If you celebrate Christmas, chances are you have childhood memories of Santa. Many people have memories of screaming and crying at the sight of this jolly old elf. Yet those same people are surprised to hear that I have decided not to invite Santa into our home. Here’s why Santa is not a part of Christmas for my children.
You may remember from my post about only buying my kids 4 gifts each for Christmas (want, need, wear, read) that Santa does not come to my house. Because my children are quite young (toddler, preschooler, and elementary school-aged) I’ve received many questions about this decision.
You may think that my reasons are related to living in a culturally diverse community in which many of my neighbors (and my kids’ friends) do not celebrate Christmas.
Or maybe you are expecting a response about how the children from poor families may think that they were naughty if they received one small gift from Santa while their friends received lots of huge gifts.
Some of you may think I’m just being cheap.
But my actual reasons have nothing to do with culture, fairness, or money.
I grew up in a warm climate. Being the curious child that I was, I asked how Santa gets into our house if we don’t have a chimney. My father was in law-enforcement, so our house was always well-secured. I was scared at the idea of a man being able to get into my home while I slept.
Unable to explain how Santa got into our home, someone had the bright idea to tell me that it was actually the Spirit of Santa that came into my home. Naturally, my fear of a man coming in was replaced with the fear of a ghost.
(Every year on Christmas Eve, my sister and I would sleep together. My parents just thought we were excited. Years later, when we were adults, I learned that my sister shared my fear of Santa and was also sleeping with me for comfort.)
Using my logic of how the idea of Santa did not make sense and how people always asked the question if one believed in Santa, it made me think that maybe this guy wasn’t real. The adults were just messing with us kids.
So I would ask every adult I could whether Santa was real. I wanted someone to assure me that my instincts were correct and that there was in fact no man or spirit or elf coming into my home.
But they all kept up the act. I was the oldest child, and I later learned that if they told me the truth about Santa they were afraid that I would ruin it for the rest of the children.
When my mother finally did tell me the truth, I was so relieved!
And it didn’t ruin the magic! In fact, it made Christmas all that much more enjoyable. She still sat out the presents under the tree each Christmas. Quite frankly the presents were all my sister and I cared about anyway – not who delivered them.
And I got to give my mom a big hug and tell her thank you when I opened them.
The Fear is More Common Than You Think
As I was preparing for this post, I came across an article by Parents on 7 Ways to Overcome the Fear of Santa. As it turns out, lots of children are afraid. Yet, rather than not lying to our children about his existence, this article ends with advice “Don’t Stop the Magic.” Really?!
Rather than putting my children through the same fear that haunted me, my sister, and many other children throughout our childhoods, I decided not to lie to them in the first place.
I’m Not Alone
And I’m not the only one. More moms (and dads) are making the decision to celebrate Christmas without Santa.
Tracey Cassels made a great point to some of the criticisms she has received on her post Why We Don’t Do Santa at Our House on Café Mom. Myndee from New Orleans Moms Blog also wrote on this topic with her article Five Reasons We Don’t Do Santa. I was so glad to see that I’m not alone.
So, What Do I Tell My Kids About Santa?
Long before we became parents, my husband and I decided that we would not lie to our children about the existence of anything in this world.
Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, or anything else for which there is no proof of its existence has never been mentioned to my kids by me or my husband. If something is not real, I will tell them so when they ask. If I do not know whether something exits, I am honest about that too.
They may hear about Saint Nick from other kids or on movies, but I’ve never taken them to see, write to, or receive gifts from Santa.
When my oldest child asked me if Santa was real, I told him the truth. That Santa does not exist. I added that other people may have different beliefs and it is not our place to ever correct other people.
Because I have always been honest with him, my children trust me when I answer their questions about their fears. Sure I lie about whether there is any chocolate ice cream left. But questions about monsters, zombies, werewolves, or ghosts they know I have always told them the truth.
And Christmas Isn’t Just About Gifts
I stand behind my decision not to take my children to sit on a strange man’s lap to ask for presents. (Come to think of it, this is not a lesson I want to teach my daughter.)
De-emphasizing the focus on gifts is also important to me. My kids don’t write long lists of things they want with the expectation that they will receive them.
I also don’t want them to think that they were naughty if they did not receive from Santa what was on their list. In my house, we don’t reward our children with stuff.
As a psychologist, I have always believed that if a child asks a question, it is important to answer it honestly at their level of understanding.
As a mom, it’s important for my children to know that I have never lied to them about this world. When something’s not dangerous or doesn’t exist, I let them know. But when something is dangerous, they can trust me on that fact, too. It’s important that I be one of the people in this world whom they can trust.
Do your kids believe in Santa? Do you tell them the truth when they are old enough to ask? Were you ever afraid?