The Santa Struggle

Disclaimer… This post may or may not question the existence of a magical man in a red suit who shows up on Christmas eve and eats all your cookies. If your kids like to read over your shoulder… you may want to kick them out of the room.

There are some things that I just didn’t think about when we found out we were going to be parents. Obviously there was plenty of excitement and uncertainty, thoughts about finances, who he/she was going to look like, and how different our lives are going to be… that’s all to be expected. But the one thing that I didn’t really think about was what kind of a role Santa would play in my kids’ childhood. I know some moms-to-be think about these kinds of things but to be totally honest it never really crossed my mind until recently when I started seeing some of my mommy-friends posting photos on Facebook of their little one’s sitting on Santa’s lap for the first time.

This time last year the hubs and I obviously weren’t thinking about whether or not we were going to make it to see Santa… considering our main thoughts were something closer to “get OUT of my bellay!” But now that we celebrating our first Christmas as a family of 3, we’ve got to ask ourselves if we’re going to ‘play along’ with the mystery of Santa Claus or live the next years of our lives braced for the phone calls and hate emails from parents of classmates who “heard from the Pierce child” that Santa isn’t real. Eeep!

First we looked at how much of a roll Santa played in our own childhoods.

I have an utterly terrible memory {seriously I think sometime between high school and 2012 I must have run into an MIB who totally flashy-thinged me because my childhood recollection is toast} but I do recall being really excited when ‘Santa’ brought me that hot pink Barbie camper with “working” grill and  fold out cabana. It was only later that I learned my mother spend hours putting that piece of crap together while Santa was nowhere to be found. What’s up with that Claus? Anyway. My brother and I did the sit on Santa’s lap thing a few times… definitely not every year. And I don’t even really remember the time when I ‘learned’ that Santa wasn’t real… I don’t know if it was something I learned or just realized. I think my parents had fun with it and let us enjoy the magic of it all but they were always very clear on the real meaning of Christmas, both in the biblical sense and in terms of the holiday NOT being about what presence we got. So if I can’t say that Santa’s ‘existence’ really had that great of an effect on my life, should it be that important that my kids believe in him at all? Ponder, ponder, ponder.

As for Z’s upbringing, his parents were very upfront with he and his brother about Santa not being real. No shenanigans in that family {and coming from two mimes, that says a lot!}. They didn’t want either of them expecting that some fat man in a velour suit was going to get them exactly what they wanted for Christmas and, much like my parents, really strived to make sure they understood the real reason to celebrate – the birth of Christ. They did make sure to tell both of them not to go off and spoil it for the other kids who did believe… which Z ignored on a number of occasions. Yeah, he was THAT KID.

So… what does a Christian {and Catholic to boot} family, who grew up with slightly different Santa experiences, who want to make sure they maintain the true spirit of Christmas for their children, while still having fun DO when it comes to Jolly Old St. Nick?

YOU TELL ME! We’re still figuring out the details. It’s highly unlikely that Keelin will even remember this Christmas so we’ve got some time to finalize our Santa-Plan but here’s what we’ve got so far…

#1 at Christmas for us is, without a doubt, understanding our faith’s reason for celebrating. We are Christians, we believe in the miracle birth of Christ, we use Christmas to celebrate that event. Plain and simple, that is what Christmas is about for us. As long as our kids understand that, you could say that the rest is just extra fun stuff, right?

I think the story of Santa Claus, with the reindeer and the sled and the Ho’s {I mean…}, and the big-fat-jelly-belly, is sweet and totally fine to incorporate into a child’s Christmas experience. I STILL love reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas”, signing “From Santa” on gifts, and watching all the fun Santa-Christmas movies. It’s festive, spirited, light-hearted, and FUN. We’re definitely going to make sure our kids know the original story of St. Nicholas too – where the common story of Santa Claus is said to have originated. There is far too much Santa out in the world to try to ignore it all together. Plus, how lame would that be?!

I DON’T think the idea of Santa should be used as a way to make kids behave. It’s one thing to joke about getting coal in your stocking if your kids are being particularly pesky {I still do that with friends and family today} but I’ve been witness to a mother GOING OFF on her kid mid-supermarket telling them with all sincerity {and intent to frighten} that Santa is not going to bring them ANYTHING because of their awful behavior. Seriously I think I saw steam coming out of her ears and her eyes were definitely set to LASER mode. I’ll admit her kid was being  a little demon but I want my children to behave properly because they know it’s the right way to act, not because I threaten them with fewer toys at Christmas. Just doesn’t seem right. And if Santa were real I don’t think he would appreciate you making him out to be the bad guy like that. Tisk.

So do we say, “Hey kids… there’s this guy named Santa Claus we’d like you to know about. The story books say he shimmy’s down chimneys on Christmas Eve to deliver gifts to every little girl and boy. He’ also has magical flying reindeer, and perfect no-blush-necessary cheeks. He’s not real, even though some children think he is, so just go along with it when they talk about him at school, and know that it’s all in fun when you come back home. Ok?”  Maybe. It’s upfront, simply put, lets them know we’re all about enjoying the legend for the STORY that it is, but set on knowing the truth from the get-go.

At the end of the day as long as my kids know the real meaning of Christmas, and don’t go around being the jerks that spoil the ‘magic’ for everyone else, I don’t think there’s any reason to ignore the story of Santa. Just be clear on its truth and appreciate it for the fun that it brings to the holiday.

What do you think. Any parents juggling a similar issue? Did I lose you all when I started an 8th paragraph? How did Santa impact your childhood?

8 thoughts on “The Santa Struggle

  1. Firstly, in case I’ve never mentioned it, let me start by saying that I love your writing and the way you articulate your thoughts and the way you share the chapters of your lives. That said…on to your query.

    We never really put that much thought into it when our daughter was young…we just did the whole “Santa thing” from her first year. It’s only been 2 years (she’s almost 11 now) that we had to explain to her that Santa was not real and that we were in fact Santa in two persons. She accepted all of this just fine and is not a spoil-sport to others who believe.

    We have always made a big deal about the real reason for the season and we celebrate and talk about the birth of Christ. Both of us were raised by parents who pretty much did as we’ve done. I don’t think either of us remember where we were the day the myth got busted or how old we were when it did.

    With the benefit of hindsight, I do believe that we both wished we had put some more thought into it and maybe done things a little differently. I wish you well on your quest and know that you will find the best possible route to or away from the North Pole. I applaud you for pondering all of this so readily while Keelin is still so young. Kudos to you Pierce folks!

    • Thanks for the insight James (and the kind words on my writing… always good to hear!)
      I definitely see the appeal and excitement of really diving into the mystery, just not sure if it’s “for us”. We’ll see!

  2. My best friend just had a baby and we were talking about this the last time we had lunch. She is from Venezuela and when she was little they were told that baby Jesus brought the gifts on Christmas, not Santa. She was so confused when she came to America and there was a fat man in a red suit that broke into your house and expected cookies in exchange for gifts haha!

    But this book by a friends mom is actually a really cool way of explaining the spirit of Santa without having to indulge in the crazy commercial aspect that we’ve given him these days.
    Im guessing if Keelin is anything like Zech was as a child it might be helpful to keep her from spoiling it for other kids should you decide to not go the whole Santa route.

  3. My family celebrated Santa but something cool my parents did was also teach us the different global Santas and Christmas traditions. I think part of that came from both them being military/ overseas as kids and my mom being a teacher. It was actually really cool to do little things every few years like leave out our shoes on the feast of St. Nicholas and get little chocolates and an orange in the in the morning. Or to attempt to sing Swedish and make ginger snaps on the feast of St. Lucia. We even made a birthday cake Jesus a few times. They emphasized how all of it tied into faith but each culture celebrated in their own way. It was a really cool experience and have me some memories I’ll never forget. I think it’s totally fine to teach you kid about Santa, they just can’t believe that’s all there is to the season. I have no doubt you make sure Keelin gets a good grasp on Christmas.

  4. I like to treat Santa Claus like any other “character”. Like Mickey Mouse, for example. I don’t say that our presents are from Santa, but I don’t mind having a picture with Santa, in the same way I wouldn’t mind it with any other character at Disney Land. I grew up being told all along that Santa wasn’t real (and I’m glad I did), but sometimes I think parents have unnecessary freak outs about it. 🙂 The thing that I certainly don’t want to do is to lie to my kids (about anything!), but I think demonizing Santa is the wrong way to go too. Ahhhh, parenthood. Such a delicate balancing act. 🙂

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