December 12, 2008

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Did you believe in Santa Claus?

I never did; it just wasn't part of our family traditions, since my parents didn't push the Santa story. I don't remember them ever specifically saying there was no Santa, but they never ever told us he was real or even suggested that he might be. It was really kind of a non-issue - I knew Santa Claus was a myth some families did when their kids were little, but our family wasn't one of them.

We did do some of the Santa traditions, even if we all openly acknowledged that there was no actual Santa. For years, my dad would put out little black paper footprints leading from the fireplace to the tree, and we occasionally got gifts marked as "From Santa." But those gifts were always something completely non-thrilling like a three-pack of underwear or new white gym socks. Santa got no credit for big gifts; that was all from my parents.

We also usually put out cookies for Santa (no milk, since we only ever had powdered milk and not even a make-believe man would drink that gross stuff). One year, a neighbor gave each of us three girls a giant plastic bear filled with frosted animal cookies and we soon grew sick of them. On Christmas Eve, we each got a plate and dumped the remaining cookies on them and set them out for Santa (each plate must have had at least a hundred little cookies). I was never so relieved to see an empty plate the next morning.

I do remember specifically that my parents warned us that most other kids did believe in Santa and that were not to tell other kids that Santa wasn't real. I frankly liked the feeling of knowing the truth when other kids were totally buying into the falsehoods, and I'm also glad to have avoided the crushing disappointment so many kids had when they realized Santa wasn't real. Christmas stayed magical and mysterious to me for years and years, since I never had a moment where I realized all my Christmas fantasies were based on something that was not true.

Bart did believe in Santa Claus for a while until an older cousin said something about it being fake and his aunt, who had overheard, gave his cousin the evil eye. Bart took that as confirmation of the truth of what his cousin had told him.

Anyway, I have no plans to tell our kids that Santa is real (although I too will warn them on punishment of death about bursting other kids' bubbles); I just have no desire to fib to my kids and then struggle to make them keep believing even when they start to realize that "hmm, this makes absolutely zero sense at all." And I don't want them heartbroken when they realize Santa is not real and can't understand why I insisted for years that he was.

Am I a total cold-hearted, Christmas-ruining monster? You decide.


  1. Word verification is dogicat. How funny!

    I really have mixed emotions about this.

    One year a man dressed as Santa brought my grandmother a new TV. To this day, no one will own up to buying that TV or to having Santa deliver it. I now have an idea who it might have been, but at the time it was magical - especially for my grandmother, my younger brothers and cousins.

    But then, my daughter was terrified of Santa even up into grade school.

    I also got tired of explaining why there were fake Santas everywhere.

    Santa, St. Nick, Father Christmas, (whichever name you use)was a symbol or name associated with "giving" to the poor or those who had been good during the year. Somewhere along the way this was changed to "getting".

    Truly, the important thing is that Christmas is the time to celebrate the birth of Jesus (with the spirit of giving if you wish).

    You knew all this, of course, and I'm sounding old and jaded. I'm just so sick of the commercialism especially since there was Christmas stuff out in the stores before school started this year.

    After all of that, my advise is for you and Bart to come to an agreement and then let your family members know.

    Oh, and I'm glad last semester was so enjoyable for you. May you have a very relaxing vacation.

  2. Same deal at our house. We always got presents from Santa but we all knew he didn't exist. I don't EVER remember believing in Santa. Although I was the baby so it may have just trickled down to me when the older ones found out. I'll have to ask my parents about that. I've honestly never wondered or cared.
    I'm never going to push it. I shake my head at the 10-11 year olds that are just barely finding out... I think they are too old to be living such a lie.
    I totally agree. And I just might take up your family's tradition of giving the not fun gifts from Santa.

  3. My parents liked the little charade. But I'm not sure how much we bought into it as kids. Mom and Dad even had special Santa wrapping paper that only Santa used. Hmmm. I don't know. My friend's husband was traumatized when he learned Santa wasn't real. So they don't do it. I wouldn't say I was traumatized, just grew out of it. But it was fun while we were little.

  4. I will not deliberately tell them the truth, but I also refuse to bend over backwards to keep the lie if they start to suspect. I don't put any real time and energy into it. I remember finding out and I don't remember being upset at all. I think the realization was gradual and logical enough that it didn't bug me. It was little things here and there. ("Hmmm, Santa used the same wrapping paper that Mom did last year...") Hence I don't fear my children's "discovery." I bet we'll get another year, maybe two at very most with Claire and that will be it. She's already asked a few questions and the only answer I bother with is that Santa is magical. Since we've previously explained that magic isn't real, it's only a matter of time 'til she puts 2 and 2 together. I think I believed longer because I was in Japan where there basically was no outside Christmas influence.

    As for the exciting gifts coming from Santa vs. Mom and Dad, I'm totally opposite from you. I love getting to spoil my kids at Christmas, but I like Santa getting the credit. That way when my kids want something they don't need at other times of the year, I have maintained my tightwad image and they aren't surprised when I bluntly tell them no :)

  5. I did believe in Santa when I was little, but I have no memory of "finding out the truth." I think that we might go the "don't believe in Santa" route with our kids. You are certainly not cold-hearted. More like practical and realistic. And awesome.

  6. We have been discussing this at our house, too. My dad brought up what I consider one of the best reasons to, what I feel is, lie to your kids. That is that the whole thing is a way to pretend and build imagination which, my child development classes taught, is important in children's social and cognitive development.
    My compromise is to introduce Santa just like other story and pretend characters and treat it like a game. I don't make a point of telling JJ that Mickey isn't real or that his stuffed animals really can't talk or think. In fact, I play along with his imaginations. I plan to do the same with Santa. Its a fun game but not the focus of our Christmas or any elaborate plans to convince JJ of his verity. When/if he does ask if Santa is real I will tell him the truth (and of course make sure he plays along with friends).

  7. This is the same issue that I have been struggling with. I did believe in Santa, but though I don't remember being crushed, I don't think I really cared about him much either.

    I'm glad to hear that you had a positive experience not believing in Santa, because I think that's the route we will end up going. (Especially seeing as Ella is 3 1/2 and doesn't know about him yet...)

    Thanks for your honest evaluation, I don't think you're cold-hearted at all.

  8. Oh my goodness! I was totally mocked by my fellow missionaries when I told them I would not lie to my children about Santa. I'm so glad others share my same feelings. Your parents are amazing!!

  9. My parents did a good job of letting us believe but never really feeding the lie much. We did put out the cookies and all that jazz. And my mom used to kiss us with red lipstick and we always thought it was a kiss from Santa? Weird, huh? But we totally loved it. Why Santa was wearing lipstick, I have no idea. I can't write about this on my Countdown to Christmas because I found out some of my nieces read my blog and 2 of them still believe in Santa! Anyway if we ever ever questioned my mom would just say, "What do you think?" And if we weren't ready to give it up we'd say, "I still believe." And then one year I just said, "I don't think he's real" and that was that. Not earth shattering at all. But if my parents had tried to convince me, it would have been harder.

  10. Santa got no credit for big gifts; that was all from my parents.

    That's really funny; my family does exactly the opposite. I think I support your parents' plan.

  11. Wow Janssen, I am not even sure if we can be friends anymore. You really need to watch the Polar will make you "believe" :)

    We will TOTALLY do the whole Santa thing. That's one of the best parts about Christmas. Chase is soo in to Santa right now. Its so cute. There is NO way I would have the heart to tell him (one day) that Santa isn't real. I mean its one of the biggest mysteries to kids. I remember "believing" when I was little. However, I don't remember when I found out he was made-up, so it must not have been too earth shattering. Of course we will focus on Christ during the holidays but Santa will also be a presence in our home. When our children decide to not believe anymore then we will still do "From Santa"stuff with the stockings and the whole nine yards.

    I just think that Santa is the whole magical part about the holidays. Chase already is walking around saying "Ho, Ho, Ho!" Its the cutest thing.

    Not gonna lie, I think its a little buh-humbug to kabash the whole thing, but thats the way you were raised, so I don't blame you. Its a big hassle, but A FUN hassle.

    Still love you...if we ever finish the last half of Mormon bridge that is.

    Love me, inspite of my Santa obsession :)

  12. My vote is total cold-hearted, Christmas-ruining monster. J/K But I do think it sounds a little sad not to have ever believed. I loved believing in Santa, and I wasn't at all traumatized when I found out he wasn't real. My boys still believe in Santa. Dario Jr. has asked if he is real before, and I say, "What do you think?" So far, he thinks he is. Gabby came to the realization on her own when she realized it was illogical for reindeer to fly. No biggie. She didn't even mention it until I said something about Santa one time. I love the magical feeling of Santa.

  13. You know, I have never met someone else who grew up like I did--even the whole powdered milk thing!

    We didn't have any mythical creatures or characters around the holidays--no Easter Bunny, no Santa Claus, no Great Pumpkin. We didn't even have a tooth fairy. My mom used to tell us that, "Santa is a nice fat man who lives at the mall and reminds to to be nice to people at Christmas." We were also instructed not to tell other children of the fact that he didn't exist.

    Still, I can remember wanting to believe in Santa Claus at least a little bit. It didn't ruin my Christmases by any means, but we always hoped just a bit that he was real--the idea was so magic, and so many of our friends believed in him.

    I'm not sure why my parents decided not to go with the Santa thing. I've heard other people's parents say that they wanted to make sure that, by telling their children all about Santa, and then eventually having them figure out that he wasn't real, they didn't get the same reaction to other people that they tell them about who also seem magical--like the Savior and God. They figure it's bad to start shattering faith in anything, so it's best not to create faith in something that doesn't really exists.

    My husband disagrees with my upbringing on this point. He was raised with Santa Claus, and feels like our kids would be missing out on Christmas if we didn't do it. I'm not sure what will happen yet to our kids and their Christmases. This is one of those, "Guess we'll decide what happens when it gets to be Christmas and they're old enough to know what's going on' things.

  14. My husband and I decided (before we were married) that we aren't going to teach our kids about Santa. I believe in traditions and Christmas fun and presents and all of that good stuff... but we don't want to lie (and i don't want to encourage the commercialism that comes with Santa). So we're set... but I haven't had the guts to tell my mom or sisters yet. They will freak out. Seriously. But what can you do? I told a co-worker the other day and he told me I would ruin my children for life. Oh well!

  15. Our nice stuff came from parents too. Also... I remember finding out because, honestly, I got a lump of coal for saying I didn't believe. Not a lump of coal and other stuff. Just a lump of coal from Santa. From then on even though I didn't believe, you better believe I said I did!

  16. The traditions, the decorations, the trees, the focus on Christ and the manger scene, seeing family, having time off of school (and work) - it's all "magical." I can barely remember ever truly believing in Santa (though I do clearly remember my aunt's glare at my cousin) because that wasn't the main exciting part of Christmas for me.

    I do like Lisa's point that Santa is similar to any other made-up character, such as Mickey Mouse, though I want to make sure our kids understand the difference between make-believe and reality. And then, when we watch Miracle on 34th St (the 1994 version with Mara Wilson playing one of the cuter kids in the world), our kids can wonder if we're the ones who've been fooled.

  17. I had my buble bursted at a young age when I saw my parents on the front porch eating the pie they had left out for Santa. I don't think I was too crushed though.

    A much sadder story, however, is about my brother's friend from college. He believed in Santa, the tooth fairy and the easter bunny as a child. One by one, he found out they were not real. So when he finished his catechism and went through his first communion, he expected them to tell him at the end that Jesus was not real. Now he is atheist.

  18. Hmm... I never really thought about this before. I grew up believing in Santa, and I vividly remember being crushed when my brother said something about how he was with my mom when she bought my Walkman(that I thought I had gotten from Santa). I hated that feeling. I've already decided that the kids are going to get the good presents from us and Santa will give the lame stuff. I guess just telling them the truth might be something to consider.

  19. I too don't really like the idea of lying to kids. Although I think this is a completely personal issue that each person needs to decide.

    I think I remember your Mom saying she didn't want Santa to get credit for the really great gifts!! She wanted that credit!!! Funny!

  20. My kids are totally going to belive in Santa because he is REAL, dang it!!

  21. I don't think you're cold-hearted, but I don't plan to do the same. I love Santa.

  22. Know what my plan is? I was raised just like you: my parents never really taught us about Santa or put any effort into the magic. We learned it all from TV, and since my brothers watched more TV than I did they believed for a while. I am really against lying to kids, partly because it seems perfectly logical for a kid to say, "So my parents told me Santa is real, even though I can't see him, and it turns out he isn't ... my parents also taught me that God is real, even though I can't see him ... ergo ... ?" That would be terrible! I want my kids to trust me.
    So anyway, in Hungary the big tradition is that you DO see Santa Claus. The dad dresses up and brings gifts to the kids. A very very small kid with tons of imagination will be thrilled, but in a few years, they will realize that it's actually their dad, who loves them. Little magic, no real lies. Just a good time with everybody using his or her imagination. No harm done.

  23. It is so funny that you wrote about this today because I have just been thinking about how I will handle the whole Santa thing with my kids. I was actually leaning towards not telling that he was real. I think they can still really enjoy the tradition and fun Santa things like I still do (Santa decorations, visiting him in the mall, etc.) All those things are really fun but my side of it is I just don't want them to focus on Santa when the emphasis is on Christ. I think with them knowing the truth they can still have fun but I will try to emphasize what Christmas is really all about. Plus, I'm with your parents, why should Santa get all the credit?

  24. Wow Jansen For someone who proclaims to be educated how could you have not heard about St. Nicholas?
    Is there really a fat man that drops down chimneys and leave toys?
    No, however it is what he represents.
    So because that is History you forgot to read I'll tell you about it...
    The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

    We teach our kids about our Saviors birth and how a man named st. Nicholas put it into practice and that is how we get Santa.

    I think that is pretty much it. You can believe in a great example of Christs love for others or you can be a HATER!!!

  25. Delurking to join the conversation.

    Our kids believe in Santa, but that he's OUR helper. He has a budget that we work out with him in advance (that's why some kids get more or less than others because it depends on parental budgets), and we give him input just like they do when they write to him and then he gets stuff for us to lighten the parental load, so that's one reason we love him. While our kids believe in Santa, he will bring their presents. As they stop "believing", they know that we take over getting their presents.

    My brother has 6 kids and as they turn 8, they tell them about Santa and then let them stay up on Christmas Eve to set things up for their younger siblings.

    Another friend only gives three gifts per child representing Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. The Gold is their "big" present, the Frankincense is a communal present and the Myrrh is some form of clothing...or something like that.

  26. What a great discussion. It is really tricky. I haven't pushed the Santa thing, but kids pick up on stuff around and for the past couple of years my oldest has thought and talked a lot about Santa. I must admit that I like the surprise-ness of it. And I like being sneaky. We do the Tooth Fairy, but we don't do Easter bunny (the holiday is too sacred for such silliness, I think).

    When I stopped believing, I found out in a really rude way from an obnoxious girl. I remember where I was and where we were going when she told me. I confided later to my dad, very upset. Then my dad gave me the most wonderful bit of parenting I ever got. He talked about the spirit of Santa at Christmas time and why it was so wonderful to have a symbol of the season be a person whose whole job is to just give. He related this to the Savior. He basically said that you don't have to believe in the person of Santa to believe in the idea of Santa.

    To this day I still "believe."

    As far as teaching your kids a "lie," well, I'm not sure that trying to keep some of the magic and imagination in childhood (which has become far too jaded and mature too quickly) is the equivalence of a "lie."

    My seven year old has been into Santa for a couple of years, but I don't think it will last another. We've talked about magic not being "real," because of watching Harry Potter, and because we have a very scientific turn of mind around here. He is also extremely inquisitive and Santa loses a LOT in the details. Even last year he said to me one day after watching "Polar Express," "I'm not sure I believe in Santa, but I sure believe in presents."

    I am not sure that any parent gets this exactly right. Even your parents' approach, which you obviously admire, would never work with my kids. They can't keep secrets for four minutes, from anyone. They'd have every kid at school told within a week that there is no Santa. It is fine if I don't want the tradition, but I can't really wreck it for others either.

    Good luck with this one. . .

  27. i am kind of sad about that! i think that some people can take the santa thing to far, but i think that santa is part of the spirit of christmas. steve wanted to tell our kids years ago, but i refused! i think that santa brings joy!!

    but everyone is entitled to their own opinion! i still like you :)

  28. sorry...its me again! i just read miss l's comment...i too, like her have let my children know that we give money to santa to help build/buy their toys. they know that santa is not an endless supply of toys and games. when my kids ask for things that are to crazy or expensive, i still feel like i can tell them that we/santa can't afford it!

  29. I can't remember every believing in Santa, either. I was just too cynical, even as a kid. I think I was all "but HOW can ONE guy get to EVERY house in the world in just one night! It's not possible!" for long enough that my mom admitted it wasn't true. She never liked the idea of letting santa take all the credit for her gifts, anyway. I don't think I'm going to tell my kids Santa is real, either.

  30. Awwwwwwwm!!! Janseen is on the Naughty List!!! I CANNOT believe that you posted this when Santa is TOTALLY making his list and checking it TWICE right now!!!!


  31. Lots of response on this one!

    I don't want to deliberately tell my kids that there is no Santa, I'd just rather focus on other things. I like the idea of telling my kids that they'll get three gifts for Christmas, just as the three wise men each brought a gift for the baby Jesus. I'd rather focus on Santa as the spirit of Christmas, or a type of Christ. If Santa does bring any gifts, it will be small things in the stockings.

  32. Wow, anonymous hater comment posters are snarky. Even though he is a derivation of a historical figure, the Santa that consumer culture worships has little or nothing to do with the historical Nicholas.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with not teaching Santa to your kids. We don't say much about it to our three-year-old, but she absorbs it from the extended family...and that's okay too. We'll see how it all plays out.

  33. I guess like many others, we'll treat it like Barney or any other characater; we won't encourage dillusion, but at the same time, we'll let their imagination run unfettered. Good for kids to have a few fantasies; it's when adults press those into long-term beliefs and credos that the problems start.

  34. cold-hearted, Christmas-ruining monster? absolutely NOT.

    in fact, you're my hero, and i'm posting about this tomorrow.

    p.s. please explain the powdered milk.

  35. Um, Santa is a big fat no for me. The thought of a strange man watching me throughout the year and then breaking and entering (regardless of good will) freaked me out as a child.

  36. We decided to go without Santa at our house. When I grew up, my parents went way too far about Santa. I stopped believing in Santa on my own but didn't tell my brothers. My parents wanted to make me believe (it was my 12th birthday, btw), so they set up this elaborate scheme where both my parents were in the house, and there was someone on the roof with bells and saying 'ho, ho, ho' that my parents 'couldn't hear.' I freaked out because I knew Santa wasn't real, but my parents insisted for over an hour that they weren't the ones doing it, and I made them PROMISE. When I told one of my school friends the next day and they finally admitted it WAS them, not only was I humiliated, I was furious. Now, of course, when they tell the story, they laugh that "Lizzy believed in Santa until she was TWELVE! Can you believe that?"

    Then, a few years ago, I heard my 8 year old brother asking how Santa could be real, and my mom said it was LIKE GOD. You couldn't see him, but sometimes you just had to believe.

    Santa is out at our house.

  37. Several things for me. I'm glad I believed in Santa as a kid and I think there is a certain magic there that is wonderful and important. After all, Santa does exist, it's just that's it's really your parents or someone else. As a parent, for me, one of the amazing things was seeing the kids so excited and going a little crazy back when they were true believers. And, I really loved being Santa back then and to some extent to Rick and Mary when they were young and mom didn't have much money. When you realize that it's really your parents, it isn't as if it's a huge letdown. It just makes you love your parents.

    The thing I don't like to think about is when there are kids with no Santa in their life. Now that's where the Santa myth goes south.

    I also believe there is a parallel with religious beliefs and find it interesting how many people are absolutely certain there is a kind and loving God looking over us. I certainly hope that that's the case and sometimes I feel like it's the case, but I can't say that it's a fact and I certainly see cases where there seems to be no Santa.

    Fun post.

  38. Love love love this post (and your blog in general) and I'm so glad you posted on what is obviously a little bit of a controversial subject. I followed you over from Amber's blog!

  39. I want to do Santa with our kids someday, but 1-I was never traumatized at losing belief in Santa, and 2-I consider lying/trickery a fun family tradition. : )

    I'm curious--why did your family have only powdered milk?


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