I grew up not believing in Santa Claus. My parents would tell you that we celebrated the historic “Saint Nicholas” so we did technically partake— but we never believed he was real. Nor did we receive gifts from Santa, leave out cookies, or emphasize Santa as a major part of Christmas in any way.
Before you feel too sorry for me, I never felt like I was missing out on anything! In fact, I was so horrified that so many parents were flat-out lying to their kids about this fat, jolly gentleman’s existence that I told my friends and classmates he wasn’t real.
*I’d like to formally apologize to all of the kids and parents affected by this. I promise I wasn’t trying to ruin Christmas! I was just a self-righteous little kid who was distressed by what I perceived to be a giant scam! I promise not to ruin any more magic.*
But my husband did believe in Santa growing up, and he couldn’t picture the Christmases of his childhood any other way.
Naturally, when it came to raising our daughter we found ourselves at opposite ends of the Santa debate.
It’s often hard for people who did grow up with Santa to envision Christmas without him, but for me, it’s hard to picture Christmas with Santa. None of the traditions that included Santa held any meaning for me, but I could think of a whole lot of reasons to not do Santa, such as;
- not wanting to lie to our child about the existence of a magical, present-bearing man.
- dealing with the disappointment of this revelation later on (and possibly taking away some of the magic of Christmas, like it did for so many of my Santa-believing friends!)
- adding yet MORE stuff to do during an already busy season.
- taking the focus off of Christ and placing it squarely on the shoulders of Santa.
So how did I, a woman who grew up without Santa and general Santa-skeptic, come to the conclusion that we will make Santa a part of our Christmas traditions after all?
I decided to take a step back and think like a child.
Kids learn really effectively from stories. That’s why so many fairytales have a moral at the end. They love the world of imagination and pretend— I know I did!
In my humble opinion, Santa presents the opportunity to not only be a lot of fun, but to serve as a teaching tool. A kid isn’t necessarily going to internalize what Christmas is about just because you tell them, but they might begin to understand a little bit better when there’s a story accompanied by a set of fun traditions attached to it!
See, I don’t only want my children to understand that Christmas is about giving. That’s certainly an important component to the Christmas celebration, but it’s also about receiving. (Which I’m pretty sure is the exact OPPOSITE of what every Christmas special ever made will tell you.)
God bestowed us with his son when we didn’t deserve it. Jesus is the ultimate gift, and it’s a gift that a lot of people struggle to receive— many of us feel unworthy of His grace and redemption.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful for a child to learn not only to give generously, but to receive humbly? That’s where my fat friend in a red suit comes in handy— the gifts they receive from Santa are symbolic of the gift they received from God. And while the popular version of Santa may only bestow gifts upon children who have behaved nicely, I plan to give my children gifts regardless of whether or not they deserve them.* Because that’s how God gives to us.
We haven’t hashed out all of the details yet. I’m not sure whether we’ll tell our kids that Santa is completely real, and we still plan to keep gifts simple. We definitely won’t let Santa overtake our whole Christmas season. But hopefully, we’ll find a way to involve Santa in our celebration in a way that points to the true reason for the season.
*And as a kid who didn’t grow up with Santa, I’m curious— has anyone ever actually had gifts withheld from Santa because they were on the naughty list?!
How about you— was doing Santa second nature, or have you decided to leave him out altogether? I’d love to hear your thoughts!