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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I loved hearing your reasons for no Santa. Santa brings stockings for our kids and that’s all. When they ask questions about him I usually just ask them what they think, and they’ve come up with some really creative answers. I’ve also made it clear to them that Santa only gives a few small things to each kid, and their parents can choose to make it bigger. I agree that the disparity in Santa’s generosity can be pretty hurtful, so I make sure we talk about that. I’ve told them that Santa often uses hand me down toys from other children. That way they can pick some toys every year that Santa can give to someone else and they know their gifts might not be new (usually aren’t.) I’m not going to coax them into any belief, but I liked the feeling of uncertain belief in Santa as a kid so I’m not taking it away completely. It’s magical for them while it lasts, but not super crucial to our holiday.
I love how you are handling it! Thank you so much for sharing and for reading!
Yes to this! We don’t do Santa or gifts for many of the same reasons. We stopped doing gifts in my family when I was in late college because it was stressful to find just the right gift at a very specific time for everyone, so we ended up getting things we didn’t want/need and creating waste. Now we have a nice meal together and a fun experience (similar to how you’re doing watercolor classes for your kids, but ours have revolved around trips or things like zoo visits).
Like you said, everyone’s practice differs (some people may like the impetus to save/delayed gratification associated with waiting for Christmas), but it really works for our family. My in-laws prefer to do gifts, so we give cash to my niece and nephew and the kids make things for the adults.
I love that you’ve found something that works so well for your family!! Last year, my gift to Dan was a fancy meal and it was a trip for the kids, so we’re on the same wavelength! We’ll be excited when we can do those things again someday. 😉
Wow! We have handled Santa almost exactly the same way, for many of the same reason. I also want my children to know that Jesus is real despite not being able to physically see Him, and I didn’t want the myth of Santa to confuse their understanding of that, especially when they were so young. I actually play it up a bit more now that they are older and I know they can handle a more nuanced understanding, but I don’t lie if they directly ask me. Thanks for doing such a beautiful job writing it up in a way that doesn’t feel Grinch-like – I’ve never wanted to step on anyone else’s joy, and like you, we have found plenty of magic in the season!
Oh this is the kindest comment. I’m so glad you’ve found something that has worked for your family, too! Merry Christmas!
Hi! Our family does do Santa, we live in Greece, and there is a big tradition around both St.Nicholas and St.Basil. We feel that sharing Santa is a good opportunity for us to honor the lives of these saints, and we read the stories of these saints to our children. The carols here also reflect the lives of these saints, and they are beautiful! St.Nicholas is considered to be the protector of the seas and all those who travel by sea or work on the sea, his feast day is December 6 many people in Greece decorate small model boats in their homes instead of a Christmas tree, and St.Basil is considered to be one of the great patriarchs of the church and his feast day is January 1st, so Santa doesn’t visit until New Year’s Eve for many families. I’m Greek American and my husband grew up adoring all the American Christmas movies, so as a child he could never wait till Christmas to open his gifts, so as a family we give gifts on Christmas and New Year’s, it’s a lot of fun, we basically celebrate the 12 days of Christmas from Christmas to Epiphany, which is my personal favorite holiday here! At any rate, both Saints were known for their generosity to the poor, so much so that their very lives spawned the tales of Santa, so Santa is very real (the memory of these saints), and we are simply walking in their footsteps with our various traditions, however they might manifest themselves for different families, there is no denying that Christmas is a very special time of year!
I’m glad you’ve found something that works for you!
[…] never done Santa in our home, but we love the idea that St. Nick inspires generosity and kindness. And “Secret […]