making a lasagna. She curled my hair with a curling iron to be especially pretty that night and dressed me in my only dress (which happened to be red), and then we went to the dorm to serve the lasagna to the girls. Santa was there. I have a Polaroid of me with Santa. I don’t remember anything else that night – just the lasagna, my curled bangs, and a photo with Santa.
My mom was also raised in Christian Science, but had left it before I was born. One Christmas, she put a gift for me under a simple tree in her living room – it was a Raggedy Ann coloring book! I was maybe about 4 or 5 years old. It was such a thoughtful gift, to me. I loved Raggedy Ann, and my dad wouldn’t let me have coloring books. She barely had money to survive, and it was a big deal to me that she had spent the money to buy me a gift. I felt sad when she said it was from Santa. Because I knew how hard she worked and I knew that money was so tight for her. I wanted to thank HER for the gift, but had to sit there and figure out how to respond nicely, since she obviously wanted me to believe Santa had brought it to me. I never had the heart to tell her that I didn’t believe in Santa, but I definitely appreciated that she tried to have this sweet story for me to believe in.
My younger brothers were also taught, “Santa isn’t real.” One of my brothers had a Jewish playmate. They definitely enjoyed being able to talk with each other about Santa’s “non existence.” If Santa is a real person who brings gifts, how come no one seems to realize that he only brings gifts to kids who celebrate Christmas? This whole, “he visits EVERY child in one night” is ridiculous, but as far as I know, it’s NOT “every child” who receives a gift from Santa in one night. I am certain there are so many people who would agree with me on this, and not just the Jewish children.
I am pretty cynical now about Mary Baker Eddy, the creator of Christian Science (which is neither “Christian” nor “Science.”) Eddy probably came up with this whole “we don’t lie to kids in regards to Santa, because she wanted to sell her own book. “Christ and Christmas.” It was illustrated by someone who had to sit there, drawing, as she specified exactly how the art should be done. She was quite meticulously picky about the imagery in that book. I was even told by a Practitioner that “people have been healed, just by looking at the pictures in that book!”
“Methinks the loving parents and guardians of youth ofttimes query: How shall we cheer the children’s Christmas and profit them withal? The wisdom of their elders, who seek wisdom of God, seems to have amply provided for this, according to the custom of the age and to the full supply of juvenile joy. Let it continue thus with one exception: the children should not be taught to believe that Santa Claus has aught to do with this pastime. A deceit or falsehood is never wise.”Mary Baker Eddy, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, 261:2-10
Some time in High School I came across the article called, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” I read it and it resonated so beautifully with me. Read the article here from the Newseum. It was also around this time when I came across a catalog that had a wooden statue of Santa wearing green, and coming to town in a small boat like a canoe. I also found that the Coca-Cola Company was responsible for mainstreaming Santa wearing red with white trim, as a marketing thing. It added fuel to my own internal belief system about why we didn’t need Santa, and that “we bow down to God, not a fictional character, Santa.”
I was still in Christian Science when I became a mom. I weighed my own experience with Santa, my absolute belief in Christian Science, and the article I mentioned above, and decided that I also “don’t lie to our kids”, and taught my kids that Santa isn’t real. I also told them, as I had been told, “don’t tell other kids, it will make them sad.” So, of course, one of my kids (I can’t remember which one), marched over to the neighbor kids and blabbed at them, “Santa isn’t real.” Oh my gosh, does EVERY kid do this? I got a prompt phone call from the other kids’ dad letting me know what had happened. He said, “they didn’t seem to hear your son, and I am glad, because I want them to figure it out organically, the way I did.” Organically? Yup, that’s what I remember him saying.
One of our Christmas ornaments has long been an elf that sort of looks like a beaded Santa. It has floppy legs (no, it is not that “Elf on a Shelf” thing which I never even heard of until what, 3 years ago, and now suddenly “everyone” has one and “they have ALWAYS” had one. Where do people come up with this stuff?) Ours is just a beaded-leg, felt elf that hangs up as a pretty ornament. I guess that’s our only “Santa-like” thing we have. Oh, and one time I got a little felted clothes-line from Avon. I hang it up in our window. It looks like what Santa and Mrs. Claus would wear if they were fairy sized. I like fairies and think they are fun and pretty. I love that they feel like happy, creative, imagination. So, I like this little fairy-sized clothes line in my window.
Here’s just one last tidbit. We never taught my kids about the Easter Bunny being a “thing,” though we did hide Easter Eggs for fun, colored Easter Eggs, because they are pretty. And my kids also knew that the Tooth Fairy is really mom. Who forgets to put gifts or money under the pillow. My younger son asked me one time to dress up like the tooth fairy and give him the money while he was still awake. That was fun. I have a pair of fairy wings and a pretty yellow dress, and a funny magic wand. I did a “silly walk” into his room and talked with a funny voice. He wanted me to do this several more times, too. This is what fun childhood memories are made of, right, when we are goofy with our kids? It meant a lot to him, so of course I did it.
So, what were your memories of being taught, or not taught about Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy?
Green Santa image provided by the author.