When I was three years old (or so), I went to bed one Christmas Eve overly excited about the upcoming holiday. My excitement made it hard to sleep (Santa was coming!) and when I woke to see lights on and hear my parents’ voices, I knew it was time. I scampered out in the living room to see what the big red guy had brought, only to find my dad in the throws of putting together my dollhouse. The dollhouse that was from “Santa.” It was then and there that I discovered the truth.
Perhaps because I learned the truth so early, the decision about whether or not we would “do” Santa was never really that important. Honestly, I thought I could ignore "Santa" for many years and it would just blow over. Not so much with my literal, observant child. Also, when we joined a playgroup with other moms, the idea that we didn’t “do Santa” was surprising. It caused me to think about it and evaluate whether or not we would use this tradition in our home (Natalie, unitl this year, was young enough that we could start Santa if we wanted).
We don’t do Santa, and we have several reasons for it. However, I don’t have a problem with the jolly old elf. In fact, we watch Rudolph and other Santa-centric movies, if Natalie ever wanted to sit on his lap, I probably would let her, and she even talks about Santa. We’ve talked about the real St. Nicholas too. But here is why we don’t “Do Santa.”
Truth – I have a hard time lying to my kids on purpose. I am sure I have without thinking “lied,” like when I kiss their owies to make them better, and there are times I have not told the whole truth because she is not ready for it, but to make a big effort to pretend something is true that I know is not would be hard. When we are pretending, we both know it is pretending. This would be even harder because Natalie is so literal. If she directly asked me “Is Santa real?” She would not accept any answer other than “yes” or “no,” and “if you believe he is” or “Santa is the Christmas Spirit” would not suffice.
Gratitude - I want the person who gives her her favorite present, whether it is me or a grandparent, to get the gratitude, not some mythical creature. Maybe that is selfish, but I think learning to be greatful for what we receive is important.
The Real Reason – The real reason for the season is Christ. I see the emphasis being on Santa way too much in society as a whole. In some places it’s almost like worship – “be good because Santa is watching,” “Look at this picture of Santa,” “Sing songs to Santa” "Ask Santa for the things you want/need." There is enough already with the lights, trees, and gifts to take the light away from the Savior this time of year, and I would not want to add another.
That being said, do I think it is wrong for a Christian to pretend about Santa in their holiday traditions? No. Do I think your child will assume that baby Jesus is a lie when you tell them Santa is not true? No. If you live your life like Jesus is a part of it every single day, your child will see that and notice and will understand the difference.
Convenience – Some will say this is selfish, but “doing Santa” would be so hard for our family! We travel almost every Christmas, and I am not sure how Santa’s present would get there. What happens when there is a year that we cannot afford many presents. Does Santa just forget the child that year?
Confusion – How do you explain to your child why their rich friend got a Wii from Santa when she got a doll? Santa gives the best gifts to the rich kids? That hardly seems fair. Or do you perpetuate the myth to the point of buying something you cannot really afford, or buying just one gift in order to get the “Santa” gift, while ignoring other gifts the child may actually benefit from or really enjoy.
Necessity – Some have accused me of ruining the “magic” of Christmas. Not any of my friends, but acquaintances. Really, Christmas is magical for my child. Of course, last year she was too sick to care, but she was so thrilled opening her presents today. She was eager with the anticipation of Christmas. As a three year old, learning the “truth” didn’t faze me. I still loved Christmas. The only Christmas that wasn’t magical was the year that I sneaked and peaked at my presents, so none of them were surprises.
We apply these same ideas to the other mythical creatures. We will have Natalie put her teeth under her pillow, but just to see what happens, not because of a tooth fairy. We do an Easter Egg hunt, but we do not pretend that a giant bunny lays eggs (What a silly tradition anyways!)
Rest assured if your kids are friends of my kids, I have carefully explained to Natalie about how other families pretend about Santa, and I have instructed her that saying “Santa is pretend” is something for mommies and daddies, not her. She will not spill the beans before you are ready.
So that is my reasoning if you wondered. What will your family do with Santa?
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