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
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 :(

    Tiffany Reply:

    this is really interesting to me. I grew up rather poor on a dairy farm. we did believe in santa BUT I never knew that kids always got everything they wanted for christmas. it sounds like parents are just doing a poor job about portraying santa and it isn’t the idea of santa itself. like i knew santa couldn’t bring everything i wanted, and sometimes he couldn’t even bring me the one thing i wanted. but i never remembered exactly what it was i asked santa for once i saw my presents on christmas morning. maybe we need to teach our kids more along the lines of being grateful for what we have and giving to others and whatever santa brings will be wonderful?! And that’s my thoughts on the subject!

    Katherine (a.k.a Sparkles) Reply:

    Exactly! Well said! I grew up in a well to do neighborhood but my family wasnt well off. I never got what i asked for (tv… Phone… Horse… The latest and greatest gadget)- and never did i stop to think “wow santa gives other kids better stuff than me”. My parents laid it out realistically. I believed in santa, was raised to believe in santa AND three kings day!

    I think its important to teach children gratitude, thankfulness and to understand the diff between material things vs giving whats from the heart with good intentions. I don’t fear raising my child to know Santa detracts from the spirit behind gift giving vs parental giving/$/where-who gets “credit” is due…. My children will be grounded by faith, family, love no matter what cultural folklore festivities we imbed in their life. It’s merely part of cultural uniqueness to me. Plus my daughter is half Taiwanese so there are other folklore/cultural influences she will no doubtedly learn from her other family and that’s fine by me! (& even friends!)

    Katherine (a.k.a Sparkles) Reply:

    Oh. & i read this and sums up so well the reason of the season and teaching kids about whats important!


    Jenna Reply:

    Oh I loved this! So many things remind me of us as a couple, sitting down and debating how we would do it, feeling at a loss regarding how to implement it, giving our kids some say. Great post!

    Alisha Reply:

    I grew up in a poor neighborhood until I was 9. My mom was on welfare. Santa brought us one gift, and I never remember kids even talking about was Santa brought them at school after the holidays. We all talked about what we got, but not who brought it.

    Even after my mom remarried, we continued the 1 gift from Santa tradition. And it’s always $15 or under. You don’t need huge, expensive gifts to celebrate Christmas.

    Katherine (a.k.a Sparkles) Reply:

    Well said!
    Even now we only give one gift to a fam
    Member (we have secret santas at my home now that we are adults- just so we dont over purchase items and keep christmas gifts to eachother a minimum).

    But amusingly enough, “”Santa”" STILL visits us- if we find a gift for someone else we can’t pass up, then we gift it under the alias Santa. Hi, we are 26, 31 & my parents are in their 50′s and santa still visits! ^_^

  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.

    Christiana Reply:

    Well sure, if you say “Santa is a REAL person, he was born in 1782 and NEVER DIES- neither does his wife who is a cyborg companion created by his indentured servant elves. He has mutant reindeer who fly, and one has a red nose and the other reindeer said (because they can speak) mean things to him and bullied him. He lives at 1 snow st, snowy, North Pole, 00001 NP. He has an eco-friendly house so he doesn’t need a power plant or plumbing and his toy factory is LEED Platinum certified too.”

    yeah…. that would be lying, but to engage in fantasy and make-believe play? That is not lying. When kids read a book (or have a book read to them) they do not actually think that the cow actually jumped over the moon and then the dish actually ran away with the spoon. Reading a fairy tale, engaging in fantasy play, creative writing, etc – I wouldn’t categorize those activities as lying to your kids.

    Sophia Reply:

    I’m honestly not sure what you’re debating here- your point is exactly the one Jenna and several others made. Santa, as make-believe fun, is a great part of Christmas.

    We are saying that telling kids he’s real is a lie. And while I found your response humorous, I think it is silly to think that one would even need to be that detailed to communicate to a child that Santa is real. Simply saying “you can write a letter to Santa and he’ll bring you presents” and then, ta-da, here are presents from Santa! is enough for a child to think he is real.

    There is a very big difference between reading a book with a child, playing make-believe with a child, and yes, even playing Santa make-believe with a child, and taking it a further step where parents try to get children to believe IN Santa. And that can be accomplished, and one can convince children of his literal existence, without the details that you gave in your example. When I play make-believe with the children in my life I don’t then create fake ways in which they can interact with the pirates or bunnies or ponies they are pretending to be, in the same that that people create the relationship with Santa via the letter writing, the list making, and the “be good, or Santa won’t bring you a present!” kind of actions.

    There is a difference between playing make-believe and convincing children that there is a dude named Santa who reads their letters and marks them naughty or nice and then brings them presents. I guess I just see this as an obvious distinction. None of the children I know who believed in Santa thought it was make believe, and none of their parents gave the elaborate details that you described. They just played along with the basic Santa ruse, and that was enough for them to think he existed.

    I guess I don’t understand why it’s so hard to admit that telling children a man exists when he doesn’t, telling them he makes them presents and reads their letters when he doesn’t, and telling them that he watches them all year and decides if they’re naughty or nice when he doesn’t, *isn’t* lying, and is fundamentally different from playing make-believe. We’ll have to agree to disagree.

    Christiana Reply:

    No, I do think telling kids that Santa is a real person is lying. Children are curious so they will ask questions, “how did mr and mrs. clause meet, how can they still be alive if they gave presents to grandma and grandpa, how can they make toys for everyone in the world, etc” and so if you’re saying Santa is a real person… well, I think you’d have to have answers when kids ask questions. I guess I have a different perspective, because it was make believe, a story, fantasy in my family and I loved it. I didn’t think the Santa at the mall was real. Santa was a story, like the cat in the hat and we were told he was everyone’s favorite story in december and reminded people to give to others and that is why he was so popular. I think it is lying to tell kids that there is a real person or figure who watches them to see if they are bad and has this wonderful magical place etc. Plus, if you’re religious I have no idea how you even get around the whole “Santa is a man who lives in a magical place who watches you and has elf helpers” vs “God as an all seeing all knowing being who watches you from a magical place called heaven and has angels” works. It totally makes sense to me if you don’t want to talk about Santa b/c how then would the parents reconcile the concept of god with the kids.

    But if you’re telling kids that Santa is real, then it is lying to me. But Santa as a story book character who shows up in the night before Christmas and the Polar Express, well no, I don’t find that lying. I don’t have kids, but I hope when I do I would lead them to be inquisitive about it (like I do with the other kids in my life) answering “what do you think” to their questions to help them arrive at the correct answer on their own. I don’t want to squash their imagination, but I don’t want them to think I lie to them either. But I do think there is a difference between lying and make believe and I don’t understand why there is the false all or nothing situation that is being presented on every santa post I read in the blogosphere.

    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.


    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.

    Shanna Reply:

    Yeah, I agree. Children are going to be lied to, and are going to lie. I think that’s a fact of life. It’s our job to know enough about child psych to know that they can’t differentiate until a certain age, and then teach them about it when they hit that age. I love that you’re going to explain why you do it. I think that, way too often, parents downplay the explanations of why because it’s so annoying to always be answering that question, or because kids are too young. It’s never too early to start learning the why behind right and wrong, and the more repetition the greater the chance that it’ll stick once they get to the age of comprehension!

    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.



    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.

    Zoe Reply:

    I agree. I’ll bet most of us were told lies of varying types and severities as a child. I’ll also bet that most of us did not grow up to be pathological liars as a result of it. I’ll buy that young kids can’t tell the difference between white lies and truly harmful ones, but kids don’t know a lot of things yet in general, which is where parenting comes in…. And how one chooses to do that is, of course, none of my business…Santa, no Santa, who cares…it just seems a little excessive to think the Santa lie is that detrimental.

    Steph Reply:

    This is an interesting topic, and I think when we have kids my husband and I’ll also be unlikely to pretend Santa exists. My brother and I were raised with Santa and had a lot of fun, but it just wouldn’t feel natural to me to make something up to my kids. (Go along with their own make-believe, fine.)

    That said, just on a hunch I agree with Meg and Zoe that it seems unlikely that the “Santa lie” influences any form of lying in children, whether antisocial or not. Kids – as innate learners and “little scientists” (
    (see http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2005/12/the_real_reason_children_love_fantasy.html)
    - have a strong capability for fantasy, which I suspect allows them to enter the myth of Santa and later let go with relative ease (as you did, Jenna!). Children don’t see fantasy as lying.

    I think that kids on some level really do distinguish Santa as a form of make-believe. How many older kids haven’t secretly asked themselves whether Santa exists or no, without the slightest bit of incrimination of the outside world or their parents? I know the existence of Santa or not was one of the earlier scientific mysteries I put myself to ponder, sometimes in open group discussion with friends.

    The central topic of these discussions, was never “How dare Mom and Dad pull the wool over our eyes?” It was more comparing, in our own make-believe way, the evidence for and against Santa. (Four direct lines of evidence I found: (1) a red light that flashed on my wall Xmas eve, which was clearly Rudolph (it was actually a car tailight); (2) Santa’s handwriting looked nothing like my dad’s (I’ve read those notes recently and now clearly recognize my dad’s penmanship); (3) The cookies got eaten; (4) The reindeer feed I put out got “eaten” in the morning
    (actually, it was still there). Point being I took all of that as evidence because I wanted to!)

    So on some level, I think it’s possible that kids wouldn’t even take Santa as a lie from their parents – whether antisocial or not – and would more look at it from the perspective that their parents and the surrounding world was simply engaged in the same make-believe they continuously engage themselves in.

    From a developmental perspective then, I think being raised with Santa or not has little bearing on kids’ emotional well-being and understanding of the morality of lying. Since, as the Slate article points out, they are able to try on so many alternative universes without blinking.

    From a purely moral perspective, you could define the Santa thing as lying, but I’m going to play make-believe with my kids all the time, and I’m not going to see that as morally wrong/lying… so why would I see Santa that way? It’s a more extended make-believe but a make-believe nonetheless…

    Anywho, interesting topic, thanks for opening the discussion, Jenna! And I agree that Christmas is magical even without Santa :)

    Christiana Reply:

    Here is an interesting article on “santa-gate” http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/22/the-truth-about-santa/ Three psychologists, a couple of parents/authors and a professor of religious studies offer their view points.

    lauralove. Reply:

    I think it’s really important to remember Jenna’s statement – “It’s really important to me that my kids know when I tell them something, it’s what I really believe to be true.” Sure, telling a kid about Santa as though it’s truth may not make the kid a sociopath or deeply harm them in some way, but I think it can harm a child’s ability to have faith. Since Jenna’s belief in God is so very important to her, I’m sure she wants T1 to grow up knowing that, without a doubt, his mom believes in God – and I’m sure she hopes this will help him to grow to have this faith as well. So, what happens if he spends his childhood believing in both God and Santa – and then he finds out that Santa was all a lie (when he saw so much convincing evidence that he was true – presents under the tree, a guy in a suit at the mall, an eaten plate of cookies, etc). How, then, is he supposed to keep believing in the other one which has even less “proof”? Personally, I don’t want to take advantage of my children’s unwavering, wonderful child-like faith by making them believe in and hope something only to take it away. I believe in God and think the pure faith of a child is the most beautiful thing in the world. I don’t want to risk harming that by encouraging the belief in something I know for sure isn’t true.

    Rachel Reply:

    Absolutely, and so well written.

    Paula Reply:

    I really like this – thank you for pointing it out. Faith is so hard to understand, I agree that it’s important for kids to know the difference between “make believe” and real faith.

    I realize Santa and “where do babies come from” are entirely different topics, but, along the same lines, I would never tell my son that a stork brings babies. I wouldn’t tell him the whole truth of what happens until he’s old enough, but why do we tell children stories like this? I avoided cracks in the sidewalk for YEARS because I half believed that I’d break my mother’s back by stepping on one. We’re not really doing children any service by repeating on such things.

    For this year, “Santa” will bring my son something, but we’re not going to explain it to him, he’s 15 months old. Then we’ll see. I remember being scared to death of the idea that an old guy could get in my house while we were all sleeping. That’s creepy, not magical.

    Rachel Reply:

    Hahaha, “that’s creepy, not magical.”

    Even as a child I always found it somewhat creepy as well. I don’t think we’ll be doing Santa but I know my kids grandparents will. They are 2 1/2 and 1 1/2 right now so right now we will just keep it loose but I think next year we’ll start explaining who St. Nicholas was and that gifts from “Santa” are given in the same spirit.

    My husbands grandmother collects a new Santa figurine from all over the world each year and then we all learn from her about that cultures version of Santa. I LOVE that and I will definitely keep that tradition going with our kids. This started with her mother (my husbands great-grandmother) and I have been helping to compile all the stories so that we can start over with the collection she has gathered and someday we can add to it and keep the tradition going. It’s funny to me that I find most of the Santa versions creepy. Like the one who sneaks in to bite the toes off of the naughty kids? Um. Yikes.

    Coasting anon Reply:

    Exactly what I wanted to write.

  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.

    Shanna Reply:

    Do you also explain to him why he can’t have everything he wants, or do you just ask him questions like that? Even though he’s super young, it’s never too early to start letting them know WHY things are they way they are.

    Danielle Reply:

    I don’t have any problems with your Santa plan. But “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,” isn’t really a very logical reason to de-emphasize Santa. By the time your kids are old enough to actually understand the idea of gift giving and sacrifice they’d be growing out of the Santa is real thing anyway and correctly attribute all past and future presents to their loving parents. We did Santa in my house as a kid and even when I believed in him I was just happy my parents made Christmas so great by getting us additional gifts to the one from Santa, sure, but more because they were excited with us for a really fun day of play and food and family.

    Also, as someone who grew up with my parents financial stresses as very much my own, I will be very careful about talking money with my children. It should never be the kids responsibility to worry about their parents’ solvency. Learn about budgets and thoughtful, responsible purchasing? Totally. Learn and practice work ethic? Yep. Learn to be ok with hearing no? Of course. But I don’t ever want my kids to feel like their wants and needs are a burden. They are the kids. They aren’t designed to be cost free and that’s not their fault. I know that’s not exactly what you’re saying here, but I want to note that you can go too far in the money awareness direction and give kids a complex.

    Jenna Reply:

    As long as things continue where they are headed, we will never have to have conversations that deal with financial stress. TH has an excellent job after business school, and we should be able to put enough awat for both a rainy day and a more than comfortable retirement. BUT that’s because we budget our money well (even people who make half a million dollars a year sometimes end up in debt). They should feel no guilt from conversations like this, it’s just the difference between understanding where the money comes from and thinking that the money comes from some magical source like elves.

    Danielle Reply:

    Totally. And when some degree of poverty does exist it’s not like it can be hidden (or should be), but I think we can forget how easily children will take responsibility for the circumstances of their parents.

    Sorry, this was a total aside from the Christian discussion.

  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!

    Stephanie C Reply:

    Just wanted to point out the reason he comes on Dec 6th is because this is the Feast of St Nicholas! I just learned this myself and I’d love to start this tradition in place of gifts on Xmas (gifts aren’t elaborate, from what I understand they’re more religiously oriented at least in the Orthodox Church).

  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!”

    Christiana Reply:

    Santa was always a fun make-believe, non literal part of my family’s traditions. I remember when my mom stopped writing “from Santa” and instead wrote “from Mom and Dad” and I was a bit sad. She laughed because I clearly knew Santa wasn’t real, but I still liked to play the game. Same as when the easter bunny stopped hiding the easter baskets (best place was probably the oven or the dryer) and they were out in plain sight. Oh… and hiding the easter basket ended when I was in college, and I was still sad the game ended!

  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?

    Alicia Reply:

    Jenna, did you watch the whole video? Toward the end one of the children says that we give presents to each other because of the wise men. Then the children are asked what they would have given Christ at his birth and what they can give him now.

    I think the purpose of the video is to encourage families to focus on more than just Santa. Starting the video off with Santa was a good way to segue into the rest of the message.

    It is important to realize that more goes on in our children’s minds than just Santa, even if it’s an idea perpetuated in our homes. Just because someone has chosen to use Santa as a tradition doesn’t mean the spirit of giving is any less present (ha, no pun intended) in their home.

    I really like the idea of using the Christmas story (particularly the wisemen) in continuing a giving tradition. I think it could go hand in hand very well with current culture without the kids seeming dumbstruck when asked, “What did you get for Christmas?”

  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:


    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.

    Smallgood Reply:

    This comment rings truest to my desires. I’d like to celebrate each of my kids in a big way on their individual birthdays, but I’d like Christmas to be about family and our time together and Christmas traditions. Thanks for posting this.

    Danielle Reply:

    Is there an age when you’ll start doing this? Because I feel for little ones, making Christmas about what Mom & Dad can afford – down to the dollar amounts of what you can and can’t put on your list – takes away from the joy of Christmas. Maybe I don’t care enough about our future children understanding the value of a dollar, but I would rather them make a list with their wildest dreams on it, tell them, “Well, we’ll see what happens!” and do my damndest to get them as much of it as possible. There is SO much time for knowing the sad reality of money and its limitations… I’m glad I was spared that for the first few years of life, and plan to do the same for my kids, at least on Christmas.

  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?

    Danielle Reply:

    I really like your comment, and I like how your family did Christmas. That’s what I think we’ll do – one awesome gift from Santa (think shiny red tricycle) and stockings, with the other gifts being from Mom & Dad and family members. While I’m all about Santa, I still think there should be room for kids to be grateful to their families :)

  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.

    Christiana Reply:

    I think if you don’t believe in Saints.. then making Santa religious is a tough one. It’s easier with St. Nicholas (hooray being raised Polish Catholic) I think. That said, I don’t believe in God… so I haven’t put much thought into that approach.

    Side note: my grandmother and mother collect St. Nicholas statues and as a kid I always wondered why ours were so skinny!

    @kimberly, it’s funny how as a kid you can rationalize (in the kid sense) anything. Like barbie is made by mattel all year, except for when Barbie is given through Santa and then it’s made by elves? Too funny…

  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.

    Celeste Reply:

    This is a little mean-spirited. Plenty of people don’t practice Santa and for a multitude of reasons. Also, Jenna is an internet “personality” – her own spiritual growth or change is separate and disaparate from your own. She can’t stay stagnant because her readers fear change.

    Jenna – for what it’s worth, I do (politely) disagree. We’ll be raising our baby (babies?) believing in Santa. We’ll write letters, we’ll leave out cookies. However – I don’t think this can’t go hand in hand with budgeting – we aren’t going to charge an iPad for a 4 y/o or anything nuts, just blocks, crayons, toys that can last years for future children/nieces/nephews/donations. And when my fishy starts to wonder about whether the mall santa is ACTUALLY Santa, I’ll explain about the magic of Christmas and the magic of mommy/daddy elf help. Of course, for us, this will go hand in hand with the actual Nativity and the true meaning of Christmas. In our family, I hope to start baking the Baby Jesus a Christmas birthday cake and sing Happy Birthday, so the little ones get it (we have 6 nieces and nephews on top of our baby). I personally don’t think it will make him think of us as liars; but to each our own! And Merry Christmas!

  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.

    Jax Reply:

    Three Kings Day, or Epiphany (January 6th) is also traditionally the day when you give gifts. It celebrates when the Wise Men arrived in Bethlehem and gave their gifts to the Christ child. We open our gifts on Christmas, and instead celebrate the Italian version of Epiphany; the Bella Befana (http://my-bellavita.com/2009/01/05/celebrating-the-epiphany-in-italy-with-la-befana-the-christmas-witch/). It’s a lot of fun:) There is a different version for different regions of Italy, but where my husband lived they would burn the witch (everyone would take down their Christmas decorations and make a huge bonfire out of the Christmas trees and put a dummy witch at the top and burn her). Another region throws the witch off a cliff. If you think about it too much it is a little disturbing, we’ve always just made a fire and roasted marshmallows as our tribute to it:) My husband says it’s more of an opportunity for everyone to get drunk and party anyway. So you could just celebrate Epiphany if you’re worried about scarring your children…

    Christiana Reply:

    Even though I’m no longer a practicing Catholic, I still love to set up the creche at my mother’s house. As per my tradition, I hide baby Jesus behind the manger and position the wise men around the house starting the day after Thanksgiving. Then a few times a week I would move them closer to the nativity until they arrived on January 6th! I joke I made the original Elf on the Shelf…

    vintage_paige Reply:

    love it- ‘the original elf on the shelf’- that made me LOL.
    Another example (like Santa) though, elf on the shelf isn’t a lie. It’s fantasy, it’s part of the fun.

  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. :D

    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.

    Bree C Reply:

    “So I will probably continue a tradition of “Santa doesn’t exist but it’s fun to play along”

    I just posted below, but this is what I was going for. Playing along/ pretend is just as fun but at least the kid knows the truth and you don’t have to risk having a devastated or embarrassed child later on.

  26. I grew up with Santa. I remember finding out about the truth. It didn’t scar me. My Mom then let me help be Santa for my brother each year. I would go to bed and she would come get me once he was asleep.

    However, we aren’t doing it for our children. It’s not mean. It’s not horrible. It’s not ripping their childhood away from them. It’s not fundamentalist or freaky of me. It’s a valid parenting decision. I know many people who don’t do Santa, they are called Jewish. Yet, their kids are VERY happy. My sons are very happy in life. We put our focus on our reason for celebrating the holiday. We choose to view Christmas as a day to celebrate the birth of Christ. We give presents, but we focus on why we are celebrating.

    So, our kids will open presents on Christmas. We will go to church that morning and have fun with our church family.

    And, for those who want to do Santa, more power to them. It’s a choice for the holidays. I can’t see why anyone cares if someone does or doesn’t do Santa.

  27. I can’t ever remember believing in Santa (my sister was older and told me right away), but I do remember truly believing in the tooth fairy. When I found out she wasn’t real, I was pissed. Not because my parents lied, but because I felt they had tricked me and I was terribly embarrassed.

    I also remember being very confused about the Easter Bunny and couldn’t figure out why a rabbit would hide eggs. Again, it made me kind of ticked when I found out the truth and felt like someone had played a joke on me.

    I don’t think we’ll do the whole Santa bit in our house. My husband was raised on it and has no bad memories, but I think it’s more important to talk about what the holidays are really about. I think playing pretend can be just as fun and magical without having to believe or tell a lie.

  28. From a different perspective, my husband and I are Jewish and our 2 year old daughter is Jewish as well. When I was in Kindergarten, I announced to my entire class that there was no Santa Claus. Needless to say, there were some angry parents when their kids went home and told them what the Jewish girl had announced. I at least hope I can prevent my daughter from doing that.
    For us, I am working hard to figure out a way to KEEP the meaning of Hanukkah, in a world that seems to be removing the true meanings of winter holidays and making them so much about gifts, gifts, gifts.
    I once heard someone tell someone else that Hanukkah was “OUR CHRISTMAS.” That statement is false and aggravating on so many levels.
    Hanukkah was NEVER about giving gifts, and we are supposed to merely give chocolate “gelt” coins and light candles and sing songs and eat Latkes. But over time, people have tried to make it more like Christmas and bring in all the gifts. I almost wish that they were not both around the same time of year (technically Hanukkah does not even have to start in December, but it usually does..based on hebrew calendar).
    My daughter is still going to receive gifts from her grandparents, and other extended family members, but I am really hoping we can make it more how the holiday was originally intended.
    I think it’s kind of like you and those who want to keep the true, original meanings of Christmas.
    I don’t want my daughter to ever feel like she is missing out on something, but I also don’t feel the need to “make up” for the fact that we don’t celebrate Christmas by giving her a bunch of presents (and definitely not adopting the “hanukkah bush,” oy).

    When I explain these sentiments to some people, they think i am anti-Christmas. I am SO far from it though! I think Christmas is a wonderful holiday, and I wish people didn’t try to secularize it or make it less about the true meaning. People tell me all the time, “oh but Christmas is so fun and it’s not even about Jesus, really.” But it IS about Jesus, and it should stay that way. Just like Hanukkah should stay its own SEPARATE holiday, that really has nothing to do with Christmas, except it happens to occur the same time of year.

    I know this doesn’t exactly relate to what you’re discussing here, but it is relevant in my mind, because I am also looking for ways to make Hanukkah special in our own way without buying into some of the usual hype. it’s hard though…

    married in chicago Reply:

    yes yes yes! I was nodding my head the whole time while reading this. I can’t stand when people try to tell me that Christmas isn’t even about being Christian and the whole idea of a Chanukah bush is just . . .ugh.

    I grew up receiving and giving gifts for Chanukah (and will do this with my children), but it was nothing like the mound of presents that I know some people get for Christmas. Usually, it was just one small present a night. Like, one night I opened something from grandma and the next night it was from an aunt, etc.,

  29. I was a child who grew up not being allowed to believe in Santa for religious reasons, and I’m going to raise my kids with Santa. Good thing we are both allowed to make up our own minds :)

    I will say I was that brat who would tell other kids that Santa wasn’t real. I’m sure I was a real joy on the playground in December, and any other time Santa came up in conversation. Not sure how to get around that as a parent choosing to forgo the Santa mythology.

  30. What worked well in my family was that we knew Santa wasn’t real, that it was a game we played, a make believe tradition. I could never lie to my kids like that, either, but I also love the game of playing Santa and all of our Santa rituals are so ingrained in my family that I can’t imagine not having that be part of my xmas tradition. I think you’re doing the right thing, though. I do think it can be traumatizing to realize Santa isn’t real. My cousin was 12 when she found out Santa wasn’t real, which is much older than normal, but her parents had always told her that Santa works with God, so how could she doubt Santa without also doubting God? So when she found out Santa was a lie, she had quite the crisis of faith, and I don’t think anyone wants to instigate that in their child.

  31. I think as long as Christ is the center of Christmas, it doesn’t matter whether you do Santa or not. Just as long as your kid isn’t the annoying child in kindergarten who tells all the believers that Santa isn’t real and their parents are lying to them!!! I had an adult tell that to my little sister and it was so rude. To tell a child that other parents are “lying” to their children is none of their business.

    Megan Reply:

    I’m sure there’s research out there on why Santa is great for children. There is always research for both sides. I like how you said “we all get to parent our own children however we please” (or something). But then in your comments it’s “this is the right way and here is the research.” That’s why there is controversy. Not because people are worried T1 isn’t getting the Santa experience. Just kinda rubbed me the wrong way.

    Alicia Reply:

    I agree with this- the post itself was intriguing and got me thinking, but as I’ve read the comments I have noticed an attitude of “this is why I chose to do it- oh, and it’s the right way, and you’re lying to yourself if you think it’s not.”

    That is one of the great things about parenting- looking at the research and methods and deciding how we, individually, want to raise our children.

  32. I love the research and ideas that first time parents have. So serious about why they are right. Cracks me up! Sorry haha but I just have to say it!
    I do like the fact that Christmas is about Christ in your home and not just the commercial stuff–that is my issue about Santa, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can have both.

  33. When I was two years old I asked my parents flat-out if Santa was real. My mom, like you, didn’t want to lie to me so she told me that he wasn’t, so we didn’t really do the santa thing much growing up. However, even though I knew Santa wasn’t real, I still enjoyed leaving cookies out for him and carrots for his reindeer. It was a fun way to still take part in the tradition but to approach it fully aware that Santa wasn’t really the reason for the season.

  34. Yeah, I feel that this is way too “throwing the baby out with the bath water.” Does the Santa thing have issues? Yes. Is the most important issue the “lying” to your kid? I would say no. Also, my two cents, I think it’s pretty rude and holier-than-thou to come out and say that you think we’re all lying to our kids. At least have the decency to phrase it in a better way (I coulda used swears to describe you, but at least I used my vocabulary to phrase it in a less offensive way). But hey, if it gets you hits, way to make money off of being incendiary!

    My biggest issue is the rampant consumerism. My parents always acknowledged that Santa was not really fair. So, it was our job to help Santa out and make Christmas really good for other kids. We always sponsored a needy family or two from the local women’s shelter and bought them toys & necessary gifts. I thought this was a really great idea and it is now my FAVORITE part of Christmas.

    From what I’ve read, you’re not really addressing this part of the issue. Sure, you’re making it known that your kid won’t get everything he wants but he still is going to get unnecessary crap that he wants, and so do you (judging by your wish list on Pinterest). If this is really one of your major concerns, go back to the basics and don’t do “want” gifts. You can buy things you want any other day of the year, but why associate it with Christmas? I think that this year will be the last year I will give traditional gifts. From now on, I will be making donations in lieu of gifts. To me, they feel better to give AND to receive, and it helps me cut down on my wanting. For me, buying things I want is addictive. The more often I give into it, the more likely I am to give in next time and I really, really hate this.

    Lastly, since I’ve already written a ton, did many of you really think that you could get anything you wanted from Santa? I remember writing out my insane lists as a kid knowing that I would only get a fraction. Yes, I stll put a pony on most of my lists, but I knew I was much more likely to get the Barbie mansion than a real live dog (I had to put that after I requested a dog that barked and moved and got a toy dog that barked and moved. Thanks, dad, for teaching me to be really. perfectly. specific.)

    lauralove. Reply:

    Whoa – no matter which side of this debate you’re on, you cannot tell me that telling a child that a man in a red suit who lives in the North Pole with elves who make and deliver all the presents in one night with the help of eight flying reindeer is real and coming to your house is NOT a lie unless you actually believe it to be true. You can debate whether or not this lie is bad and dislike Jenna’s arguments, but there’s no way you can say it’s not a lie. If I went up to my husband and told him that the pizza guy was coming so we didin’t need to make dinner, but I had never called the pizza guy – in fact, the pizza guy doesn’t even exist – then I would have lied to my husband. Simple as that. How is Santa any different?

    vintage_paige Reply:

    Because some people view it as fantasy rather then an lie. Are you saying you’re never going to play pretend to any degree with your children?

    vintage_paige Reply:

    I plan on sharing the story of Santa and the story of Jesus with my children at this time of year. I don’t believe in either, but they are both part of our culture, heritage, rituals and communal celebrations that create a magical time of year for children and families that teaches us about the spirit of giving.

    lauralove. Reply:

    I think there’s a difference between encouraging fantasy, imagination, and “playing pretend” and encouraging an unwavering faith in something as truth. I have no problem with the “Santa’s not real, but it’s fun to play along” camp – I had an incredible imagination as a kid and could satisfy myself for hours on end with only my own fantasies and I never believed in Santa. I didn’t need to believe in something as truth to have fun pretending. When I ent swimming as a kid, I knew I was not and could never actually be a mermaid, but it sure was fun to pretend.

    Shanna Reply:

    I am not arguing about it being a lie. Would you say that this phrasing “Telling your kids that Santa is real is a lie, and I choose not to lie to your kids” is different than “Santa is a made up character and I don’t feel comfortable telling them he’s real” are different in tone?

    Regarding lies we tell our kids-have you had a heart to heart telling your kid that he can’t really be whatever he wants to be? Or that he can’t really pull himself up by his bootstraps? Or told your daughter that the outside world isn’t a safe place for her? Do you let your kids believe in a god when there’s as little evidence to prove his existence as there is about Santa? We all let our kids believe lies and we all tell them lies so this adamant attitude about “I choose not to lie to my son” is kind of offensive and hypocritical. If people can see the work of Christ in the random kindness of a stranger, why can’t we let kids have a belief in Santa even if it’s based on our work? That is, until it gets crushed by the ruthless realism of growing up.

    lauralove. Reply:

    The difference, I guess, is that I really, truly do believe that you can see the work of Christ in the random kindness of a stranger. I’d rather encourage the belief in attributing the beauty, kindness, and selflessness of Christmas to a God that I really, truly believe in than let them think it’s due to a figure that I know for a fact is not real. Honestly, I think it’s harder to say without a doubt that there is no God than to admit He’s probably real, but that’s a different argument for another day.

  35. Sometimes I think Santa is a last-ditch crutch for parents without a great um… tool box of skills to choose from. “Don’t hit your sister, Santa is watching!”

    That being said, I think giving up on Santa a little fundamentalist for my family.

    If parents raise spoiled, bratty kids, then they’re going to be that way regardless of a few Santa stories, and vice versa.

    I think many people here are putting too much stock in one choice here. Santa isn’t going to make or brake any child-rearing strategy.

  36. As far as teaching kids limits go…if we have a bratty kid who asks for a pony and an ipod I’m simply going to say that Santa has to get enough presents for everybody so he can’t spoil just one child. Or that Santa asks parents to help out with the costs, so that’s why we buy presents for other children.

    So I think we can teach about moderation and charity while keeping Santa real. And it’ll probably be a pretty thinly veiled lie, I don’t feel the need to really convince them. And when they figure it out/grow out of it, we will emphasize that St. Nick is very real and so we play Santa to honor the way that he honored God.

  37. Though this is something I never plan on doing (I loved the idea of Santa Clause when I was little and want to keep that a part of my family now), I like the thought of telling kids (when they’re old enough to understand, of course) who St. Nick really is and emphasize the giving aspect with them more than the getting. I read that blog you linked to, and I feel like my husband and I can incorporate a lot of those things, along with the fun of Santa Clause in the more traditional sense. Thank you for posting this, along with your thoughts and ideas to help make Christmas more meaningful for children.

  38. Interesting conversation about Santa.

    I’m also curious about how your attitude towards gifts has changed since having T1. You’ve admitted many times before that gift giving is your language of love. You love gifts, and love it when TH, your parents, or your in-laws give you pretty things. Has that changed since you’ve considered giving gifts to T1?

    I think one reason this rubs people the wrong way is that you occasionally talk about what elaborate things you want (new iphone, ipad, expensive “sexy” dress), and most of the time you get them. However when talking about giving gifts to your son it’s all about unnecessary consumerism and the fact that he doesn’t “need” it. One could argue you don’t “need” those things either.

    I will admit that I think most people are just jealous that you are in a financial situation where you can afford all the nice things you want and that you have very generous parents. I know I am occasionally. It just seems hypocritical that it’s okay for you to get many nice things, but for your son.

    Jenna Reply:

    So far he hasn’t wanted for anything (partly because he doesn’t know what he might be missing out on). I expect he will continue to be showered by his family members on all sides with all sorts of fun gifts. What we give him will be what we have budgeted for, no exceptions.

    I think maybe this comes about because our budget functions different than most. We sat down several years ago and broke down every single expense category from food to charitable donations to gifts. There is no variation, we spend what we have budgeted. Our kids will know that.

    By the way, the ipad and the dress came from my parents. Most of the nice things we have come from them actually, certainly that’s where all of his Gap, Ralph Lauren, Zara, and other name brand clothes come from. Which is why I anticipate he will have plenty of nice things as well.

    I have plenty of nice things, but I think he does too. Is it possible that he has nice things that you guys don’t hear about, because it’s not a blog about him? Really, it’s mostly a blog about me.

    Megan Reply:

    I agree with a lot of this. Specifically, you (Jenna) get a lot of joy from receiving presents but you don’t seem concerned with recreating that same joy for T1 (and I don’t mean by extravagant expensive gifts– you can stick within a budget but not strip everything down to being so practical and clinical for him).

    I think there’s a difference between having nice things (which I’m sure t1 does) and receiving a present that gives you joy (which, for him, could be a cheap book wrapped in crinkly paper that’s fun to unwrap or something). I’m really not talking about money here– I’
    m talking about effort put into creating childhood memories for T1.

    You talk much more about your parents or other family members giving t1 things than you taking them time to find that perfect puzzle toy for under $10 (or whatever… fill in the blank with a budget) that T1 will be giddy over on Christmas morning. I’m just surprised that someone who enjoys getting gifts so much doesn’t also enjoy giving them.

    Jenna Reply:

    That’s because he already has them. After he started his therapy I bought him some new stuff based on the therapist’s suggestion. At this age there is no need to save things until Christmas.

    Attributing feelings like “giddiness over a present” doesn’t work with an 18-month old. Every day is new and exciting for him, he doesn’t need a special present to make that happen.

    I will focus on creating joy regarding gifts, when it is a meaningful experience for him. For now though, doing such things would only be for my own enjoyment. And I already experienced that joy, when I bought him the puzzle last month.

    Shanna Reply:

    That’s great that you bought toys that the therapist recommended! What kind of toys did you get? I have nephews around the same age and would love some useful toy recommendation (I kinda hate shopping for toys for them since I have no idea what they should play with. I usually just get clothes which are so much fun to shop for.)

    Quick question. Why doesn’t it work to attribute “giddiness over a present” to a kid T1′s age? I get that they don’t necessarily anticipate getting gifts, but I’ve watched little kids this age open presents and I think I would totally describe them as giddily, insanely happy and excited to be getting stuff. So much so, actually, that we usually get small things for the little ones when the older kids have birthdays. Although he probably won’t remember when he’s older, I think it would still be a meaningful experience for him even if it’s not at Christmas.

    Jenna Reply:

    Ah yes, they were happy at the time, but did they remember even a few hours later? Most experiences like that are more meaningful for the parents than the child. Which is why I gave him his puzzle a month ago and let him experience it for an extra 30 days, rather than saving it for a later date.

    What I’m saying, but don’t seem to be communicating very well, is that he has this meaningful experiences of joy. He just hast hem on Tuesday afternoon at 3:00pm in November when I give him a puzzle and we start playing with it. There is no reason to save it for Christmas day.

    Wooden toys that can be used in educational ways are what we’re focusing on. So for instance, he has a bunch of toys from Krakow, like a little man that dances down a step-ladder or a top, but there isn’t really a way to turn that into an educational experience with him. So I’ve been encouraging my family to get him things like a puzzle (if it has animals or cars or transportation machines on it it’s very easy to practice language skills, and any puzzle can be used to practice more and please), or a book with the same cat throughout so he can work on identifying the cat on every page, or the thing I want most for him, play food that he can cut. It’s so cute to hear him say “pepper” and “apple” when they are held up in front of him!

    Shanna Reply:

    Well, one can argue that the same is true about adults. There have been some studies lately that show that getting things is much less satisfying than saving up for an experience, planning it out, anticipating it, and then finally doing it. This is why we travel yearly instead of buying things for each other. I get way more enjoyment out of finding flights, planning meals and adventures, experiencing them, and then reliving them for months to come. So, I am just like T1 in that regard. Easily gotten, easily forgotten.

    I agree about the not waiting for Christmas thing. I’ve really started to push back against the commercialization of Christmas lately and I think this will be my last year of giving silly, worthless gifts. I would rather get artwork from my nephews than another scarf I won’t wear, or tickets to the movies.

    Thanks for the ideas about the toys. The puzzles especially sound like a great idea, and I’ll be sure to emphasize them pointing out the same animal/article/whatever through books. I never thought of doing that!

  39. I’ve had this discussion with Janssen and like I did with her, I will have to agree to disagree with you about this one! I was just talking it over with my mom last week and felt reaffirmed in our decision.

    When we were kids we had a visit from Sinterklaas (our heritage is Dutch and my dad served his mission in the Netherlands) on Dec 6th (he filled our shoes with SMALL items) and Santa on Christmas. But my mom was always very careful to not straight out tell us things about Santa. If we were ever to say, “Wait a minute, how did I just see a Santa at the mall and now there’s one here at the Christmas party? That can’t be the same one! How do you explain that??” she would turn it back on us and say, “What do you think?” She says if we wanted to believe, we would justify it to ourselves. And when we were ready to not believe anymore we’d go, “Hmm I guess maybe this whole Santa thing doesn’t really make sense, like I’ve been suspecting for awhile now…”

    The thing is they only believe in Santa for a VERY few number of years. Most kids don’t get it until about 3 and stop believe by 8 or 9. That’s not very many years. And I just don’t think I could live with myself if I robbed my kids of that magic of Santa. I’ve also read some really wonderful articles and things about teaching your children that Santa is the spirit of love and giving at Christmas and so he is real as long as that spirit lives in our hearts.

    On another note, one thing we plan to do is give Santa far less of the glory on Christmas morning. He may bring one big gift or something but the rest is coming from Mom and Dad. My mom says she wishes she’d given themselves some credit for the gifts instead of Santa getting it all!

    Anyway, all good thoughts shared here. I suppose everyone must do what they feel is right for their families.

    Mayke Reply:

    Thank you for this reply! I completely agree with you. I grew up in the Netherlands and when I was little we celebrated Sinterklaas. My dad would take us out for a walk on Dec 5th and after our walk there would be gifts in the garage or attic. When we were older the gift giving was done on Christmas Eve.
    Now with my own kids, living in the US, we celebrate both. My kids get to set their shoes on Dec 5th and Sinterklaas will leave 1 or 2 small gifts and candy. Then on Christmas morning there will be gifts again. 1 or 2 from Santa, the rest from Mom and Dad and other family members. Our oldest son is 10 and still believes. And I love this. He gets excited to visit Santa and to receive gifts from him (and Sinterklaas), BUT he also is excited to go shopping for a little gift for his little sister. He knows there is more to Christmas than just gift giving, he is most excited about spending time with family. We’re not religious although my husband grew up LDS and I grew up catholic. We tell our kids about the various celebrations around the world. THAT to me is more important at this stage in their lives. Let them believe for a while. Whenever the talk about Santa, or Easter Bunny for that matter, comes up, we ask him “What do you think?”. When the time is there, they’ll figure it out.

  40. I don’t plan on really trying to drive home how really real Santa is. But we’ll tell the story for sure. If they ask straight out I don’t have a problem saying that he’s not real in so much as he’s a real man, but he is a real form communal magic that we get to take part of and that reminds us how wonderful it can be to give to others and to turn our excitement for the things we receive into gratitude. He is a symbol of love. Jesus obviously is as well (well … not a symbol for us as much as a living manifestation), but this world won’t hurt for any more.

    I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with acknowledging from the beginning that it’s a pretend thing to make us happy (provided we don’t ruin it for others). In my experience, people only get up in arms about this issue when someone begins to use language that states/suggests/implies that their way is the way of truth and right. I honestly think using words like “lie” gets right up on that line since “lie” is a word that carries an inherent value judgement. So caution maybe?

  41. I grew up in a house without Santa. I don’t think I lost out on any part of Christmas because of it. My dad and stepmom taught us all about the real Saint Nicholas like you mentioned you plan to do with T1. We still had lots of family traditions around Christmas, we looked forward to and really enjoyed the holiday. We just knew that the presents came from our parents instead of a man who lived in the North Pole.

    I would like to skip Santa when I have kids, but my husband isn’t on board. So we’ll work something out when the time comes.

    One thing I never liked was how some of my family members would use Santa as a threat. It never seemed to work. My aunts would say things like “quit being ugly or Santa won’t bring you any presents this year” and instead of stopping my cousins would have melt downs.

  42. I didn’t grow up with Santa and trust me, there is plenty of magic in Christmas. I find that people who DID Santa get very defensive about it because they can’t imagine that Christmas can be special without it. They just don’t know any other way. It’s perfectly understandable to be attached to Santa if you have an emotional connection with it. It’s not OK to get mad at others who voice opinions against it.

    My husband and I won’t do Santa. It’s not because of the “lying” factor. Although, come on people, it IS a lie! I realize the word “lie” has a horribly criminal and accusatory connotation but that’s not what I (or Jenna, I think) mean by it. The dictionary defines a lie as: “an untrue or inaccurate statement that may or may not be believed true by the speaker”. I don’t care that people lie to their kids about Santa, but it bothers me when people try to say it isn’t lying. Santa does not come into your house and leave Christmas gifts, therefore you must logically accept that you are lying to your kid. Move on.

    We will not do Santa simply because I want the focus to be elsewhere. In my household Jesus is the reason for the season. I grew up admiring our Christmas lights because we put them up to celebrate Jesus’ birthday. We didn’t do the birthday cake thing, but we knew that Christmas was magical because God loved us more than we could imagine. That love spurred us to love one another, give to others, and decorate/celebrate in his honor. Santa just doesn’t fit into that equation for me. But, I can see why it is special for others.

  43. I’m not yet married and not yet a mother, but after many discussions with my future husband, I -think- this is how we will approach Christmas. He is Jewish, our children will be raised Jewish, I am from a “Christian” background (my immediate family is/was very nonreligious, we celebrate Christmas but did not participate in organized religion).

    We have talked very much in-depth about not wanting our children to say they are “both” in response to questions about religion, and we don’t want them to be “choosing” one winter holiday over the other (“I like Christmas better!”) But seeing as we will likely be celebrating Christmas with my family each year, I think it’s an important opportunity to explain that different people, even within the same family, have different ways of celebrating God.

    We have decided for now (of course feelings may change when our children are actually here), we will have a small, secular Christmas in our home, without Santa. I know that many families eliminate Santa in an effort to return the religious focus to Christmas, and I can definitely understand that as well. We will share the story of Christmas (the Santa version and the Jesus version), as well as the story of Hanukkah, and explain that daddy’s family celebrates Hanukkah and mommy’s family celebrates Christmas, and people all around the world have different beliefs and traditions.

    I like the idea that our children will know their presents come from us and their grandparents, etc. I’m not comfortable sharing a budget with them or discussing the details of our finances, but they will understand that you don’t get everything you want just because you ask for it, as I did when I was a child. To me, it’s not about getting “credit” for the good gifts, it’s about teaching children to be grateful.

    It took us a long time to come to our conclusion but I think this will work for us!

    Kira Reply:

    I wanted to add that I have loved reading everyone’s responses to this! I’m so glad that we can all discuss our opinions here [mostly] without being attacked for them! : )

  44. When I was a little girl, my dad used to tell me, “I am Santa Clause.” I remember playfully arguing back and for with him saying, “No you aren’t!” We would laugh and he’d say, “Yes I am”. It was a game between us every year! I always thought he was teasing me. Then when I was about 6 years old, an older friend told me that there was no Santa Clause. I wasn’t devastated about it. My parents never made a big deal about it either way. They never encourage us to think he was real, or sit us down and tell us he wasn’t real. In my opinion, the perfect approach to the whole Santa thing is to not make a big deal out of something that really isn’t a big deal anyway.

  45. I think this is such an interesting topic, and I am LOVING that you so thoroughly posted on it. You have done your research girl! Although I am not a mom yet {clearly…haha} I see myself raising my kids with the idea of Santa. I WANT to have all that mystery and fun in my home. I think it can be magical, although, like you said…it isn’t the ONLY reason Christmas is magical and for that I am thankful. However, I don’t really want a Christmas for my future kids without this specific tradition. At the same time I feel it is a personal decision. Who am I to tell someone that they are “outrageous” for not wanting to incorporate the Santa tradition into their lives? You have GREAT reasons for not doing it, and I don’t believe that I have to agree with them to appreciate and respect them and to think you are an excellent mother. Because I totally do :) Good job lady. Love you tons!

  46. My son is three and has learned of Santa all on his own and we treat him like any character from a book. As another lds mom I feel it is so important to teach my kids about symbols because I know most people feel overwhelmed by symbols later in life because that really isn’t a huge part of our religion, but it is a huge part at the same time. Santa is a symbol of love and giving, and that is it. But I do feel Christmas is a great time to first introduce the idea of symbols The real saint nick I think is someone We read stories but they are stories. We each get four gifts one big present and then three that correlate with what the wise men brought. Christmas is magical because we share and love and learn, not because we wait for Santa all month long.

  47. More along the lines regarding kids & lying,

    I was at the Dr’s office reading a parenting magazine (wish I could remember which one) and it had a very intriguing article about the way adults/parents pose questions to children that encourage lies. For example, asking a baby/toddler in diapers “did you poop?” (a very common question adults playfully ask toddlers) it gives them the opening to lie and say no. Or asking “who did this mess?” when you know the child did it. I never really thought of how such commonly asked questions can actually encourage a child to answer untruthfully.

    Jenna Reply:

    Yes! That is in Nurtureshock as well. A difficult thing to eliminate, in my opinion, but I’m glad you reminded me of it.

    Rachel Reply:

    I read the same article, I think. I had never thought of it that way either. I’m trying to work on that but often the questions are out of my mouth before I remember.

  48. I don’t think that Santa was this magical part of my childhood, but our Santa gift was always the best gift we got at Christmas. If there wasn’t Santa we would have gotten the same gifts, and it wouldn’t have made a difference to either of us. I do think it would have impacted mom & dad a bit differently since we would have run over and given them a hug in excitement and thanks rather than just jumping around or becoming engrossed in our toy.

    Jen we both know that I was quite a little liar as a kid, so maybe things like Santa and such affected me, maybe they didn’t. no way to know for sure. I do believe it is better to be safe than sorry though.

    The comments so far are making me think that the Santa legend lives on because parents want to relive that “magic”. It is not a bad thing, but there is magic is real things as well. I also do hate the long greedy lists kids make.

    Oh did you read Jeannie’s blog on what Maddie’s list was? I love it, still in the really cute stage of lists.

    Jenna Reply:

    I’ve wondered what the two of you will do. I assume your husband will want to do Santa?

    I just read that post. Hilarious!

  49. I would like to start with the fact that I totally respect any parent’s right have their own family traidions and that includes not “doing Santa.”

    I will say that we have and will continue to do it. For me and my husband, it’s just fun! I understand that it is a lie, but like other commenters said, I just don’t see how a lie about Santa creates a liar of a child. I have always thought of Santa more as make believe then lying. Also, I am a Christian and will teach my children that the IMPORTANT part of Christmas is Jesus Christ. I just think that Santa has a part in our traditions as well.

    I have to ask how you feel about make believe in general? In a few years, if T1 believes in an imaginary friend will you correct him? Will you ignore it in order to not lie to him? I feel like make believe is a part of childhood and it develops creativity. I also believe that teaching a child the difference between make believe play (Santa, an imaginary friend, believing that when you talk to your dolls they hear you) and lying with intent is the job of the parent.

    I get the impression that you think a lie is a lie no matter what. Is that correct? If that is the case, do you find yourself inadvertently hurting a lot of people’s feelings with your need to be honest? For instance, if someone asks you if you like their new hair cut and you don’t, do you tell them it’s ugly? I think honesty is important, but sometimes I think people take it a little too far.

    Your blog never fails to generate a good discussion, Jenna! Thank you for that!

    Jenna Reply:

    I think these are great questions Heather! I’m really happy with how this discussion went and all of the different views that were shared.

    I think my problem with Santa is that we not only tell our children he is a real person who *actually exists*, but that we submit proof to show he is there. Eating cookies, footprints in the snow, going to the mall to meet him. I had an imaginary friend when I was younger, and I don’t remember my parents also telling me he was real (his name was Muhkaleekah or something like that). My parents letting me engage in fantasy in this instance, is far different than what I think of when I think of a parent implanting a belief, and then providing evidence that said belief is real (including providing gifts).

    So I guess I think there are two types of make-believe I will engage in. The first is child-led. They invent something, and I play along as they develop their imagination. I do not, provide real world evidence that said things exists. I just ask them questions and let them develop a story (Is Muhkaleekah sitting right here? What does he look like? Is he a person?). This will help our child to develop critical thinking skills and an imagination. A very good thing.

    The other kind of make-believe we will engage in will be the kind where it is transparent that what we are doing is play. Playing dress up. Or cooking in a fake kitchen. Having a tea party with our dolls. Telling stories at night before bed.

    To me, all of these things are patently different than telling a child that an actual person is physically watching them throughout the year, and is going to come to their house and give them things, and taking them to see said person so they can sit on their lap.

  50. Santa isn’t real?!!?

    My kids will have Santa, and we had Santa, but my husband and I are in our 30′s, clearly haven’t believed in Santa for a very long time, and our 3-month old has no idea what is going on – but Christmas is Oh!So!Magical!! I wait all year for it to be the day after Thanksgiving so we can get Christmas started! It has been magical every year, long after Santa and childhood.

    Side note – this lovely girl I grew up with believed in Santa LONG after everyone else stopped. I think she still believed in fourth grade or maybe fifth. And all of us, who were the same age as her, worked extra hard to help her keep believing. We loved that she believed, and didn’t want to ruin it for her. T1 is a caring, sweet boy – he will never purposefully/knowingly take Santa from a child. But if we are honest, we all found out the truth about Santa from a child who already knew he wasn’t real – didn’t matter if that child had known the truth for days, weeks, or their whole life. So if T1 accidentally spills the beans, it’s not b.c. of Jenna and TH.

    Jenna Reply:

    Awww, it’s so sweet to think of you guys teaming up as kids to help her keep believing!

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