The stories that some people make up in order for children not to find out that Father Christmas is not real are mind-boggling. For a few moments I wondered about what to do with Bebushka. I find Father Christmas and The Three Wise Men creepy, and I didn’t want her to take part. But I had never thought about why.
Life’s formalities forced me to question myself. So now I know. Three blokes, or one dressed in red with a beard, or a goat with red ribbons, or whatever, come with presents. To all the children in the world. For them, all children are equal. Well, not quite equal. There are kids who have been good and kids who have been bad. How this is measured is uncertain. A kind of social or cosmic judgement, because one is not supposed to know as a small child that the judges are in fact the parents. This is an interesting way of introducing in the little minds the idea that someone observes them. Someone who is also omnipresent (in all houses simultaneously) and to whom things are asked for. It rings a bell.
The story doesn’t convince me for several reasons. First, I don’t like lies. Inevitably they get found out and leave a bitter taste. They also create mistrust, why on earth would my little Bebushka believe me when I tell her about other important things in life if I tell her such a fib since childhood?
Second, because a stranger who doesn’t exist, or several, coming with presents, seems uglier to me than reality. Besides, why are all men? Why don’t they have partners? Don’t they know how to love? Why do they give presents to children?
Third, because I suspect that I still like Christmas precisely because the packets under the Christmas tree said things like: To Veronica from great aunt Elsa, for example. Of course, great aunt Elsa wasn’t Father Christmas nor did she ride a camel. She didn’t even use a sleigh, even though she was Swedish. Although it is also true that I didn’t meet my great aunt Elsa much because she was very old and lived far away, but at least she existed. So nobody could come later and destroy the magic.
And I am so grateful for that. I am grateful that I am not tied to traditions that I don’t believe in. I am grateful that I can celebrate with the people I love and in whom I do believe, that we can give each other lovingly chosen presents precisely because we know each other and we love each other, that we can celebrate with lights the darkest hours of winter, share delicacies, sing, laugh, decorate ourselves and around us, make up traditions and be silly. I am very grateful that my parents didn’t lie to me as a child, that they didn’t make stories up so that I wouldn’t find out that Father Christmas was them. And the magic remained intact.
Illustration: “Is it for me?” from the Feminist Gooseneck Barnacles series.