Montessori Christmas: whether or not to tell about Santa Claus?

There is no Christmas without Santa Claus: from greeting cards to puppets in shop windows, from shapes on balconies to tree decorations, from songs to disguises, the nice old man dressed in red is now omnipresent. Even in the minds of children, for whom he is a character that is both familiar and mysterious. But how it should be presented in the perspective of a Montessori education?

Considering the importance that Maria Montessori attributed to the needs of do not fool the children and to put them in the right conditions for discover and know reality, the question arises spontaneously. It is right to tell the little ones the "fairy tale " of someone who, on Christmas Eve, brings gifts to children on a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer? It is right to present as real a fictional character whose nonexistence will be revealed sooner or later? And what consequences this discovery will have on the relationship of trust that parents have tried to build with their child?

Among Montessori educators there is no single position on the subject: for some it is better to avoid, for others it can be done easily, perhaps with some attention. To demonstrate the lack of a single thought is the fact that in the Italian schools that are part of the Montessori National Opera (ONM), an institution founded by the same scientist and pedagogist to promote the spread of her thought, Christmas is celebrated in different ways.

"Traditionally the nativity scene was made: today some Montessori schools still do it, perhaps trying to put it in an intercultural context, while others celebrate the arrival of Santa Claus " he says Elide Taviani, trainer of the ONM and in turn a student of Montessori schools and mother and grandmother of children who have attended and attend these schools. We asked her, immersed in a life in a Montessori climate, for a testimony on her relationship with Santa Claus and Christmas in general.

His first consideration is that, beyond what you decide to tell the little ones of the house, the really important aspect for a Christmas in the "Montessori spirit " is that it is a child-friendly party. "To begin with, let us take care to go to the heart of this holiday, which is a celebration of birth, of life, of the joy of having children with us. I think it is right - regardless of the religious value or not that one intends to attribute to it - to remember that at Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus. For those who do not believe, this anniversary can simply become the occasion to celebrate all the children who are born: an opportunity that lends itself very well to the exchange of gifts ".

Christmas, for Taviani, however, it must not become a consumerist excuse: "The goal must not be the pursuit of the most flashy and expensive gifts and clothes, but the construction of a serene and positive atmosphere, in which even the children's rhythms, the real stars of the party. If Christmas becomes a stressful day, in which you have to wait to eat because your aunt hasn't arrived yet, you can't open the presents because your little cousin is missing, you become a hindrance for mum or dad too busy in the kitchen or with guests. , the party spirit is betrayed ".

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Having said that, Taviani offers some specific food for thought for those who ask themselves the problem Santa Claus yes / Santa Claus no. "Maria Montessori teaches us who children are indefatigable explorers of reality, therefore it is necessary to give them the opportunity to observe and understand it.

There is so much "true " to discover that you don't need to add anything else, especially in the first years of life, in which children learn by "absorbing " everything they experience and know.

So, at least in the beginning, better not to mix the cards too much between real and fantastic". In concrete terms, if we decide to tell about a legendary character who brings gifts to children, let's do it, but avoiding flying reindeer or passage from chimneys, that not only are they clearly out of touch with reality - so the child who looks for a trace of them will obviously not be able to find it - but what is more they add nothing to the wonder of reality itself.

"For a child, birds and airplanes are already extraordinary " underlines Taviani. "There is no need for flying reindeer..."

In short, if you don't add too many fantastic frills, you can talk about Santa Claus. As for the risk that this "lie " of mum and dad about who brings gifts at Christmas could undermine the children's trust in their parents when in the end the little ones will discover the truth, for Taviani it is rather limited. "Sure, as I said it would be better don't stray too far from reality and in general avoid building a world for the child populated by too many non-existent creatures (Santa Claus, Befana, fairies, elves, tooth fairies and so on). But I believe that what really matters, in building a relationship of trust, is do not deceive children about matters that directly concern them and family life. Just an example: saying that everything is fine if instead there is a problem at home there is an attitude that produces anxiety and confusion. Instead, we must learn to present even the small or large adversities that can go through the life of a family ".

On the other hand, it is not certain that, upon discovering that Santa Claus does not exist, children experience the "lies " of their parents about him as a betrayal. Everyone reacts in their own way: someone actually suffers and accuses mum and dad of having deceived him, others do not flinch, or perhaps - at the "confession " of their parents - they declare that they have known for some time that it is an invention. And among those who are immediately told the truth there are those who complain, when they grow up, of being deprived of a little "Christmas magic ".

"Also for this reason - comments Taviani - I believe don't worry too much about what you decide to tell. The important thing is, on the one hand, not to deviate too much from the reality principle and, on the other, to make Christmas an opportunity to be together with joy, from the preparations in the days before until the feast of December 25 ".

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Without forgetting that the figure of Santa Claus can also become an opportunity to introduce stories of a historical or even cultural and anthropological nature: "You can tell Christmas myths and legends - concludes Taviani - from those of northern Europe to that of St. Nicholas, protector of children, perhaps showing on a globe the countries in which they are celebrated ".

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