Confession: our kids don’t believe in Santa.
Actually, they’ve never believed in Santa. I never believed in Santa growing up, either. Growing up with Hindu parents who were born and raised in India, Christmas was really just about having some days off work and school to spend with extended family. We did typically exchange gifts, but my sister and I never believed in Santa growing up.
Then in my husband’s family, his parents sort of did the Santa thing very early on. His dad dressed up a time or two, but they never went out of their way to push it or try to make it seem more real. The second any kids asked questions, they told them the truth, and never tried to get them to help keep it from younger siblings. It seems they all more or less knew the truth by the time they were 4-5 years old.
Creating Our Own Family Christmas Traditions
When it came to our own kids, it felt like the world was our oyster. Neither of our families had strong Christmas traditions. In addition to not really doing Santa, neither of our families had specific foods, movies, or activities.
We’d usually go see lights, but beyond that, there weren’t any organized things we did each year.
Because of that, we knew we’d largely be creating our own traditions – which was exciting! And since neither of our families felt really strongly about Santa one way or the other, we knew we could easily pick what we wanted to do without worrying about disappointing anyone.
How We Decided to Not Do Santa
From the beginning of our marriage, we knew that neither of us was super interested in doing the Santa thing with our kids. I have zero problem with other families doing Santa, but as we talked through it, it felt more and more right for our family to skip it. Here are 7 reasons why!
Creating a culture of trust is important in our home
We work hard to try to create a culture of trust in our family. We try to be open and honest, even when it comes to more difficult topics like racism or sex. We hope our kids always feel comfortable coming to us with questions.
So we didn’t want to start out by intentionally creating a myth for them to believe. I have zero problem with sparking and cultivating imagination, but I didn’t feel we need to convince them to actually believe the myth. I also didn’t want them wondering what else we told them wasn’t true.
That’s certainly NOT to say that if you do the Santa thing that your kids won’t trust you once they find out the truth. I know plenty of people who believed in Santa, and were perfectly happy to accept it as a happy myth as they got older. We just didn’t want to deal with the added dimension of explanation for our family.
Every child is of equal worth
Another biggie is that I didn’t want my kids seeing Santa give some children bikes or video game systems, and only give others a small toy. Inequity is all too present in our society; I want to make sure my kids know that that’s not because of the inherent worth of different children. Instead, it’s because of the choices people make, and often privilege.
Basically, I didn’t need a mythological Santa validating biases and inequities created by society, especially when it came to children of color.
I want them to feel loved and seen by people they know
This may sound selfish, but I don’t really have any desire for some dude from the North Pole to take credit for my gifts! Part of the fun of Christmas is doing the gifting, and seeing the gratitude and appreciation when someone opens yours. I wanted my kids to be able to experience both sides of that.
I love using gifts and experiences as an opportunity to show my kids they are seen and loved by me. It’s so fun showing I recognize their interests as I search out wonderful gifts.
We can imagine without believing something is true
Whenever I mention the fact that we don’t do Santa, people worry that our kids will be deprived or that they won’t develop their imaginations. In fact, we still read plenty of books about Santa and watch movies that have Santa. The only difference is that my kids know it’s pretend.
There are plenty of things in life that are super enjoyable even though we know they’re imaginary. In fact, part of the fun is BECAUSE they’re imaginary! My kids love Harry Potter and Percy Jackson and lots of other things because they’re fun, made-up worlds. Allowing my kids to have the same experience with Santa – hearing a fun story but not relying on it for truth – fosters the same sense of fun and imagination.
I don’t want Santa to do the disciplining
With Santa, I could see myself easily falling into the crutch of saying things like, “You better make a good choice, or Santa won’t bring you XXX!” I know there are plenty of parents who are much better than I am who would never do this, but I feel like it would be an easy thing for me to fall into. It’s just easier to not go down that path for me!
Christmas is plenty magical without Santa.
With being able to create our own traditions, we’ve developed LOTS of fun ones. We watch the Nutcracker every year and attend a sing along of Handel’s Messiah. We do a “Bethlehem dinner” on Christmas Eve and do a “Polar Express Night” to go see lights. My oldest decided a few years ago that he wanted to make Christmas crackers for everyone and has done them ever since. We do Christmas jammies and a hot chocolate bar and caroling to raise money for a nonprofit that our kids choose.
The point is, there is SO MUCH that is magical about this time of year, and I (and our kids) don’t feel we’re missing out one bit without having Santa be a part of that.
I don’t care about Santa!
Most of all, I personally just don’t care about Santa. At least, I don’t care about making him seem real. My husband doesn’t care about Santa. So we don’t do it, because it’s not important to US. And if it is important to you? Go for it!
We do occasionally talk about St. Nicholas and how Santa is a symbol for how we can all spread love and joy and kindness. But I don’t feel the need to pretend Santa is actually a real person who flies around the world on Christmas Eve in order to do that.
I have zero judgment for people who feel the benefits of Santa outweigh the costs. If you like it and it’s a fun tradition for you, by all means, do it up!
And if you, like us, don’t care one bit? Here’s your license to just skip out altogether. 😉
Not Telling Other Kids Santa Isn’t Real
The number one reaction I get if it ever comes up that we don’t do Santa is parents worrying (and sometimes getting mad) about my kids potentially spoiling it for theirs. And I get that reaction! It’s hard having someone else spoil a surprise you’ve been working to keep.
We have a conversation with our kids each year about not going out of their way to tell another child that Santa isn’t real. We have lots of conversations in general about respecting others’ beliefs – we would never tell someone else that their religion isn’t true, so we should be respectful of Santa beliefs, as well. We often discuss how everyone has different beliefs, and there’s lots of nuance even within the same religion. It’s not our job to tell someone else how to find peace or community or connection with God or FUN. If someone else finds any of these in a representation of Santa, that’s great!
But also – it’s not my job to make my kid believe something just so it’s easier for someone else’s kid to believe something. And it’s not my kid’s job to believe something just to protect someone else’s beliefs. Respect? For sure. Not disparage? Absolutely. But work to communicate something that they DON’T believe as true? Definitely not. If someone asks them outright if they believe in Santa, I would never expect them to lie in order to uphold the story for someone else. Instead, we’ve tried to teach them that they can say that they don’t personally believe Santa is real, but respect everyone choosing their own beliefs.
I’m curious – do you do Santa in your family? How do you handle it? Is there an age when you tell your kids, or do you wait for them to find out? Do older children help keep the secret for the younger ones? Or do you skip out altogether like we do? I’d love to hear how your family handles it!
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