Updated: Dec 10, 2019
Funny we live in a time where there can even be a debate about Santa - but here we are. Let’s see if we can find a middle ground...
Camp 1: Santa is magical and amazing and you’re a heartless grinch if you rob Christmas joy from your children.
Camp 2: Santa is a lie and a manipulation and teaches kids that their parents can’t be trusted once they find out the truth.
Camp 1 is coming from a place of love. They have joyful positive memories of laughter and surprise around Santa and want to share that joy with their little ones. They want to see their eyes open wide and their high pitched squeal as they run to the presents that have “magically” appeared under the tree! They love their kids.
Camp 2 is coming from a place of love. They have seen or experienced Santa used to manipulate children, threaten them, and emotionally coerce them rather than teach and guide them. They often also carry distrust in their hearts due to many experiences when their parents were not trustworthy and want to ensure a more honest relationship with their own children and therefore ban anything that feels dishonest. They love their kids.
Notice that Camp 1 did NOT say they want to lie to or manipulate their kids. Notice Camp 2 did NOT say they wanted to thwart the magic and joy of the holidays. Both of these are assumptions and false dichotomies. There IS a middle ground here.
Fact 1: Santa IS real - sorta:
“St. Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.” (stnicholascenter.org)
Fact 2: A pile of presents (Or A SINGLE wrapped present) that appears overnight is magical no matter who made it appear.
Fact 3: There are a LOT of other magical things about the holidays. Reading stories, seeing family members you don’t always see, special recipes you can share, Christmas Punch, cookies, cocoa, eggnog, roasting marshmallows (or chestnuts but to be honest I’ve never done those), watching movies, stringing popcorn, remembering the stories behind ornaments, lights and candles, music, traditions - so so many things. Every single thing on this list can exist with or without Santa.
Fact 4: Kids believe in make-believe things. They think PJ Masks are REALLY our fighting crime - they think the 7 ft tall Buzz Lightyear is REALLY Buzz when they see him at Disneyland. Letting them play and enjoy and pretend is a-okay!
So, the way we found a middle ground was:
1) Learn about real Santa, who St. Nicholas was and why he was important to people.
2) Then WE choose to “be Santas” and we go to Walmart and choose kids off the Angel Tree and we buy gifts for them. We buy nothing else on this trip, it’s JUST for those kids. I pick one and each of my kids picks one. And we think about them when we open our own gifts a few weeks later, how they may be feeling to have the gift we got them. It’s a really special tradition.
3) We watch normal kid cartoons and read normal kid books so they do see the commercialized Santa.
4) Presents do not have any “from” in our family. Just the “to.” This allows children to make up their own minds based on their age and understanding.
5) Let *them* decide if they want to play the game or not. That’s really what it is anyway, a game we play with our kids. We play tons of games with our kids. We don’t go out of our way to force them to comply with make-believe games and we don’t panic or feel sad when they are done playing a game, we just play while they like to play and move on when they are done. This is what that has looked like for us.
Age 3 or 4 ish: Kid: “Mom, I want Santa to come!” Me: “Oh really? Ok, we can play the Santa game.” *None of the presents have a “from” line.*
Kid: “Mom, are these from Santa?” Me: “What do you think” Kid: “I think YES!” with a big smile. Me: “Ok, sure!”
Age 5 or 6:
Kid: “Mom, is Santa real?”
Me: “What do you think?” Kid: “I don’t know, maybe.” Me: “Well we learned about St. Nickolas and that’s where the Santa Story comes from.” Kid: “Right. Well, I think you’re Santa.” Me: “Anyone can be a Santa, like when we go do the Angel Tree” 3.5-year-old pipes in: “Santa IS real, Xavier.”
Me: “Ok, Revan wants to do Santa this year.” Kid: “I want to do Santa too.”
Me: “Ok, bud!”
*Presents have no “from” and they decide on the day what they want to believe.*
Santa is fun, the holidays are fun, we don’t make it a huge deal, we pretend when they want and embody the spirit of caring and giving and joy. If you’re looking for a middle ground, try it out - let me know how it goes! Join Empowering Moms to Uplift Kids to join the discussion!