We Don’t Do Santa

November 29th, 2010 by Dionna | 80 Comments
Posted in Children, Consensual Living, Eclectic Learning, Gentle/Positive Discipline, Infants, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, My Family, natural parenting, Preschoolers, Respond with Sensitivity, Strive for Balance, Toddlers

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2008-12-20 03

Kieran was not sure what to think about Santa when he was just a little guy. This is the first - and only - time he's ever sat in the jolly old elf's lap.

We have decided not to “do” Santa with Kieran. By that, I mean we’re not going to help Kieran believe that Santa is a real person, and we won’t be following the news reports of “sleigh spottings” on Christmas Eve. More likely we will explain that there is a story about an imaginary person named Santa Claus.

We’re avoiding the Santa Claus story for three main reasons:

First: I’m chicken and don’t want to face a sobbing 5 year old who just discovered that Santa Claus is not real. More importantly, I want Kieran to be able to trust us, and lying to him about Santa would be a breach of that trust in my eyes.

Second: too often Santa emphasizes the spirit of receiving more than he does the spirit of giving. Think about it – we sit our children on Santa’s lap to talk about what they want to get. We have kids make lists of what they want under the tree. In the weeks before Christmas, kids are overwhelmed with consumerist crap.
We do not want Christmas to be an orgy of gimme gimme gimme. We are going to limit the number of gifts that we all receive, and we will take care in making or choosing gifts for friends and family.
This holiday season Kieran has already helped make ornaments for our swap, and he will help us make cards, pictures, and presents for friends and family. He puts serious thought into selecting what gift will go to which person, and he loves presenting his homemade gifts to others.

We hope to help Kieran’s sweet spirit of generosity grow, and Christmas is just one time of the year to highlight how wonderful it is to share with others. That is why we want to emphasize the spirit of giving more than the spirit of receiving.

Third: I don’t want to condition the amount or quality of gifts on Kieran’s behavior – there won’t be a “naughty or nice list” at our house, nor will we jokingly threaten lumps of coal.1 Don’t get me wrong, I realize that the parent who keeps a literal checklist of their child’s transgressions is rare, but I don’t even like the idea of conditioning gifts on behavior. And I don’t want Kieran to “behave” in the hopes of being materially rewarded, I’d rather he just learn appropriate social interactions and want to be a cool kid all on his own.
We will give gifts on Christmas (and anytime during the year) because we enjoy making each other happy, not because someone has earned them.

So what will we do?

Lest people write me off as a total Scrooge, I don’t want it to sound like I’m going to ban Santa in all ways, shapes, and forms. If Kieran wants to sit on Santa’s lap, I’m cool with that (note the obligatory baby/Santa picture above!). If Kieran wants me to read “A Night Before Christmas” fifty times, I’ll oblige him. The fact that we’re going to emphasize that Santa is the spirit of giving, not a literal person who delivers presents, does not mean that Kieran will not be allowed to pretend and fantasize. Heck, Kieran acts out his favorite stories about peddlers and monkeys, broken down engines, dinosaurs, and more. Why not Santa?

But just as we don’t foster a belief that The Little Engine that Could is a real live train, nor will we help build up a fantasy world that involves Santa sliding down chimneys.

Maybe I’m just bitter that we don’t have a fireplace.

Instead of Santa, we’re going to have fun making and selecting our own gifts. We’re going to enjoy time spent with friends and family over the holidays. We’re going to volunteer in the spirit of love and giving.

And that, I think, more than makes up for a childhood devoid of an imaginary elf.

How do you handle the story of Santa?

If you have older children, do they believe Santa is a real person or an imaginary character?

How do you emphasize the joy of giving over the fun in receiving?

___________________

This post has been dusted off and edited from the original version published on Code Name: Mama last year. I figured my reader base had evolved, and the topic is still relevant! For another take on this perspective try Kelly’s post at KellyNaturally.com, “The Santa Dilemma.”

  1. Speaking of naughty and nice lists, I’m reminded of something I saw last year that made me shudder – a shelf elf. The particular family I heard about this from keeps the shelf elf up year round, it “watches the children and reports back to Santa when they are bad.” Ugh, ugh, ugh. The idea of kids being “good” and “bad” is an entirely different subject. Lauren of Hobo Mama recently wrote a great post on praising kids for being “good.”

80 Responses to:
"We Don’t Do Santa"

  1. We’ve never “done” Santa, either. We celebrate the Solstice, so it’s not an issue in our house. But the grandparents are Chistmas people, so we’ve always just explained that it’s a tradition and a different set of beliefs. Of course, we’ve only had to deal with the eight year old on that one. The two year old and baby don’t care. It was a little tough dealing with cousins who believe in Santa, though. We were very careful to try and teach the oldest to respect that they believe differently than we do.

  2. Olivia

    We’ll be doing much the same with santa in our home. I don’t think my mother made a definite desicion about santa for us, but she didn’t encourage belief in him. We didn’t sit on santa’s lap (weren’t really any laps to be found in our rural area), we didn’t write letters or make lists, and we didn’t have a fireplace. I was never fooled by the gifts from santa, and knew they were just something extra special from my mom. So, I never believed he was a real person and yet christmas was still fun.

  3. Grace Potts

    We are Roman Catholics, so we celebrate the feast of Saint Nicholas on Dec. 6th. We talk about how generous he was, and what lessons we can learn from his generosity. That’s been fine for all four of our kids.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      I really like the idea of sharing the story of the real Saint Nicholas – if you have any book recommendations (that don’t morph him into Santa Claus), I’d appreciate them!

      • Semi-crunchy mama   crunchymamato2

        We just put a few books on hold at the library as we are going to talk about the real St. Nicholas.

        The two books we got were St. Nicholas: The Real Story Behind the Christmas Legend by Julie Stiegemeyer and The Real Santa Claus by Marianna Mayer. I plan on pre-reading before we read them to the kids, but from the “look inside” feature on Amazon they looked somewhat promising.

        We also placed holds on books about Hanukkah, the solstice, Christmas and Kwanzaa so we can explore varying traditions with the kids.

      • Stephanie

        I love that, Grace. Good thought. I have been struggling with the Santa thing this year (my girls are 2 and 3). I have held off indoctrination about Santa but there is tremendous pressure to do it!

        And Semi-Crunchy Mama – a theme that ties in really nice during this time of year is investigating lights and all the different ways people and culture use lights in their celebrations. Also check into Diwali – a Hindu festival of lights, and Santa Lucia (aka Saint Lucy or the Feast of Saint Lucy).

    • Chris   tessasdad

      Wow, what an excellent post right? This is exactly how I feel about the whole Santa thing and Grace, I love what you do with your family. I will look for some books I can review on my Book Dads site as well which might help.

  4. Mandi

    I have never “done” the Santa thing with my daughter (14 years now)I did explain to her when she was four or five that many parents do play Santa for their kids and that many of her friends believe Santa is real and that this is an OK secret to keep from her friends because it might hurt their feelings. Part of my personal resentment about Santa and all the mythical commercial creatures is that as a child my parents did play Santa, the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy. My parents divorced when I was ten and as soon as my dad moved out my mom told us they were all fake. It broke my heart. As and adult, I have always seen a conflict in Santa during Christmas and felt that Santa took away from the real meaning of celebration. Instead of Santa or Night before Christmas we sit down around the tree and read a children’s book based on the story of Jesus being born and talk about what Christmas means. I had fully planned on doing the same with my 9 month old son but after seeing his gleeful reaction upon seeing a Santa for the first time we may add in some pictures with Santa. At least now we have a kneeling Santa and a story about Santa worshiping Jesus.

  5. Michelle

    We do celebrate Santa in our family. My oldest girls(12&11) use to run a program before we had to move. Their father & someone else would dressed up as Santa and road on the fire truck through the city. We stopped in four places and handed out gifts to children. It didn’t matter how much the person made or where they came from. All that mattered was they showed up. My girls would buy the gifts through out the year with their money(and a little of mine). At the end of the trip my girls would then recieve their 1 gift from Santa.(something always biblical ie, a new bible, cross necklace ect) We have taught them a list is not important it is what you think that person would want more than anything else and asking for specific items is selfish. The most presious gift you can recieve is their time. My little girls still believe that Santa is real and my older girls play along for the sake of giving. There is no naughty and nice, just a good heart is all it takes in our family to recieve.

  6. We celebrate the religious aspect of Christmas much more and have chosen to not “do” santa either. We tell our 3 and 1 yr old that Santa was based on a guy way back in the day who gave gifts, and we give gifts in honor of Jesus’ birthday, etc. Kian can talk to Santa if he wants and knows what the secular belief is, but we also talk about gifts we are choosing to give to others and why, and he helps pick, wrap, etc. We also don’t want him to focus on the materialistic aspect of Christmas so much and to ignore that mom and dad and family members work hard to make money and pick out gifts to give to us/him, etc. Some parents are worried we might “ruin it” for their kids, but we have never said “santa’s fake/not real” so that he doesn’t blurt it out. But, we just say that’s how we celebrate christmas and others do it differently. I don’t think they’re missing out on anything. My parents were very religious and growing up we never did/believe in santa and i don’t think it killed us ;)

  7. Violetsouffle

    I’ve already seen (two weeks befor thanksgiving in fact) a mother publicly berate her children for misbehaving (not finishing their bagel at Brugets) and ‘call’ Santa to report their badness. I was seething mad when we walked out because she was just awful. The kid was upset& she felt like she had done well. So, no, no Santa here either. How do you handle not breaking that reality for other kids though? Say if Kieran had been there and said loudly “Santa is not real!!” -do you tell him not to? Do you let that other parent handle it? I worked in a toystore through college and almost got fired for talking about Santa bring fake.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      That’s a sad story :(
      Here’s my gut feeling on the argument about kids “spoiling it” for other kids: we have tons of different religions in the world, how often do kids go around saying “oh your religion is FAKE! It’s a made-up STORY!” Few, I imagine, because part of parenting is to help kids respect other beliefs.
      I’m interested to hear from others who have experiences with this though.

    • Kyle

      My middle son (4) knows the truth about Santa, but his older brother (5) still believes. Long story on how that came to be. Suffice it to say that we’re vague on the topic at our house and will answer honestly if asked. To my younger son, the fact that there is no Santa is really not a big deal. It’s as boring to him as the fact that the sky is blue, so he sees no need to rush and tell people, not even his brother. I really think that unless parents approach the topic in a “Johnny I have a REALLY big secret to tell you!” way, kids won’t find it interesting enough to run around telling people and they won’t spoil the suprise for other kids.

  8. Semi-crunchy mama   crunchymamato2

    What a well-thought out post! We don’t “do Santa” either and our reasons are quite similar to yours. I’m writing a post on the same thing & will be sure to link your when I do.

    When I told my mom, her response was, “Why do some parents do THAT??!?!” like it was the worst possible thing in the world we could do. We feel like it’s much worse to work so hard to raise our children in an environment that fosters critical thinking & honesty and then tell them the Santa story as truth.

    I think your boy is about my daughter’s age. How does your extended family react to you not “doing Santa?” Have you come into any problems with the grandparents, aunts & uncles, etc?

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      My parents are used to me being “different” ;) I think my mom is much more disappointed that I request presents be limited to 2 or 3 things than she is about not marking anything from Santa. Honestly, how much time are extended family really going to be spending with little ones that it will affect them one way or another? Maybe you could give them some alternatives: “We’re not doing Santa, but we are going to talk about the spirit of giving and how we can all give back during the holidays. Maybe we could think of a project we could do as a family!” A shared experience like volunteering or doing a random act of kindness will surely be a better memory than the story of Santa!

      • Semi-crunchy mama   crunchymamato2

        I like the idea of volunteering together. Thanks!

      • Ruth

        Hi there Semi-crunchy!! I am the “Grandma” in question…lol. I would love to hear Dionna tell us what SHE thought about Santa when she was a young girl. I am curious to see how she viewed the way that her Dad and I presented things at Christmas time.
        I will admit that I was “a bit disappointed” when Dionna told me that she wanted me to limit myself to just a couple of gifts for Kieran at Christmas but I have adjusted nicely and have even limited what I buy for OTHER members of the family now!! I also admit that I was guilty of being horribly over indulgent with Dionna and her sisters at Christmas time when they were young.
        I hope that Dionna will fill us in on how she felt about Santa as she was growing up. She has piqued my interest!!!

  9. Maman A Droit   MamanADroit

    We haven’t decided for sure, but as Catholics we’ll of course at some point talk about Saint Nicholas. We won’t be doing pics with red-suited men in the mall (not that my son would tolerate sitting in a stranger’s lap anyway) because I’m paranoid mall santas are pedophiles & weirdos. I totally agree about not wanting to do Santa guilt. Both our families did Santa presents growing up, so we may lean towards writing “Santa” on some tags, but that’s about as far as I want to take it

  10. Mama Whimsy   mamawhimsy

    We handle Santa much the same way as you described in your post. We read a few stories and such, but don’t emphasize a reality to those stories. We’ve never done the naughty or nice list either- ugh. We treat my 4 year old’s love of fairies and other imaginary things similarly- we have fun pretending and sometimes create little houses and scenes for the fairies- in the name of imagination, not reality.

  11. RealMommy   TrueRealMommy

    My boys are still young (1 and 3) but we have already planted the seeds for how we “do” Santa in our home. Santa is the spirit of giving, but not in that he brings presents. We gather toys that we no longer play with, and Santa comes to pick them up so he can deliver them to kids who aren’t as fortunate to have families who can give them presents like ours can. I feel it is important to view the gifts they do receive from family as just one way they show their love, why give that powerful statement to a stranger? We do visit Santa, but sneak in a “Please don’t ask what they want, just listen to him, or ask him how he is spending his holidays.” Occasionally I feel strange when people are talking about what their child wants for Christmas, or ask what mine want. They don’t ask for things. But L1 has started gifting. Bringing us toys or books, smiling big and announcing “This is for you!” It warms my heart!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      “I feel it is important to view the gifts they do receive from family as just one way they show their love, why give that powerful statement to a stranger?”

      I love that sentiment!! I feel the same way – the gifts we make and choose for others are a huge expression of our love for them. Very good point.

    • Kat

      “We gather toys that we no longer play with, and Santa comes to pick them up so he can deliver them to kids who aren’t as fortunate to have families who can give them presents like ours can.”

      What a fantastic idea. :)

  12. TopHat   TopHat8855

    We are lucky that my FIL is a Santa at a local mall and we can say, “Grandpa pretends he is Santa and we pretend that Santa visits us.”

    • Semi-crunchy mama   crunchymamato2

      I didn’t think of that! My dad dresses up like Santa and I was worried he will be all bent out of shape they can’t do the Santa thing. It might work out great to say that he pretends to be Santa.

  13. shannon

    i’ve gone over the santa theory in mind for a while now and here is what i decided.
    1. its really fun
    2. my family loves it and they want to share that joy with my children in the way that they know how. i do not believe it is my job to dictate how my family is going to feel connected to the kids.
    3. i figured out santa most likely wasnt real on my own and i was not upset at all. in fact i thought i was really smart for figuring it out and i really enjoyed how psyched my brother (5yrs younger) was about santa.
    4. it doesnt have to be any more commercial than we want it to be. isnt the story that santa makes the toys in his workshop anyway?
    5. my husband and i are already considered a little bit strange by many and i want my kids to feel like they fit in culturally with their peers. we are already vegetarians, so my son will not know the joy of the happy meal (although we do occasionally buy a happy meal toy to enjoy with a milkshake), i am pretty set on homeschooling etc. so i feel that is my responsiblity to make sure that my beliefs do not isolate him from his peers.
    my husband wasnt allowed sugar, happy meals, hip fashions, etc and growing up he felt disconnected from a lot of kids because he 1. couldnt relate and 2. didnt know what they were talking about a lot of the time.
    i want balance in our lives and to me that means if the kids want to do the soulja boy while opening a new justin beiber album from santa so be it.

    • katie

      Shannon:
      I agree with you. My 3 year old daughter adores Santa, last year she was terrified of him, and that was fine too. This year, she says they are best friends. She writes him letters to see how he is doing and cannot wait for him to come to our house.

      When I was little I remember my sister (11yrs my senior) told me about santa being my parents and I wasn’t upset, I thought it was fun. Now I think it’s fun to play that role for my daughter and see her face light up on Christmas morning.

      I also agree that it only has to be as commercial as you want it to be. DD thinks that the elves make all the toys, just like I did. We make all the grandparent/ great grandparent gifts. She makes our gifts (usually ornaments.) And together we make decorations for the house. We make toys together all the time. And my husband has strict rules about the number of presents she can get. For Christmas its one from Santa, and 2 from us or 2 from Santa, one from us, none of which can be clothing or other necessity. Her birthday she is allowed one gift.
      Hopefully the limits and homemade toys (she wanted a fairy house for Tinkerbell, so we made one) don’t backfire, like some of the limits my parents set on me (only one open box of cereal at a time), but provide a balance in her life.

    • Heather Bradfield Garbe

      I agree 100%

  14. Paige @ BabyDust Diaries   babydust

    Your post sparked a response post on my site (It is so nice to feel well enough to post!). We “do” Santa Claus but I agree with many of your misgivings and the way that others “use” Santa to manipulate their children.

  15. Amy   InnateWholeness

    For many years I allowed the idea of Santa to survive in our family, although I did not perpetuate it. I just didn’t clearly deny it either. I would ask the children what they thought when questions arose.

    My parents liked playing the game and the kids liked it, too.

    Recently, I could tell the oldest still believed and felt it important to be straight forward. So we talked about how the spirit of St. Nick -that yes, morphed into Santa Claus to sell Coca-Cola- lives through people to this day. People like to give.

    We also talk about the true purpose of Christmas – Christ’s birth and living example. I’m aware of the stories that say he wasn’t born in winter and this and that, but they don’t stop us from focusing on the good news shared through his Life.

    I’m with you on honesty with children. Trust is paramount in any relationship. :)

  16. Jessica - This is Worthwhile   tisworthwhile

    What you’re doing is EXACTLY what we’re doing! I love this! My mom hates the idea, but I don’t care. I was ELEVEN when I found out Santa wasn’t real and it was devastating. My parents went above and beyond to make me (read: trick me) believe in Santa. So not worth it.

    • Erica

      So with you. I was 10 (I think) when I found out Santa wasn’t real. All those years before I had actually told people “my mother wouldn’t lie to me”. I was devastated when I found out she had. That was the day I realized my mother was just like everyone else and not the person I thought she was. I think I lost just a little innocence that day. I also didn’t speak to her for 2 weeks straight. Not one single word. The only reason I began speaking to her again was because she came to me in tears BEGGING me to.

  17. Dionna   CodeNameMama

    Someone emailed me and asked how we would handle not allowing Kieran to spoil Santa for other kids. I copied/pasted my earlier answer (above), but I also added:

    Plus, it’s going to happen at some point anyway for those kids, right? I just wonder why it should be someone else’s responsibility to make sure their child is continuing a lie.

    I know that sounds rude – I just can’t think of a more gentle way to phrase it. What are your thoughts?

    • Erin

      I agree. I have been discussing the issue on an online forum and the question came up and here was my answer:

      I have been thinking about the whole issue of spoiling it for others and while I hope my kids won’t and I will do what I can to ensure they don’t … I think if parents tell their kids about Santa, that is also part of their responsibility to figure out what to say to their own kids when this issue does come up. I don’t think it is entirely the responsibility of parents that choose not to have Santa as a part of Christmas celebrations. There are also a lot of other sources that talk about Santa not being real – the media and tv mainly, but issues will arise from there as well. I don’t think it is fair to put all the responsibility onto the shoulders of parents who don’t want to make Santa a part of Christmas. We have to take responsibility in what happens in our own families and if we chose to believe something (or not believe it) then we have to work out how we are going to support those beliefs with our children in the face of contraversy. I don’t think it is fair to expect others to believe what we believe – either way – but I think we can teach respect for what others believe.

      I actually feel completely the same way about the issue with it not being my responsibility to ensure my child doesn’t spoil someone else’s lie but I feel a bit awful using that word because I don’t want to seem like I am judging someone else’s belief system.

      I don’t want Santa pushed onto me and my family just because my kids might ‘spoil’ it for someone else, it’s not a good enough reason for me. I want to be careful that I am respecting what other people think at the same time though if that makes sense :)

  18. nikki

    Same here! We don’t “do Santa” either. Our reasons are similar to yours. I need her to believe me when I tell her about God and how can she believe in one person she can’t see if I lie to her about another? Also, I have a big problem with saying the gifts are for those who are GOOD all year. What about the poor kids whose parents have NO MONEY? How must they feel when they get nothing for Christmas? How must they feel when little Johnny up the street gets a new xbox and he’s a total brat and yet they’ve been good all year and get a pair of shoes? How horrible for them! I will NOT teach my child that gifts are warranted on how good/bad you are. I will teach her that they come from the hearts of parents/family members/friends who love her and want to show her love. I will teach her how wonderful it feels to GIVE. I will teach her that our reason for giving is to offer back as Jesus was offered to us, God’s perfect gift.

  19. Samantha @ Mama Notes   MamaNotes

    I don’t want to “Do” Santa but I don’t want to not do him either. I just want to be neutral. Does that make sense?! :) I don’t want to make it a big deal one way or the other. Just simply, “yep, that’s santa. He is a pretend santa..” or something. My husband and I haven’t figured out exactly what we want to do yet or how we want to go about it, but the way you explained makes a lot of sense. My son isn’t two yet, so I think we can wait until next year before we figure it out! :) Great topic!!

  20. NancyRoxanne   Nancyroxanne

    Sorry I have to disagree–as a mother of 5 with 26 years experience I have 4 grown children and one toddler–not one of my 4 grown children was traumatized by believing in Santa, the Tooth Fairy, or the Easter Bunny and I plan on continuing the tradition with my youngest. Children are children for only a moment in time and believing in fairies and magical reindeer will give way to reality soon enough my dears…let your child be a child with all the magic that comes with a child’s imagination. Just my personal opinion and experience!

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Thank you for disagreeing respectfully! Here’s my question (or more of a reiteration of a point I tried to make in the post) – Kieran still has a very active imagination, even though we don’t try to convince him that mythical things are real. We play pretend often, and he loves it – why do we have to carry that further with Santa? Does that question make sense? I guess what I’m saying is that I feel like children can have a rich fantasy life, even if we’re not actively convincing them that fantasy is reality.

      And just for the record, I wasn’t traumatized (that I remember) when I found out Santa wasn’t real. And my parents really helped us believe in him (cookies half-eaten, etc.)! So I’m not just basing this decision on a fear that Kieran will be upset someday. :)

      • NancyRoxanne   Nancyroxanne

        I guess my answer or response is the mantra I have had for many many many years lol as a parent–“If you make a big deal it becomes a big deal”–and whatever works for your family and your child is simply that, it is what works for you and maybe not for the next family. I just simply wouldn’t make a big deal about Santa either way but while I encourage my child’s imagination I also have always answered all my children’s questions openly and honestly. And believe me when I say you have questions a lot more scary in your parenting future then “Is Santa real?” HA HA

      • NancyRoxanne   Nancyroxanne

        Side note to those who don’t want ‘Santa’ taking credit for the gifts–my parents started the tradition which I continue today –ONE gift is left under the tree unwrapped and from Santa, the rest are wrapped and marked accordingly from whom they came from. My children are lovely giving nurturing adults ages 26,22,20 and 18 (and 20 months!) and I don’t believe for one moment that believing in Santa for a little while made them any less generous or loving in nature. :)

    • Kat

      I question whether believing in Santa, Tooth Fairy, etc are necessary for instilling the spirit of those occasions? I think children can have just as magical a time without those characters featuring in occasions. I don’t think removing the characters inhibits a child’s imagination. In fact isn’t it more imaginative for them to create their own characters in their own world rather than dictate a set of characters that has already been created? Part of the problem is that Santa, etc has been perpetuated for so long that I think it’s hard for people to imagine children enjoying those occasions as much without them.

      Saying all this I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using Santa, etc. And I think children do enjoy them but I just wonder if they would have just as good a time without them.

  21. We were planning to have Santa bring the things in stockings and then we would provide the one big gift, but I realized last year that I love filling stockings too much to let someone have credit for it. For one thing, there are always home made things in there and it will be hard to hide my style. For another, I’m really enjoying shopping with Moira this year, and I don’t think I want to spend any of my precious alone time doing the Christmas shopping when it is so much more fun to do it with her.
    She has been really enjoying picking out things, and so far she hasn’t tried to tell Daddy about any of the surprises we’ve bought him.
    The thing about Santa that always concerned me as a child was the disparity in what Santa brings different people. I forget how my mom explained it, but I remember always knew that for instance, homeless kids didn’t get the same quantity of presents from Santa that I did, and it struck me as unfair. I think it will be helpful to use him as a spirit of giving instead of an actual being who delivers for explaining that to Moira, especially since we try to donate a large number of gifts during the holidays.
    I checked out a book called The Best Christmas Ever by Chih-Yuan Chen from the library that turned out to describe this exact problem. I find it depressing, but Moira loves it. I think she likes that the youngest member of the family is the one that makes Christmas magical for everyone in a year when Christmas probably wouldn’t have happened for them.

    • Dionna   CodeNameMama

      Shannon – that is such a great point – how do kids explain/feel/perceive the problem of inequality among Santa gifts? Do little kids whose families can’t afford much feel like they are inherently “bad” because they never get much?
      For those parents who do Santa, any advice on explaining that to children – their own, or the kids whose parents can’t afford to give them nice/new/any toys?

      • shannon

        kids dont think about those things because they arent adults.

      • Dionna   CodeNameMama

        I think that you aren’t giving kids enough credit.

      • TNmommie

        Shannon is right. Kids don’t sit there with a list of what they got from Santa, mom and dad, grandpa and grandma, etc….Heck, mine can hardly remember who gave him what the day after his birthday. If it wasn’t for me reminding him who gave him which toy he would not know. So we do the stocking and one toy from Santa – the rest from us and everyone else. I don’t see a problem with it. I tend to agree with the above poster with the 4 kids and 20 yrs experience.

      • But I did think about those things when I was a kid. I think not all kids think about things like that and most who do may not verbalize what they are thinking about, but there some of them do. I know I didn’t really ask my mom about my concerns, other then to ask her if Santa visited everyone, but she also explained to me why we were giving presents to Toys for Tots, and how important it was.

    • Semi-crunchy mama   crunchymamato2

      I remember that to some extent even in our extended family as I was growing up, not to such an extent, but with the disparity between us and our cousins. My parents kept Santa “small.” He just filled our stockings and the presents were from the family. But, for my cousins, he brought them EVERYTHING. They were a lot younger than my sister and I, so I already knew about Santa, but I remember thinking how weird it was that they got big presents from Santa. I imagine it would’ve been a more awkward situation had we been closer in age.

      • Stephanie

        That is an interesting thought/question. I was a relatively sheltered only child with no cousins, so I had no idea what other kids were or were not getting.

        I don’t know how I could approach that type of issue with my kids, unless of course they knew from the get-go that Santa isn’t real.

        Though, when I was a kindergarten teacher (before becoming a mom), usually the kids who knew Santa wasn’t real (or at least the ones who seemed to enjoy sharing the news) were not the kindest or most gentle kids. Totally anecdotal, unreliable, and not related to this segment of the discussion thread. But that triggered a memory for me.

    • Julie

      We told our 4 year old the truth this year. She was questioning things shortly after Christmas last year. I was vaque for awhile this year, but when she asked me straight out for the truth, I gave it. I’m so glad I did. One thing she questioned was the disperity in the gifts, and ways that families did Santa. We only do stockings and one gift from Santa. Other friends and family do everthing from Santa. Her thoughts were that she knew she wasn’t bad as she did get a gift, but wondered if Santa liked the other kids more or if she just was not good enough, or as good as the other kids : (

  22. Melissa   vibreantwanderer

    We don’t plan to “do” santa either, though it has not yet become an issue since this is to be Annabelle’s first Christmas. I had never really considered the fact that the story of “Santa” can still be treasured and enjoyed as fiction – I love your approach to it. Thank you!

  23. Sarah

    We aren’t doing Santa the same as many people do – we talk about how Saint Nicholas was a kind and generous man who gave to others to teach them to be generous. As the girls get bigger we’ll expand on that thought. For now though it works. The other day we were out shopping and someone asked the girls about Santa coming. And Ella set her straight about how Santa isn’t real anymore, but at Christmas people try to be kind and generous like Saint Nick and remember Jesus.

    I was deeply impressed by her stepping up and informing an adult she’s never met about what we do in our home. The woman was taken aback, but didn’t say anything.

    I have thought about what to do if she says that to a child. And honestly I don’t think it’s my concern. After all when we go out I am the one who has to protect my children from the views of parents that believe it’s okay to insult their children with words we don’t use in our home. I have to explain to my children why some parents hit their children. So if it is MY responsibility to help my children understand those types of views, then why should I worry that my child tells someone else that Christmas is about giving, and generosity, and Jesus? Seems a bit lop-sided to me if it were any other way.

    • Stephanie

      I wouldn’t worry about that (if your child tells another child) too much, Sarah. In my experience, kids tend to take sides on many different issues and won’t necessarily believe another child’s opinion over what their parent has told them. Such a reminder of our awesome, humbling, and frightening responsibility as a parent!

  24. Whozat   whozat

    My daughter just turned two, and LOVES Santa (or “Humhummuh” as she calls him – I have no idea.) and can’t wait to go sit on his “wap” – but she also loves snowmen and pumpkins and the animated witches and ghosts at Target, and I guess she’ll love Cupid in a couple of months, and then Leprechauns and the Easter Bunny, and, hell, probably Uncle Sam, come summer….

    We have mentioned that he’ll bring presents, and when she’s noticed something at the store that I know “he’s bringing” I have said, “Oh, would you like to have something like that? Maybe we could tell Santa” – to the point that when she sees the toy kitchen at Target, she says “Humhummuh!”

    And, yet, I have my misgivings, and I am VERY conflicted about it all.

    We “did Santa” and it was a big deal (he brought the really good stuff) and I wasn’t traumatized when I found out, but I know some kids are.

    I just don’t know how far we should go to “keep the magic alive” – I mean, right now, she doesn’t know that all those other things I mentioned above – or Elmo and Big Bird, for that matter – aren’t real, but we’re not breaking our necks to make her believe that they are.

    I am adamantly against the whole “naughty / nice” and “You’d better be good, or…” thing tho. I have lots of friends who are doing “Elf on the Shelf” and I just bite my tongue….

    I have a related conflict in that we’re not really sure what we believe in terms of the whole God and Jesus thing, or what we want to tell her.

    I want her to know about and respect a variety of religions (as many as I can learn about to teach her about) but we are “culturally Christian,” and celebrate Christmas and Easter, along with our families who, for the most part, do believe the whole God part of it.

    I have identified Baby Jesus and Mary and Joseph in the various nativity scenes that we’ve seen (She’s two and totally into “BABY! BABY! BABY!” and “COW! SHEEP! HORSEY!” so it’s hard not to.) but I just don’t know what else to say, especially at this age.

    Hmmm, perhaps I need to wrap up this comment and go write my own damn blog post on the subject….

    (copy . . . paste . . . )

  25. Whozat   whozat

    Oh – in reference to some questions above about why some kids get lots from Santa and some don’t – here’s the best explaination I’ve heard, and I’ve already told my daughter this (while shopping for a kid from a family that our MOMS Club “adopted” through the Salvation Army).

    The guy I dated in high school told me that his parents told them that moms and dads have to pay Santa for the presents, so that he can pay the elves for making them.

    Because, if he doesn’t pay the elves, they’ll go on strike.

    (Which he and his brothers knew all about, because his dad – along with about half of our oil refining town – was on strike at the time. Which is, of course, what made the explaination necessary in the first place.)

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