Big D once came home from Montessori, really surprised that his classmates truly believed in Santa Claus and were angry at him when he told them Santa and the Tooth Fairy were just make believe.
When Big D was young, and when his first baby tooth dropped off, someone told him about the Tooth Fairy and how, if he put the tooth under his pillow, the Tooth Fairy would come and take the tooth and place some money in its place. I don’t know who told him the story, it could well have been me. I don’t remember. But I do remember telling him that there was no such thing as the Tooth Fairy and that parents were the ones who put money under their children’s pillows. After all, why should I let the “Tooth Fairy” take credit for the money which I placed under his pillow? So, very pragmatically, I just told Big D to “give me the tooth and I’ll give you a few dollars.” I know it’s silly because I shouldn’t even need to give him any money, right? But I did, because it was “cute.” By the time Little D was born, got older and had his teeth drop off one-by-one, I don’t think I even bothered with the coins. Little D was a lot poorer than his gor-gor.
The same went for Christmas. I always told my kids that Santa Claus was just a story, it’s bluff. In fact, apart from Christmas being Jesus’ birthday anniversary, there’s so much to Christmas to try to figure out, I’ve never really figured out as to how to begin explaining it all. Over the centuries, so many festivals have gotten enmeshed in this occasion, including Jesus’ birth. I mean, really, Jesus was not even born in December, because it’s unlikely that shepherds would have been out there in the open, let alone with their sheep in the bitter cold. (It was more likely that Jesus was born end-Sept, calculated by when John the Baptist was born, calculated by working backwards on when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies and encountered the angel, and then working forwards to when John might have been conceived. You get the idea.) And that’s just the date. There’s still the Christmas tree, the presents, Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, winter solstices, etc. Just how far do you want to go in explaining all this to your young toddler? So, when the kids were young, I just told them that Jesus was born on Christmas day. Everything else, the tree, the presents, were just there to add to the occasion. And no, there’s no such thing as Santa Claus; it’s God who provides for your daddy’s salary so that your parents can buy you presents. When they got older, I add in the bits about no one knowing exactly which day Jesus was born and the possibilities as to why Christmas ended up being in December.
I do that for Easter as well. I keep my story as simple as possible. Jesus was crucified on Good Friday and rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. Hey, that’s actually not that simple to believe, if you think about it. Only through faith, gift from God, can you believe this miracle. That Easter also has pagan origins can come later when the kids are old enough to understand. Easter bunny? Easter eggs? And the connection between bunnies and eggs? I just tell them I have no clue. I do get mini-chocolate eggs and hide them around the house, simply because the kids love chocolate and the hiding eggs game is not too tedious for me. Except the one time when we found a chocolate egg tucked away in a corner of the house months after Easter. I insisted that we throw the chocolate away and did not allow them to eat it.
When it comes to Halloween and whether it’s an innocent festival or one with satanic origins, you do see people get quite heated up in the discussion. Surf the net and you’ll see so many discussions about whether or not to participate in Halloween. Then, there’s the added component of All Saints Day and All Souls Day added to the Halloween season as well. I am just wondering out aloud whether it’s become such an overwhelmingly popular season that there’s no way for us living in certain countries to avoid it. Perhaps that was how Christmas and Easter evolved in the early years and how Christians adapted and adopted their own practices for the season.
Halloween is, to me, somewhat like a western version of our Singaporean Hungry Ghost Festival Personally, I don’t participate in the Hungry Ghost Festival, and so, in turn, I don’t commemorate Halloween as well. I also don’t observe Qingming or tomb sweeping day either; my family makes trips down to Mandai Columbarium to view my father-in-law’s niche on his birthday and his death anniversary. On these two days every year, we will visit his niche to remind ourselves of who granddad was. That’s about it. How much would I allow my kids to participate in Halloween activities if I were living in a country where Halloween is huge major festival and kids were required to dress up for school, and the entire neighbourhood is out and about for trick-or-treats? I honestly don’t know. In Singapore, we have so many different religious and ethnic groups each celebrating their own festivals and seasons. None of us impose our beliefs on the other, we don’t get offended if not everybody believes in what we believe. No one feels pressured to participate. There are exceptions though; I have observed that weddings and funeral rites can be a tense affair if religious beliefs differ within the family unit.
I am thinking about Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians, chapter 8) and about his opinions about eating food that had been offered to idols. With regards to this issue, Paul took into consideration a few key principles such as keeping the unity/peace of the church, being mindful not to be a stumbling block or to mislead fellow “weaker” Christians, and observing one’s own conscience. To put it simplistically, he advised that if any of these factors were in play, then, just avoid the practice. Paul did have his personal opinion on the actual matter of the eating food offered to idols; he quoted Psalm 24:1—For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof. Basically, Paul was saying “Okay to eat lah.” And yet, Paul also wrote: “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up (1 Cor, 10:23). He had an opinion about the subject matter, but he also clarified that that was not the only factor nor even the most important factor he applied in his decision making process.
I think we can apply what Paul said in 1 Corinthians, chapter 8 as guiding principles when deciding whether we would or would not participate in controversial festivals such as Halloween. Let’s make the decision wisely, based on the principles Paul listed, and also, let’s not judge others who have different opinions than ours.
But I’ll tell you one thing, Big D, Little D and I often have quite heated discussions about whether Hobbes in “Calvin and Hobbes” is a real tiger, or whether he’s just a figment of Calvin’s imagination. Little D thinks Hobbes is real, otherwise, there is no way Calvin could get so beaten up whenever Hobbes pounces on him. Do you agree?