Thursday, December 16, 2010

Do You Believe?

This December, I have been battling Santa Claus in my brain.  The same jolly old fat man who brings such joy to millions, brings me only a sleighful of frustration this year.

Much to the dismay of my family members, I have been considering the idea of not playing the "Santa Charade" with my daughter.  I know, I know... but just hear me out...

The entire ordeal is a lie.  That's it.  You can rationalize it all you want.  Tell me it's not really lying.  Tell me that Santa is the *magic* of Christmas.  But, no matter how you look at it, it is still lying.  Sorry.  I don't know how I can preach honesty while telling my child that an idea as silly as Santa is truth.

I've always thought that Christmas could be magical without the lying.  We can still pretend that Santa is coming.  But would it totally kill the joy if she knows--up front--that we are just pretending?  Kids are great pretenders!  A child can be a princess, a doctor, and then a cowgirl, all in one afternoon.  And deep down, she understands that she isn't really a cowgirl;  but for a brief moment in time, she is totally content with just pretending.

My main hangup with the whole Santa Conspiracy is partially due to personal experience.  I was an only child, so in many ways my parents were also my peers.  So when they preached the value of honesty, I assumed it was a two-way street.  When my friends began telling me that Santa was a just a big story, I defended my parents' honor.  They would never lie to me!  We always tell the truth!

When mom finally did tell me the truth, I was devastated.  Not because Santa wasn't real.  Not because my toys didn't come from the North Pole.  But because it was a big joke.  I'd been had!  And to top it all off, I defended the liars to my friends...  Maybe it was because I had no siblings to share the experience.  I felt singled out.  I pictured my parents sneaking around the house, eating the cookies, putting on a big show.  All so they could "see the look on my face" when I believed the hoax.

And what else did they lie about?  The Tooth Fairy?  The Easter Bunny?  Jesus?  How could I be sure that Jesus was even real?  Well, if praying was anywhere near as affective as writing a letter to Santa, I wasn't going to bother with that.  And that is the main reason that I loathe the Santa Conspiracy.  It shook my faith.  I struggled with my belief for years after this.  How old would I have to be before they finally told me that He was a "story" too?

I understand that Santa, obviously, cannot compare with the One who died for our sins.  This is very true... in the adult world.  But in a child's world, in an American child's world, the two are very close in running.  The only major difference that a small child can truly understand is that we only worry about Santa's judgement at Christmas time.

So please, shed some light on this for me.  How did you feel as a child?  How have your children felt?

To believe, or not to believe...


  1. I got your message this morning and I have been thinking about what you said a lot and was going to email you - so it's suiting that you just posted about this.

    First of all before I state my opinion on the matter, I 100% believe it's your choice and nobody should judge you for what you decide on.

    I am not religious now (more spiritual), but when I was a child I went to a Catholic school and was raised with Christian values and Christmas was also very much about the birth of Christ - celebrating Jesus' birthday.

    That being said, Christmas was also about Santa.

    I think taking the Santa experience away from your child entirely isn't all that fair... so I think if you do decide to go with the "pretend" plan that is great too.

    I believed for a long time, I think I was easily in 3rd or 4th grade before I found out, and I think how a child finds out is always different and will impact them differently too. I had a positive experience, and you had a negative one. I got to the point that I figured it out on my own.

    Watching a child wait for Santa is a magical thing. It's a huge part of our society, so denying a child from that completely wouldn't necessarily be fair - especially if you celebrate Christmas.

    Last night I was watching a TV show (Being Erica) and she is Jewish - she was talking about how as a child she always had a hard time not being included in Christmas, and Santa when all of her friends were part of it.

    It's all in good fun, and instead of considering it a lie, it's pretend, and make believe.You may wish to go with the Santa is real thing and switch to pretend when she can comprehend it a bit more. The choice is yours, but I don't think doing the whole Santa shabang teaches lying is okay - like as you said it was pretend.

    I would play it by ear, and see what feels right to you - next year will be the year when you really need to decide!

    My children will believe in Santa and learn about Saint Nicholas, and how Santa came to be Santa. I think that the movie Fred Claus has a good interpretation of how Santa came to be.

  2. Thank you Amy, that was helpful. I never considered it from a cultural point of view, that Santa really is a huge part of our society and I would be denying her of that. Definitely food for thought.

  3. i am going to be completely honest and give where I stand on this. Take it or leave it. YOU have decide what you want to do for your family and your daughter.

    But...I'm anti -santa.

    I obviously don't have kids but when I do someday in the future I am not going to lie to them for the sake of holiday cheer. My family did Santa for a couple years when I was younger and then we stopped. I wasn't scarred. At all. I also didn't do the easter bunny or celebrate halloween either, and I turned out as a (relatively ;p ) normal individual.
    it is completely possible to celebrate with out a fat man sneaking down your chimney. That really isn't what Christmas is about. My family still watches all the Christmas movies (grinch...rudolph...all that) and plays the christmas CDs with Santa songs, but we keep our focus on CHRIST. If you choose not to celebrate the whole santa thing there are LOTS of other things you can celebrate (we celebrate to the MAX over at our house and we love it!). And imagine the great traditions you can start now with Jellybean that will carry over into the next Christmas and the next!

    The real problem I have with Santa is that he takes away from Jesus' birth, which is the only real meaning of Christmas. Santa started out as a christian Saint, but the world has really distorted what he was all about over the years and now Christmas is a commercial holiday all about greed.

    And he also gets to take credit for all of the parents hard work in finding cool gifts! YOU found them for your daughter, YOU paid for them, YOU wrapped them all! Why does Santa get credit? (And he is a total creeper...I mean "he sees you when you're sleeping?" WHAT is that about!?)

    Christmas is a magical time of year with or without Santa Claus. We give gifts because Jesus was the gift to the world and we celebrate love, because God sent his by his son being born in a stable to die for us 33 years later. That is wonderful and awe inspiring! Nothing can top that!

    Like Amy ^ said, you have time to decide. Jellybean is still really young. but it is good that you are thinking about this stuff in advance! Whatever you decide, HAVE A GREAT CHRISTMAS!

  4. Isabella, you always crack me up. Your point on Santa seeing you when you sleep is probably the best thing I've ever heard lol

  5. We don't do Santa...but we joke about it. The kids know it's just a cultural thing. We also talk about how Santa is based on St. Nicholas (there's a great kid's picture book about it). We fill stockings...I joke that Santa will fill them...and they look at me with a twinkle in their eyes and, mommy, you fill them... And we try not to ruin it for families who play the game...but sometimes we forget.

  6. Looks like my girl gave you my heart...

    Santa was a man named Nicholas, who loved the poor...he died...just a simple man.

    ...Jesus is what Christmas is about...He loved the poor, the widow, the orphan, He LOVED them so much that He died for their sin... He was 100% God, but willing to come to earth to reveal God's gift of salvation through Him to us...he died...but He didn't stay in the grave (as Santa did) but rose again and sits at the right hand of God Almighty.

    Christmas should be about Christ. After all that is what the name Christmas means, celebration of Christ. Oh how we forget and make it everything but.

    We did play the Santa game for a while while Bella was wee. It was no fun. Lying to your children isn't fun, it isn't easy, it gets more difficult with each passing year. We began to dread it, how could we keep all the his/our wrapping paper straight...what if we used *his* next year with OUR name on it (yeah, Bella was a smarty pants like that). We decided to pull the plug and have never regretted our decision.

    WE enjoy Christmas around Christ. The kids know who Santa represents, but they KNOW who Jesus is and who He is to them 365 days a year.

    And don't tell me that Jesus takes first place on Christmas morning to children who are waiting to see what Santa brought them...ain't know way they wake up thinking about Jesus and His day.

    enough said...just my humble opinion, but one that I will gladly stand in front of God with someday.

    mama to 8
    one homemade and 7 adopted

  7. Ok, so I know this won't be the most popular answer, but I believe in giving kids the Santa experience. But in no way should it diminish the real reason for Christmas- and now that my children are old enough to understand, we will celebrate Christmas by baking a birthday cake and singing Happy Birthday to Jesus. (an idea I got from a coworker when I was just 16 years old and have cherished the thought of ever since).

    The thing about making that choice for your child before they understand it is that you just denied your child any opportunity to even believe in that magic. The magic of Christmas is in giving. Letting them believe that Santa gives to them also gives you the opportunity to teach them that they can give without getting credit as well. I'm not sure my point is really coming across. Many people give for the recognition that they get for giving. Teaching your children (by way of Santa) that giving is best when it comes without that recognition is probably one of the best foundations you can give them. When they are old enough to know that Santa isn't real, you can turn the tables and teach them that they can be "Santa" to someone who just needs that magic. Perhaps as a family you give anonymously. Perhaps you (like we did this year) get a name from Angel Tree and fill someones wishes without them ever knowing who you are.

    There are still plenty of ways to teach a child that the holiday is not only about Santa without completely removing that experience from their lives. And the truth is, once you feel Jellybean is old enough or mature enough to know the truth, you can always tell her before she finds out from the kids at school.

    And one last thing- my parents raised us with the practice that most of the gifts under the tree were from Santa- and they were mostly all wrapped except the oversized or odd-shaped ones. However, my husband's family did it different. Each child got one gift from Santa and it wasn't wrapped at all- as they said- Santa had so many children to get to he didn't have time to wrap their gifts. It made things very easy with regard to the wrapping paper situation, and also with regard to the parents getting proper credit for the gifts they thoughtfully selected for their children. The first year he told me about that I didn't subscribe, but as my kids are getting old enough to understand, I must say, I totally believe that is the route to go. My kids will get their big present from Santa and everything else will come from mom and dad. As they get a little older, it will also make them think long and hard about what they want to ask Santa for since he only brings them one present.

    Just my thoughts. I do wish you the best with this- I suspect once Jellybean gets just a little older you may find it harder to see the issue as cut and dried. Just watching the absolute sparkle in her face will probably melt your heart.

  8. I actually was never told that Santa wasn't real. I did figure out it on my own but it didn't devastate me. I pretended that Santa was real for my little sister because it was a fun game. And then when we got older we still pretended in Santa (even though all of us knew he wasn't real) because it was a fun sort of game and tradition. My parents even would get themselves gag gifts.

    We've been giving the boys the Santa experience. I'm pretty sure that Older Boy knows that he's not real but he's not going to ruin it for his younger siblings. If it does come up I'm going to play the same thing my parents did and make it a fun game and tradition.

    Good luck with your decision. It is all entirely up to you.

  9. My family believed in Santa and as a kid I loved it. There were boot prints in the snow, crunched carrots in the snow that the reindeer ate, cookie crumbs on the plate, half drank cups of milk on the counter, sooty footprints by the fireplace, and one year even a piece of red material stuck in the sliding glass door (when we didn't have a fireplace). My family made it magical and talked about how Santa was in your heart. I guess it was their way of telling us that he wasn't real though they still staged the perfect Santa visit. I never remember learning Santa wasn't real and when other kids asked if I believed in Santa I would repeat what my parents had said so many times, Santa lives in your heart. My parents kept up the charade until I moved out, and even now I get packages in the mail from Santa. My parents always just said he's in your heart. I plan on doing the same for my child too.

    It sounds like you have very strong reasons to want to not continue the Santa 'thing' with your child. I have no idea how you would explain to a child that so many people buy into this "lie" and still have them understand why you don't want to. You don't want her to feel lied to but you also don't want her to feel cheated out of something that other gets have. Perhaps if you know anyone who is a Jehovah Witness you can ask them since they don't celebrate holidays so those questions must come up in their families.

    Good Luck!

  10. All I have to say is that I loved Santa. I figured it out on my own, and rather than feel like I'd "been got" I was impressed by the effort that my parents spent to make Christmas that much more magical for me. I had fun keeping the secret from my sister who is much younger than me.

    Speaking of my sister, one of the saddest things I'd ever seen was my sister sobbing, when at age 4 she learned that Santa wasn't real. An older kid on the bus told her, without malic, that Santa wasn't real and it broke her heart.

    You don't have to decide now... Santa won't make much sense until next year.

    With that, Merry Christmas.