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The Santa Thing.

 

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Christmas 2010


 


‘Tis the season!  Why not discuss our beliefs regarding Santa?  One reason might be because this is a surprisingly controversial topic.  But I am interested in sharing my little family’s developing traditions & hearing others’, so here goes:


 


We don’t do Santa. Don’t worry—this is a judgment call for my family, not yours.  So many people have so many different beliefs about Christmas; I understand this is a grey area.  I do feel a need to defend my position though, because it’s a popular sentiment that people who don’t do the Santa thing are somehow robbing their kids of the magic of childhood, or possibly destroying the season of Christmas altogether.


 


That is not accurate.  If you could ask my son, he’d gleefully explode into 3-year-old chatter about the various joys of this holiday.  I love Christmas.  I am a proud sentimental fool; I love an excuse to make themed hippie cookies, decorate stuff, & take time to slow down with friends & family.  I also believe in God & I love the story of Jesus's birth and life, so although I know there is some debate about when his birthday actually was, I love this season as a reason to genuinely focus on Jesus’ life, & the valuable lessons within his existence.  Last year I was fascinated by a documentary about the three wise men & the possibility that they were Eastern religious masters who had foreseen Jesus’ coming, which is radical to me because I believe it’s all connected.


 


I can’t even listen to Christmas music without getting all tearful & tender-hearted about this lovely time of year.  Trying to choose the best, sweetest book to help explain the concept of Christmas to my son left me sniveling in the aisle of the bookstore as I poured over the different interpretations of what the holiday is & what it means to the various authors.  This is my child’s first cognizant Christmas; at 3-years-old, he is very aware of his surroundings, & he easily picks up on themes.  I spent a lot of time this Halloween explaining why everything was covered in fake cobwebs, spiders, & skeletons.  I now have a child obsessed with “spooky stuff.”  I don’t take his questions lightly because he remembers so much of what I say; he takes it to heart & fixates on it.  So this year I explained that the season is about Jesus’ birth & life, but also that it means different, diverse things to other people.  When I was looking for a book to illuminate Christmas, I sought a simple explanation of the birth of Jesus & why it is that we give gifts at this time of year, because it’s important to me that Christmas doesn’t become known strictly as a consumerist, toy-filled holiday.  I want it to remain a holy day.


 


What I strove to avoid completely were all the books focused on Santa, the toys Santa brings, & particularly the notion that Santa watches kids to see who is “bad” or “good.” Sorry friends, that creeps me out.  I had forgotten until this year that some parents use Santa as a behavioral tool, but I am very uncomfortable with that manipulation of kids.  It’s too conditional, & it gives the impression that good behavior is dependent on toys, not on making choices that are virtuous & healthy for everyone.  I am trying to teach my son to be a kind, compassionate person because it’s what’s best for humanity, not because it guarantees that the man in the red suit who magically watches his behavior will bring him presents. I do think the historical Sinterklaas & Saint Nicolas are neat though, so we read about those characters, but I do not go out of my way to convince my son he is real.  I don’t have any desire to do the work of creating & sustaining the myth.  I know that parents who do the Santa thing aren’t maliciously lying to their children about it, but saying “Santa is real; he brings you gifts” is a fabrication, not a truth, & I aim to be honest with my child, so I’m just not interested in perpetuating that tradition.


 


I promise you no joy is being killed.  With that said, my son still knows who Santa is, just like he knows this season calls for elves, reindeer, twinkling lights, Christmas trees & Christmas songs.  I have told him that we will see some people in Santa costumes, just like he likes to wear his T-Rex costume, but they are simply dressed up to celebrate the season.  We recently saw a Santa at the mall so I explained that some kids sit on pretend Santa’s lap & talk about the toys they’re excited to get, & I asked my son if he wanted to try it.  He bravely marched up, sat down, & talked about the Cars 2 boat he so desperately wants.  He also took time to mention some of his friends, who he calls his brothers & sisters.  Afterward I asked him if he understood it was just a man in a Santa costume, & he said, “Yeah, but I still wike Santa.”  Me too, buddy.


 


I apologize for the blur! I snapped a quick picture before being informed that wasn't allowed & I would have to pay $15 for a photo.


This Christmas we have done simple seasonal crafts, making snowflakes out of coffee filters & decorations out of red & green paper.  My son helped me make Christmas Kraut & salt dough ornaments for gifts, & he’ll be assisting me with the rosemary-caramel corn I plan to give as well.  He bursts into beautifully shouted versions of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” & “Jingle Bells,” but we avoid the songs that say, “He knows when you’ve been sleeping, he knows when you’re awake,” for obvious reasons.  When the snow finally gets here, we’ll be making snow people & snow dinosaurs, ice-skating, & sledding.  I hope to make winter landscape cookies sometime in between holiday festivities with family, & we’ll be celebrating Winter Solstice with some dear Pagan friends.  I picked out one sweet book that explains Christmas in simple terms, including the tradition of gift-giving, & we’ve been reading it daily.  Even without the debatably magical focus on Santa as he is known & celebrated today, our holidays are never lacking, but are enriched through other means, & are full of love & wonder.


Our salt-dough ornaments!


 


What are your Christmas/winter holiday traditions?  If you don’t do Santa, what do you do?  Happy holidays everyone, & thanks for reading!


 



Kristen Tea

About Kristen Tea

I am a 27-year-old single, attached, informed, lactivist, intactivist, peaceful Minnesotan mother of almost 4-year-old Sun Ronin a.k.a Sunny Boy. I am an artist & lover of expression. I'm also a student with many things to learn, including nutritional therapy, lactation consulting, doulahood, yoga instructing, & more. I believe that unplanned pregnancies do not have to equal uninformed motherhood, & women have the power to restore humanity to everything we touch.


 

Comments (23)

Terrific article. I was wondering what was the name of documentary about the Three Wise Men was. I would really LOVE to see it! The link is only to an article on frankincense and myrrh. Thanks for sharing your experience and have a very joyous and blessed Christmas! :-D
Christmas today is a big party where everyone eat too much, drink too much party too much and forget to invite Jesus, whose birthday, supposedly is being commemorated.
I love some of the point you make, especially avoiding the idea that the gifts are a reward, I believe that being an honest good person is just what you do an encourage your kids to be. I don't like the idea of Santa bringing gifts as a tool for manipulation.
We have a family tradition that we started three Christmases ago where the Christmas chicken lays an egg on your windowsill on Christmas morning. Then, everyone gets to eat eggs for breakfast. We are evolving the tradition, and I'm imagining that at some point there will be a lesson about children who would otherwise go hungry. Our goal is to have a Christmas chicken song and book for our family. We also do Santa though, but we try to focus on Family rather than presents. It's a struggle with a two year old, however, we're trying to be intentional about not creating a gift gift gift environment. Merry Christmas!
you hit the nail on the head for me. we have 3 young children (5, 2, and 1) and have struggled with the santa thing since our 5 year old was 3. we always go back and forth every year. we don't want to seem like a joy-killer by discouraging our kids to believe in a real santa claus, but at the same time we want jesus to be the main focus not santa. it's been challenging to find a balance, especially since the santa image is all over the place. i think what really makes me uncomfortable about doing the santa thing is the fabrication aspect. we want our children to always be honest and upfront with us, so in turn we model that behavior. i feel like i can't be fully honest with my children if i stand there and tell them that santa really does bring you gifts, fills your stockings, eats the cookies you set out for him, etc. thanks for your insight and this post!
You think it's hard to find books that don't focus on Santa, try to avoid both Santa and Jesus! We celebrate the solstice and the natural aspects of the holiday season - the holiday tree and greenery, the giving of gifts and the return of light from dark. I've had a terrible time finding anything that focuses on the love and warmth and festivius spirit of the holiday without being religious or focusing on the commercial aspects (santa and toys and candy and all that jazz). Luckily, my LO won't remember this year's Christmas, he's 9 mo afterall, but in future years we will need to be prepared!
Beautiful stated! I feel the exact same way and we strive for the same type of lovely non-commercial, Santa-less Christmas ourselves. :) Blessings to you during this Christmas season!
I am so glad to see other women choosing to create only traditions that you support ideologically. I'm preparing for my daughter's first ever Christmas and people think I'll change my mind later on down the road so I'm happy to see that even moms of young kids share my view. :)
Thanks for sharing your traditions. I like that you still welcome Santa and explained how he is a part of the tradition, and not make it out as something awful that others do. We debated the Santa issue as well. One of my biggest concerns with not doing Santa was that even though we would tell our kids that Santa isn't real, I felt that with their imaginative minds they might get confused and think that maybe Santa just doesn't come to them because they "don't believe," all thanks to our wonderful culture (there were many more concerns on both sides of the issue, but for brevity, I will focus on this one as it was the one that turned the tide for us). I finally came to a decision on what to do when at about age 3 my daughter jumped from the steps in our family room and said, "Look Dad, I'm flying like Peter Pan." My husband didn't say, "Well, sweetheart, you're not really flying, that's just your imagination." No, he said, "Wow, look at you fly." With that I realized that we encourage her imagination all the time with "lies." Kids have active imaginations at a young age and I believe encouraging those imaginations in the right way is good for them. So what we did was fill stockings on Christmas morning, but we made sure he was never the center of Christmas. All of our traditions are centered around family and Christ. Everything my kids learned about Santa were from friends at school, tv programs etc. When my kids would ask me how this works or that, I would say, "what do you think?" I never spoke of Santa, never wrote letters to Santa, and NEVER threatened my kids to behave well because of Santa. I don't think I ever even told them that Santa was the one who filled their stockings, their belief in and understanding of Santa all came from our culture (as a result my daughter was 5 before she really knew anything about Santa). When my daughter was 7 she asked me, "Mom, do you believe in Santa?" I responded, "Sweetie, Santa is a fun game we play, but remember that other people at school are still playing the game so don't say anything to them about it. Now that you know that mom and dad play Santa, you can join us and be Santa for your brother." She was so excited and the next year said playing Santa was more fun than believing in Santa (probably why our society continues to propagate the idea). Both of my kids now fill mine and my husband's stockings and they thrill at the idea of getting up in the middle of the night to sneak our stuff out while we are sleeping. Ironically, my son discovered there was no Santa by himself. One day when he was five he told me Santa wasn't real. I asked why and he said, "Well, they say that if you are bad, Santa doesn't bring you any toys, but I know lots of bad kids who get toys from Santa." So I asked who he thinks fills the stockings and he replied, "oh, probably you or dad." Ha, I knew I was raising a smart kid. All in all, I love how we have handled Santa. I love that my kids Christmas wasn't ruined when they realized that Santa doesn't actually come down our chimney to fill their stockings and I have enjoyed every bit of our Christmas traditions. I greatly respect those who choose not to do Santa, and again, love what you have done to keep Santa a part of Christmas in a way that I believe works really well. On a side note, the most irritating thing I found at Christmas was all the adults who would come up to my kids and say, "So what did you ask Santa for this year?" Yes, that was annoying.
You have stated this beautifully. We feel very similarly. We have 3 kids (5, 3 and 7m) and while my 5 yr old gets the idea of Santa and who he is, I'm not sure she entirely believes in him as we have not talked about it all season. We don't play him up at all and she already knows that he only brings one small gift. Santa's role in our Christmases has diminished more every year and it has improved our Christmas experience altogether. My kids' behavior is better this time of the year not because of the threat of no toys from Santa because they feel closer to Christ because He is our focus. They more they learn of Him and His story the more they love him and want to be like him. I love it. Plus we love just celebrating the season of winter and the magic of snow and the seasons changing. It's all very beautiful...certainly no joy is being lost.
Thanks for the article. I like a lot of the points you make. Our little boy is only 8 months old, and my husband and I are trying to figure out what this time of year will mean to our family. He was raised Jewish, I was raised Christian, and neither of us are religious. I'm not into Santa for all of the reasons you pointed out. I'll even take it a step further and question if I'm into the whole consumerism of the holiday and whether or not gifts should be focused on. Since I would no longer identify myself as Christian, that eliminates the purpose of celebrating Jesus' birthday, but then what am I left with? I'm thinking that I want to concentrate on the family aspect of the holiday. I like the tree and the seasonal baking. I like the big family dinner idea. Maybe that's enough? On top of all of this, we're trying to figure out how we want to honor my husbands Jewish roots and if we should celebrate Hanukkah. For him Judaism is more about his culture than his religion. We have a menorah and like the idea of lighting it and teaching our son the prayers that go along with that ceremony every night. Anyway, as another person said, at least our little boy is too small to be as confused as we are this year. Maybe next year we'll figure it out a little bit more. :) Again, thanks for your thoughts on the season.
Has anyone found a winter book for children that illustrates different ways to celebrate this time of year? Not necessarily Christmas around the world, but those who celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, centered around the birth of Jesus; those who celebrate the spirit of giving only (with or without Santa;) those who celebrate the nature of the season (Pagans and Wiccans,) etc? Kind of like the books that highlight traditional and nontraditional family units, only about Christmas/Winter Solstice/Hanukkah.
I believe the documentary was "In Search of Christmas" on the History Channel, but I am not 100% certain! It was amazing anyway :)
Dude! Let me know if you find this book :) I have never seen one like it but I want one for my family library!
I enjoyed this blog post! Thank you :) I feel like most of my friends and family immediately get crappy when they realize we don't do Santa or Christmas presents (the arguments I've had with both grandmothers over presents has just been exhausting) so it's nice to see more non-Santa people coming out, even if it is done in different ways and for different reasons! Our family is agnostic and while we celebrate the yule-time (trees, garland, lights, dancing snowmen, etc) we don't do lots of presents. We get one family gift on Christmas morning and it's always a game we can play together. We focus more on family experiences. Last year we took a vacation during winter break instead of buying lots of presents so that we could focus on each other exclusively for a few days. This year we can't do a vacation because we bought a house in November but we have been making cookies, singing songs, looking at lights, etc. My son isn't yet two (but his birthday is only three days after Christmas) so he's not asking where the present comes from or why we don't do more, but next year, I plan on explaining that some people believe in Santa and some people don't, just like some people believe in Jesus and some people don't. I plan on explaining that our family chooses to spend the time together and instead of buying him presents we spend money on fun things we can do together. While I'm sometimes sad that he won't get the Santa Claus magic (I was one of those kids that believed until my teens - I was so in love with the idea of magical creatures like the tooth fairy, santa clause, etc), I don't feel like it kills the season at all. Our house still gets transformed into a Christmas wonderland and we watch The Muppets' Christmas Carrol and eat popcorn on the couch, all snuggled under a blanket.. It's wonderful, being so close and experiencing that love. We don't need some strange man to bring magic into our lives - we've already got it. :) (I just realized I forgot to mention - we do HUGE birthdays for myself, my husband and my son. After he was born and I realized how monumental a birth day truly is, my husband and I agreed that we wanted our son to know that we considered the day he was born and we met him to be one of the most important days of our lives. So while he gets one family present on Christmas, he gets a day full of presents just for him and celebration and experiences only three days later. :)
I didn't celebrate Christmas as a kid, and that has always made me feel like an outsider who didn't "deserve" to celebrate and give/receive gifts and positively dread December. As an parent myself though, now I am in exactly the same boat as my parents though: not Christian, hate consumerism, don't dig Santa so much for obvious reasons. So when my daughter was born, I decided to do things a little differently. We give gifts because winter is a hard time. We talk about the animals who don't have warm homes, like the birds, and whose food supply is limited because things don't grow in the winter. We make bird seed ornaments and hang them on the trees, and talk about how great it is to take care of one another and celebrate the fact that we are all alive here together, even when it's cold and snowy and dark and hard for some creatures. When she's older, I want to do a Christmas service project every year with her (she's only two), and show her that not everyone has a warm bed and warm clothes and enough food to eat, and that only by working together can we make the world a better place. We do exchange gifts with friends and family as well, and she has had a very active role this year in making our gifts. We've talked about the stories of Sinter Clous (I think I spelled that right, maybe) and St. Nicholas, and also about Jesus' life and the things he stood for. Although we aren't Christian and don't "believe" in Santa, I do think it's important for kids to understand what everyone else is talking about and celebrating. My parents didn't do Christmas becuase they were anti-consumerism, which I agree with, but I don't think they did a good enough job of explaining to us what everyone else was so darn happy about. It just made me feel sad that I didn't get presents---which actually ended up breeding totally consumeristic feelings in me as a kid, though that was what they were trying to avoid. I think exchanging gifts is a beautiful tradition that can have meaning without consumerism if you create it that way.
I think we should all lighten up a little and not take things so seriously!!! SERIOUSLY, lighten up people. Santa Claus, The Great Pumpkin, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy......come on!!! I get the capitalist consumerism turnoff about Santa, but give me a break already. There are many imaginary things in childhood, that is the beauty of children. Before you know it, they won't believe in any of it, so why not just have fun and roll withbit, rathervthan over analyzing and over thinking it too much?
I did do the Santa thing, but my kids were in on it! We'd go 'Santa Clausing' and buy the santa gifts for the other kids .. And we'd be coy and pick up this or that from santa clause to hide in the stockings.. It was fun to do this together.. and fun still when they were doing it on their own (sneaking little gifts into the stockings from Santa)..
Thank you all for your beautiful stories! I was brought up in a large family where Christmas was all about consumerism, so much so, that our family became a legend in the neighbourhood as our tree was piled so high with gifts that many of the decorations were obscured. We also had a gold Christmas tree with a spotlight on it that changed the colour of the tree every five or so seconds. From a very early age I understood that my mom was trying to make up for her deprived childhood (in every way too horrific to go into) and took on the role of her little Christmas helper (I am the eldest) wrapping all the gifts for the family and therefore knowing everything I was to receive as I even wrapped my own presents. I also remember being the only one who did not return my gifts for cash...and to do this day still will not return anything. My mom slaved (no joy for her) for hours to make Christmas dinner barely taking time to join us and the fighting at our table was most disturbing. As I got older, I realized that my mom was always angry at my dad for not being more involved in the family though she did not encourage any of us to help as she wanted it done her way. To make a long story short, I also became a Christmas consumer, much to my husband's chagrin as he came from a family that expected very little at Christmas; he often complained about the gyroscope he received and how unhappy he was with it so he allowed me to overindulge our children. However, they have somehow managed to escape the consumerism of the season (I have learned a lot from them) and I have become a lot more spiritual though not religious and enjoy Christmas so much more now...and my husband who, though he allowed me to be a consumer, never became one himself and I now appreciate this about him. No more frenzy for us, mostly created by my desire (for whatever crazy reason) to emulate the ghost of Christmas past. We now have many wonderful family traditions...taking in the Christmas lights around town, long walks in the woods, baking our favourite treats and making ornaments for our tree, The Christmas train, The Nutcracker, Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas in Wales and today, enjoyed a wonderful production of The Wizard of Oz which we hope to make a tradition. (Special family rates on all these productions lol). We used to host a Christmas party every Christmas Eve which we discontinued a few years ago and now play family games accompanied by our favourite scrumptious goodies and we will have Christmas dinner with my sister and her family (first year I haven't made dinner) which we are really looking forward to. Good-bye consumerism, welcome the wonderful joy of the season...
Wow, what a great article. This is something that I have been debating on. I have a 2 1/2 year old and though this year she is still terrified of Santa I know that next year she will be even more aware of him and what he is about. I want to teach her about St. Nicholas and how he was the true Santa and how St. Nicolas' traditions live in each one of us. When I voiced this to my parents, I was met with "Why do you want to take the magic out of it for her? She is only a kid once." I have been struggling with this statement all this season. Is Santa really the magic of the season. I thought it was Jesus. In the end I really think the biggest thing I am going to focus on is that the season is not about how much you get, but how much you give, and I don't mean in gifts. I want to teach her that Jesus made sacrifices in his life for us and that we need to give to others as Jesus gave to us. I think I am on the right track. Gifts have been under our tree since just after Thanksgiving and though she is curious, she is more interested in giving the gifts to others then in opening them herself. We started a tradition last year and will continue as we grow of her handing the gifts out to people. I think this is helping her learn that it is not about how many toys/gifts you get, but about sharing the joy of the season with friends and family. I really look forward to creating more and more traditions as our family grows. Thank you. I now know that I am not alone in my concern for the commercialization and materialism of this wonderful holiday. Blessing to all no matter what you believe! May your season be safe and bright!
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