I’m sitting in the nursery at church chatting with other moms, and the question comes up: What do you do about Santa? And all eyes shift to my direction.
It’s one of those questions I get a lot. I’m really not sure why unless it is because we have so many kids and people know it could easily get out of hand. Or maybe it’s because we have a boatload of kid and homeschool, so people just assume we are “anti- Santa” and all things weird. I’m not sure why people are curious, but since they are, I’m happy to share.
My Magical Childhood Christmases
When I was a little girl, I loved Christmas more than anything. I could hardly contain my excitement as Christmas approached because I loved Santa Claus. My parents went to great lengths to be sure my sister and I believed in the jolly old elf.
Every year at our family gathering on Christmas Eve at my granny’s house, someone loaded all us kids up and took us out looking for Santa. We strained our necks as we searched for a tiny red light against the dark sky. Often times, we thought we caught a glimpse of Rudolph’s nose. Imagine how amazing it was to get back to Granny’s only to find that we had missed the big guy! He would always have left so many gifts that usually only the top half of the tree was visible above the gifts. I loved this night, and I looked forward to it every single year.
One year I remember my parents pulling off a pretty elaborate hoax to keep us believing. We were all leaving the house. Suddenly, my daddy realized he had forgotten something and said he would catch up. When we got home that evening, there was a huge box in our living room next to the tree. It was colorfully wrapped in several different papers. The fact that it was a couple of days before Christmas was no matter because my parents cleverly explained that it was “just too big to be on the sleigh with everything else.”
When I realized I was fighting for something false
Up to then, I had begun to doubt, but when I knew that huge package wasn’t there before we left and was there when we returned, I couldn’t explain it. Of course, in my young mind, it hadn’t occurred to me what my daddy had been up to.
So, I argued with kids at school and on the bus, with cousins and neighbors. I knew Santa was real. He really did fly through the sky and deliver presents to every kid in one night. And I was made fun of. While that hurt my feelings and those people brought valid arguments in return, I was convinced that my parents were telling me the truth, and I trusted them.
When I realized (and I’m not sure at exactly what age), that I had been wrong, I was devastated. I felt stupid for all the times I argued and stood for a man who only existed in my mind and my little heart.
Do we tell the truth or keep the secret of Santa?
Yet, when I became a parent, I never once thought that I would tell my kids that Santa wasn’t real. However, what Chris and I did determine was that if they began asking questions we would not skirt around the truth. If they asked outright, we would be honest.
That time came quicker than either of us could have imagined. Nan, at age four, sat in the back seat behind me. I was driving along, and the question came: Mama, is Santa Claus real?
Because I determined beforehand that I would tell the truth when she asked, I had to be honest. I think she was both disappointed yet relieved. She never had loved the idea of Santa, but at the same time, he was fun and exciting.
It came as a great relief to Chris and I as well because we didn’t have to carry on an elaborate story or try to remember which wrapping paper was from the North Pole. When things got tough financially years later, we didn’t have to go deeper in debt to keep up a charade. Instead, we were able to be honest and tell the kids that we just didn’t have the money to have big things that year.
We’re not terrible parents, though, and our kids don’t miss out. We agreed to “play” Santa, to allow her to pretend for as long as she wanted to. My kids still pretend, and every year we leave cookies for Santa. The difference is that they all know that Daddy is the one who will be eating them.
Shifting the focus from Santa to Jesus
We really began trying to focus on Jesus at Christmas.
First, we explained that there was a real man that Santa was patterned after and he was a great man who loved to give. If you have never read the story of St. Nicholas to your kids, I encourage you to do that.
For many years, we read the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke on Christmas morning in hopes of keeping our focus on Jesus rather than Santa and gifts. But truthfully, it was an add-on. It made us pause for a moment, but we knew where the kids’ minds were…on that pile of gifts under the tree.
I mentioned before how our gift giving has evolved over the years. We have gradually shifted our focus to be more on Jesus than on the gifts under the tree and Santa Claus. We acknowledge his legendary status, but we teach that he is simply part of a story.
Some years ago, we started the Jesse Tree and Advent stories traditions. In all honesty, we haven’t done them every year since. Life happens. But these are the main things that help us keep our focus on Jesus. They help us teach our kids what this time of year is about in a way that they can enjoy and remember.
Are we robbing our kids of childhood joys?
Some would say yes. In some ways, I feel guilty because I remember how much I loved the idea of Santa Claus and the magic of Christmas. However, my conviction of teaching my kids the love of God and why Christmas is a big deal for us wins out. My promise to always be truthful to my kids keeps me honest and transparent.
Do my young kids understand this? Of course they don’t. When everywhere they turn, they hear songs, see pictures, watch movies, listen to stories that all talk about Santa and the North Pole, it’s impossible for a little mind to fully comprehend. It is our job, however, to always keep them on track and point them to Jesus. We want them to trust us, to know that no matter what, we’re not going to deceive them.
We are each doing the best we can
We are doing the best we can with the information we have presently. As are you, my friend. Be encouraged that this is and has been a journey for us, not a pivot mid-stride. You are on a journey, too!
What about you? Friend, you do what you know is best for your little crew (or big crew). We have to stop feeling like what someone else does is what we should be doing. Recently, I heard this quote: “When we feel guilty for what we should be doing, we are trying to hold to someone else’s standard for us.” [For the life of me I cannot remember who said that, but it’s good stuff!]
Be…YOU. If you are struggling with this whole Santa meets Jesus thing, pray. Ask God to reveal to you how to lead your family. He’ll show you what is best for your family, not what’s best for my family. I’m sharing because people are curious, but this is our story, our conviction. Seek the Lord for yours. While you wait for His answer, give yourself grace, and enjoy the time with your kids!
Merry Christmas, sweet mama!