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Don't know how much help this will be, but here goes. We have a DD who is a bit over 2. She can recognize Santa Claus from the various pictures around town, so she knows what he looks like. For the record, there was a true St. Nick, but I don't know the whole story behind him. A man by the name of Cecil Adams writes books called the Straight Dope, and all he does is answer questions and research behind the answers. Here is the answer that deals with Santa Claus.

Anyway, what we are doing with DD is explaining, at her level, that we don't see Santa Claus, and those that we do see at the malls and stuff are just his helpers. The true Santa comes at night, while you are sleeping, and you never see him. You just believe in him. Now, we do explain the true meaning of Christmas too, so we have covered both bases. I don't think we will ever go to the extremes of carrot shavings, and hoof prints in the front yard, but I do think that the excitement that Santa brings is not a bad thing.

Hope this helped. Don't know yet what we will do when the kiddos get older, but for now, this method seems to be working.

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