One of the great things about having kids is that new pair of eyes with which to view Christmas.
As an adult, Christmas had become simply a nice day to catch up with family, and rarely anything more. Sure the weather is (usually) nice and most people are feeling a tad more joyful, but in general the lead up has been busy, or boozy (or both), with over-consumption of food, drink and goods and services obligatory to the point of ridiculousness, and presents a mere formality.
This year is a bit different for me, largely because for the first time since I was a child, I've entered the Santa fantasy again.
Last time, of course, I was on the receiving end of the fantasy (not for long though, my parents weren't great dissemblers!) This time, it is the task of myself and my husband to make sure the fantasy is extended to our own next generation.
So far - with ample help from popular culture, I might add - it's been a success.
My toddler's eyes light up at the mention of presents. Thanks largely to a Wiggles DVD he's watched about 50,000 times, he knows who Santa is (although I'm sure he doesn't know exactly what he does) and he's chomping through his grandmother's lovingly prepared gingerbread men with gay abandon.
There's no doubt that for most kids, believing in Santa is a wonderful element of the festive season. And I don't see any reason to destroy the fun, certainly not at this early stage.
However, I do wonder about what kids take from the season. For example, the Wiggles DVDs are full of Santa songs, true, but there's also a large helping of Christian content - Away in a Manger, Oh Come All Ye Faithful, and various messages both covert and overt that provide quite a different context for the season.
Then there's the oft-mentioned peace and goodwill, which is all well and good, until kids have to witness the car park at a Westfield mall in the lead up to Christmas. No good will here folks! Just stressed and tense faces and in some cases - which we've had the misfortune to witness - actual abuse as harried lunatics scrap over a car park.
We are always trying to get the toddler up on Santa's knee. Now, I don't think for a moment that there's anything wrong with that and it annoys me when people try to put a paedophile spin on the poor, put-upon, pretend St Nick who has to put up with all our annoying offspring reeling off lists of things they really don't need while wriggling heavily on his knee. But from a child's perspective, I guess, why would he go and sit on a strange man's knee, much less eat the candy he offers, after constantly being told to be wary of strangers?
(I have to confess my toddler has no such problem taking candy from Santa. He won't sit on his knee but was so eager to eat the chocolate Santa on offer he ate the wrapping as well!)
I personally don't think kids need much in the way of presents - they have such nice lives throughout the year, most of them, and new things whenever they need them.
I think when they are old enough I will be plumping for them to get gifts like those offered by World Vision and the like - buy a goat for a needy family, or a set of school pencils or a desk or some such thing. It's such a great idea and probably closer to the original intent of the day than anything else. That, and I hope we'll take a moment to count our blessings for such fortunate lives.
However, I'm not quite ready to be the Grinch that stole Christmas this year.
Instead, I'll be the tried, frumpy, grumpy Santa, fighting my way through the mall to get that special present for the kids for a few years yet!
Dita De Boni
Pictured above: A Santa waits to see children at a mall in Sydney. Photo / Getty Images