To Santa or not to Santa…that is the question. Although I understand why people do not celebrate Santa at Christmas, I’m a big fan of the jolly old elf. Here’s how and why we included Santa in our family traditions when our kids were young.
It was fun. My husband and I both have fond memories from our childhood of watching the Santa Tracker on the news, leaving a treat for him by the fireplace and of course, opening Santa’s gift. Yes, there was the trauma of being 18 months old and seeing “Santa” for the first time (aka, my dad dressed up with a cotton ball beard, justifiably frightening), but most of our memories of Santa were sweet, joy-filled and though I never use this cliché, magical.
Santa wasn’t the focus. My children get four gifts: one from Santa and because Jesus received three gifts, three from us. Christmas included Santa, but it also included taking cookies to elderly neighbors, reading the nativity story from Luke 2 and sharing with our kids early on the Christian origins of Santa Claus.
Santa wasn’t a weapon. We never told our children they would get gifts from Santa if they were good. Not only is an old guy watching your every move creepy, but because we love the Lord we try to be more joyful, peace-filled, loving and patient all year long.
Santa was on the down low. Despite my husband’s wishes to never tell our children Santa wasn’t real, when
we I finally did tell them, 1) it wasn’t shocking since they had their suspicions, 2) because we rarely brought up Santa, they did not appear to be devastated and 3) because Santa was such a small part of Christmas, they did not correlate Santa to God, feel they had been living a lie or deem us untrustworthy liars.
Follow-up was intentional. When we did finally tell our kids Santa wasn’t real, we debriefed. We told them we chose to celebrate Santa because we did as kids and loved it (even though we too were told at some point Santa wasn’t real). We also told them not to tell their friends Santa wasn’t real because that is their parents’ job (and it’s fun to believe).
Do I think parents who don’t celebrate Santa are depriving their children? Absolutely not. I understand the logic behind not including Santa, gifts and other “non-essentials” to what should be commemorating Christ’s birth. Likewise, I hope I am not condemned for including Mr. Claus. My now-teenage children haven’t suffered any obvious trauma from having Santa in their childhood. In fact, they love everything about the holidays and best of all, the Reason for the Season is central not only to their Christmas, but to their entire lives.
P.S. We did let our kids sit on Mall Santa’s lap if they wanted. If they asked if he was the real Santa, we told them Santa wasn’t like God. He couldn’t be everywhere at one time, so Mall Santa was someone in a Santa suit.