Christmas cheer and fear (part 1)

28 Nov

The world of children’s stories is a mixed up place when you put Kipper back on the bookshelf and pick up the traditional fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm. There is a sinister side to these stories that starts to fill a child’s world with bogeymen, wicked witches and monsters lurking under the bed. Christmas is not so different. A bold statement perhaps (*puts tongue in cheek*) and certainly not in the accepted spirit of things. Is Christmas all about cheer or does it, like many traditions and stories, have a darker, scarier side?

As a child I was afraid of Father Christmas. I was fully signed up to the idea that he was the jolly fella who would arrive laden with gifts, but there was still no way I was letting a strange man into my room in the middle of the night. In the dark. When everyone was asleep. Well, would you when it’s put that way? No, no, no – it was a step too far for the shy child that I was. What if he was the child catcher in disguise? Or the Pied Piper? What if he had elves with him? My Christmas stocking stayed firmly hung on the outside of my bedroom door and never once graced the end of my bed.

Father Christmas may bring presents with a hearty “ho, ho, ho” but he is also big, fat and hairy. To a child he must seem enormous and, wearing his peculiar clothes, must beggar the question in their fragile minds: “who is this huge, red, scary monster man?” Worst of all, he is over familiar – he even wants you to sit on his knee (well, he did in the innocent days when CRB checking Santa would have been like asking the Queen for a form of ID). He’s the Werther’s Original Grandpa on speed. Observe the Santa Effect in action in the photograph below. This was taken at my daughter’s first (conscious) visit to the Big Man aged 14 months:

Note the school masterly look on Santa’s face then note the look of sheer terror on my daughter’s. Oh yes, and look at Mummy laughing nervously as she tries to enforce the Christmas cheer, only managing to worsen the Christmas fear by shoving her dear daughter closer to the object causing the anxiety. It won’t stop me doing it again. My 20-month-old son has his first visit to Santa lined up. I know what his reaction will be but, dammit, it is Christmas (and a photo opportunity).

And what do we do as parents to help this fear? Nothing. We make it worse. As soon as the first bauble hits the shops in August, the threat of Father Christmas and his all-seeing eye becomes the parents’ weapon of choice. Who needs bribery when the prospect of a lump of coal can be wielded in the face of a screaming child flailing around on a supermarket floor? So much for putting the fear of God into someone, this is the fear of Santa. (Gosh, I’ve associated Christmas with religion there – that can’t be right, surely?)

So can Christmas get much scarier? You bet it can. In Part 2 of this post you will meet a character who is so very wrong on many levels … Zwarte Piet.

8 Responses to “Christmas cheer and fear (part 1)”

  1. simonsometimessays November 29, 2012 at 8:01 am #

    I wonder if this is the reason that ghost stories are so often associated with Christmas? (*Thinks The Signalman, A Christmas Carol*) Because from our earliest childhood we are forced to visit a character who is usually more grotesque than kindly. No amount of ho-ho-ho-ing can make turn anyone into the real Santa (ie the one in the Coca Cola advert).
    “I’ll need my wellies”, says Santa. “Why?” says Mrs Santa. “Looks like rain, dear.”

    • Crumbs & Pegs November 29, 2012 at 8:17 am #

      Boom boom. You’re right – the Coca Cola Santa is the only truly benign version I could think of. And ‘grotesque’ was the word I was looking for – should have used that!

  2. Sooz November 29, 2012 at 8:56 am #

    My Mother In Law had a go at me for denying my children the ‘Magic of Christmas’ – they know about Santa but don’t *believe* in him. Since knowing-about-but-not-believing is the way I’d like them to go with the whole ‘god’ thing as well, it seemed the right way to go.

    • Crumbs & Pegs November 29, 2012 at 10:55 pm #

      I’m sure they still get the magic without having to believe in Santa. In the same way I can enjoy a carol without having to believe in God! 😉

  3. tatia November 29, 2012 at 9:13 am #

    Oh I am so looking forward to part 2! Yesterday, P picked up something with Zwarte Piet on it and I said quite firmly: This is not coming into our house! Heads turned and I quickly left the shop …x

  4. tatia November 29, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    PS: Love the photo and the way you are looking! Hairy men indeed!


  1. santasometimessays – I checked it twice « simonsometimessays - December 13, 2012

    […] The very excellent Crumbs and Pegs recently lifted the lid on one of the myths of Christmas – with photographic evidence of the sheer terror that a certain Big Red character – who at any other time of the year would be presented as an ogre – can bring to young minds. Have a look at the awful truth about Christmas cheer. […]

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