10 Dec

Navigating the Santascape

Posted by Jenna, Under Holiday, Parenting

Our decision to be a “no Santa” household was largely inspired by our religious beliefs.  Even though we have left those behind we are forging ahead with the plan to take all of the credit for the gifts our children receive each year. I feel very strongly that our children need to have a firm grasp of money, and how very finite that resource is. Treating Santa as fiction instead of fact is one of the first steps we are taking toward that.

christmas without santa

T1 is 3 1/2 years now, and this is the first Christmas that I have had to act on my plans, instead of just getting philosophical about them in conversation. His friends tell him about Santa at school, we walk past Santa at the mall, he sat on Santa’s lap at a church breakfast. I struggled to converse with him about this and wasn’t sure how to react, until I was able to come up with a litmus test  to quickly think through each Santa situation.

Mentally insert Mickey Mouse whenever we see Santa. Mickey isn’t real, and no parents go out of their way to convince their children he is. But when you see Mickey Mouse at Disneyland no one says to their child “That is a man dressed as a giant mouse pretending to be Mickey.” Instead you let your child be excited about the experience, and at some point in time they realize that the characters they encounter in the theme park are college kids dressing up in furry sweat-boxes.

This approach is working great right now – T1 gets to excitedly point to every Santa that we pass, and to sing the songs and listen to the stories. I don’t have the options to bribe or manipulate him using threats about Santa not coming unless he listens to me (he should listen to me because I’m his mom and that’s the way the world works), and we get all the hugs and kisses and thank you’s for the presents he finds under the tree.

88 Comments


  1. I get where you’re coming from on this, but I also believe in anonymous gift-giving. When I was in high school, my teacher told the class she just wanted to buy barbies for her kids so she could play with them and then she had boys. That day, I went out and bought her a barbie. I wrapped it and left it on her desk with a note that it was from Santa. I didn’t want her to know it was from me. A friend of mine who was a teacher once wrapped gifts for an entire family of one student and mailed them to the student, because their hot water kept getting shut off and she knew they had no money for gifts but didn’t want charity. I believe that being able to play Santa is important sometimes, and to me, it embodies that it is better to give than to receive. If you give a gift and care about getting credit, it feels like the point of giving the gift is the thank-you, and not the actual gift giving.

    I think your approach is a good way to handle it though. My sister’s kids will be Jewish and ours will likely celebrate Christmas (I’m losing that battle), so I’m trying to work through how to have one set of cousins that believes in Santa and one that doesn’t. I feel like believing in Santa is an important cultural experience, but I’m also a terrible liar.

    Has T1 asked yet if Santa is going to come visit? How do you handle that?

    Reply

    Jenna Reply:

    Oh I think there are lots of wonderful opportunities for anonymous gift-giving! And I hope it didn’t come across here as me trying to say I want credit for everything I give or do, as though I need all of it to be recognized directly. That would be very entitled of me, and that’s exactly what I want to battle in my kids with this approach to Santa, entitlement.

    Next Sunday I’m working with a non-profit that serves foster kids, photographing them with Santa. I think Santa means a lot to those kids, provides them a lot of hope, and brings them light in a world that can be very dark. Anonymouse chartiable giving is a particularly good way to push yourself to do something with the intention to help someone else and not make it about the giver.

    My kids though, have much more than they need, many of their wants. I think teaching them gratitude and establishing a foundation for good money sense is a priority for them. I’ll take the bet that this will be best for them in the long run, even if it means that I get painted as selfish for saying I want my kids to know where their gifts came from and learn to be grateful for them.

    Luckily no questions about Santa visiting. I think living in Fremont, with a majority Asian population, means that we are surrounded by families who celebrate differently than the norm. I think if it happens next year he will be old enough for me to start the “Want to know a secret? Let’s play a fun game and help the other kids pretend” card.

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    TGS Reply:

    If you want your kids to be grateful for gifts, who/what are they supposed to be grateful for? I don’t understand how you can not want credit but at the same time say that you want your children to be grateful for the gifts they get. Should they only thank TH since he’s the primary breadwinner, but leave you out since you’re the primary caregiver? That seems unfair.

    On that topic, are kids who believe in Santa ungrateful? My family did the whole Santa thing when I was a kid & I don’t think it turned us into spoiled monsters. We could make up lists as long as our little bodies, but we always knew we weren’t going to get it all. Although I never got the pony I wished for every year, I was thankful for what I did get.

    I think you can do all the things you want to do (teach gratitude, money sense, etc.) while keeping the tradition, so I’m not sure why you don’t just keep the tradition alive. It kind of makes me curious to know the real reason!

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    MrsW Reply:

    I really don’t understand some of your questions (you seem to be presenting a false dichotomy between wanting credit and wanting gratitude), but why is the tradition of Santa so all-important to keep that anyone has to give a reason for not doing it other than “I don’t want to”? Is the WASP-culture police going to show up at my door and interrogate me if I choose not to do Santa? What if I skip stockings? What if I use a plastic fiber optic tree instead of a live fir? Where’s the line drawn? Why should any of us be policing anyone elses’ choices for how they choose to celebrate Christmas?

    I was raised without a Santa tradition, so perhaps I am biased. But pressing for “the real reason” (!!1!) like Jenna is somehow hiding something about her reasons to avoid Santa seems strange and somewhat petty.

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    Jenna Reply:

    The comment you are replying to was a very defensive comment, overall.

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    TGS Reply:

    Huh. I don’t have a dog in this fight, so I’m really not sure how I’m being defensive.

    @MrsW, I’m not a WASP & I’m definitely not the Christmas police! I live in a tiny apartment, have crazy tree-climbing cats, & will be away from home for Xmas, so I’ve given up even decorating for the holiday. I don’t really care how others celebrate (or don’t), but Jenna touches on her reasons for not doing Santa & I felt like pointing out that teaching kids about fiscal responsibility & gracefulness is not mutually exclusive with letting them believe in Santa. I think I’m living proof, & anecdotes make things true! ;)

    Now, I’m going to be defensive. I don’t think that expressing curiosity about a real reason (with no question or exclamation points) is pressing or petty. I believe people always have reasons for why they do things, & this would be no exception since it’s kind of a hassle either way, Santa or no Santa. Upon inspection, I don’t think her given reasons make sense (Anna, Jackie, & Beth all say it better than me), so I’m still curious if she has others.

    Lastly, I’m still curious as to whom T1 & T2 should show their gratefulness. Jenna has said she wants credit for her fiscal choices & that her kids should be grateful. If not to her & TH, to whom should they be grateful for the gifts they get? This is an honest question because I don’t see the false dichotomy between wanting credit & gratitude. I see them as one & the same in this situation.

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    Jenna Reply:

    They should be grateful to fate because they aren’t in Colombia, dopping out of school and stitching together tshirts for a few pennies a day. That is the gratitude they should carry on a daily basis. (And no, they can’t grasp this at this age. But we can start laying the foundation for that from day one.)

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  2. This is a good litmus test! PB is 2, so this is the last year we have the luxury of just ignoring Santa. I’ll probably take an approach similar to my parents: they never emphasized Santa, but they didn’t villify him, either. Each Christmas we would get a gift from Mom and Dad and a second gift (usually more of a surprise thing) That said “from Santa”. Santa’s handwriting was very similar to my mom’s, so I put two and two together at some point, but there was never the crushing heartbreak or anything I’ve heard some people went through. To me, Santa represents a spirit of giving, like the comment above about anonymous gifts. Interestingly, the tooth fairy was pure magic for me: I just COULD NOT believe that my clunky parents could be that sneaky! By the time I figured that one out I was mostly just impressed at their stealth. :-)

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  3. I also had parents with a similar approach, they didn’t push Santa or really talk about it one way or another, though I must have heard about it plenty at school. I don’t think we ever truly believed in Santa as a magical being, like you say he was just a character in stories and at the mall. I have no “finding out Santa isn’t real” moment that I remember. like PP I think the handwriting clued me in!
    we (adult part of family) still write “from Santa” on some gifts just for fun, especially if it is a little extra thing. my LO is almost 2 so no worries yet but I hope to take that approach for Santa next year.

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  4. That seems like a good way to do it! I never liked the way people use Santa as a bribe for good behavior. It sounds like your avoiding that while still letting him enjoy Santa. My parents didn’t make a big deal about Santa, though we always left out carrots and sprouts for his reindeer Christmas Eve! That was fun. Maybe you could have Santa bring the stocking presents, so he still gets some of that Santa magic?

    I have never typed Santa so much in my life!

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    Ellie Reply:

    Oh I like the idea of Santa doing the stockings – I think that’s what my husband’s family always did. They would find their stockings on their doors, run into their parent’s room, and open them on the bed before they went downstairs.

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    Michelle Z Reply:

    Thats what mine did too! Stockings and one or two gifts were from Santa, everything else was designated who it was from. In retrospect, it was a good balance! :)

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  5. My experience is much like the others mentioned above – we certainly enjoyed the fun and tradition of Santa, but my parents didn’t use it as a way of bribing behavior. It was just a fun tradition, something to make childhood a bit more magical. Most presents were from parents, a couple from Santa, and putting it together about Santa didn’t come as a terrible shock or devastate me. Amidst all the Santa side of it, I knew the real reason for Christmas as my parents made sure we focused on Christ and doing service for others just as much, if not more of course.

    Though there is no crime in carrying on the tradition or not and its certainly up to the parents, I also think it doesn’t have to be all or nothing either. You can have fun with the idea of Santa and enjoy this particular aspect of Christmas without full on ‘forcing’ your children to believe or something or thinking that you have to absolutely not go along with it at all.

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  6. I kind of understand your principle behind not lying to your kids about Santa… but in the long run, I really don’t think it matters either way. Santa used to get me my “main” present, and maybe a couple random things (I think they had a $100 total limit) and when I finally decided Santa was not in fact real, I just remember feeling really impressed that my parents had been willing to forego credit all those years! I am now 26 and they still get me a “Santa” present every year. I just thank “Santa” really enthusiastically for anything I get!

    I don’t think believing in Santa for a few years as a young child ruined my understanding of money and how to manage it – they shaped that by the way we lived and the purchases they made all year long. I think that is MUCH more important for your kids future ability to manage money than any once-a-year holiday. Not trying to say you should make your kids believe in Santa – just my two cents about the issue! Oh and also my parents DEFINITELY used the bribing that Santa would get me coal if I didn’t obey them perfectly when they told me to do the dishes or w/e – even after I knew he wasn’t real! Ugh, lol.

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  7. There are a lot of personal reasons to skip Santa, and I think if they are the right reasons for you, by all means. But your seem to really underscore the fact that you want “credit” for the gifts the kids are getting and that just seems inherently selfish. It is like doing a good deed but being upset when the recipient isn’t appropriately thankful for your generosity. In my opinion gifts don’t count when they come with strings, and to me “appropriate thankfulness from the recipient” is a string. There are a lot of ways to teach fiscal responsibility, thankfulness and the reason for the season without skipping Santa. If your real reason is because you want “credit” for gifts, I think it is time to ask yourself if your Christmas morning is about you or your kids.

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    Daisy Reply:

    “Reason for the season” – whatever your reason might be.

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    Anna Reply:

    I agree completely with this sentiment. I imagine that having children is hard and I cannot imagine the responsibility of making decisions that affect the rest of someone’s lives. That seems so enormous to me.

    I don’t think a child isn’t grateful or appreciative merely because Santa gave them a present instead of the gift tag saying Mom & Dad. Virtues like gratefulness and kindness are taught in the home every day, not just on Christmas morning. My parents did Santa and I never felt like they lied to me or that I was ungrateful for a present because “Santa” gave it to me. I was taught to always be grateful for whatever any kindness someone has shown.

    I was also taught it’s better to give than receive and my parents have strongly enforced that idea of doing more for others and less for ourselves. We always do an Angel Tree at church and my sisters and I pick out the presents for the children. I’m married now and we still help my parents with their Angel Tree and we each have our own that we do. Those children believe their presents came from Santa and I think that was probably a very magical thing for them. I don’t think their parents were expecting credit for presents.

    I think that Santa is an example of the magic of the Christmas season, just like the carols at church and eating Christmas dinner with the whole family. He’s a part of it–to be sure, a huge part of the commercialization of Christmas but I don’t think that by allowing your children to believe in Santa, you are teaching them to be ungrateful. I think that parenting done every single day teaches children far more than a statement on a holiday. Perhaps doing activities with them (and right now, I mean T1 since T2 is tiny) like an Angel Tree, lessons and carols or gingerbread house making will enforce the idea that Christmas is not just about presents. I think that to focus on not getting “credit” for presents or worrying whether they will value a dollar because they believe in Santa is a missed opportunity in regards to the bigger picture of Christmas. It’s a magical time of year.

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    TGS Reply:

    Anna, you express this much better than I did. I agree 100% & it seems we had similar upbringings in this regard. My favorite Christmas memories aren’t of unwrapping gifts or getting stuff from my wish list. What I remember most is the wonderful feeling I always had when we dropped off the items we purchased for a family who was spending their holiday in a homeless shelter & knowing that my family made a difference in someone’s life. Well, that feeling & also the excitement of trying to catch Santa in the act. I’m not 100% selfless. ;)

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  8. I don’t understand. You said, “Our decision to be a “no Santa” household was largely inspired by our religious beliefs.” Then later you said, “he sat on Santa’s lap at a church breakfast.”

    The Mormons I know don’t object to Santa.

    Granted I’m not living in the culture in Utah or California, but I have been invited with my children to attend children’s activities with neighbors who are members. Of the Mormon families I am acquainted that have small children, none eliminate a Santa gift or stockings from Santa from their Christmas traditions, and as you pointed out, Santa is part of the church family parties. They also had cookie decorating, caroling, nativity displays and nativity dress up station for photo’s, as well as a box in the entry for toy and coat donations to a women’s shelter and another donation basket for travel soaps and shampoo and the like. It all seemed a fairly normal mixture of both the fun and magical stuff and the standard nativity stories and songs with a nod to opportunities for charitable giving.

    How do you pull “no Santa” as being inspired by religious beliefs? Can you elaborate please?

    Abby

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    Jenna Reply:

    I didn’t want my children questioning the existence of Jesus when they found out that Santa wasn’t real. The way other religious people practice didn’t have anything to do with that idea.

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    OnceAndAgain Reply:

    Take a look at Valerie’s comment below, Abby, for one perspective on why a person might choose not to do Santa for religious reasons. Some religious parents come to the decision that it’s confusing to tell your kids “God is always watching you, and Santa is always watching you too” then a few years down the line turn around and say “Just kidding, Santa is just a fairy tale, but God is totally real.” Why would kids inherently trust one message and not the other, when they come across to a child’s mind as kind of similar? For my family, we don’t have kids yet but I’m feeling fairly anti-Santa right now, and religious reasons are a big part of that.

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    HRC Reply:

    My dad grew up in an extremely devout Baptist family and my grandparents felt that making the day all about Santa was missing the point and at odds with ‘the reason for the season’. The kids still got gifts but I think my grandparents framed it as blessings for finishing the school year etc. Some of my dad’s siblings didn’t do Santa with their kids growing up, either.

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    Abby Reply:

    OnceAndAgain,
    Was not looking for a reply from you or Valerie or HRC on your reasons. Those are your reasons.

    I was asking Jenna to elaborate on how her “religious beliefs” led her to “no Santa” for her family.

    I’m also not questioning her right to make that decision. I’m not at all invested in whether or not they include Santa or gifts at all. If she wants to give her baby an “old rag and a box” it is most certainly her prerogative. Last year while spending some time with my niece and nephew, I brought them huge box with a play house drawn on. We worked that box over with crayons, markers, tape and bits of and stickers for nearly a week before we wore it out and it was loads of fun.

    I was questioning her writing about the process by which she stated she made the decision, the bit about “largely inspired by our religious beliefs”. If Jenna had said, “I didn’t want my children questioning the existence of Jesus when they found out that Santa wasn’t real.” from the outset, I wouldn’t have had a question at all. (By the way Jenna, thank’s for the reply.)

    Since she said it was because of religious beliefs and I knew from past posts that they were practicing Mormons at the time she wrote the post she linked to above I found it
    didn’t fit with my experience with Mormon neighbors and their practices. Surely you can see how the two declarations are different?

    First she’s Mormon, she’s not doing Santa.
    Then she’s not Mormon, but they go to a Mormon party and a commercial event where she photographs each child with Santa. I
    I’m just trying to keep up here and make sense of the thoughts she shares with her readers.

    In my experience, Santa wasn’t a huge part of the Mormon party and it wasn’t a focal point at all. In fact, Santa was used as a distraction while parents served plates for the children while the children waited their turn to talk with him. “Santa” was only available for maybe 15 or 20 minutes of an activity that lasted from before 6 to nearly 9 p.m.

    As I mentioned above there were quite a few activities and most of them were centered on Christ and family and seemed much like what we’d do at my church (Methodist, if it matters), such as a foyer with maybe two dozen nativity displays from a number of different countries, another foyer with large boxes in which you could put toy and coat donations as well as baskets for collecting trial size soaps, shampoos and the like. There was an activity room with a creche and crates of costumes and props for dressing up and acting out the nativity with some of the older youth helping the little ones role play and a volunteer that would take a photo keepsake.

    Other activities focused on family and secular traditions, a place for each child to decorate a cookie, a little room where they were guided making a tree ornament, and caroling.

    As dinner was winding down, some families and sibling sets did a few short little holiday performances, a trio of sisters with violins, a family did a silly carol with kazoo’s, young couple sang while he played guitar, a young woman recited a poem in which her favorite present was the presence of family with lots of cousins and grandparents. To close, a man read from Luke as well as a passage in Isaiah and a scripture that I wasn’t familiar with, I presume from the Book of Mormon, he made a few seasonally appropriate remarks on the topic of Christ like love, kindness, service and gratitude and encouraged everyone to return the next night for a Christmas devotional by the president and “prophet”.

    My point was that Santa wasn’t the focus of the celebration. He seemed to be no more interesting to the children than the pizza rat at Chuck e Cheese or Batman at a children’s festival. Some of the kids were more excited about dress up or crafts, some where clearly hyped on the sugar rush from cookie decorating and some were just playing chase through the halls and enjoying seeing their friends.

    I followed Jenna’s link back to this post http://thatwifeblog.com/2010/12/21/santa-baby/
    where she says they aren’t ever telling their children that “Santa is real” and gives a reason. Her reason is valid whether or not I agree with it. It is of course her choice. Again, I am not questioning her decision or right to make it.

    In short, she cited her reason as her “religious beliefs”. Given my experience with people of the same religion, Santa is no more in conflict with Mormon holiday traditions than decorating cookies or having a tree with lights and decorations. They were clearly having a party to celebrate the birth of Christ as a community that included both religious and secular traditions as well as providing an opportunity for fellowship and charitable giving, not unlike any other religion celebrating a Holy Day.

    Specifically, I was curious if she was in some way implying that Mormon’s “don’t do Santa” and why.

    I was hoping she would elaborate on how she came to her decision. “I didn’t want my children questioning the existence of Jesus when they found out that Santa wasn’t real.” makes more sense than “religious beliefs”.

    Even though I disagree that it’s an issue, it is I was looking for. It is specific and not vaguely blaming something outside her own thoughts and feelings.

    Thank you Jenna.

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  9. To each family their own! :)

    Just an idea for you – teach them about the history of Santa/StNick etc and maybe celebrate that history as it shows up in the different cultures around the world. Not only would they be learning about history and diff cultures/traditions but also about how just one person can make a difference and an impact on the world with generosity etc. Bonus, easy way to talk about why Santa shows up everywhere and pictures etc – celebrating the history and the generous beginnings! :)

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    Jenna Reply:

    When they are older I’d like to celebrate
    Dzien ?wi?tego Miko?aja — the day Santa Claus arrives in Poland. You make cookies and hang them on the tree.

    In Poland it’s actually “The Little Babe” who brings the presents! At least that’s what my in-laws told my husband when he was little.

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  10. I like the whole Santa thing, and I think it’s possible to do it in a way that doesn’t involve lying to your kids in a way that ends up being confusing for them. I was in sixth grade–yes, sixth!–when I found out about Santa, because my parents told me that Santa worked with Jesus, so to question Santa was to question Jesus, and that was simply not something I could conceive of as a good little Baptist girl. I thought my friends who tried telling me the truth just didn’t have enough faith. Then when a visiting pastor gave a sermon about the evils of Santa (*eyeroll*), my brother and I were traumatized to realize the truth, and it threw a lot of my religious faith into question in a really negative way.

    Now with my niece, we plan to read and discuss “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” and talk about the “spirit of Christmas.” She’ll probably be older when she really understands, but as you talked about, Jenna, I think that there’s no harm in letting kids enjoy the fun aspects of Santa.

    We still do stockings in my family, and it’s one of my favorite parts. Everyone helps out and buys stocking stuffers, so no one but the gifter knows who contributed what to the stocking. It’s just little things, but it’s my favorite family tradition.

    I’m just glad you’re not doing Elf on the Shelf. That guy is super creepy.

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  11. As a parent of a child not much younger than T1, I hope you aren’t expecting lots of “Thank you’s” this year… Of course children that age will say thank you when prompted or even when not prompted, but at the age of 3, they don’t grasp the idea that Daddy and/or Mommy works to earn a wage, which then allows them to purchase gifts for the child. At some point, in a few years, that will happen, but for a while you won’t get much credit for giving your child a gift.

    Also, since you have said in several other forms that you have the means and ability to purchase many things, do you really need to make a small child’s Christmas all about gratefulness to their parents for doing what all parents the world over do to make their child’s holiday special? What about doing activities together that THEY will enjoy and remember for a lifetime, like a Christmas craft, or baking cookies, or reading Christmas books? Or playing with a Nativity set and learning about the reason for the season (that I assume you follow since you attended a church breakfast)?

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  12. I LOVE this! My baby isn’t due for another month, so I still have time until we’re talking about Santa. But I’ve often thought about how we would “deal” with Santa. I love the magic of Christmas and Santa, but not so much a lot of the things that are associated with it. Anyway, I’m totally stealing this idea when the time comes!

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  13. I’m not too worried about the gifts – My kids can thank me for college. :-)

    I believe in Santa, and magic, and fairies, and elves. I want my kids to have that too. I get the whole don’t want to confuse “Jesus is real but Santa isn’t.” But I don’t remember having too much trouble with that as a kid, especially since we learned all about St. Nicholas.

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    Jenna Reply:

    I think it’s really interesting that the discussion focuses entirely on gratitude (an abstract idea) and almost no mention of fiscal responsibility. And though I admit I used the word gratitude, my goal here is not to force my children to say thank you to me for things, but to teach them to be grateful for what they have because it doesn’t come from a made-up figure. It comes from hard work and responsible spending and budgeting. To me, this is really a discussion (well, I want it to be, I often can’t control the direction things go) about how early parents start enforcing those ideas, and how they do so.

    I hadn’t thought about how the Catholic tradition of Saints intersects with Santa Clause in mainstream culture.

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    Brianne Reply:

    I think that’s kinda the whole point here. I don’t see how Christmas needs to be a discussion about fiscal responsibility. There are plenty of times for that on a daily basis as you go through the ins and outs of regular life.
    Especially for kids as young as yours, can’t the holidays just be about being together, having a great time, and giving a few enjoyable gifts? My kids are little too (almost 3 and 1) and I don’t think they will remember who gave them what, whether it was me, Santa or other family members.
    For us Santa brings a magic to the holidays that can be so special for little ones. I want to enjoy that with them! But I do love the Mickey Mouse comparison and think Santa can be make believe and still magical.

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    Jenna Reply:

    Dangit! I did it again. I can’t seem to stop spelling it Santa Clause. Stupid movie.

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    Marissa C Reply:

    Ha, as a Catholic, my parents frankly sucked at doing Santa (the joke was Santa and the Easter Bunny lived in mom’s closet because that’s where the gifts were hidden), but always did the tradition of treats in the shoes on Dec. 6th and taught us the tradition of St. Nicholas. Interesting in that they are essentially the same person. I plan to pretty much do the same thing with my kids–I’ll take my daughter to go see Santa and all that jazz, but maybe no focus on gifts from him under the tree. We will definitely teach them about St. Nicholas and how his generosity and gift giving ties to Jesus.

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    Jackie Reply:

    Yeah, I think that is important. I think for me it will be more effective to teach that stuff on a day to day basis (no, we can’t buy candy at the grocery store. no, we don’t buy toys random days of the year). And just let Christmas be a treat.

    I don’t plan on letting it be a free for all though. I’m fine with telling them that Santa won’t bring them *everything* they want. After all, Santa has lots of kids to get toys for! If they ask why Santa brought so-and-so more toys, we will tell them we asked Santa to only bring a few toys, and drop off a few extra and a kid’s house whose parents can’t afford to buy them toys.

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    Beth Reply:

    I think that’s the other important key here: parents that allow their kids to believe that Santa will bring them *anything* they want are what cause the problem with spoiled, over-indulged kids that aren’t grateful for anything, not the idea in and of itself of celebrating the Santa tradition. My parents never allowed me to think that anything my heart could dream up I would certainly get. I knew Santa and Jesus were entirely different entities because my parents made sure we knew the difference.

    I’m not trying to make it sound like parents have to do Santa or they are terrible parents, though I know it must sound like that! But the problem with “Santa” is 100% how the parents approach it – it can be easily be a part of a family’s fun traditions without making a big deal of it. As I wrote before, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing: Santa & presents are the only things that matter and you make your kids believe he’s totally real OR Santa is terrible, you’re lying to your kids, they will grow up spoiled and ungrateful,etc. Something in the middle can easily be achieved and silly to think you can only parent in either extreme (which is true for so many ideas in parenting).

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    Jackie Reply:

    I agree! Which is what it sounds like Jenna is going for too. Santa is a fun fantasy.

    I want “Santa” to teach my kids about magic, hope, and generosity. I think there are multiple ways to do that.

    My parents definitely let us know Santa wouldn’t give us everything. Those poor parents who break their back on Christmas Eve because Suzy *just* asked Santa for something? Crazy! My response, “sorry – Santa won’t get your letter in time. Maybe next year!” He’s not gonna be *that* magic in my household!

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  14. I was raised secular, and despite never going to a church outside of weddings or funerals (unless my grandmother lured me with the promise of donuts after whenever she was visiting), we still had fairly standard traditions. We put up a tree every year, some of our gifts came from Santa (some came from Mom and Dad), and my parents even had a nativity scene (it had been a gift from someone) that really mostly served as a once a year dollhouse for me.

    I don’t have kids, but will probably allow them to enjoy the Santa fairy tale until they become skeptical of it on their own. I give my husband and parents gifts from Santa now, and I’m sure that I’ll do that with our children. I certainly see your points though, Jenna. I think it’s as good a way as any to teach your kids gratitude and value.

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  15. As a mother of a child who will be 7 (birthday 12/17) this Christmas, I can understand both sides of the equation but when you make a decision based on your religious beliefs (as I did), you must have the courage of your conviction.

    We do not acknowledge Santa Clause as someone who is real who brings my son gifts. My son understands and accepts that Jesus is the reason for the season and that mommy and daddy purchase his gifts. He is more than welcome to take pictures with Santa (although he has never shown the desire) but we do not allow him to believe and it was never an issue until kindergarden last year. My son had the courage of his conviction and was reprimanded at his school. I have since taught him that it i ok for other children to believe what their mommies and daddies teach them just was it is ok for him to believe what his parents teach him.

    My son is a normal, active, inquisitive child. I have no regrets for my decision.

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  16. Jenna, I grew up knowing that Santa was not real. I’m 41 now and doing just fine. My family did not believe in telling us there was a Santa due to the fact that it’s lying, and that went against their moral and religious beliefs. My “Santa” was my grandpa. He filled stockings every year, and Christmas was always still a very special time of gifts and togetherness and festivities. I’m no longer part of that religious group, and while I don’t have any kids, I have no problem with my nephew or anyone else who celebrates the holiday with a belief in Santa.

    One thing I’d encourage you to do with T1 is to tell him that some kids believe in Santa, which is fine, and that it’s up to their parents to decide what to tell kids about Santa. (It’s not his job to tell other kids that there is no Santa.) I have a student in my preschool class who doesn’t celebrate Christmas due to being a Jehovah’s Witness. She blurted out in class that Santa wasn’t real. I just told her that it’s something she needs to speak with her parents about. I don’t want to show disrespect to her beliefs, and yet I need to respect the parents who have differing beliefs. I hope you will encourage your children to respect differing belief systems.

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    Jenna Reply:

    Next year I plan to start emphasizing that, and hope that phrasing it as a secret, and that it’s a fun game to help others believe will be enough to keep him playing along.

    The area where I live has a majority Asian population, many from India, and so the Christmas celebration customs are very diverse and varied. Also means there is a smaller chance that one child can spoil it for everyone else (since not everyone in the class is celebrating Christmas anyway).

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    Marissa C Reply:

    I’d be careful of phrasing it as a “secret.” I think few young children can handle that in a way that will allow them to appropriately talk about it with their peers.

    I’m thinking along the lines of “I know something you don’t nah nah nah.” Let’s face it, even the sweetest of kids just don’t have that great of a filter at a young age, despite parent’s best intentions.

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    Jenna Reply:

    It’s so hard to know how to approach it a year from now. He will be so different then! I’m going to take it one year at a time for now :)

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    Jackie Reply:

    I wouldn’t worry too much about the one kid ruining it. I just grew up thinking some people believe and some didn’t! Like in the Polar Express!

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  17. I think it’s great to not do Santa for whatever reason… I am glad I had Santa and I hope you teach your children to not spoil it for other kids.

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  18. My first problem with Santa came as a kid, when finding out he didn’t exist led me to me first faith crisis, because in my head everything my parents said about Santa applied to Jesus.

    My biggest concerns came when I started teaching first grade– I felt very uncomfortable handling ‘the santa issue.’ Here I was spending my time helping my kids find knowledge and skills, but I would lie about the Santa thing? I just didn’t know what to say when it came up! I had kids who knew, kids who didn’t, and parents who were furious with one group enlightening the other. I spent a ridiculous amount of time dealing with said parents.

    And then, in January, what was I supposed to say when one kid got a trip to Hawaii for Christmas, another got their own ipad, and the third got a twenty dollar doll from Target? How do you explain to that kid that they are just as special and loved and important as their friends, except for Santa? That is a HARD conversation to have. And that sealed the deal for me. My child will grow up with simple Christmases, on a tight budget, and I am absolutely happy with that. But her cousins will get cruises and iphones and I want to be able say, you know that they have more money than us. And that’s okay, because we can be just as happy at home with our home made toys and traditions and memories. And Santa doesn’t think you’re not as valuable as your cousins. I’m not afraid to raise my kid with less than their peers. But I want to have a solid explanation, and ‘because Santa’ doesn’t cut it.

    It’s not that I think parents deserve to be thanked, or have some need for gratitude filled. It’s that kids need to recognize that someone put time, thought, effort and money into that gift. Someone weighed out needs versus wants and income versus spending and found valuable ways to spend their money. I’m not necessarily opposed to young kids playing at Santa (the ones who are too young to appreciate parents, or notice what others are getting), but when do you draw the line? What year is the year you break it to them? It’s easier and preferable (for me) to just never begin with an illusion.

    I am continually fascinated by how many people are personally offended with MY parenting decision. Honestly, you’d think I was raising a devil worshipper from the amount of outrage I’ve gathered! I’m not condemning their choices, I just want to do something different.

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    Jenna Reply:

    I love this comment so much. Can I delete my post and just quote you instead! I agree so much with everything you said and want to convey similar messages and stick to similar ideas. I want my kids to be happy with less, to value what they have, and save. All things that I am trying really hard to do myself (and they will know that, know how much I struggle with these things).

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    Melissa Reply:

    You said this so perfectly! Neither my husband nor i grew up with Santa, and neither do our children. We have fun with Santa (we sit on his lap, we watch fun Christmas movies), but my girls and my son know he’s not real. I want my children to know that we love them so very much, and because we love them, that means we get them presents. I didn’t expect overwhelming amount of gratitude from them when they were little, but my 8 and 10 year-old also know now that we sacrifice to provide for them. It also helps keep their wants more realistic–Santa might have an infinite budget, but mom and dad’s budget is finite!

    That being said, we worked really hard with our girls to not say anything about Santa. Our son is 4 and we just adopted him AND he’s delayed, so we just don’t talk a lot about Santa. He knows who he is, but we don’t talk about him much at all.

    PS I think pictures screaming on Santa’s lap are the best! And Santa’s holding tiny little babies melts my heart!

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  19. You may hate my comment, and others may as well, but I’m getting really tired of you basically blaming all your past decisions on the LDS church. You’re not taking any accountability for your choices and the results (good or bad) of those choices. I understand that you have left the church and are trying to figure out your life without it, but for once I’d like you to take ownership of choices you’ve made in the past and how you’ve previously lived your life. I’m a member of the church still, and always have been, and Santa Claus was a big part of our Christmas traditions. However, we always knew the real reason for the holiday and that was our primary reason for celebrating and giving this time of year. It baffles me to hear you say that you didn’t want to emphasize Santa with your children because you didn’t want to have to explain, later on, that Santa is made up but Jesus is real. Even with Santa being a part of our Christmas celebrations, I never once questioned the existence of God or Jesus Christ after finding out the truth about Santa. When you say that you do things or don’t do things because of your previous religious beliefs, it often seems like a cop-out. Take ownership of your decisions. They’re YOUR decisions and you need to stand by them. Honestly, I don’t care if you do or do not include the traditional Santa story in your Christmas celebrations, that’s something you and TH need to decide for yourselves and then own that decision.

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    Tara Reply:

    Just out of curiousity, if you are so tired of how much Jenna’s past decisions were based on her experience with the LDS church, and you don’t like her explanations of those decisions as such, why do you keep reading this blog? I obviously cannot speak for her, or anyone else, but my interpretation of the above was that she and her husband made a decision for their family based on beliefs they both shared, and now that they have moved away from those beliefs, they have found other reasons to keep to their decision. I did not get any kind of feeling that she was “blaming” this decision to not do the whole Santa thing based on her experience with the LDS church. From this post, I think they may be “owning” this decision by sticking to it even though they have moved away from what may have previously been the reason for it in the first place. Her past experiences in life, including the church, are obviously going to influence her in the future, as everyone’s do. If you don’t find her blog relevant to you any longer, perhaps it’s time to find one that is.

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    Natalie Reply:

    Honestly? I enjoy Jenna’s writing. Overall, she’s a good writer and I really enjoy reading about how others choose to live their lives (especially when they’re so willing to share pretty much anything and everything), and the different opinions and beliefs people have. I read a variety of blogs … some I totally agree with, and others that address more controversial topics. While I haven’t necessarily changed any of my beliefs and opinions based on Jenna’s blog, I am glad that I’ve opened myself up to many of her ideas and sometimes even researched them more myself to determine how I feel about them.

    I may have been harsh in accusing Jenna of “blaming” the LDS church for her previous opinions and choices. I do, however, still feel that her original reasoning for choosing not to incorporate Santa into their Christmas traditions was weak. I think it’s all about how you approach it with your children and how you go about teaching them the real meaning and reason behind the holiday. I honestly don’t care why she does the things she does, I just feel like as she navigates her life after leaving the church, she takes no responsibility for choices that were made based on those beliefs. Like she didn’t have a choice and she was blindly following along. I understand how she feels in that respect, do a degree, but as I’ve gotten older and figure things out for myself, I can honestly say that my beliefs and membership in the LDS church is MY choice. I don’t feel like Jenna was ever really able to say that and I don’t understand why she’s never felt like it was a choice to her. (Or maybe she has and just hasn’t addressed it on the blog.)

    I respect Jenna for the choices she has made previously and the choices she continues to make. After all, they are her choices. I don’t have to choose to live the same way and neither does anyone else who reads this blog. I also don’t have to agree with her or anyone else but I can still read her blog, mull things over in my mind (do further research if I choose to), and express my opinion just like everyone else can.

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  20. Santa is the giving spirit of Christmas. It’s about giving to others and being selfless. We may not wear red suits with white furry trim, but we can all be “Santa”. Yes, my children believe in Santa but in way to them that is about giving. Playing “Santa” to another family in need is a tradition for our family. To me the emphasis wasn’t about just the big guy in the red suit and whether or not he exists, but that he is a symbal, with the emphasis being the spirit and meaning behind him.

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  21. I’m always amazed at why people who really don’t seem to enjoy your posts keep reading your blog AND commenting! How weird.

    My son is a few weeks younger than T1 and I point blank told him that some kids believe santa is real, but that we think it is just a fun story . . . like all of the other stories we read. He loves Santa stories and looks forward to visiting the mall santa. He seems to have no problem with this.

    We have chosen to treat Santa this way because it feels right and honest to us. Likewise, it feels wrong to me to say that Santa visits all the children in the world when so many children in the world and in our own neighborhoods are living with poverty and hunger.

    Everyone gets to raise their children how they want! If readers want to do differently, then I hope they will.

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  22. God isn’t real either!

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  23. My goodness, everyone calm down!

    Each family has different traditions at Christmas and Jenna is simply doing what she believes is best for her family and her children.

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  24. When my daughter was six she wanted to know why poor children were always bad-I had a WTF moment until she explained that only “bad” ( she meant misbehaved) kids didn’t get presents, ergo poor=bad in her little girl mind.

    I then told her that while Santa helped out with the deliveries, and elves made the toys, parents/grandmas/etc had to PAY for the materials-and that we would always help out in any way we could ( Salvation Army Angel Tree, local hospital, etc).

    It made total sense to her, and one day my kids figured it all out, and it was fine.

    Santa can be used as a social critique ( damn spoiled kids) or a venue for generosity (helping him help the less fortunate).

    My kids are generous of both their spirits and things, and for that I take all the credit, LOL.

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    Jenna Reply:

    I like that explanation Susan. A nice way to address spmething that really bothers me.

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  25. We do Santa at our house, though not in a huge way. My daughter (age 5) has never asked me point blank about Santa, so I’ve not lied to her in such a direct manner, and I don’t plan to do so when the time comes. However, when we have encountered the “how come Santa gives this person so much and me not as much?” question, I’ve told her that I spoke with Santa about her Christmas, and I asked him to give her only a few things that she really really wanted, so that he would be able to give gifts to other children all over the world as well.

    I feel fine about that (even though it’s technically not true) because at its heart, it’s an accurate portrayal. If my husband and I are her “Santa”, then we purposely don’t give her everything her heart desires, partially because doing so would preclude us from being able to share with others, many of whom have much much less than we do.

    (Other reasons that I don’t share with her include the fact that we don’t want to raise an entitled brat, AND because we simply don’t have enough money to meet every heart’s desire of a five-year-old imaginative girl. That’s a moving target if ever I saw one!)

    As to Santa being tied to Jesus–we’re Mormons, but I don’t forsee this being a problem (though I suppose time will tell for sure). The world is filled with marvelous exemplary people, unselfish people, giving people, people who bring magic to the life of my daughter. Santa is one of those. He didn’t die for our sins, he wasn’t resurrected, he isn’t the Son of God. He’s a good man who brings magic our way at Christmas time. When the time comes that he’s no longer “real” to her, my hope and expectation is that the people who emulate the spirit of Christmas will fill in those gaps for her, as they have for me.

    As to getting “credit” for those gifts, that doesn’t bother me either. I want her to express gratitude for them, and recognize that it doesn’t all come automatically, and that she is lucky/fortunate/blessed to have gifts at all, because that will help her development as a human being, but whether she expresses gratitude to me or Santa, I don’t really care. I AM one-half of Santa, after all, so whichever one of us she thanks, it’s me all the same. :)

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  26. Jenna,

    I think I’ve got it now.

    The disconnect for me is that you say it’s a “no Santa” Christmas, but then you show you and your children with Santa. You talk about participating in a #hpjoy commercial event with a Santa as part of the activity. You talked about attending a Christmas party at a church you’ve previously said you left and no longer believe where there was a Santa related activity. And somewhere you mentioned that you’ve read stories and will next year let T1 in on “the secret”. All of those things mean that magical Santa is a going to part of your holiday activities. He’s just not going to bring gifts.

    I’m not going to put words in your mouth, but it appears to me, if I am following your discussion correctly, that what is going to happen in your family is that Santa is cool and fun when convenient and a photo opportunity provided by someone else, but he doesn’t bring gifts to your home because you would prefer that the children are aware that any gift they receive is from you and your husband or their grandparents.

    Do I understand correctly that the possibility that the children might have a crisis of faith over Santa is no longer an issue since you’re in the midst of a crisis of faith and have left your church?

    Am I understanding correctly?

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    caryn Reply:

    Abby articulated in the previous comment what I also have been thinking. It’s baffling to hear the word “getting credit” for presents for Christmas

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    Jenna Reply:

    I think this is all about right. Maybe instead of a No Santa household we are “We Don’t Believe Santa is Real” household, but that’s a lot longer to type out every time. I’m agnostic (maybe atheist, too apathetic to care about defining that one clearly) so belief in Jesus is no longer a concern for me.

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    catshoes Reply:

    Quote: “I’m agnostic … so belief in Jesus is no longer a concern for me.”

    Wouldn’t this mean, then, that you are a “No Christmas Household”?

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    Lindsay Reply:

    Well…let’s be honest. There are plenty of households that do not identify with any particular religion that still choose to celebrate Christmas; my family is one of them. We don’t go to church, my parents are atheists. We celebrate Christmas b/c of all of the family traditions associated with the holiday. Admittedly, we are not celebrating the true meaning of the day, but we enjoy spending time with each other as a family, decorating a tree, etc.

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    Emily Reply:

    If you’re agnostic or athiest, then doesn’t it feel uncomfortable to go to a church for an event? Why not take them to another venue to see Santa? Seems like saying “We don’t believe in God, but let’s go participate in something where people gather in the name of God” is FAR more confusing than whether or not you give Santa gifts.

    Also, even if the kids are taught that Santa isn’t real, are you still going to give them gifts “from Santa” but let them know it’s really from you? Otherwise, what’s the point of even bringing Santa up to them?

    Seems like all this is far more confusing than just going along with Santa until they’re old enough to figure it out for themselves.

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    Beth Reply:

    I have to admit, but, I’m a bit confused by all this too since you say you are now agnostic/atheist. If a bunch of grown women like us can’t make sense of what exactly you believe and how that’s manifested in your actions or your practice of certain traditions, I can imagine your kids could be a bit confused too if you are playing along with the fun of Santa, and going to church celebrations, but don’t want your children to ‘believe’ in either (though maybe you will allow them to believe in God if they want to, I don’t want to put words in your mouth).

    I know at certain ages, kids just soak everything in – parents words, their actions, their beliefs and they try to make sense of all the messages (the spoken ones, and the ones unspoken that show in decisions and priorities) to determine how they believe and act. You are certainly welcome at any LDS church function anytime, and im not at all saying you can’t or shouldn’t go, but what do you do when they pray at the beginning of the dinner/activity and then go sit on Santas lap but you believe all of it to be “false traditions”? (To borrow a phrase from the BofM;) I’m sorry, I’m probably making no sense, but kids are influenced more heavily than you think by our actions and it seems that all this is setting up them up to be confused and believe in “everything and nothing” all at the same time. What about Easter? No Easter Bunny I would imagine and no Jesus rose on the 3rd day, but will you still go to the Easter Egg hunt at the local LDS church or any church?

    I have no experience in how people view these things because any friends or family I have that have stopped going to church/calling themselves Mormon have not gone all the way to atheism and still enjoy all the religious and secular traditions that come with various holidays. So this is all new territory for me to learn about!

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    amanda Reply:

    I think we need to give Jenna and her family a little more space. While she is very open on this blog-I think their decisions to attend or not attend various activities are probably more complicated that we understand. Life, family, belief systems and faith is not simple for any family-and I’m sure there are lots of conversations happening between her and her husband that we are not privy to (nor should be) that are determining their actions. And I’m sure there will be lots of conversations with her children over time that will help them decide what they want to believe. It’s okay for things to be not clear–because it will allow all of them to grow together as a family.

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    Amanda Reply:

    “Life, family, belief systems and faith is not simple for any family”

    Speak for yourself. My husband and I are atheists. We don’t do Christmas. Or Easter. Or any other religious holiday. It’s pretty damn simple.

    Abby nailed it when she said “a photo opportunity provided by someone else.” That’s what Jenna’s after. Even if, in the photos, her kids look miserable.

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    amanda Reply:

    oh-sorry. I really didn’t mean to be rude-I guess I thought it was complicated for most people-but obviously not all.

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    Jenna Reply:

    You are very patient.

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    Jessie Reply:

    My family is basically agnostic, we never really went to church except for weddings and funerals, but we still celebrate Christmas. Not because we’re religious, but because it’s a part of our culture. We put up a tree and stockings and listen to Christmas music, because that’s what my parents did as kids and what their parents did, etc. We spend time with family and eat, drink, and be merry. For us, Christmas isn’t religious at all.

    I understand not celebrating Christmas because you’re atheist. That’s your choice. But there are plenty of non religious people that celebrate Christmas.

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  27. I wouldn’t worry about T1 convincing other children Santa isn’t real – when I was about seven I managed to convince a doubting school friend that of course the tooth fairy and Santa were real – our parents wouldn’t want to get us extra presents or give us money! I think my parents did too good a job with me and the fairy tale….

    Personally, I don’t see it as lying, though my son is only just three (and doesn’t like Santa). When he’s older it might be harder to do but I love the way my parents still play along with the Santa game when we’re home and refuse to take credit for the gifts (I’m 34!). To me it’s a fun Christmas game, and morphed from real belief to play acting seamlessly, though I know that’s not universal. The fiscal responsibility thing, I just can’t see the connection. By the time my son is old enough to really understand about our limitations, he’ll be old enough not to believe in Santa. I am grateful to my parents and to God for my blessings but I just don’t feel this is something a child under eight or so is truly capable of (in terms of monetary gain etc). Unless you have an angel for a child, maybe, which I definitely don’t!

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  28. Okay now to the question I had-I have had similar thoughts on Santa. I would love our children to be thinking about the real reasons for Christmas rather than what Santa is going to get them etc. (Although-I grew up with Santa as a kid and ended up just fine-so it probably doesn’t matter either way). Anyway, I want Christmas to be a magical time for them. But, by not allowing them to believe in magic-am I dampening some of their childhood? There is so much magic in childhood-imagination runs wild-and it’s such a wonderful thing.

    So-do you worry about that? Should I even worry about that (maybe it’s not believing in magic but the world being so new that makes childhood special)? What have you thought of that I’m not? Are there other ways that you think little T1 will be able to exercise his imagination? (yes-this is a totally selfish comment ;) because I think you have thought through this more than I have)

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    catshoes Reply:

    Quote: Lindsay Reply:
    December 12th, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    “Well…let’s be honest. There are plenty of households that do not identify with any particular religion that still choose to celebrate Christmas; my family is one of them. We don’t go to church, my parents are atheists. We celebrate Christmas b/c of all of the family traditions associated with the holiday.”

    Lindsay, I have to ask: In your non-religious family celebration of Christmas, is Santa in the mix in any way? (I hope so, for your children’s sake if nothing else!)

    See, what Jenna is saying is that she won’t allow her children to *believe* in Santa at Christmas time, and she herself doesn’t *believe* in God/Christ, but there will still be gifts for all on December 25th. That’s hypocritical! Jenna needs to choose another winter holiday to celebrate with her family, a holiday that has nothing to do with Santa OR with Christ. How about Solstice or Yule or Saturnalia or Festivus… or, heck, even Hanukkah. Otherwise, at Jenna’s house, December 25th is “Give and Receive Presents and Don’t Forget to Say Thank You Day” and she needs to OWN that holiday and not degrade it by calling it Christmas.

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    HRC Reply:

    What? So it’s okay to celebrate Chanukah, a religious holiday for Jewish people (a religion into which you are born, or converted, with great complexity), but not Christmas? How would that be any less ‘hypocritical’ than non-religious celebrating of the holidays on the one day all families happen to have off as a result of it being a national public holiday?

    Seriously, half of the traditions that have become a part of Christmas celebration are pre-Christian, Germanic PAGAN traditions or the ‘Yule’ festival. Santa Claus is as much based on a Pagan figure as he is somewhat loosely based on St Nicholas, he was turned into a portly dude when Henry VIII was ‘Father Christmas’ for a while after he moved the feast of St Nicholas from December 6 to December 25 after the establishment of the Church of England. Yuletide traditions do not belong to devout Christians alone and some Calvinist and Puritan and derivative streams would take issue with his inclusion in celebrations altogether.

    I mean, honestly, talk about digging for any reason to get butthurt over nothing.

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    catshoes Reply:

    HRC, you’re absolutely right. I apologize for not thinking it through. AFAIK, Festivus is the only winter celebration with no religious ties whatsoever… (unless you adore Jerry Seinfeld).

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    Jenna Reply:

    I think you are getting at what I believe, that a world without Santa is still a magical one. T1 sees magic all around him, every day. Santa is one avenue for that, but I don’t think choosing to forgo him in the traditional American way is going to affect my children in some sort of way that really matters. After all, I think that it’s the macro perspective that matters when it comes to parenting. Will my children be deep thinkers? Kind? Inquisitive? Open minded? Desire to make life better for other people?

    The Santa thing is a silly debate that happens in the first world because we have the mental capacity to worry about such things.

    Last week I sat with T1 on my bed and asked him what he wanted to learn about. A little prompting led us to rocket ships, and so we did a quick qoogle search to find http://www.nasa.gov/externalflash/RocketScience101/RocketScience101.html. For me, for both of us I think, spending time together and learning about something is a magical experience. Those are the things I hope he remembers most from his childhood.

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  29. Looking back, I really dig how my parents approached santa and gifting. We opened all of our gifts on Christmas Eve from the family (my mothers family’s tradition). Christmas morning was Santa gifts which was the stocking and typically one cool gift. They never did the whole be good or Santa will know stuff and they only took me to see him once. That could be because my mom was a jerk though. Lol. Anyways I always knew that family does gifts which was nice. Maybe you can do something similar if you are worried about credit for the gifts and let them believe in a bit of magic. Magic and make believe are the best parts of childhood!!!

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    Corey Reply:

    Oh! This also meant when I made out list it was to my parents.

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    Laura Reply:

    Corey – same here! It has been a lovely tradition.

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  30. Jenna, I thought of you when I read this: http://www.cozi.com/live-simply/truth-about-santa

    It’s a beautiful way to think about Santa and including magic and wonder in your children’s lives.

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  31. it’s funny how ‘Santa’ is the same and yet so different for each family. I can only comment on my experiences and choices.

    as children, and maybe this is a UK thing?,we received a stocking of small presents. my parents never elaborated upon where these presents came from – they appeared overnight, with no note. they gave us stockings to hang up and we all referred to Father Christmas coming, but our parents never once told us that. (he still comes btw, even though I am now 31, when we are at their house for Christmas).

    now I have Pip who is 1.5, I don’t want to lie to her. I made her a stocking last year, and we will use it again this year. we have bought and collated some small presents to put in it, and we are also making her a play kitchen. we will not label them. in due course, I will expect she will hear about Santa/Father Christmas from other sources and will assume her stocking to be part of this. she can assume, or not, and in due course she will work out that it is a magical game.

    also in due course, we will encourage writing thank you notes for each person that sends her a present. currently, she helps draw the cards and we write them, but as she learns to write, I will expect her to participate in the writing as well. and thanking people.

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    Jenna Reply:

    I think demonstrating thank you note writing, and encouraging her to participate, is an excellent technique. I’ve always been a good thank you note writer, until I had my second child. Now I’m horrible and still haven’t written notes for the gifts I got for her.

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  32. Still baffled. Your post is about being “a no Santa household” accompanied by your son sitting on Santa’s lap.
    If some of us adults are confused how will your children navigate this declaration?

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  33. I will admit I did not read through all (81 at this point) comments before posting – apologies!
    I just wanted to say that I was really glad to read your take on this, as I have been wondering how to address this topic myself.

    Thanks!

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  34. One thing I want to say about this is that my husband of one year and I talk a lot about Christmas, traditions and gift giving. And we do that before there are any children. We both see so much craziness around us around this time of year and why? Why go so crazy and be stressed out in this season. We would like to focus on the meaning of Christmas, which is Jesus. So up to now we have decided gifts are not part of that. In our opinion the gifts have little to do with Christmas. We also do not have a Christmas tree. We still have sweet decorations, we will do stockings, and in the future we would like to teach our children Christmas is about giving by giving to the poor. There are awesome magazines out where kids can choose a country and a project and one gives to that. A friend on mine does it with her children and her boy is crazy about water and he always choses something with water. Her girl is crazy about sports and she choses sports projects in Africa. I think it can really be done this way without kids missing out on anything.

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    Natalie Reply:

    I LOVE this! Growing up, service was always a huge part of our Christmas traditions. The town I grew up in always had a community Christmas dinner. They would get food donations from businesses, churches in town, and other organizations and then provide the free dinner on Christmas day for ANYONE who chose to go eat there. Not only would I help my mom prepare part of the dinner, but our family would always go and help serve for an hour or so. For me, it was actually a lot of fun and I learned a lot about service through that experience. I also know a family who would go to Wal-Mart and the grocery stores in town on Christmas Eve and go gather all the carts in the parking lot and take them back into the store so the employees could go home just a little bit earlier. Then other families go through their clothes and toys before Christmas and donate items they don’t need or use anymore to charity. I think there are so many things you can do to help teach your kids service, love, and the true reason for the season!!

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    Jenna Reply:

    That shopping cart idea is awesome!

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    Hope Reply:

    Me too, I love the shopping cart idea.

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  35. You can teach children about money and still have them believe in Santa. We have and Santa isn’t fictional, Santa is giving, loving and spirit. ST. Nick is a real person, he existed long ago. He is not fictional, it’s his spirit that lives on.

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      I'm a farm-raised almost-crunchy stroller-pushing picture-taking lifestyle-blog-writing gastronomy-obsessed divine-seeking thrift-store-combing cheese-inhaling pavement-pounding laughter-sprinkling lover of individuality and taking chances.
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