A Magical Christmas, Even Without Santa

Last year I mentioned that we wouldn’t be “doing santa” in our house. I was tweeting back and forth with some people yesterday and enjoyed the interaction so much I thought I’d turn it into a post. This topic, as  I’ve found, is very controversial.  First, because people say that Christmas isn’t magic without Santa, which we’ll get to in a moment.

The other reason seems to be that people don’t like when I say that we won’t implant a belief in Santa, because doing so means telling a lie to our child. This is not a popular thing to say out loud, but I can’t think of any other way to boil it down. It’s really important to me that my kids know when I tell them something, it’s what I really believe to be true. And there is no way to get around the fact that because I believe me telling my kid Santa is real is a lie, I thus think you are lying to your child when you tell them Santa lives at the North Pole and will physically come into your home and leave presents one night every year. We have two options, to agree to disagree or fight it out. We all get to parent our own children however we please, which I really value because one of my favorite parts about parenting is looking at an approach and deciding if I want to duplicate, alter, or throw it out altogether.

This doesn’t mean our children won’t even know who Santa is. The story of the real Saint Nicholas is so inspiring, and I would like our children to know about this man who put such an emphasis on giving to those in need. They’ll know that the popular figure we know as Santa today is make-believe fun, just like dressing up in our living room and pretending to be pirates is make-believe fun. There will certainly be a difficult questions to answer, and likely different ones with each child, but we’ll face them as they come, just like we will face all the difficult questions that come with parenthood. And we’ll let our kids know that Santa is a fun game that other kids play with their parents, and the best way to play is to keep it a secret and let the other kids have fun playing the game.

If you’re wondering, my parents did the Santa thing. I found out he wasn’t real when I was 5 years old. I was standing in the lunch line at the old Red Rock elementary school building, the last year it would ever be in use in our small town. I think my dad was behind me, and my best friend Breinne told me that Santa wasn’t real. I turned around and asked my dad if it was true. That’s all I can remember, I wasn’t traumatized, wasn’t devastated. It was a pretty normal way for a kid to find out, and I still woke up every morning afterward absolutely thrilled to open up the presents my mom bought for us.

There are so many other things I’d love to get into, including what kids learn about money and budgeting from being told they can possibly have anything they put down on a piece of paper, but I’ll save that for next year.

For now, let’s get back to the magic. The question here is, can Christmas be magical even without Santa?

I think it can. To prove my point, I shall list the things about Christmas (past and present) that I find magical:

Bringing out the Christmas music after Thanksgiving
Belting out “All I Want For Christmas Is You” at the top of my lungs while dancing around the house
Twinkling lights
Driving around to see how people have decorated their houses
The strip of interstate near our house filled with light displays that feature characters like Mr. Potatohead and run off power from the circles
Buying a fresh Christmas tree
Getting out the ornaments and laughing about the memories we have surrounding them
Scary tree elf
Drinking Martinelli’s sparkling apple cider
Grandma’s green goop
The way people around town speak up to say “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas”
Talking to other people about their Christmas plans
Service projects
Brainstorming a family to buy presents and be Secret Santa for
Reading the story of the Six to Eight Black Men
Gathering with my dad’s family on Christmas Eve, my immediate family on Christmas morning, and my mom’s family on Christmas day
The greedy gift exchange game that they parent’s played, laughing about someone ending up with the dud gifts
The year my aunt gave me a small gift wrapped in a box, inside another box, inside another box, inside another box, inside another box
The way my mom wraps presents, writing the name of the recipient in code on them and sometimes forgetting the code she used
The Christmas sock
Hot chocolate
The first snowfall
Sledding
Building snowmen
Snowmobiling up to the top of a mountain and looking down
Scarves and hats made by grandma
Caroling on a flatbed with the young men and young women at church
Watching other people open gifts I’ve so carefully chosen for them
The church Christmas program, with narrators and music numbers
The church Christmas party, with nativity performances and a paper bag for each child filled with peanuts, old-time style candy, and an orange (every year the same thing!)
Setting out the Polish nativities we’ve collected over the years
Wrapping up gifts
Drafting our Christmas letter
The new book my grandma Spence gave me each year
Christmas crafts, at home or at school
Finding out what ornament mom bought for us each year
Opening up a pair of pajamas on Christmas Eve
Receiving Christmas cards from other families in the mail
Boxes of apples from our neighbors
Suzy’s tray of cookies!
Grandma’s fluffy rolls
Watching the home movies that Grandma shot over the years, including the video of Colten opening a stuffed cat and being terrified of it
The talent shows we used to put on, believing that we were nothing but adorable (thanks for sitting through all of those off-key performances family members!)
Pumpkin roll
A new Marilyn Monroe calendar from my mom
The Christmas concert at our elementary school
Rudolph the Reindeer, Elf, The Santa Clause, Home Alone, A Christmas Story, It’s A Wonderful Life, and other favorite Christmas movies
Decorating gingerbread houses
Exchanging wishes and wafers a la the Polish tradition
Reading the story of Christ’s birth from the New Testament

Looking at this list, for me magic is about family, and happiness, and traditions and love. Someday I hope our kids will be able to make a similar list. I look forward to writing over the years to tell you how it’s going, but this year T1 is so young that it still isn’t an issue. A reader sent me this link that shows how one family has made it work with two young boys in the house (it looks like the older boy is about 4 and the other is 1) so you can read how another santa-free house is doing things.

147 thoughts on “A Magical Christmas, Even Without Santa

  1. Hi Jenna, I haven’t commented in a while because I’ve been so busy, but I just had to comment on this post because I find the topic so interesting.

    I totally support your decision and I think your reasoning is very convincing.

    I would also just like to add that Chanukah is a wonderful example of how a holiday can be magical without Santa. During Chanukah friends and family give each other gifts, similar to Christmas. Growing up, I knew when a present was from Grandma or when it was from mom and dad. And because it wasn’t hidden from me about who actually gave the gift, I could thank each person accordingly.

    Now that my husband and I are starting our own family, we’ve decided to raise our child as Jewish (he was raised Catholic, but left the church and isn’t a big fan of organized religions). But since we always go to his family’s house for Christmas our child will undoubtedly end up celebrating Christmas as well. But, we will not be feeding into the Santa story and will probably explain it much like you described (make believe fun). I am not at all concerned that our child will miss out on anything.

    Anyways, this is getting long. But, I just think to each their own!

    Jenna Reply:

    Our friend who isn’t doing Santa said it worked so well in the last area they lived because they were in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood. If her kids went to school and talked about Santa all day their peers would be pretty quick to spoil the surprise 🙂

  2. Your approach is the same one that I want to take with our son who will be almost 20 months this Christmas (so it is still not an issue yet). I have no problem with him knowing who Santa is, but I continued to believe my parents about Santa because I couldn’t believe they would be part of such an elaborate lie, and I don’t want to take it as far as they did. Also, I think it is a very socio-economic issue. How do you explain that Santa only comes to middle/working/upper class children? What about the children living in poverty in other countries or in our town. How could I try to explain that Santa comes to our house with extravagant gifts, but only leaves humble gifts or none at all at theirs?

    Jackie Reply:

    When my mom was a kid, she was very poor. She asked her mom why Santa didn’t love her as much as other kids.

    But then my mom kinda over-compensated with us. We were well off but most of my friends weren’t, and I knew that we got more presents than they did at Christmas, which made me feel awkward.

    Jenna Reply:

    This is brought up several times below, and it’s something my husband really likes about the idea. I just don’t like the idea of my kids thinking they can get whatever they want, it’s bad sense. But they will probably get a lot of what they want, between me and my parents, and if we ever live in a school district with a large spread between socioeconomic status in the households, I do wonder how the lower income family children would feel to hear my kid coming in to brag that they got everything. While Sally from the poor side of town barely had enough to eat 🙁

  3. Love this! We’re not going to do Santa either (as I wrote about today, coincidentally). I was raised with Santa (and believed in him until I was 8 or 9 because I’m super gullible like that), and enjoyed it. My husband was raised without Santa (his mother didn’t want to lie either), and enjoyed that as well. Even after I didn’t believe in Santa any more, Christmas was still a magical, exciting time (and it still is!).

    There’s no reason you can’t do all the fun Santa stuff (stockings, discussion of his mysterious home in the far North, etc.) while explaining it is all a magical game. Children love fantasy and make-believe, even when they’re aware it isn’t real. (And research shows that children as young as 3 and 4 are able to make this distinction.)

  4. I always assumed we would do Santa when we have kids, but as the years have gone on Christmas has become so much less about gifts, for various reasons. Especially this year, with my military sis heading overseas–we have a no-gift policy in effect so she doesn’t have to overstuff her luggage! And you know what? I’m really excited about that. So I gotta say Jenna, your post has given me a lot to think about…

  5. I love this post. We don’t have children yet, but my husband and I have talked about not “doing Santa” in house when we do have kids. I was brought up with the knowledge that my parents bought my gifts, but that Santa was a cute story and the history behind it. I was also raised to believe that Christmas is really about Jesus. I turned out perfectly fine and no magic was lost from my Christmas celebrations! Thanks for another great post!

  6. I just have a hard time with this concept of saying Santa isn’t real because we don’t want to lie to our children because lying to them about this aspect of Christmas is like…criminal or something..

    This may sound harsh but..come on, give me a break. Lying about Santa Clause is not the same as lying about..oh I don’t know..that they have a different father or something. But sometimes I read posts like this and comments and people present it as that serious of a lie.

    But to me, all lies aren’t created equal and so I guess I understand why some people view even a silly lie like Santa is bad or equal to all other lies.

    I don’t think Santa makes or breaks a Christmas, I just think he’s kind of like the icing on the cake.

    I also think this no lie about holiday figures (Santa, Easter Bunny, or even the tooth fairy or what have you) is another way we are forcing our children to grow up so quickly. To me, Santa is an iconic figure that symbolizes the fun and mystery and innocence of childhood.

    Sophia Reply:

    I don’t think it’s about debating severity of lies. It’s about acknowledging “technically, this is lying to your children”.

    Then again, saying “Mommy doesn’t have anymore gum” when you do, but you just don’t want to give it to your kid, is also a lie. I think it’s not about shaming people for the lie, but rather saying “let’s be honest- this is lying” and making the decision as to how you’ll deal with Santa.

    Jenna Reply:

    I would really encourage you to read the chapter on lying in Nurtureshock. It’s fascinating stuff.

    Meg @ Moments Like This Reply:

    Can you sum it up, because I’m not going to read it, ha! I just have too much on my plate.

    I do not lie to my children, like in the example above.

    If I don’t want to give my children any more of whatever it is, I tell them that. I do not tell them there is no more.

    But will I lie and say yes honey, the tooth fairy will come and place a coin under your pillow or Santa is amazing and can make it to everyone’s house in one night…amazing isn’t it?- You bet I will.

    I don’t think lying about those things does any harm and frankly, no book or research will change my parenting style on that.

    Jenna Reply:

    Talwar tests kids’ ability to do this, by asking kids to pick a toy they want; if they win a game, they get the chosen toy. There are plastic dinosaurs, a small car, a few other items – including an unwrapped, grimy, worn, used bar of soap. At some point in the game, there’s a switch in the adults who play with the kids. So, instead of giving the child her chosen toy, the late-arriving adult gives the child the soap.*

    Then, the researchers watch what happens.

    68% of kids, aged 3 to 11, will spontaneously say they love the gift of old ugly soap. The older they are, the more like they are to say a white lie about the gift. And if parents encourage the children to say how much they like the present, the percentage of kids lying about the gift increases to 87%. Parental coaching also amps up kids’ elaboration of the white lie. Kids suddenly tell the researchers things like, “We collect soap,” or “We need soap.”

    At this point, some of you may be saying that a white lie isn’t a lie. That’s because you are looking at lying from the adult perspective – that lies are acceptable, when told with the intent of helping someone, or protecting another’s feelings.

    But kids don’t think of lying in the same way. For them, the intent behind a lie – for good or for ill – is irrelevant. It is so irrelevant that, for very young kids, you can even lie by accident. Someone who gives out wrong information, but believed it to be true, is still a liar in these kids’ book.

    Kids just don’t believe that lying comes in shades of white or gray. Lying is much simpler than that: lying is telling somebody something that isn’t so; lying is really bad; and lying gets you punished.

    And if it gets you punished, you shouldn’t do it.

    In Talwar’s lab, parents have literally cheered to hear their kids lie about how great it is to have received the old soap. The parents brim with pride over their children’s knowing the socially appropriate response.

    Talwar’s regularly amazed by this. The parents never even seem to realize that the child told a lie. They never want to chide the child afterwards, or talk about the kid’s behavior. (In every other experiment she runs, Talwar refuses to tell parents if the kids lied or not, because the parents are always so eager to reprimand the kids for those other kinds of lies.)

    Regardless the parents’ pride, the kids aren’t happy about their successfully lying. Instead, it can be torture for them.

    I was at Talwar’s lab when she was doing a version of the unwanted gift experiment with kids in the first and second grades. Watching kid after kid react to that gross bar of soap, I could really see how emotionally difficult it is for kids to tell a white lie. The kids were disappointed when they were handed the soap, but that was nothing compared to the discomfort they showed while having to lie about liking it. They stammered. They fidgeted. Some looked like they were going to cry. It was simply painful to watch.

    Indeed, Talwar has found that some kids just can’t even bring themselves to say something nice about the present. About 20% of 11 year-olds just refuse to tell a white lie about that unwanted gift – even after their parents encouraged them to do so. And about 14% of kids still won’t tell a white lie, even after their parents specifically explained the prosocial reasons to tell the lie. These kids just can’t reconcile the disconnect between knowing how bad lying is, and being told they should now lie.

    For her part, Talwar understands the social value in telling white lies. She knows that kids need to learn how to politely respond to unwanted gifts, a meal they didn’t like, and so on: she, too, wants kids to be polite.

    Still, Talwar cautions that we need to recognize that, at least from the kid’s point of view, white lies really are still lies.

    We should take care to explain the motivation behind the untruth – that we want to protect the other person’s feelings. Kids may still fail to completely understand the distinction, but at least it will encourage them to think about others’ feelings when they act. And we need to reassure children that they won’t be punished for a specific white lie – because they did something nice for someone else. (That may be seem difficult in the moment, but something like this might work: “It would make me and Grandma really happy to hear how much you like the shirt.”)

    Talwar also warns that we adults should pay attention to our own use of white lies. Kids notice these untruths – and that we rarely get punished for them. If kids believe that we regularly lie to get out of uncomfortable social situations, they are more likely to adopt a similar strategy of lying.

    If we don’t watch it, we could inadvertently be giving kids yet another present: a license to lie.

    http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/nurtureshock/archive/2009/12/25/should-you-tell-a-kid-to-lie-if-he-didn-t-like-his-christmas-gift.aspx

    Meg @ Moments Like This Reply:

    What I am saying is exactly what the bottom half of this comment is about. I don’t believe that telling children there is a Santa is harmful in anyway. When my children get old enough and figure out for themselves (via their own conclusions, someone telling them, or it coming out somehow) and they ask me and my husband why we lied, we will explain it to them. There is no harm, to me, in lying about Santa.

    Jenna Reply:

    And another:

    In contrast with the paucity of research on children’s actual prosocial lie-telling behaviors, there is some, albeit limited, research on children’s conceptual understanding of prosocial lies. With regard to children’s concept of prosocial lies, Lee and Ross (1997) found that adolescents between 12 and 14 years of age and college students were less inclined to classify untruthful statements as lies when told with the intent to help another individual than when told to harm. Their results confirmed Sweetser’s (1987) theoretical contention that untruthful statements deliberately told to help another individual and to be polite may not be considered lies. In contrast, Bussey (1999) reported that most children between the ages of 4 and 11 years classify all types of untruthful statements as lies regardless of their anti- or pro-social nature. This finding suggests a possible developmental change in terms of the concept of prosocial lies during adolescence.

    With regard to moral judgments, Bussey (1999) found that children during preschool and elementary school years tended to give negative ratings to prosocial lies. Nevertheless, beginning from 4 years of age, their ratings of prosocial lies were not as negative as those given to trickery or antisocial lies. Broomfield, Robinson, and Robinson (2002) further found that children between 4 and 9 years of age would suggest that a story character should tell a lie about liking an unwanted gift to make the giver believe the gift was liked. The children also judged that the gift-giver would be happy when hearing the lie. The results of Broomfield et al. (2002) were replicated in China (Zeng, 2004). However, Walper and Valtin (1992) found that children only began to give prosocial lies positive evaluations at the end of the elementary school years. These findings taken together suggest that children’s conceptual understanding of prosocial lies begins in preschool years and develops throughout the childhood. They appear to be able to consider the contradictory rules evoked by the politeness situation when evaluating prosocial lies, but only in late childhood do children appear to let the need to be polite and avoid hurting another’s feelings override the need to be truthful. It should be noted that this conclusion is tentative because the above studies did not probe children about the underlying rationales for their evaluations.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2864928/

    —–

    Basically at a really young age, children can’t distinguish between white lies, lies you tell to be nice, and lies you tell to deceive. It’s all the same to them.

    Meg @ Moments Like This Reply:

    I think the real issue is how people believe telling a lie about Santa will snowball into some other forms of lying. Which it might, but I’m going to air on the side of it not happening like that. I work with some kids convicted of crimes and when I ask them about lying never once have they dated back the concept of lying and deception to Santa.

  7. I’m on the Santa train but I really respect your approach and logic. I’m mostly on board with the idea because my memories of his presence are so fond as well as the innocence of childhood. Kids grow up so fast and it’s a nice way to keep their imaginative play a little longer during a magical season.

    Yet, it’s great that as parents you can make the choice and maybe yours will make the same or modify when they have their own children someday.

    You’re doing a great job!

  8. I have no idea what we will do when we have kids. My husband and I had Santa as kids but we also knew it was make believe and the gifts were from our parents. I don’t know its an interesting thing to think about.

    Also I just read this article about the same thing: http://mommyish.com/stuff/sorry-santa-i-want-my-daughter-to-know-that-the-good-gifts-are-from-me-963/

    Jenna Reply:

    Yes! Yet another reason. I don’t think credit for the financial sacrifices we make to get our children what they want should be given to a make-believe figure. But our kids will be hearing about the budget from a really young age. Even now, when T1 whines about something he wants at the store, I ask him if he brought his money so he could buy it. We take money and savings very seriously in our house. Retiring comfortably is going to be really difficult, and our kids will know that we don’t buy everything we want right now because mom and dad need to be able to survive (and spoil their grandkids!) when they are older.

  9. I respect what your parenting plan is but I plan on raising our (hypothetical) kids with Santa. To me that is a big part of childhood and it doesn’t seem like lying to me. Its fun! and I don’t think it will make them any worse as a person or not be able to figure out budgets or money or know compassion by the time they need to. I figured it out probably by age 5 and didn’t say anything to my parents as to not ruin it for my younger brothers. We kept the game up for years until my youngest brother was 12 or so! Great topic!

  10. I always love so much hearing how people deal with holidays! Did TH do Santa as a kid? Did you both come into your marriage knowing you wouldn’t do Santa, or was it something you had to discuss and compromise on? What do your parents think of your decision about Santa? And what is Grandma’s green goop?

    I think my husband and I will do Santa when/if we have kids… But I like the idea of presenting it as a fun make-believe thing rather than as reality. We’ll see. 🙂

    Jenna Reply:

    In Poland (and most of Europe actually) Santa comes around the 6th of December. You *have* to read that link I have above titled “6 to 8 Black Men”. It’s a hilarious story by David Sedaris, and teaches you a little bit about European traditions regarding Santa.

    The gift giving and fancy dinner in Poland happen on Christmas Eve. The way TH explains it, they would go for a walk with his dad after dinner and they were told that The Little Babe (Baby Jesus) came while they were gone and left them presents. That story makes me smile. 🙂

    We never really talked about Santa until last year, when T1 was 8 months. I saw someone online mention they weren’t doing Santa and I loved the idea. I had never heard of that before!

    I don’t think my parents like it, and I think my sister is hesitant because we’re still not sure how it will work it when we combine my kids with her (I know that there is no way my bro-in-law will be down with the idea).

    And this is Green Goop: http://www.grouprecipes.com/21215/pistachio-pudding-salad-or-green-goop.html

    Hemborgwife Reply:

    My husband is Swedish and they have Santa come on Christmas Eve but often in Scandinavia they have different traditions then the rest of Europe but just wanted to point it out!

  11. I agree! We aren’t doing Santa either. We’ve decided to still give a present from Santa – likely books and teach our kids that we do this in the spirit of giving. We thought this would be the best way for them to answer honestly, when asked what Santa brought them. The awesome gifts will be from Mom & Dad and they will know that we work hard to be able to do that. We’ll definitely explain the story of Saint Nicholas and teach our kids that spoiling it for others is mean.

    I was pretty traumatized by finding out Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy aren’t real. And I believe that if we went to the lengths we do to foster the belief in Santa to maintain a lie as adults it would be considered awful. Christmas can be magical without believing Santa is real.

    Jenna Reply:

    Oh this is so helpful! I hadn’t thought about how they would be asked by people what they got from Santa. No need for them to constantly be explaining that they know Santa isn’t real, at least until they are old enough to say it more like “Oh I know all about Santa *wink* *wink*”

    Erica Reply:

    It was our dilemma since we celebrate with extended family and all the kids are 5 and under and they all believe in Santa. I didn’t want my kids to ruin it and I want to honor my cousin’s parenting choices while holding true to what we feel is right for our family. This way they have an answer and can move on. We’ll explain that we give gifts from Santa in the spirit of giving without expecting anything in return.

    My daughters are 22 months and 2 months and the older daughter knows who Santa is and is excited about seeing pictures of Santa in the same way she’s excited about seeing Mickey Mouse and Elmo. Both girls are getting three books each from Santa. The older one’s include two potty training books ;).

    The more I think about it the more I think that we have so much trouble as a society with money because we believe that of we’re good, we’ll get whatever we want.

  12. I’m in the agree to disagree camp. I loved Santa. I still don’t feel like my parents lied to me – just like I don’t feel like they lied to me when they glossed over some of the details of baby making and birthing when my sisters were born. I still enjoy the magic of Santa with my nieces and nephews – it’s just so much fun!

    I say, as long as you teach your kids to respect the Santa beliefs of others, it’s all good!

  13. I think this really sums it up for me “They’ll know that the popular figure we know as Santa today is make-believe fun, just like dressing up in our living room and pretending to be pirates is make-believe fun.”

    Exactly. Santa can be fun, make-believe, magical, a great part of Christmas- without going so far as to go out of one’s way to convince one’s child that there is real Santa Claus who loves them and watches them and rewards them with presents.

    Now, I’ve known some very fundamentalist households who bar Christmas trees, any mention of Santa, etc. etc. That, personally, is going overboard. I think Santa can be a fun make-believe part of Christmas without going to the extreme in either direction- “Santa is an evil distraction created by godless heathens” and “Santa is totally a real live human being!”

  14. Also, I hate how whiny and bratty kids get around Christmas, and how it seems like every single kid I know- even the ones I adore- turn into these greedy list-making, present grubbing machines when it comes to Santa? I do feel this is related to the fact that Santa is made out to be a limitless source of presents, so they can ask for as much as they want. And it’s *constant*. They talk about their lists and what they’re going to ask Santa for from Thanksgiving on. It gets really, really old.

    One other thing to think about, when we’re talking about how this magical aspect of Santa being presented as real is necessary- poor kids. I can tell you, most of the poor kids I knew who were also on food stamps/government cheese/living in HUD housing were not fed the Santa story because it would have been impossible. There just wasn’t money for it, you know? We enjoyed Christmas, enjoyed the gifts we got, made cookies, hung out with family, etc. But it would have been a terrible stress on our cash strapped parents if they had really propped up the magical present man story- because, of course, when we didn’t get anything other than a stocking with some candy, when we *asked* for a bike… well, there it all goes anyway.

    In fact, I remember being as young as 4th grade and making jokes with my mom about that Christmas song “Santa doesn’t come to shanty town”. It was kind of a funny joke amongst us. To this day, we still get some presents from “Santa”. But it was firmly make believe growing up, no more real than, say, Rudolph.

    Jenna Reply:

    Yes! I mentioned this above, but this is what TH loves most about this idea. He likes teaching our kids from an early age that some kids don’t get everything they want for Christmas. Some kids don’t even have what they need. Not in a “You’re not getting that because some kids don’t have everything they need” kind of way, more like “Let’s be so grateful for everything we have, and let’s be sensitive when talking about what we got for Christmas because others don’t have as much”

    And H-to-the-L yes, I really, really despise listening to kids listing off these fantastical impossible things they want (that some of them end up getting!) I was emailing back and forth with someone last night and said how much I hate this Mormon Message video. A video produced by the CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST and the first thing these kids can talk about is Santa and presents? http://www.youtube.com/user/MormonMessages#p/c/4E784EC0770935C0/18/RM8XoT7qnxY. Really?

  15. also magical in chicago is the holiday train. if you’re lucky enough to stumble upon it, it’s super awesome:)

    Sarah Reply:

    I miss that so much! It would make my day if I was able to catch it. That, and Skate on State was a fun way to spend an afternoon when we would leave work early.

  16. So i was in Costco the other day and heard a 4 year old ask his dad for an iPad for Christmas. It was pretty hilarious.

    That’s all I got.

    Senora H-B Reply:

    hahahahahahahaha!

    Jenna Reply:

    I plan on telling the kids the budget we have for them for each year. They can make as many lists as they’d like, but the highest budgeted item can be no more than that. And they will know that if they want a big thing, that’s all they are getting. Or they can have several smaller things. No sense them getting their hopes up for things there is no way in heck we are ever buying them.

    Actually I’m going to tell them they need to be sending their dream lists to grandma. 🙂 Mom gets the practical list, haha.

    Jackie Reply:

    That’s what my parents do.

    Sorta. I tend to ask for one big thing to avoid getting a bunch of crap I don’t need. Then mom feels bad I only have one present and buys me a bunch of even crappier-crap so I have more presents to open. No win.

    (My mom kinda has issues here if you can’t tell…)

    Michelle Reply:

    My mom now does BIG birthday presents and small Christmas presents. I know it is different because we are all grown but I like the idea of celebrating a person’s BIRTH in a big way and Christmas being more about time spent together, doing community service and just enjoying company.
    I think, Santa or no Santa, the message of Christmas is what you make it from the get go. Even if Santa is introduced, it can still be done in a way that doesn’t make it seem like he will give you every present on your list. It is up to each parent to have that talk with their kid about how you won’t get everything, etc. But kids will be kids and their understanding is limited when it comes to that stuff sometimes.

  17. When I was a kid I believed in Santa for like, an EMBARRASSING number of years. I think in part I really wanted to believe it, because although the holidays remain the highlight of my year, I admit a bit of the magic *was* lost when I found out that there was no… magic involved. Hilariously, when I started to doubt it I remember the thing that brought me back to believing was that I couldn’t possibly figure out how all the parents would know that they were supposed to put on the act! Ha.

    For years I’ve said to people I think the world would be such a better place if there really was a man running around making people’s dreams come true once a year.

    Anyway, if I ever have kids I look forward to every aspect of celebrating Christmas with them, including the whole Santa charade! But I respect your reasons, especially the financial implications.

    What kind of bothers me today is thinking about schools where they are huge economic disparities… what happens the day kids return to school? Why did Santa bring the rich kids new ipods and bikes and cameras while the low income kids got a basketball? I think that would be very hard to explain to children.

  18. I like Santa.

    I liked the stories my parents told and the extra element it brought when we were kids (we heard reindeer on the rough, Santa dropped some toys out of his sleigh once etc. etc.).

    I think my parents had as much fun with it as we did.

    Our Santa was never super fancy (we only received one toy + stockings from him) and our Christmas celebrations were still simple and Christ-centered. I loved them. I remember being sad when the youngest in our family stopped believing in Santa (and how much fun it was as one of the “older” kids to keep up the story for him).

    When I have kids some day, I’m sure I will do the same.

    However, those will be my kids, and my choice. I think your point about T1 being your child is the strongest point (and only one really needed). That is the way it should be. I don’t think either is right or wrong, just preference.

    Isn’t that what parenting is all about?

  19. It’s interesting that some people are saying they want their children to know that the really good gifts come from them. St. Nicholas gave gifts in secret because he wanted the glory to go to God, not himself. Later on, when people tried to emulate this, “St. Nicholas did it” was a way to shift the glory away from themselves, and was within the context of a well-known story that pointed to God.

    I think I want to keep the tradition of “Santa did it,” but within the context that it was originally intended. Since I was raised more with the North Pole variety, I’m still trying to figure out how to do that.

    Jenna Reply:

    Hmmmm. Unfortunately, no glory goes to God when you think the gifts came from Santa. I’m not sure I can think of a way to make this happen in our modern context? Unless you taught that Santa was created by God, but I very much dislike that idea.

    It’s not that I want the glory for myself, it’s that I want my kids to know that *money doesn’t grow on trees*. Everything we have comes because we work hard, save our money, and are abundantly blessed by God with things like intelligence and fortuitous circumstances to make it all happen.

    Kimberly Reply:

    The best I can come up with is to to teach my kids about St. Nicholas and why he gave in secret, and then give them opportunities to “be Santa” to people in need and give in secret themselves. That way they’ve participated in the context I want them to have. I agree that the modern Santa has little to nothing to do with giving glory to God.

    I didn’t consider the cost of my requests when I was a kid, because wasn’t everything hand-made by elves? No money involved, lol.

  20. Usually not one to comment but just had to say… Jenna, Santa is not about “lying” to your kid and teaching them consumerism. It’s about having a little magic in their lives! But! It’s just my opnion. It just seems to me you are becomeing a little too fundamentalist these days. I have enjoyed your blog for a long time and you have REALLY changed over the years. I used to be able to read your posts and think “gosh! I have a lot in common with her!” Now I find myself reading your posts and shaking my head. I just don’t get you anymore. I feel sorry for T1.

  21. Growing up my parents never told us that Santa was real, but also never made it a point to tell us he wasn’t. My sister and I never believed but we still had fun putting the milk and cookies out for “Santa” (which was not at my parents pushing, I just always wanted to. I’m the kid who just loves everything Christmas) and having all the presents show up under the tree that night. We also knew not to spoil the secret for other kids who did believe.

    I don’t think I would have a conversation with T1 (or T2 etc…) about how he doesn’t exist. I think the way my parents did it is the same way I plan on doing it for my future children.

    Let him figure out for himself without pushing one way or the other. I think as long as you aren’t like “Santa’s coming tonight! Let’s hope you got everything on your wish list!” he’ll get the point.

    Jenna Reply:

    Someone suggested celebrating St. Nicholas day. I like that idea, particularly because that’s how they do it in Europe and incorporating European traditions is important to me.

  22. I love this post! It’s exactly how we’re going to approach Santa with our kids! My husband’s biggest thing is that if we tell our kids Santa is real when he’s not, why should they believe us when we tell them Jesus is real. We can’t hide them from Santa, but we’ll talk about him like you talk about Disney Princesses, you know? Also, I think the “magic” in the presents, is that they “appear” over night. Who cares if it’s Santa or us who put them out? We’re going to hide the presents until they go to bed Christmas Eve, and put them out after they’re in bed so it’s a big surprise in the morning.

    Thanks for this post! I always wondered if you guys were going to “do” Santa… Haha 🙂

  23. My parents never did Santa with us and I never felt like I was missing out on anything. My husband’s family did have Santa Claus but we’ve agreed that when we have kids, we won’t be doing Santa. For me, my memories of doing Christmas Angel Tree (where you choose an “angel” off a tree and buy presents/clothes/shoes for a child who otherwise wouldn’t get to have Christmas) are the most magical things I remember. Feeling surrounded by love and gifts, and getting to pass that on to someone else. I have a lot of memories of gratitude – even without Santa 🙂

  24. I have a funny story. We did Santa in our house until I was about 5 years old, at which point I ruined it for everyone. My parents were telling me that they heard the reindeer hooves on the roof – I found this suspect and somehow figured out they were lying. Let me preface this with the fact that I LOVED Santa Claus. I loved making him cookies every year, and often spent every Christmas Eve sneaking out of my room and peeking to try to catch Santa Claus in the act, to no avail. I did catch my dad eating one of Santa Claus’ cookies, at which I point I scolded him mightily.

    Anyway, I figured out Santa wasn’t real, and I lost. my. sh*t. (‘scuse the French) I screamed at my parents and I actually yelled “If I can’t trust you about this, how I can I trust you about anything.” Tears and sobbing.

    Suffice to say, I ruined Santa for all of my younger siblings – no more Santa in our house. 😀

    I won’t be doing Santa either, and none of my siblings plan to do Santa. I figure, if I’m going to spoil my kids with an awesome play kitchen, they best be thanking ME! 😉

    Kelly | Blushink Reply:

    Haha, that is hilarious Penny! We did Santa and even though it wasn’t real, I never saw it as ‘OH MY, MY PARENTS LIED TO ME’ I was actually happy they went the extra effort to make it that much more special.

    That being said… we will do Santa, but eventually he will know the truth just like we did. It’s not lying as it’s fibbing for me. I appreciate it and still love Santa to this day.

  25. Santa represents magic. My parents did Santa — and the year both my brother and I knew that Santa didn’t exist, we both went to bed talking about “what Santa was going to bring us!” It was more about the excitement of Christmas than anything.

    My parents had wrapped everything and didn’t plan on having Santa come – but they went down and unwrapped some things… and the Santa tradition continued like that until I went to college.

    So I will probably continue a tradition of “Santa doesn’t exist but it’s fun to play along” plus, I really want pictures of my kids crying while sitting on Santa’s lap (am I going to make a great parent or what?)

    Whatever you want to do though, is up to you.

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