Who is Santa? - Mothering Forums

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Member posted 12-07-2000 10:40 PM
My son is 4 1/2 & keeps asking me really difficult questions about Santa Claus. Is he real? Is he still alive? Does he really bring me toys? Is that the real Santa? etc I'm not exactly sure how to respond. We are very attached & he is sensitive to my body language & expressions. I don't want to lie to him but I don't want to deprive him of a beautiful holiday tradition either. Of couse, I've recieved some criticism from extended family on this issue. I don't have a problem with Santa as a dead saint that reminds us that giving is important but when I said that he died, I kinda felt like I had just killed him myself! (My son actually asked me if he was dead...so I couldn't lie!) You see, it's a little more complicated this year. He understands too much. Any suggestions?

Ms. Mom
Moderator posted 12-08-2000 01:48 AM
I know just where your coming from! My son is 6 and I feel so close to him, it felt dishonest to ‘play Santa’. I actually didn’t want to do the Santa thing – a strange man, breaking into your house at night, etc. I was also concerned that he would feel superior to other kids less fortunate who didn’t get as much as he did. My son WANTED to believe in Santa, so I let him. He only asks minimal questions and if he doesn’t like the honest answer, he ignores it! He thinks parents give Santa money for the gifts, they stay up late to let him in and help him wrap – like a shopping assistant. This is what he has come up with! I let him have his fantasy, knowing deep inside I know he knows the truth and when he asks “is Santa real” he’ll be ready for the answer. As for my 3 yr. Old…She asks open questions and I’m answering them honestly. My husband isn’t thrilled, but I can’t help it. I just can’t make up some story and feel good about it. Just me! I’m not opposed to Santa, just lying! We also do a LOT of focus on the less fortunate. My kids have a pocket full of change that they put in EVERY bell ringers bucket (a few dimes or so at a time). We sponsor a child and shop for him and do a lot of focus on helping and loving our family, friends, and neighbors. Good luck explaining things
~Much Gentleness

Member posted 12-08-2000 05:01 AM
I have an 8 yr old boy and almost 2 yr old girl.
With my son, I didn't ever want to start the Santa story but everyone else in my family and the man who is now my husband all wanted to pass on the Santa tradition. So this is how I deal with it...

I tell/told my son that Santa is a legend that makes people feel good and reminds us about giving to others. That he used to be alive a long time ago (as opposed to saying he's dead, subtle difference)and that he went around his village bringing presents for girls and boys to let them know they were loved. He doesn't really ask for specifics on how the presents arrive and he seems to really like the legend of Santa that I have come up with as does my husband. When we see Santa's everywhere we just point out that those are people who are celebrating the spirit of Santa by dressing up in a costume and playacting.

Member posted 12-08-2000 06:41 AM
I really like queentofu's idea. It passes along the "spirit" of giving and the good feelings of Santa without lying. I think I'd like to handle it this way when my son gets old enough (he's only 2 mos. now). I had wondered how we would handle this. Thanks for the tip.

Member posted 12-08-2000 06:43 AM
I also like Ms. Mom's idea about focusing on the less fortunate. I think we will incorporate that one too with our son. Thanks.

Member posted 12-08-2000 08:04 AM
we're jewish and don't have this problem, but some friends of ours did something really different with the santa issue that i liked. the parents both remembered how traumatized they were when they found out they'd been lied to about santa & didn't want to have that same experience for ds, so when he asked about who santa is (at about 2 y.o.), they said to him:"people like to pretend that santa is real and that he brings presents. would you like to pretend that santa comes to our house & brings you a present?" ds said "yes" and now he has santa, but knows that its pretend.

Member posted 12-08-2000 10:52 AM
That's pretty much what we're planning to do. After all, kids don't need to be convinced that something fanciful is "real" in order to enjoy it. We don't tell Annabelle that animals can really talk or that there are fairies, but she likes books about these things, and she enjoys pretending her stuffed animals talk, etc. I don't think going the "pretend" route deprives kids of the tradition at all--I think it allows them to enjoy it in the way kids truly enjoy everything--with their imaginations.

Member posted 12-09-2000 12:59 AM
Great ideas! Queentofu, that's pretty much the same story I've always told my 4 y.o. I think grandparents have added some confusion into the mix here. He's getting some conflicting information & I guess he's asking questions to try to figure out who to believe! They feel I'm depriving them by not letting them believe there's a real Santa. I just can't lie to them! I like the idea of letting them pretend.
By the way, my son actually asked if Santa was still alive. I said no, so he asked if he was dead. That was LAST year. This year, at a Thanksgiving celebration with some new friends, he walks up to me and with tears in his eyes, he says, "Didn't you tell me Santa is dead? Isn't that what you said?" I don't know if the other children there were discussing Santa or what. I never did figure out where that came from!

Member posted 12-09-2000 06:17 AM
queentofu and dayna-
great ideas!! i was wondering how i was going to handle this situation when my son got older.

Member posted 12-09-2000 01:39 PM
all I can say is when I found out there was no Santa, I was Devistated. My parents lied to me. I felt sooo betrayed. I then questioned if there was a God. Needless to say that is not how I plan to tell my son. Plan on doing it similiar to queentofu.

unregistered posted 12-09-2000 08:27 PM
I have never told my 5 year old about Santa, but she has learned about it from friends, books, general culture, etc. and definitely believes he is real. A few years back when our kids were around 2 or 3 my friend told her son that Santa didn't really exist and was just pretend. I liked the idea as well, but he seemed so sad about it that I decided I didn't have the heart to tell my daughter that he wasn't real. But after reading some of the replies I now wonder if she will feel betrayed that I let her believe in it.

Member posted 12-10-2000 06:57 PM
I guess what upset me the most is that my dad made us believe in him. If I asked if he was real, he would always say yes. I just don't recommend lieing. We value our childrens trust, as they value ours!!!

Member posted 12-10-2000 07:54 PM
When my son has asked if Santa is real, I just throw the question back at him... That way I am not perpetuating something he has outgrown, but letting him still beleive if he choses. I don't get into the santa thing, we don't talk about it much at all... My parents have some gifts from santa waiting at their house and I'll put one out for Christmas morning that has their name on it but doesn't say who from. I think it's a comprimise, since I'd rather not do santa at all, but I can live with it because I am not lying either.

Member posted 12-10-2000 09:45 PM
cara -I was interested to read that you felt betrayed by your parents regarding the santa myth.
My parents decided not to bring us up with the Santa thing as they considered it (in their words) "The First Great Lie" told by a parent to a child. They were church going people who worried that we would then question what else they had "lied" about esp the existence of God (as in your case)
Funnily enough we brought santa into the house after hearing about him from other kids, Apparently we came home SO excited about this guy who was going to bring us presents at Christmas. So for a few years they just let us lead the way with that without embellishing it too much themselves.
Personally i think I like the Queen Tofu approach.

Junior Member posted 12-12-2000 08:28 AM
Like many parents, my husband and I recently
told our two and half year old that "yes, if
you're good, maybe santa will bring you that
this year." As two year olds do, she grew
very excited with much jumping up and down
and hand clapping. Then she grew very solemn
and quiet, pulled me down to her level and
asked "Mommy, who's Santa?" Hmmmm, good
question. We have decided to tell her that
rather than an actual man, he is the spirit
of giving. We of course don't expect her to
get this right off the bat, but we're sure it
will grow on her. We want her to learn that
being good does not mean eating all her
vegetables or cleaning her room, but being
just and kind in the world will bring the spirit of christmas to her. If she gives to others,that spirit of giving will come back to her. So, while there won't be any presents under the tree specifically from Santa, Santa will be with her.
Peace and may the Spirit of the Season Be With You.

Sierra M-
Moderator posted 12-12-2000 04:36 PM
There are so many great ideas coming up here! As for me, I believed in Santa until I was maybe six or seven. I had older siblings who kept "the secret" until then. When I found out, I was not particularly upset. I think my mom told me something about an original, kind man who brought gifts to people on Christmas and that his spirit lives on. I then kept the secret from my younger brother.
We had a lot of fun with the whole Santa thing. I think it helped that there were enough of us to have a really great time being "Santas" to each other, especially the older for the younger. We participated in filling each other's stockings late at night Christmas Eve. We had some funny family traditions, like putting a potato, along with a few other normal little gifts, in one person's stocking each Christmas. This came out of a lack of stuff to put in my dad's stocking one year when we were particularly poor and somehow didn't really end up getting him anything.

I loved the Santa tradition as a kid, even after I knew Santa wasn't a real, living guy. Some of my best Chrsitmas memories are of waking up early Christmas morning, getting all us kids together (we didn't go get our stockings until we were all together), and heading for the living room where our homemade stockings (with individual designs on them specific to each of us) were hung.

We would then go into my parents bedroom, get on their bed and wake them up. We would give them their stockings, and then all of us would start discovering our little gifts (we had really pretty small stockings, so not much would fit...we often got things like chapstick, pencils, rubber stamps, and jewlery). After we all had found everything in our stockings, we would go around the room and each show everyone what "Santa" had brought. About the time we all were teenagers, it got really funny to say "Thanks Santa" when we were showing off each of our gifts.

These days we still carry on some of the Santa tradition in my extended family. One thing we do is write letters to Santa each Christmas Eve and then burn them in the fireplace (this is how letters get to Santa fastest ). We joke every year that it is hard to tell whether we are writing to God or Santa. It's a nice grounding activity for us all.

I guess I just don't feel like the Santa tradition has to be all that bad, depending on the way it is approached. That's why I am really enjoying hearing all your ideas about alternative ways to deal with the Santa issue. Woohoo!


P.S. We also had the tradition of giving each other wrapped presents underneath the tree. This was something we did without being under the guise of Santa. This is not a tradition that I'm so interested in, but I can say that we did strike a pretty good balance so that things never got to be too materialistic. For instance, sometimes the gifts were homemade and sometimes store- bought. I'll never forget the year my older sister made a donation to a cause I believed was important in my name. That felt so good and was one of the best presents ever. There was one year when my aunt gave us each a bunch of chocolate, and since I couldn't have this as a diabetic (at the time, diabetic diets were much more restrictive), we all went and dropped our chocolate off at the soup kitchen that very morning. Every kid gave their chocolate up on my account and were very excited about the idea of giving to others in the process. Plus, after opening our presents on Christmas morning, the first thing we always did was write thank yous. We did the same thing when we got gifts on the nights of Hannukah.

[This message has been edited by Sierra M- (edited 12-12-2000).]

Moderator posted 12-12-2000 05:21 PM
I remember finding out that Santa wasn't real, and for me also, it was no big deal. I just felt like "one of the grown ups" knowing true reality (this was important to me being the youngest child). In our little family now (children ages 5 and 2) we highlight St. Nicholas, since this is our faith tradition (christian), who indeed was a real person in the middle ages, who allegedly did go around doing wonderful kind things for people. Is he real? His giving is real if it's in our hearts. We've never made a big deal about the logistics of how the presents get here. I think last year we said the stockings were from St. Nicholas and the presents were from mom and dad. So far, they don't hold us to anything, but as we go along i'm sure that will change.

Member posted 12-12-2000 07:54 PM
DH & I were just discussing this recently & came to the conclusion that it was about the only thing our (highly dysfunctional) families handled ok...
Didn't want to be lied to, but questions about Santa were always answered with a twinkle in a parents' eye & a gently teasing tone, & 'Santa' always wrote with Mom's handwriting. Pretty much the 'Do you want to pretend?' answer but not quite so overt.

Seemed to be an OK with DD (just asked the 14 year old her opinion, but she is grumpy washing dishes & said to say,
"No, there isn't really isn't a Santa but you have to be good or you will get a lump of coal in your stocking!" LOL, I asked her if she was serious; she said as long as you really don't lie- whatever *we* did was Ok. Anyway, however we handled it she wasn't traumatized!)

As for the Jewish angle, it's not as tho' Santa is some biblical Christian entity... we are going to enjoy our Hanukkah dreidal gambling complete with much gelt & apres latkes, our hideously pagan tree with presents for Saturnalia, & have our Messianic celebration at Passover/Easter (just like Yeshua- all those 'What would Jesus Do?' thingys crack us up- I'll tell you this, it wouldn't be carving up the Christmas ham!)

A sense of humor & not wanting our child's Jewishness to be felt as 'loss' (my dh grew up thoroughly secular with a tree & all anyway- hasn't made him less Jewish)but as valuable & worthwhile heritage is the way we will handle it (I am aware that if we were Hassidic Orthodox rather than Messianic this would be a different ballgame).

Anyway, Shalom!


Member posted 12-13-2000 06:28 AM
As some of the other replies said I always thought of finding out the secret of Santa being mom and dad was more of a rite of passage than a lie. Something that you became privy to and then you were one of the big people and had to be careful and join in the joy of the wonderment of the little ones that the adults loved.
My kids know the real story of St. Nicholas and how when he lived what he did that began the legend. And then I let their own imagination fill in the rest. Never lie but letting their childishness flourish.

I remember as a child even finding where the gifts were hidden. Even that didn't ruin my belief. I just figured Santa couldn't really carry everything in one night so he came by early to drop the stuff off and then on Christmas eve came back to put it under the tree. A child with a healthy imagination can take in a lot of truth and still put their own spin on it!

Even some of the commercialism is taken away with believing that a spirit brings the gifts. I'm sure it could be a problem for nonchristian families but we always explained that It's Jesus' birthday and since he's not opening presents himself that's how we celebrate the day.

Member posted 12-13-2000 08:16 AM
Would you people quit goofing with my reality? "Santa" still brings me a stocking, although it is more likely to have scotch minitures and kitchen gadgets in it than toys and baubles ;-)
I know the 7 year-old has figured things out, but she is playing along so that our barely 2 will have the same magical experience his sisters had for a few years.
Besides when a person finally declares there "ain't no Santa Clause" he quits bringing stockings. We are firm believers in keeping the holiday about generosity and the kids picked out a person's ornament to get presents for this year, did the shopping and will do the wrapping.

We celebrate Yule as our religious holiday, so they understand that christmas is another sort of holiday, but rather than fight the world, we let some of the stories and legends in, as well as explaining that virtually every culture has a celebration around the solstice and share legends on that.

So merry solstice/chanucka/kwanzza/christmas/and tohers as we find them to all.

Member posted 12-13-2000 02:15 PM
I went through the whole santa/easter bunny/God thing in 4th grade (guess I was one of those rationalizing children with a good imagination.) I didn't actually Ask my parents. I came home and said, Mom, L. K. says there's no Santa and I told her, of course there is because you said so and you wouldn't lie to me (or something like that) so she promptly, bluntly, told me the truth. And I promptly, bluntly dismissed the rest of the list and cried and cried. Looking back I feel really sorry for her trying to pick up the pieces.
We're doing Santa anyway. Having gotten over the experience, it was worth it. I loved Santa, I still love Santa, and I wouldn't have given it up. I can't tell if my eight year old still believes or if she's protecting me from the truth, but the 6 and 4 are firmly in the grip of the magic.

My Dad does tell me that I once asked him on Christmas morning. He looked around and said "Do you think *I* would buy you all this junk?!" I don't remember the occaision, but of course I didn't think he would. I think that was a good answer.

We have pointed out that all those Santas can't be real (Do you really think Santa would have time to sit around in a mall in December?) and that he wouldn't bring giant piles to rich children and small ones to poor children. Rich parents put piles of presents under their children's trees to make them happy. Poor parents can't, so it's important to help them out. Anybody can write Santa on the tag.

We buy gifts for kids from the local "angel tree" every year and my kids love to think about the child opening presents from them and Santa.

Member posted 12-14-2000 04:31 AM
That's the most amazing thing about believing in Santa to me. Kids can handle so much reality and still believe. Adopting a family to buy presents for, finding the hidden stash in the house, pulling the beard off the guy in the mall. For the happy child none of that seems to break the bubble. Kids are just magical!

Junior Member posted 12-14-2000 06:25 AM
I dealt with this two years ago, when my best friend's daughter found out about Santa, and was crushed, and now that my son is 9, he's kind of figured it out. What I told my friend's daugter was, "As long as people care about what happens to other people, there will always be the spirit of Santa." It sounds corny, but it's true. I've always said to my son that Santa is more of a feeling than a person. Not a feeling of generosity, but a feeling of compassion for everyone, especially those who have less than us, and to be grateful for what we have. Not all of us have everything we want, but think of the things we DON'T want that we don't have. I am very lucky to have a boy who is grateful, and appreciative for everything, and very understanding.

Member posted 12-14-2000 08:50 PM
We won't do the santa thing.
I think we can do a really good job year round to teach our children how wonderful it is to give. To give your time, the most precious thing we have. I volunteer on a regular basis as a doula at a near by birth center and hospital and often take clients at low or not cost. I (and I'm an humanist/atheist) volunteer wherever I can during holidays or not to feed homeless people, give my own things away to share, etc. I don't think we (me and my partner) need to teach our children that a man named santa is behind the spirit of giving.
My partner and I remember when we found out santa wasn't real and neither was the easter bunny, the toothfairy, etc. I remember feeling disappointed and scammed. I get a twinkle in my eye not at the sight of santa but at the sight of helping others myself, not getting whatever new toy is out or a stocking full of things. I hope our children will too. I think they will, most children naturally want to help others. I would love to "adopt a family" during the winter and purchase things like coats, hats, blankets, etc. I think this is a more important lesson than be good all year and maybe you'll get a playstation 2.

I love hearing everyones ideas on this VERY interesting topic!!!!

Member posted 12-15-2000 07:17 PM
My family always did the Santa thing, and we still do. My parents always told us about the traditional Santa, and we always left out milk and cookies...
BUT, they never lied to us either. 'Santa' gifts were special ones...from no one in particular, given in the spirit of generosity, anonymity, or what ever.

My parents always had each of us give one Santa gift to someone every year. We knew right from the start that Santa, as a person, doesn't exist necesarrily...but we can all take on the role of Santa if we choose to. The larger ideal of Santa to us was the surprise. We always spoke of Santa, but none of us ever actually beleived the tradition. It was the spirit of the tradition. My parents also made sure that we respected how the other kids beleived. Some of our friends were sure Santa was a total fake, and others were convinced He's real. We always claimed that yes, we beleived in Santa. We never explained further, and no one ever teased us or bothered us.

We wold leave milk and cookies out for Santa, because that's tradition. We knew "santa" would visit during the night and do his thing.

Our family still believes in Santa, and we still follow the tradition. Someone always stays up late, or gets up late and stuffs the stockings while we're sleeping, and leaves extra gifts. Often, three or four people will get up through the night and do their own Santa thing, so we all contribute in some way.

We're starting a whole new generation with my first being born next April. This is the first granchild and great-grandchild on both sides. My husband and I have discussed this, and we both intend on doing just what my parents did. We will talk of the legend, and do the traditional things, but we will never ever let the children truly believe that Santa is a real person. We will let them have fun with it, though...that's the way it should be.

Member posted 12-15-2000 07:39 PM
My older cousin told me there was no santa when I was four. My mother was furious but I don't remember any trauma. I thought I would do the Santa thing with my kids but when it came down to it I couldn't lie to them. I had a friend from Belgium and they have a ST. Nicholas Day on Dec 6th where they celebrate the story of the original St. Nick that several of you have mentioned. My children enjoy the fun of the idea of Santa but as my three y.o. said today, "it's just pretend." And I feel pretty strongly about emphasizing the reason for the season.
I also get pretty peeved about the way many people use the Santa thing. Because the theme of "you better be good" is so prevalent I have had to spend some extra time reversing that with my kids. My daughter came home from a friend's house concerned she was going to get a lump of coal in her stocking. My babysitter got my 3 year old to go to sleep the other night by telling her that Santa was watching her. It's bad enough to lie to children but to manipulate them and frighten them with Santa is certainly not my idea of "the Christmas spirit."

I agree completely with someone's observation that children are naturally altruistic. My children took more delight in taking toys to a children's home than they have in making a Christmas list.

But don't you just love "'Twas The Night Before Christmas!" I feel like a kid again reading that story to my kids.

Happy Holidays

Junior Member posted 12-17-2000 03:44 PM
I don't teach my children about any of the fantasy things like Santa, Easter Bunny, or Tooth Fairy. The main reason is that I want these holidays to remain religious in focus, not a "give me" time. I also don't like that the attributes of these characters are much like those of God. If these are lies in the end, maybe they will think the things I have taught them about God are, also.

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