To Be, or Not To Be Santa?

It was the perfect present.

First of all, it was big. Say what you want about size not mattering, but when you're 2 and it's a present under the Christmas tree, the bigger the better.

Second, it was a push-toy with a grocery basket. Perfect for JJ who is convinced that he is 40 years old and perfectly capable of doing his own grocery shopping — not to mention dressing and feeding and bathing — thankyouverymuch.

(And maybe — just maybe? — Malachi will learn to stand or push on it? — no, banish the thought.)

Third, it was collapsable so it can lay on the floor with Malachi AND it has three large easy-to-push buttons that play music, including his favorite — the alphabet song.

But finally, and most importantly, it was $4.99 at Value Village.

Like I said. The perfect present.

So I covered it in striped red wrapping paper and fussed with the bow. In a flourish, I added the tag and wrote:

To Malachi and JJ

and then paused.

What to write in the from?

I am a huge fan of the truth and, conversely, am not a big fan of lying. Especially to children. And especially to my own children. I believe that there is a way to explain just about anything to just about anyone.

So I always assumed that I would not perpetuate the myth of Santa. It's silly and manipulative. I can certainly understand that it would be useful to have a way of encouraging children to be good during the stressful holiday season. I also think it would be a really great way to skip tantrums in the store by rerouting them into having to petition some far-away, unknown man — who is totally and completely not me, so don't even try — if they really want something. And who doesn't like munching down on all the best Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve?

But much like a lot of things that would make my life easier right now — television, junk food, credit card debt — I feel like I will pay a much bigger cost in the end.

So, both my husband and I agreed that we would just not tell them about Santa and, simple at that, it wouldn't be a thing.

Well, now — in the third Christmas since their birth — my kids are old enough to at least loosely understand concepts like Santa and I've found that it is very much not as simple as that. Books, movies, toys, songs, games, malls, Santa is EVERYWHERE.

When it becomes an active discouragement rather than a passive ignorance, it feels a lot different. What am I supposed to do? Watch a movie together about how painful it is for Santa when we don't believe in him ...  and then turn to them and say: "That was a fun movie, huh? But you know, Santa really isn't real, so even though the movie says Santa will suffer if you don't believe, you really shouldn't believe."

And what do I tell well-meaning adults, including family members, who ask them about Santa?

"Bah humbug! How dare you lie to my kids! Grinchy-grinch. Grinch-grinch-grinch."

I thought of all these things as I sat and looked at my perfect present. But then I thought about how many times — from nutrition to cerebral palsy treatments, to starting a business — I go against the grain, try so freaking hard to do the right thing in spite of what everybody else is doing.

And I thought of the ecstasy of seeing those mounds of presents magically appear Christmas morning. And I thought of the exciting stories my dad would tell of hearing jingle bells on Christmas Eve.

And I thought: This is not a fight worth having. Put down your sword, Shasta. Put down your sword and pick up a Christmas cookie. It's time to relax.

What about you? Does your family do the Santa Claus thing? Why or why not? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!


  1. Anonymous12:44 AM

    You've probably figured out from my FB statuses that the girls (Gabrielle especially) are petrified of Santa. I really have no idea why - they had two encounters with him the Christmas before they turned two. They watched other kids sit on his lap at a toy store, and I didn't try to force them to do it. Then we took pictures with him, where hubby and I were there, holding them, never intending for them to sit on his lap. And they freaked, and that's been it.

    We even tried negotiating last year. Could Santa come to the house? No, he wasn't allowed in. Could he drop the presents on the porch? No, too close. How about if he mailed them to us? No. Could he mail them to grandma, who would then mail them to us? Not a chance. So there were no presents last year. They are still adamant that he may not come to the house. They do not want presents from him. One day Gabrielle was freaking out and hubby told her not to worry, we are Jewish (they are half), and Santa didn't visit Jewish kids. Gabrielle has clung to that.

    So they know he exists, they know what he does and that other kids love him. But we don't partake of him. Which really saves us, because they get so many effing gifts from their 4 sets of grandparents and two aunts and other relatives that we bought them only 3 things for the two of them, so I'm not sure what we'd do otherwise!

  2. Great post, Shasta. It's funny reading your thoughts on why parents would push the idea of Santa - none of those reasons occurred to me! Maybe I just haven't had time to use Santa as bribery yet. And even the few times the words "Santa brings gifts to GOOD girls and boys" came out of my mouth, it felt wrong. I thought about my little guys processing that word GOOD in their heads and it felt mean or threatening...I just didn't like the message, so I stopped saying it. Instead, I feel Santa embodies the spirit of giving for children - a stranger giving gifts to others. And maybe as they get older, I'll have them "play Santa" as we give to others...which might bridge that gap between "believing" and "not believing" as they get older. But ultimately, I hope they never stop believing in the SPIRIT of Santa. I wish everyone believed in that more these days. Merry Christmas to you and your beautiful family!

  3. I can't remember when I stopped believing in Santa, and I can't recall being bitter toward my parents about "perpetuating the myth," so to speak. And neither was my sister - she and her one friend stopped believing when they both compared the handwriting on their notes from "Santa" one year - and from what I can remember, we all had a chuckle over it. :)

  4. I love that you put down your sword!! I agree with Jill, I haven't used Santa as a manipulative tool. Well...ok, on Christmas eve when we were in church and there was about to be a melt down, I might have mentioned that Santa still hasn't been to our house. oops. :) But other than that, I just love the spirit of Santa and Christmas. I also don't remember being angry at my parents for lying about Santa nor do I remember when I found out he wasn't real. I bet your boys loved their Christmas and thanks for the great post! Merry Christmas!

  5. We are one of the few families I know of who don't do Santa. Christmas for us is about Christ. And of course we do presents. They just come from us, the parents. There are plenty of ways to make Christmas "magical" without Santa. But I do get some curious looks when grown-ups ask my children if Santa is coming soon, or whatever, and our reply is "Santa doesn't come to our house." My kids know that Santa was once a real person who loved to make children happy, and now people like to pretend to be like him, and that's OK. And they also know that its a secret that Santa isn't real and they are not to talk about it with their friends.

  6. We did Santa going up and it made the holidays magical
    if i have kids i am going to do the santa thing its priceless

  7. We have done Santa with both of ours but we didn't drag it out. When the older one started to express doubt at the age of 6, we told him the truth. Now the younger one is six and she still believes quite strongly but when she asks, we'll tell her.

    I have an old blog post about this-- 12/10/07.

  8. Ha! This is so funny - we've gone round and round about Santa here. I have one post about it here:, and then another one two years later about it from my now-defunct blog. But basically both echo this same journey from repulsion to acceptance...

    Sorry, tried to link with fancy html, but did not work you will just have to cut and paste, I guess...


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