Why We Don’t Do Santa … and How We Handle Those Who Do

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There are so many choices to make when you become a parent – formula or breastmilk, sleeping issues, how to discipline, what kind of education to give them.

And, eventually, what to do about Santa.

It doesn’t matter if you celebrate Christmas or not. If you live in this country, eventually you have to deal with Santa. After all, he is everywhere in December, and a poll showed that at least that at least 70% of parents with children ages 10 and under say at least one of their children believes in Santa, so unless you live in complete isolation (which we don’t, even though we homeschool), Santa is going to come up.

Early on in our parenting journey, my husband and I knew we didn’t want to do the Santa story, which definitely put us in the minority of parents (that same poll said that only 12% of parents said their children never believed in Santa).

3 Main Reasons We Decided Against Santa for our Family

We didn’t want to tell our children something that wasn’t true.

We believe strongly in being truthful and want our children to know we will always be truthful with them. We expect the same from them and could not reconcile that value with a holiday habit that, at its core, deceives children. We also didn’t want to have to un-tell them later and deal with that fallout.

We didn’t want to confuse them.

Beyond the issue of truthfulness, the Santa story has the potential to blur the lines between real and pretend, to connect  behavior and gifts in a way we don’t like, and to elevate greed and selfishness. Can you do Santa and deal with these issues? Well, yes, but we didn’t want to have to do that.

We didn’t want to distract from the real meaning of Christmas.

After all, Christmas is meant to celebrate of the birth of Jesus, who we believe to be God in the flesh dwelling among us, with the goal of saving us from our own selfishness. It is a holiday weighed with theological truths and mysteries and miracles, and worthy of having our full attention.

We only have so much time and energy.

I would rather spend it on meaningful Christmas traditions that focus on Jesus, like having a Jesse Tree, or celebrating Advent, or practice Random Acts of Kindness. There are plenty of other things that distract us during the holiday season. We did not want to create another distraction that in many ways runs counter to what we hold dear.

How We Parent in a Santa-Infused Society

Knowing what we wanted to do and why was relatively easy. Figuring out exactly how to do things in a Santa-infused culture was different, but after nearly nine years of parenting, this is where we have landed:

We talk a lot about real and pretend all year round.

Tigger is pretend, our dog is real. Bob the Builder is pretend, our neighbor is real. Santa and elves are pretend, Jesus and angels are real.

We have boundaries for Santa.

We don’t exile him completely. We watch movies and read stories about Santa, but always in that “pretend” context. We don’t try to get pictures with Santa, although we don’t balk at it either. We don’t talk about Santa as if he were a real person or write him letters.

We talk about the true story of Saint Nicholas. 

Saint Nicholas was a Christian bishop whose life inspired the Santa legend. We talk about how his love for God caused him to be generous and selfless, and that we can do the same. We use Santa as a metaphor for selfless giving that blesses others. We see this bearing fruit this year as our 4-year-old son told us the other day why he is so excited about Christmas coming – because he gets to be Santa for others!

We respect the choices of others.

Our children know that other families pretend about Santa and not to argue with their friends about it. We don’t look down on others who make a different choice for their families, and we communicate that to our children, too.

If you choose differently?

Totally fine, of course. You could probably even look at my reasons for not doing Santa and counter them with pretty logical arguments for why doing Santa is fun and not harmful to your kids, and I would not argue with your reasoning. Because this is one of those things, like schooling and feeding and even birth choices, that make for interesting conversation, but in the end, parents will simply make the best choice for their family.

But if you are leaning toward NOT doing Santa and are a bit concerned about being in that 12%, I hope this encourages you as you seek to build the best habits and traditions for your family, even if that means blazing your own trail this Christmas.

How does your family handle Santa?

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Kristi is a pastor’s wife, mother, writer, and former public school teacher for English for Speakers of Other Languages. She grew up all over the United States as an Air Force brat, but moved to Columbia in the 1990s to attend Columbia International University, and has called the Midlands “home” ever since. Her days are kept full with the antics and activities of her children, homeschooling through Classical Conversations, participating in MOPS and church activities, writing, and leading her Columbia-based pregnancy loss ministry, Naomi’s Circle. Kristi is a contributing editor for “Rainbows and Redemption: Encouragement for the Journey of Pregnancy After Loss” (www.rainbowsandredemption.weebly.com) and a co-author (with the lovely Alexa) of “Sunshine After the Storm: A Survival Guide for the Grieving Mother“ (sunshineafterstorm.us). She shares her thoughts about parenting, loss, cloth diapers, homeschooling, babywearing, and how to integrate faith and life on her blog, This Side of Heaven (www.thissideofheaven.weebly.com).

8 COMMENTS

  1. To say you are celebrating the “real” reason for the season is also a lie to your children. If you look at the Bible December 25th is not the birth of Jesus.
    I told my girls that as long as they believed in Santa there would be one, because we were Santa for them. Only once did my oldest make that statement, and that year she did not have anything laid out for her.

    • Louise, thank you for reading and for your comment. I am aware that December 25 is not the actual date of the birth of Jesus and my children know that, too, and that he was likely born in the Spring instead. But that does not make it a lie to celebrate his first coming at this time of year.

      I hope you and your girls have a beautiful Christmas!

  2. Great article! We’ve been doing the Santa thing in our house. I didn’t want to,but my husband had very strong feelings the other way. I admit it’s been fun, and I’m sure our girls will have happy memories of it. Now I’m working on an exit strategy… I want them to keep the sense of wonder, but transfer it to God where it belongs. We have a bible study on the topic this weekend. I decided that I will tell my oldest for sure in January. I’m not sure about the others.

  3. I felt the same thing you did, but my husband wanted to do Santa. In the end, I won out and after visiting a live nativity, he got into the real spirit of Christmas and said that I was right. To me, people have lost their way and presents, Santa, and greed have taken over. I grew up hating Christmas and finally, I think I can make peace with the holiday by doing it my way. We also do 3 presents at Christmas…if 3 was a good number for Jesus, it is good enough for my daughter!

  4. Love this article.

    We are in pretty much the same boat. My oldest will be 5 in a little over a month, and this was the first year we have had any friction—mostly because for the first time she has friends who discuss Santa and we have had to have many conversations on the fact that some parents play a game with their children, and that’s their choice, and we don’t want to spoil the game for them by telling them santa isn’t real.

    My biggest worry is after the holiday’s when all of her friends will start talking about what Santa brought them. I even remember teachers asking the class about what Santa brought back when I was in school, and I’m not sure my little is going to be able to fully grok all of that internally. She asked me the other day if it was okay if while she was at school she could play the game and pretend Santa was real. I’m not trying to steal away childhood magic, but my goal is to never lie to her.

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