I know, I know. It’s a rite of passage in a child’s life. It’s magical. Their faces light up and there is an innocence in their belief. I am depriving my children of the joy that comes with believing in Santa, and I’m going against a rather American norm. I get that, and I have to say #sorrynotsorry.
My children are loved, cared for, and we celebrate the heck out of Christmas! We decorate the tree, make hot chocolate, read Christmas stories, watch Christmas movies, exchange gifts and even get pictures with Santa. The only thing we don’t do is tell our kids that Santa brings presents to all the boys and girls of the world. Here’s why:
It is a lie. Spin it however you like, at the end of the day, it isn’t true. Does this mean I never tell white lies to my children? No. It means I do my very best to be honest with my children about life. When they ask me questions, I want them to know they can count on me to be honest. I am sure that most children grow up fine believing in Santa, but I would rather not have my child question my integrity once they find out Santa isn’t real.
It is impossible. I’m not sure about your kids, but mine have asked for some pretty outrageous things. My son wants to be able to fly, my daughter wants magical powers, and my youngest wants to have One Direction perform a concert in our living room. Yes, seriously. Beyond that, they have asked for things we simply cannot afford ($400 scooter, not happening). How do I explain that Santa did not bring them what they wanted, when the entire premise of Santa is that he brings you what you want?
Christmas is not dependent on good works. Another thing taught in the Santa mantra, the “nice” and “naughty” list. How – how do we get passed this? I’m pretty sure at one time or another, our kids have been “naughty,” and some years, I can confidently say my children were likely more naughty than nice. What do I do? Give them coal? Or am I teaching them that no matter what I say and how they act, they will still get their presents. To me, their gifts are not contingent upon their behavior. I cannot reconcile that with what we teach our children about Santa.
It is unfair. Let’s assume we could get our children every single thing on their list, it still would not solve the issue of other children in their life not getting everything they want. Undoubtedly, children will talk at school. How can we answer the question “Why didn’t Susie get any presents from Santa?” without discussing income inequality and unrealistic expectations.
It is heartbreaking. At least, it was for me. Let me take you back to Christmas Eve, 1985. For my entire life, “Santa” was not only real, but I knew him! He would show up to my step-grandmother’s house to hand out presents. On that fateful Christmas Eve, when I was five-and-a-half years old, my brother callously informed me that the man I thought was Santa was only a relative dressed up and that Santa did not exist. Crushed, I turned to my dad to expose my brother’s lies, but he confirmed them. Of all my Christmas memories, this one is the most vivid. When I think back on my childhood Christmas, this is what I remember. I have no magical memories of Santa which aren’t tainted with the devastation I felt when I learned the truth. Of course, I’m fine now, and I don’t fault my parents or anyone over this (well, maybe my brother a little bit). That moment was a big and painful moment for me, one that I would rather not have my children endure.
So, what DO we do?
We teach our children about Saint Nicholas. We tell them how he lived long ago and because of his faith, he devoted his life to helping others. We explain in age appropriate terms how his life was such an inspiration that his work is still celebrated at Christmas in the form of Santa Claus. We tell our children that although Santa is not a real person who lives at the North Pole and “Sees you when you’re sleeping,” that it is still okay to celebrate Santa knowing who he is based upon.
We have done our best telling our children that some other people believe in Santa, and they have been instructed not to say anything about him not being real. So far, they have not ruined the magic for any other children. The closest they came was when my niece freaked out because my daughter touched the “Elf on the Shelf.” Yeah, we don’t do that either. Except for our own entertainment.
I love this post. I’m all for making this switch if my darling wife allows it. Although my parents, her parents, and her sisters might freak out, the way you layer it out is so logical. It’s actually sounds dumb to actually participate in Santa.
LOVE LOVE LOVE
Thank you, Bradley!
You know who else does not believe in Santa? ISIS!!! SANTA, THE BIBLE it is all a moral compass . Why not let your kids enjoy the innocent of their childhood. But it is your kids and your life we will all just have to deal with the people they become. And being a parent in todays world you will lie to your kids to not expose them to all the worlds disfunctions.
Last I checked, Santa wasn’t in the Bible. I find your take on Christmas very, well, unchristian. There are many faiths in the world and, because we live in a country that was founded on religious freedom, we have developed into a nation that respects other’s religions. That includes an appreciation that moral values exist outside of your own beliefs, that people of a variety of beliefs can be good people. And again, believing in Santa doesn’t automatically make you a good person. It’s your moral values that come from your family and maybe your religion. You know, values like respect, kindness, curiosity, academic inquiry, and humility.
I guess I find great value in celebrating the impossible magic of Christmas fairytales.
Clive says it better than I can, here:
Funny you should bring up CS Lewis, Scott- he’s one of my favorite authors/theologians of all time. I definitely agree with those points as well, and my reasons for not have nothing to do with religion, rather my experiences and what Santa is today. Of course, I do not begrudge anyone for having their children believe and would never try to change someone’s mind. 🙂
I couldn’t agree more with your post. I have the same memory of finding Santa wasn’t real and I was so so upset. As matter of fact, it still can make me melancholy….
I’m so glad to see you have treated the situation the same way I did. I did not want my children to experience the disappointment as well.
Thanks for posting.
No problem Terez. It’s crazy how one moment can shape the way we parent.
I can understand if your child asks if Santa is real or not. But why ruin that for them. What do you do when your third grader asks about sex? Will you be honest?
It’s just extreme….
Actually, yes. I believe I will. My oldest is only in 1st so I don’t want to speculate too much, but I have given that some thought. If my 3rd grader seems mature enough to understand it, I probably will tell them the truth (in an age appropriate manner) about sex…especially if they ask, because that means they already heard something from somewhere, and I would rather them get the truth from me.
And believe me, there’s no “extreme” here. Despite this post, my 3 year old believes in Santa because everyone at his school does- I don’t mind at all. I don’t encourage it, but I’m certainly not fussing at my 3 year old telling him Santa isn’t real. 🙂
This so interesting, because that’s how I’ve always dealt with the whole Santa thing and we still have amazing Christmases. And as far as the sex thing, I have a 6th & 3rd grader and I answer any and all questions about it with age appropriate truths. I would rather then ask me than get some kind of crazy answer from there friends.
So, this is my most difficult point. I agree with your post 100% and saddened by the fact that my 4 year old has asked multiple times if santa is real. I tell him no, but school keeps telling him yes, family keeps saying “when Santa comes…” “aren’t you excited about Santa?” “Better be good, you want to get Christmas presents.” He asked my husband a week ago if he could write a letter to Santa asking for a gift. I was shocked. I’ve never taught Santa. What do I do when he falls into believing in something that I don’t want to teach? ?
I see the logic. I am just in love with the magic. I really don’t remember the “moment “. Technically since I am the oldest, Santa visited our house till I was in college. I am trying and I don’t remember when I knew.
But…the sex comment above. I have a 3 grader and he knows pretty much everything about sex. BTW though I don’t remember the no Santa moment. .I vividly remember the moment I was (mis)informed about sex …I was in the 4th grade. I wanted him to get the real info from me.
I totally agree with you. I don’t remember the moment I found out. What I do remember is the moment my parents tried to “break it to me” that there was no Santa. I remember feeling sorry for them because I already figured out the truth on my own. I also remember feeling appreciative that my parents were trying to keep the myth going for me. I read research that most kids figure it out on their own, before their parents realize, and it isn’t psychologically damaging.
On paper, the whole tradition does seem really weird, but as a child, it wasn’t that big of a deal. We were poor and never questioned why other kids were getting video game systems while we got inexpensive toys. We didn’t feel any less loved. And by the time kids are able to think critically about what other kids are getting, they are probably figuring it out for themselves.
It’s interesting to me when people say they don’t want to lie to their kids, but then they tell their kids to lie to other kids about Santa. They say they don’t lie in their home, but then assure the rest of us that their child is going to be a really great liar and not ruin it for our kids.
We do Santa in my home. We do it in moderation. Our kids get a few, small gifts. We don’t threaten our kids that Santa is watching. We don’t mislead our kids that the gifts are correlated with their behavior. Santa comes as a role model that Christmas is about giving. We focus on the giving in our home, but make no attempts to hide that getting is also pretty fun too.
When the day comes to tell our kids the truth, we won’t just tell them we were lying the whole time. We will explain WHY we lied. We will tell them it’s an American tradition and that we got enjoyment out of watching them enjoy the myth of Santa. We will tell them about our memories of believing in Santa and when/how we learned the truth.
Hopefully our kids will see it the way I did as a child. A weird ritual, but hey, I got a lot of cool gifts because my parents wanted to see me happy. I don’t think most kids hold real grudges over Santa. If so, maybe there are some larger issues going on between parent and child. But I can’t recall any child from a happy, healthy home, turning to drugs or crime because of the trauma from Santa.
Same here, Janis!
Great article, and each their own! My husband and I really struggled with how to celebrate Christmas, for all of the reasons listed in this article. We tell our four year old that Santa brings her ONE gift. He doesn’t need to bring her so many presents because daddy and I work very hard to give her everything she needs and some things she wants. Through this method we’re teaching her the value of money and why we leave her, and her sister, for 8 hours everyday. We’re teaching her that some toys are too expensive. During this time we do a lot of talking about the real meaning of Christmas (her scout elf always reminds her of the real reasons too) and we talk about children who are less fortunate in life and that don’t get presents, or even food, shoes or coats. We purge her room and donate her toys “to children who can’t afford toys” about every 4 months. This year she requested to do an angel tree child. It’s a sprinkle of magic with a cup of realism and humbling. Here’s to hoping we’re raising our girls right!
We don’t do Santa either for all of the reasons you listed but also because….
Several years ago, our van was broken into and the kids dvds and players and other kid used items were taken. From that point on, they were not okay with a stranger being in their home (even if to bring gifts). No tooth fairy sneaking into the room and getting in breathing distance from my sleeping daughters. No baskets of chocolate put on dressers by big bunnies. We still celebrate all of these holidays with the same anticipation but not with strangers.
Also, Christmas is a great opportunity to teach kids what God’s grace looks like. It’s Christmas, a Christian holiday, you should be engaging your kids in a very spiritual way anyways. So what better way than to give gifts that they have not otherwise earned. God’s grace is just like that. He forgives even the worst of sins. Our naughty is made nice.
We also do 3 gifts in the home for each child. Another teaching op for kids about the 3 gifts given to the newborn king. We ask our kids to really think about what they’d like to have. Not just stuff. This year, one has asked for a sewing machine and the other a guitar. Great gifts and not just stuff I’m gonna purge in a few months.
But lying is the biggest thing for me. That and working my tail off to give great gifts only for a stranger to get the credit. Our handmade barbie house was the last year we did Santa and it made me so upset to put in all the time only to give it over to the fat guy in a big red suit. Don’t get me started on that dang elf. Good riddance. Other than just being a decoration in our house, Eddie is just for fun these days. No creepy people sneaking into the home.
We still make cookies, but then as a family we eat them. We still hang stockings and each other shop for the other (usually arts and craft supplies and chap sticks and hair accessories. We still have pictures with Santa at church because it’s fun.
Honesty really is the best policy. This coming from a family that the two girls have been fully involved in the little twos home births. No secrets. No dumbing down. Just life and learning as we go.
While I do respect your choice for your family, I have to say that believing in Santa as a child is just one of the many things that is special and innocent about being a child! When they are old enough to know the truth, they should be mature enough to understand logic. I know when I found out about Santa my parents explained the tradition. Now that I am a mother I get to experience the other side of the coin and I can’t wait!
To each their own. I didn’t have a devastating core memory, that haunted me to this day to impose the non Santa rule. I had a wonderful support system when the scrooge kids would say that Santa is their parents or he is not real. When this happened I was asked what do I believe,and at 9 I believed in fairies, magic and make believe. That is what this age “child’s brain” Understands. They do not understand reasoning concepts or complex thoughts/reasonings that just begin to happen in a 13 yr old. It only lasts for a while, childhood, and the magic is gone. But, as I read all of the other posts above, you will undoubtedly defend your way till the end. I’m so glad my brain didn’t “devastate” when I eventually found out. Im blessed with 4 children, and to answer your oh so hard question about how can you tell your kids no to expensive toys? You do. You have to use that magical mind and think…..”Because Santa knows that that I do not approve of this toy, video game, ect.” That is what I tell mine and they know. Im not knocking your way, but the reason why you do this is not mainly because of lies and heartbreak. It’s because you had basically one year of memory, age 4, of Santa, then it was gone. You just justify your reasons with what makes since to you. I always use this trick. Don’t put an adult head on children’s shoulders.
God, Jesus, Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Bigfoot Monsters & Aliens. No one has really seen them, but some still choose to believe. I’ve never met anyone who met Jesus or God, but I choose to believe in them.
I found the perfect poem that is titled “The Spirit of Santa Claus”. It addresses this very issue that we all have to face eventually. But the way it is done it preserves the spirit of Santa while taking the stress off of mom and dad. I pasted the poem below.
The Spirit of Christmas
“Daddy”, the child said, her eyes full of tears, “Will you talk to me and quiet my fears? Those bad boys at school are spreading a lie and saying that reindeer can’t possibly fly!” “There’s no Santa Claus, they say with a grin, There’s not one now and there never has been! How can one man take all of those toys to thousands and thousands of good girls and boys?” “But I told them, Daddy, that they were not right, and that I would come home and find out tonight. Mama said wait until you come home, so please tell me now that I was not wrong.” Her Daddy looked at her questioning face and puffed his pipe while his frantic mind raced. He had put this off as long as he could, he had to think fast and it better be good!Whispering a prayer, he began with a smile, “Well climb on my lap, dear, let’s talk a while. “Remember at church how we learned to pray, Asking God to take care of us every day?” “And you know how we say Grace before each meal, to this same God whom we know to be real?Though we never see Him, we know He is there watching His children with such loving care.” “God started Christmas a long time ago when He gave us His Son to love and to know. A spirit of giving came with that birth, and God’s generosity filled the whole earth.” “Man had to name this spirit of giving just as he names all things that are living. The name Santa Claus came to someone’s mind, As good a name as any to find.” “There is, you can see, and I think it’s quite clear,Truly a Santa who visits each year. A spirit, like God, whom we never see,
He enters the hearts of your mother and me.” “Each year at Christmas for one special night, we become him and make everything right.
But the real spirit of Christmas is in you and in me, and I hope you are old enough now to see that as we believe and continue to give, our friend Santa Claus will continue to live!”