TOKYO, November 28, 2011 - Religion never played a major role in our lives. My husband and I did not even discuss it before marriage. Although I spent a number of years in a Catholic school and was well versed in its ceremonies and teachings, I did not really think of myself as a Catholic. I prayed when I found myself in the great cathedrals and small churches of
In my prayers, I was always addressing someone, a higher being. I knew that I was not an atheist, and that I believed in one God who appeared in different forms in various houses of worship. My thoughts on religion were not definite, but I was certain I did not want to impose any particular one on Maia. She was free to choose whatever religion she wanted when the time came.
Many of Maia’s best friends in
With both Hanukkah and Christmas celebrated in December, the lobby of the building we lived in had both a menorah and a Christmas tree. It was not unusual for us to go from a Hanukkah gathering to a Christmas party.
What is God?
Fortunately, it was not another one of Maia’s questions. It was the title of a book I gave her.
When she came home talking about two of her friends attending Sunday school, I thought it was time to have a Mommy Talk on religion. Being no expert on the subject, I gave her a book with the title “What is God?”
It was a book for children, but it introduced her to the major religions of the world, the well-known figures that represented them – Moses, Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed – and the Holy Books of the Bible, the Torah, the Koran, the Sutras and the Vedas.
Religion was a choice for Maia to make, but I certainly did not expect her to come to a decision after reading one book in third grade! I was totally taken aback when she closed her book, and announced that she was going to have a bat mitzvah! Just like her Jewish friends in
That was the last Mommy Talk we had on religion. Maia’s attention had shifted to another unseen all-knowing being – Santa Claus. Compared to the jolly old man in a red suit, God was easy to explain. At least I was not pretending to be him for the last several years.
We were not Christians, but that did not prevent us from celebrating Christmas in a big way. With the first day of December, a month-long celebration began in our home. Aside from the quilted cross-stitch Christmas tapestry I made while living in
For the first eight years of Maia’s life, Santa Claus was very much a part of our Christmas celebrations. He came each year with presents for her, and she never ceased to be amazed at how he knew exactly what she wanted. She could never remember which presents were from Santa, and which ones were from Mommy and Daddy, but she would always remember the letters. Santa never failed to leave a letter under the Christmas tree. And to prove that he kept up with the times, one year he even sent Maia an e-mail from my e-mail address!
On our first Christmas back in
I know that this year has brought you many changes…a new school and new friends, and I am very happy that you have accepted all these changes with a very positive attitude.
Please continue to make the best of whatever comes along because when you grow up, you will realize that living in many countries, and experiencing many cultures make you a richer person in so many ways.
Thank you very much for your letter. You have always been kind and considerate towards others. I know that you do not like asking for things, and it is very important to say thank you, but if you really want something, you should ask your parents because if they can, they will give you anything and everything you want.
Well, I hope that you have a happy holiday season. And remember, Christmas is not all about decorations and presents. It is what you feel in your heart.
It was after our second Christmas in
Maia came home from school with stories of how everyone spent their winter break, and what presents they received from parents, friends and relatives. She did not mention anyone in her class getting a present from Santa Claus, but she did talk about friends with younger siblings who did.
I knew the day of reckoning for Santa had arrived.
That night, before falling asleep…
Maia: Mommy, Connor was making fun of the third graders who got presents from Santa.
Connor was the tallest and biggest boy in the grade.
Mommy: How was he making fun of them?
Maia: Well, he said they were stupid for believing in Santa Claus. He wasn’t real.
Mommy: Who did he say Santa really was?
Maia: Their moms and dads.
I was filled with sadness. I knew then that Santa would not be coming next Christmas.
Mommy: Well, what do you think?
Maia: I’m not sure.
Mommy: I’m not sure, too. I don’t know if there really is a jolly old man in a red suit living in the North Pole making sure that children like you get presents, but if he were real, I know that he would do everything he could to make all children happy on Christmas Day. I didn’t think that Santa could do everything on his own though, and that’s why Daddy and I helped him. We bought your presents for him.
I remember desperately making up things as I went along.
Maia: So Santa Claus is not real?
Mommy: I guess it all depends on you, Maia. If you believe in your heart that he is real, then he is. He may not be what you’ve always thought he was, but that does not make him not real.
I myself did not understand what I was saying, but I was determined to spare Maia the grief of losing Santa.
Maia: Does that mean that I will no longer get Christmas presents?
Mommy: Of course not. You will always get Christmas presents from us.
Maia: OK. Good night, Mommy. I love you.
Mommy: Good night, Maia. I love you, too.
I could not believe my luck. Maia did not ask about the letters I forged as Santa. She never did, but I found them years later, neatly tied together with a red ribbon, in her treasure box.
And, this year, I hope to surprise the twenty-two-year-old Maia with a present and a letter from Santa Claus!
Promise not to tell her!
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