Cotswold Mother: The secret of Christmas

If your offspring are older, and have long-since abandoned frivolities such as stockings, tread care

If your offspring are older, and have long-since abandoned frivolities such as stockings, tread carefully around those of us with wide-eyed children and magic in our hearts - Credit: Archant

We have just a handful of years in which children accept that magic is possible, and to crush their dreams too early is a crime, Clare Mackintosh explains.

I dread the day the children stop believing in Father Christmas. At seven and nearly-six, I fear it is fast approaching, and I can feel myself tense as we talk about this year’s plans, bracing myself for the inevitable challenge.

What will I say? How will I answer? This time of year is magical even without Father Christmas, of course: nativity, snow, decorations, food, gifts... but for me Santa is the icing on the Christmas cake. How can anyone fail to smile at the sight of a big white beard; a cheery wave; a great red cape and a ‘ho, ho, ho’? When children are very tiny – perhaps until they are three or four – they do not yet fully appreciate the magic. They wake up on Christmas morning and there are presents, and they’re delighted by them, but it isn’t until they are just a fraction older that you see the wide-eyed wonder as they realise he has actually been. Here, in this room!

It is the stuff of fairy tales, and it is actually happening to them right now. Somehow, Father Christmas has read the letter so painstakingly written all those weeks ago, by a small boy with his tongue poking out of the corner of his mouth. He has read that letter, found the perfect toys, and transported them by reindeer across the globe to this very bedroom. It is magic beyond their wildest dreams, and they enjoy it for such a short time, before they are hit by the age of disbelief.

Once there they will question the icing sugar footprints; the raisin reindeer-droppings; the half-eaten mince pie, and they will laugh as their parents cling desperately onto the memories of Christmas Past. We have just a handful of years in which children accept that magic is possible, and to crush their dreams too early is a crime. I will protect it at all costs. More than anything I hate the thought of some cynical schoolchild stealing my children’s naivety; stamping on their innocence with unpleasant glee as they reveal that those carefully chosen presents come from Amazon, delivered to their rooms by slightly tipsy mums and dads.

My sister Emma, four years older than I, once sought out my mother and demanded to know the truth about Christmas. Emma was seized by fear that she may, as an adult, not provide any presents for her children, then discover that none had appeared over night. Even worse, apparently, was the concern that she might go to all the trouble of buying gifts, only to wake up on Christmas morning to a surfeit of stockings. Our mother sympathised with her dilemma and told Emma the truth, and I can only assume she kept it to herself, because I have no recollection of the point at which I discovered the truth about Father Christmas. Instead I drifted from childhood into teens with my eyes tightly shut each Christmas Eve, feeling the magic as my stocking was gently placed across my feet, even once I knew it was my parents who crept upstairs, quietly cursing the squeaky floorboards. The truth was known, but never spoken.

This is what I hope for my children. Not that they remain naïve enough to genuinely believe in Santa, but that they are able to retain the spirit of Christmas, and the magic of tradition for as long as possible. So if your offspring are older, and have long-since abandoned frivolities such as stockings, tread carefully around those of us with wide-eyed children and magic in our hearts. Whisper the truth to your own kids if you wish, but implore them to keep it to themselves. I want my three to believe for just a little while longer.

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Merry Christmas – I hope Santa brings all that you wish for.

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For more from Clare Mackintosh, visit her website: www.claremackintosh.com

Or follow her on Twitter: @claremackint0sh

This article is from the November 2013 Christmas edition of Cotswold Life magazine.

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