This was a big holiday season for our family. Not due to the stress of buying a plethora of presents for everyone, but because we made the decision to teach our son that Santa is an imaginary character from the start. I don’t want to come across as condescending, because I know that every family is different! I’m just looking to share our idea behind our decision. There are two very important reasons why:
1. We want to teach him that the money Mom and Dad spend is hard-earned and should be spent wisely. We hope that in doing so, he will be grateful for the presents he receives from us.
2. We want to teach him that trust is mutual and he can trust us to tell him the truth.
Our son is almost two years old. He doesn’t understand that a man in a red suit travels the world one night a year delivering presents to all the good little boys and girls. Our son just wakes up Christmas day, like every other day, with one difference. He sees wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree and he begins to tear them open. He doesn’t know whether the tag says ‘From: Santa’ or ‘From: Mom and Dad’. He doesn’t know that the cookies left out the night before were for that big man coming down the chimney. He hasn’t learned about “the list” or the North Pole or the child who doesn’t have a gift under the tree, but he will. Us parents teach our kids to believe in Santa. Whether it’s for the wonder we’d like to see in our kids or the wonder we feel we missed out on, it is a learned tactic that has spiraled out of control.
We have witnessed too many children tearing open their presents only to be disappointed that they didn’t get what they wanted or they didn’t get the newest version of the latest cell phone or they didn’t get the newest fad that their friend Timmy got. We all know, as parents, this isn’t the true meaning of Christmas, we’ve heard it time and time again. I have witnessed parents going out Thanksgiving night to line up for that doll, xbox, furry talking animal that the store only has an allotted amount of. What are we doing? What are we teaching our children? Where does it stop? Without even knowing, consumerism is taking over our lives and now, our children’s lives.
The stores make it so magical. The cute little girl sitting on Santa’s lap in the commercial. All she wants is a doll house with every single accessory including the family minivan and six puppies. By the time you leave the store, you’ve got a credit card bill for $300 and that’s just for ONE kid. I don’t think there is anything wrong with buying your child a toy, even one they specifically ask for for Christmas, but who says it has to come from Santa?
This year, our son woke up and had one present under the Christmas tree. It was a glow-in-the dark racetrack with two battery-operated cars. The cost: $40. He played with it for about 40 minutes after we opened it. That’s actually a long time for his age and his attention span. Let me remind you, he is almost two years old. I realize as time goes on, as he gets older and he sees what Christmas looks like for other children in our same socioeconomic class, he will start to question and wonder. That is when we will explain (and continue to explain because children have inquiring minds) that Mom and Dad saved up our money to buy you this one gift for Christmas. We will gently remind him of all the things we get him throughout the year. That bike and helmet he received this past summer, the new shoes he picked out for the start of school, the train set for his birthday, the sand toys for our beach day, the cotton candy at the carnival and so on.
Do we love our son any less than someone else? No. We just want what is best for him and our family, the same as any other parents. We want him to know that we always told him the truth when it came to Santa Clause. Most kids have that ‘ah-ha’ moment, where they realize good ol’ St. Nick is actually mom and dad. Maybe they start to question what else mom and dad fibbed about. Maybe they start to question what other adults told them. Maybe they think, ‘If Santa isn’t real, maybe God isn’t either.’ This is why we’d like to instill this trust with each other from the very beginning. So that when we have these hard to understand conversations, he’ll know we are speaking His truth.
Of course we still want the Christmas season to be magical, I mean it is the birth of Jesus! But there are other ways to create that magic without Santa. We will continue our annual cookie decorating day with as much sugar and sprinkles and frosting as you can imagine. We will still have a beautiful Christmas tree topped with the most precious angel. We will still sing Heavenly Christmas carols and enjoy the presence of family and friends. We will visit nativity scenes and stare in awe at the lights that line the streets. We will build snowmans and snow forts and go sledding and drink hot chocolate. All of this we can do without Santa.
You’re right, there will be no picture of my son with Santa at the mall, but that is something I am willing to give up in order to build my son’s faith in Christ. It may be difficult during those elementary school years, when so many children believe in Santa. We will explain to him that some parents teach their kids that Santa delivers those presents under the tree and that it’s not up to him to tell them otherwise. That in their own time, they will come to know that the presents are actually from their parents. There may be an instance where he tells someone else that there is no Santa. I’m okay with receiving an uncomfortable phone call, but I will hope that when he tells them, he also tells them that our Savior was born on Christmas day and this is the reason we celebrate.