We don’t do Santa. It was a very deliberate choice. In fact, it was a choice David and I made before we ever had a child. For us, it came down to the exact same reason my parents did not do Santa with my brother and me when I was a little girl.
It is lying. And we don’t lie in our home. Period.
Here is why I think doing Santa has the potential to cause significant problems.
Anger and Betrayal Over Lying About Santa
First, you don’t truly know what kind of child you have until you are many years into the Santa scenario. I am SO THANKFUL we decided not to do Santa. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Caroline would have been devastated if we had gone to great lengths to make Santa real and then told her it was all a lie.
I am not exaggerating when I say she would have felt angry, crushed, betrayed, embarrassed… I can’t even imagine. She feels deeply and she feels betrayal deeply. I do not ever want her to associate those feelings with us as her parents.
There might be some kids who can be lied to about Santa and brush it off. But many of them won’t be able to do so. I’ve read so many stories online when adults – ADULTS! – confess that to this day they can feel the sting they felt when they discovered Santa wasn’t real. The hurt and betrayal they felt when they found out their parents had been lying to them. The anger. It’s real. Parenting presents us with enough challenges as it is. Why do I want to add another challenge for a few fleeting weeks of fun and make believe that could undermine my parenting for years to come? It’s not worth it.
I know some parents see it as a magical, make believe experience they want their child to have. I totally get it. Caroline would have LOVED the whole Santa thing. This is the girl who loves Littlest Pet Shop and Pooh and stuffed animals and all things make believe. She would have positively reveled in it.
But at what cost?
Would the magic and joy be worth the crushing realization her parents lied to her and led her along? I don’t think so.
Lying About Santa and Lying About Our Faith
The other big factor related to lying is we don’t want Caroline to wonder what else we lied to her about. If she knows we lied about Santa, what else are we deceiving her with? This is especially important as it relates to matters of faith.
If we lied about Santa, then what about Jesus? What about God? What about the Bible? Again, questions of faith are challenging enough. Why add any thought that perhaps we’re not being truthful about these issues?
Lying Violates Our Core Family Beliefs
We have a few policies in our home that are foundational to our relationships.
- Stop means stop. No means no. If someone says, “No” or “Stop” we must immediately respect that.
- Caroline can ask us about anything at any time and we will give her the best answer we can. We never ever belittle her questions, laugh at them, or act embarrassed about something she asks us. We give her thoughtful, straight-forward answers that respect her intellect and personhood.
- Always tell the truth. Always. Don’t lie. Don’t try to hide things. Don’t try to sneak. It will always be worse in the end if you lie. Always build trust.
I could not have spent the past five or six years emphasizing these family policies over and over again with my daughter and then turned around and lied to her about Santa. I would have felt like a total hypocrite. Just as I said in my spanking post that Caroline never hit us until we spanked her, I would not want her to view our lying to her about Santa as somehow justifying that sometimes it is okay to lie.
If I want my daughter to be truthful and willing to confide in me when she’s a teenager or a tween or a child, then I need to prove myself trustworthy in every way possible. I don’t want to ever give her reason to doubt my sincerity. I don’t want to give the Enemy a foothold in our relationship.
I’m very thankful we made the choice we did. And I’d make the same choice again every time.
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I made that same decision and then buckled a bit. Ugh. And now I regret it. My kids know that there was a Saint Nicholas a long time ago and that now there are many people who play Santa and that they (the kdis) play Santa too. The biggest influence came from pre-school who had Santa come and visit. Blech… hey kids… sit on a stranger’s lap! Not just ANY stranger… a stranger with candy!!!! So horrible.
We don’t have any big santa stuff in the house at Christmas. We don’t push it. I rarely bring it up, but I do answer their questions if they ask. And when they ask I say the same as above. There was St. Nicholas who was very generous a long, long time ago. There are many people who now play Santa. And I emphasize the origins of the holiday season going all the way back to pagan practices.
Do you have any advice for those of us who would like to make Santa disappear?
Thank you for your good comment.
I’ve never tried to make Santa disappear or deny the part that the Santa myth/story has in the way many people celebrate Christmas. In fact, we have some ornaments on our tree that depict Santa.
What we were opposed to was lying to our daughter and presenting Santa as a real being who lives at the North Pole and brings the gifts that show up under the tree. Our daughter always knew the story of Santa. She saw Santa at the mall and I think talked to him once or twice, fully knowing it was someone dressed up and playing a part. But what was important to us is she knew it was a story and that it had nothing to do with the gifts that she received at Christmas.
David and I could have done a great job of making her believe in Santa. She would have absolutely loved it and totally bought into it when she was little because she was so imaginative in that way. But I can also picture the look that would have been on her face when we finally told her it wasn’t true. It gives me a pit in my stomach just writing that as a hypothetical.
It’s a decision every parent has to make for themselves. But I am very happy with the choice we made and would do the same thing again with zero hesitation. This is one decision I’ve never had to rehash or second guess myself over. Ever.
Hi Sallie, I am also that mum who doesn’t do the whole Santa thing. Actually, even more so, my husband is the dad who doesn’t. He didn’t grow up with the idea of or belief in Santa and so it was just very definite for him for all the reasons you mentioned. On the other hand, I grew up with fond memories of the idea of Santa, complete with leaving snacks out for reindeer and waiting up to see if I could catch sight of him. My father actually was really creative and fun with it and he would write a poem of rhyming couplets each year “from Santa,” thanking us for the snacks and giving some details about how the journey in the sleigh was going. He carried this in for fun years after my sister and I believed. So my memories were very positive and just fun. However, I could certainly see my husband’s point and it was more important to him so we decided to be honest and not to feed into it at all. I became glad of the decision we made once I began to see the type of personality our oldest son had. Your points about that absolutely resonate with me.
We never shunned the idea of the Santa character (went to the parade of lights, watch Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer movie, etc, but at no time suggested he was real. We do stockings but were always clear that the stockings were just full of fun things from us. I had an acquaintance who was really upset that our kids were missing out, but we enjoy both the Christ-centred and festive fun of the season … the kids have always thoroughly enjoyed Christmas. I don’t regret our way of doing things at all.
When my oldest boy was 4, he asked if Santa Claus was real like Jesus.
What a clarifying moment for my husband and myself. I remember it distinctly.
We said No More to this “tradition” that we both knew and enjoyed as children and haven’t looked back.
The Lord uses many ways to refine us. 🙂
Moments like that provide a lot of clarity, don’t they? That’s a blessing the Lord made it so clear to both of you.
We always told our kids that it was fun to pretend but that Santa, elves and flying reindeer were not real. We did explain that some kids believed Santa was real but it was up to their parents to tell them otherwise. We had fun at Christmas with the tree, lights, gifts, etc but Jesus was the center of it all. Thanks for your writing. You blog is a blessing.