Here she goes again, some will think. But I thought I would share why we don’t do Santa for all those who are unsure of their stance or interested. I’m literally just sharing why we do this – as always – not why I think anyone else should or shouldn’t do.
It helps in my case to understand what my childhood memories surrounding Christmas and Santa entailed. I won’t go into the religious side aside from a disclaimer that I was raised religious and am now an atheist for many reasons. Santa, however, was a separate issue.
For me, working out that Santa wasn’t real was an all in one deal. I realised the tooth fairy wasn’t real when I suspected as much and stayed up til I felt my Mum’s large hand under the pillow instead of the tiny fairy I was told came in to leave the coin. UH HAH! But it wasn’t all discoveries or joy at being in on the secret for me. I quickly dismantled the tooth fairy, Santa, and the Easter bunny all in one go as a young child. I confronted my Mum in tears. My main emotions were those of betrayal and feeling stupid. Of COURSE these weren’t true, I thought. Silly me.
But even deeper – why had I been lied to? I’m not going to lie, it was a dramatic revelation in my mind. What else were they lying about? My trust was shattered. I have a pretty poor long term memory but I definitely remember how awful it made me feel. My reaction comes down to my personality. I’m a knowledge seeker and someone who is quite logic-based (if you know anything about MBTI, it probably wouldn’t surprise you that I’m an INTP.)
Of course, for most kids it’s more upsetting that the dream has been shattered. Bye bye magic, right? It affects all kids differently which is why I don’t think one answer makes sense to all. It depends on your feelings about Christmas, your child’s beliefs in magic and how you feel about perpetrating a lie to keep the fantasy alive.
My son was similar to me. I continued the Santa thing with him despite my experience because, well, the western world is surrounded by this tradition. It’s just one of those things you do if your beliefs don’t conflict with it. I never pushed the fact personally. When I did talk about Santa, I spoke about where the story originated from. I was very vague! I was honest about the men in the shops being people dressed up as Santa ‘helping’. I said vague things like “lots of people believe _____” and never explicitly confirming or denying. My husband was different, his experience as a child was different and he really loved the joy it brought kids before they realised; which is fair enough.
Cam saw through it all earlier than me. He is logical to a fault like me and magic really doesn’t fly with him. Sure, he loves to pretend and his imagination is incredible, but he likes ‘the truth’ like me.
At almost 4 he came to me around Christmas time and asked:
“How do reindeer fly?”
I stalled, “How do you think?”
He wasn’t having it, and I knew that determined look in his eye, he wanted me to tell him what he already knew. He said “no Mummy, how do they fly?”
I said “magic!” somewhat weakly.
“But magic isn’t really real?” he said, not really a question but his truth.
“A lot of people believe in magic,” I continued to stall.
“Is Santa real?” he asked openly staring right at me. “Do you want him to be?” I asked gently.
“I don’t think he is” he said in a matter of fact tone.
“Where do you think the presents come from?” I asked. That had him stumped.
“I don’t know. Who does it?” he said, before pausing and looking at me suspiciously.
“Well it’s got to be someone who knows you, who loves you and who is able to get them in under the tree?” I said.
“It’s you and Daddy! I knew it” he said and I messaged Mike with a “Santa SOS”
“You’re right, how does that make you feel?” and we talked it out and processed it.
It might be odd to think of an almost 4 year old being to clued in for some. I know his younger sister – now 3.5 – wouldn’t speak with me like this. But this obviously fueled my discomfort with the whole idea. Lucy was 2 at the time and I knew we were planning more children and I just didn’t feel comfortable with lying to my kids about this. So hubby and I had big chats about what this meant for us.
Would we let them believe what they wanted – perpetuated by society and the media? Would we continue it at home? Would we feed the lie? How did that make us feel? We tried not to think about what other family or friends would think – this was our decision and needed to be treated as such. It became pretty obvious that it wasn’t something we were comfortable with.
SO WHY EXACTLY DO WE NOT DO SANTA?
Lying and Respectful Parenting
For us, as respectful parents, it felt off and at odds with our ideals to lie to our children.
We don’t lie in any other way to our kids. We are always age appropriately honest with them. All the hard topics, including death and sex, are treated like any other topic – honestly and respectfully. So why then would we lie about a jolly red man who comes into our house and gives our kids gifts?
For similar reasons we don’t lie about the tooth fairy or Easter bunny either (we don’t do Easter at all).
Rewards and Punishments
As any readers would know, we don’t use punishments or bribery to parent (what we DO do), but so much of Santa is about naughty and nice. Again it just didn’t align with our parenting to enforce blind obedience and outsource this level of judgement and fear-based compliance to an imaginary man when we wouldn’t want to impose it personally.
Consumerism and Social Implications
I’m really not a fan of supporting consumerism and all that it entails. This is an ongoing battle for us. It could be a post within itself and isn’t simply a Santa issue.
I don’t want my children to subconsciously learn that materialism is positive and Santa is part of the problem. Too often we contribute to children assigning happiness to consumer goods – and that really concerns me.
Children are being aggressively marketed to now more than ever. There are now so many direct routes of access to market to kids – packaging, shops, signs, television, social media, internet, etc. Big retailers obviously benefit from kids feeling that they NEED toys or other gifts.
I personally only have to look around at the masses of adults who assign success and happiness with material possessions and know that this isn’t what I want for my children.
The social implications was something that really resonated with me. It came as a revelation after we already decided the Santa fantasy wasn’t for us. I was explaining while we were donating toys that some kids don’t get anything for Christmas. Some families don’t have the money and some children don’t have parents or parents who care. Santa really feeds the shame that poorer families feel around Christmas.
It feels wrong to me personally to support a fantasy that hurts others.
So what is Christmas without religion or Santa?
Admittedly if it were up to me alone, I wouldn’t be celebrating Christmas at all. But my hubby loves it and my kids love it and that’s reason enough for me. For us it comes down to spending time together as a family, love, kindness, sharing gifts and doing what feels meaningful to us as a family. There is much more to enjoy about Christmas.
My kids still sometimes like to pretend Santa is real – like any child pretends they are a superhero or that fairies are real – whilst understanding they are not. Imagination and magic and fantasy can exist without falsities.
But are we stealing the magic of Christmas? This is a commonly held belief. Take away the lie and fantasy and you must have sad kids without the magic and awe that Christmas can bring, right? For us this hasn’t been the anywhere near the case and I think it really comes down to the family itself and the values you perpetuate.
Thank you for reading!