Navigating the Santa Tradition: A Central Coast Family’s Christmas Tale

by LukeAdmin

“80 Stories High” by Central Coast local Dr John Irvine

Phillip’s Christmas story – Phillip reverts to white lies to solve his Santa problems

Do you think it’s justified to tell a “white” lie? Phillip was guilty of that, but he was a master of quick thinking. I have many of his exploits in mind, but his handling of the Christmas ritual takes the cake.

Talking about rituals reminds me just how important they are to our emotional survival. Just for a moment, think about your habits over birthdays, Easter egg hunts, the Christmas symbols on the tree, the present opening format, your Sunday night dinners etc. Those rituals continue over the generations, and in recent times, scientists are discovering the strong stabilising role rituals play in our mental health.

One of those rituals in many homes is the Santa visit, where my friend Phillip was a master. His family’s ritual for Santa’s visit dated back at least three generations, but last year things went wrong. Phillip’s family were devout Catholics. Their custom was for the extended family, about 30 in total, to get together at Phillip and Jan’s place on Christmas Eve for a big BBQ. Then the group would split up, some off home to bed and some to prepare for Santa, and then some would go off to midnight mass. That meant each family would wake up Christmas morning, perform their own routines, and celebrate the wonder of wonders in their traditional way.

In Phillip and Jan’s home and before the visitors arrived, the kids would help Dad get everything set, including the Christmas cake for Santa.

Every year, after the kids had gone to bed and before he went to Mass, it was Phillip’s job to eat half of Santa’s cake. Last year, things were rushed. The barbecue had been a bit of a culinary disaster. Dad was hassled and, in his haste, forgot to attend to the eating of the cake ritual.

Now keep in mind that their son, Barney, aged seven, thought the sun, moon and stars shone out of Dad. But on Christmas morning, the whole fabric of their faith came unstuck big time. The kids had gone out to check that Santa had been and left the presents and there was the cake, untouched!

Barney raced into his parents’ bedroom, tears streaming down his face and screaming at Dad, “You’re a liar. I don’t believe you anymore. There’s no Santa. We left out the cake for him, and it’s still there. I hate you”. Barney then ran back into his room, howling his eyes out.

Jan touched Phillip on the arm and whispered, “I think it’s about time for you and Barney to have a big talk. He’s ready to know the truth”. Phillip climbed slowly out of bed and trudged his way into his son’s room. He knew this wasn’t going to be easy. He entered and shut the door. Ten minutes later, a much happier Dad and a much brighter Barney emerged.

“Are you OK, son?” asked his anxious mum.

“Yeah, I’m good, but I wish Dad had told me that Santa was on a diet and couldn’t eat fruit cake!”

Well done, Dad. Welcome to the Storytellers’ Club.

Sometimes white lies, half–truths, creative compositions are not only forgiveable but necessary to add spice to life, build imagination, and offer a distraction from the day–to–day grind of responsibility and chores. Long live laughter and the stress relief that lurks therein.

Editorial comment:
I’m not sure I agree with Dr John’s summary of this story. I’ve seen too many examples where telling a white lie to save the day has led to misery down the track.

“Lies are neither bad nor good. Like a fire, they can either keep you warm or burn you to death; depending on how they’re used.” Max Brooks

“80 Stories High” is an uplifting collection of short stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things for those they love. They are from the memoirs of Dr John Irvine, one of Australia’s most heard, read and seen Paediatric Psychologists.

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