To Santa or not to Santa?

That is the question. Inspired by glandheim, I am asking you…what to do with this Santa character in a Christian family? Growing up, my own parents and siblings plotted to keep me believing in Santa as long as possible to the point it got embarassing at school. I remember my brother and maybe my sister spilled the beans–I think to be mean and laugh at me. I just remember thinking, “Santa is Mom and Dad? That’s stupid.” I would have rather been told the truth earlier than be led on for so long only to be laughed at. I know, this is all so very heartbreaking!

So what do you do with Santa? My daughter’s school is writing letters to Santa. She’s asking about it. I’m showing them tv shows for the sheer purpose of them having a pop culture knowledge. And I’m treating the character of Santa just like any other character they see on tv-Bob the Builder, Barney, etc. But now I don’t know what to tell the kids. Because you know darn well its going to be MY kid that tells their friends Santa isn’t real and I am going to hear it from the parents. I suppose I shouldn’t worry about the other families. They’re not my job.

I don’t want my kids asking for presents or being threatened or asked if they were a good boy or girl? THAT one gets me. Because you know that any parent who has ever used the “Santa’s not going to bring you any presents if you…” threat has NEVER followed through on it.

We visited my sister for an early Christmas before they left out of town on vacation. She could not believe how “easy” my kids were. Every present they opened brought about jumping and screaming with joy. That’s how I want my kids to be. Grateful for whatever they get. Not asking and then being bothered that they didn’t get what was on “the list”. Yick. That happened to me every Christmas man. There was always something that I wanted that I didn’t get and it ruined the whole day for me. Granted part of that was me which I’ll explain another time. Years later I discovered how hard my mom and dad worked to find that one toy or game that everyone had to have and here I am complaining that Santa didn’t bring it. That must have frosted them.

So give me your input. How can we give them reality without causing my 5 yr old relational or cultural conflict? Or should I care?


10 responses to this post.

  1. …play the word game:
    santa…the word! hmmm,oh here-move the ‘n’. satan! oh my-who the heck wants satan to put the goodies under the tree.??
    I raised two sons as a single dad-and from the beginning I told them the truth about Christmas and the reality of crixmix. “Sons-there is no Santa”. One son stuck to that and as a father now himself…there is no santa. My other son-well,his son is being told there is!
    The way I see it….the most major lie there is-second to the television,which was NOT in our home. One son now has one(a BIG screen) the other has none. Guess how that works out.
    Trust me-it is like a gift,the whole thing wears out in just a few days and poof its over and everyone is glad.
    If you lie about this guy they know you are lieing about the easter bunny dude-funny,the Muslims got ticked off about a stupid cartoon about thier God. We mock the God we supposedly love and ‘serve’ and have creatures like the bunny dude and the old jolly fat guy…both right at the VERY moments our faith should be largest and yet those two VERY prominant days in Christs life are mocked with the stupidest things and we don’t think a thing about it. Too bad….ho ho ho!


  2. I can’t remember if my parents ever said there was or wasn’t a Santa…but there was never a time I believed he was “real.” We would put cookies and milk out for him at my grandmother’s and some boxes would be “from Santa”…but I just played along.

    I don’t think my life was any “less rich” because I didn’t believe in Santa…I always saw him as the “fairy tale” side of Christmas.

    And Joni, you weren’t the only one getting laughed at…I remember a group of kids laughing at a girl in 4th grade who still believed in Santa. I remember feeling bad for her, but shocked as well that her parents hadn’t told her the “truth” yet!

    And the gift dilemna….I, too, enjoy “surprising” people with gifts. I want to buy them something they are not expecting.

    My husband enjoyed his “santa” memories and thinks it’s just a fun thing for kids…. so I don’t know what we’ll do with our kids.

    So, I am probably not any help to you! But when you decide what to do…share it! Maybe you can help me!


  3. I talked to a friend recently who has told her daughter Santa isn’t real. At preschool, her daughter said just that and was severely chastised by the other kids.

    My mom and dad, even after we were grown up, would put “from Santa” on several gifts or would leave a super special one hidden and pretend they didn’t know where it came from. Now, I kind of tell the story of Santa like a character in a book or on tv but I’ve never out and out said “Santa isn’t real”. I know I will and now that Maddie is on Christmas break, I don’t have to worry about her going to school and telling everyone. I just don’t want her to think her parents would lie to her especially when we are trying to teach her about Jesus. I don’t want her to think he isn’t real or that I’d lie about him.


  4. It doesn’t help that even if you wanted to tell the truth there are so many working against you – the school, Google, NASA, NORAD, the Government… 🙂 Sorry, just finished writing about this in my article…

    Joni raises the real conundrum for religious parents. The children think, if you lied about Santa, maybe you’d lie about Jesus, or Mohammed of God or Heaven. I don;t know if you’re interested, but I wrote about this issue here:

    Have a great Christmas and New Year! 🙂


  5. Posted by glandheim on December 23, 2006 at 7:37 pm

    What paralleldivergence said was the entire point of my poem. I really do remember thinking, when I was told that there was not Santa, that if there was no easter bunny, no tooth fairy and no Santa, then Jesus and God were the next things they were going to tell me were made up.

    I think myths are wonderful. Jesus called them parables. Aesop called them fables. They illustrate truths about life in a way that the simple truth can’t convey. It’s the difference between telling someone something and showing it to them. The myth/fable/parable shows the point that is being made, or illustrates it, if you prefer.

    The problem is when we get our myths confused with our beliefs. Historically, christianity made this problem worse by adopting local pagan holidays, rituals, gods, and so on, and incorporated them into Christian Holy Days, rituals with christian interpretations, and often turned local gods into Saints.

    I suppose it was expedient at the time, dealing with cultures where the only educated people were the clergy, the nobility, and a few professional classes. But it’s left us in modern times with this mixture of myth and belief.

    The crucifixion has been confused with easter bunnys, and fertility rituals, and so on.

    Christmas has been confused with mistletoe and yule logs and decorated trees, because the time of year, the Winter Solstice, a powerful pagan time of celebration, was co-opted into the time to celebrate the birth of Christ. So the pagan Solstice symbols got rolled into Christmas celebrations.

    Santa Clause is a more recent invention. I’m sure you can track down his history on the internet as easily as I, but as I recall, he was invented as part of the commercialization of Christmas.

    So I guess the question is “How do you put the genie back in the bottle?” I think the answer is that you can’t. Your kids are going to be exposed to all of these pagan symbols because they are a part of our cultural heritage.

    Children are incabable of clearly distinguishing between myth and reality, between cartoon characters and real people at some level. At another level they understand it clearly. They just don’t understand it the same way adults do. I think separating truth from myth, symbol from substance, is a part of growing up, of learning. Some kids do it more quickly than others.

    If you trust your kids and trust yourself. If you raise them to think clearly, and if you are honest and loving with them, they will figure it out in their own time, on their own schedule.


  6. […] Joni is a stay-at-home mom who has, as she puts it, “lots of thoughts on lots of things.” This, thankfully, is something that works to our benefit for Joni manages to blog away the daily trials and joys of family life (as well as her own personal thoughts) with more than sufficient humor, candor, and insight. One of my own personal favorites was Joni’s musings on the issue of teaching Santa to children. […]


  7. I don’t see anything wrong with holding on to beautiful myths and fables. What harm is to come of a story of a person who brings happiness and joy to the children of the world? Maybe we need a few more of those stories.

    I doubt I was told much about Santa Claus, as I am Jewish, but since my wife is not, and we do celebrate Christmas (what’s wrong with celebrating the birthday of a Jewish boy?). We certainly let the story of Santa continue with our children as long as they wanted. Gradually it faded away, at their own pace, with little commentary by us.


  8. I am wondering if there is any way in which one can:
    (1) Tell kids that Santa isn’t real *and*
    (2) Tell them not to publicize this, since it might confuse other kids and anger their parents.

    Is it worthwhile to write your kids a long letter explaining this. Firstly, I think kids love letters (at least I did). Secondly, they can keep it as their own little secret until everyone else in school is old enough.

    In writing this, I realize that this is only possible when the child is old enough to read. Hmm. How can one explain this to a child, and not expect the kid to blurt it out? I don’t know, but would like to.


  9. HI Joni,
    I loved this article about Santa. I have four kids and we’re Christian. I grew up believing in Santa, and was a third child, only to be embarrassed, and moreso let down as well, in finding out about the big “santa Scam!”
    Here’s how I parent now…I keeo it simple, for every age, and everyone in our home, and who celebrates with us…”you don’t believe, you don’t receive.” …Somehow, this motivates all around us to parttake in the magic of the holiday season!
    Here’s a question…what, on earth, do you tell the kids about St. Nick?!
    There’s the traditional story of St. Nicholas from England…or is it Germany??….
    and there’s the story about leaving your shoes in front of the fireplace with your wish list in te shoe, if you’d like to receive a treat…the signal being that then St. Nick got your list to give to Santa…??
    Where does it end with that story??


  10. […] Joni is a stay-at-home mom who has, as she puts it, “lots of thoughts on lots of things.” This, thankfully, is something that works to our benefit for Joni manages to blog away the daily trials and joys of family life (as well as her own personal thoughts) with more than sufficient humor, candor, and insight. One of my own personal favorites was Joni’s musings on the issue of teaching Santa to children. […]


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