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Parents, Families and Child Care

What Do You Do About Santa Claus?


The holiday season is a time for memories and memory-making.  As parents we have the opportunity to  create traditions and build values for our children. Sometimes we bring forth the traditions and values taught to us as children, other times we may decide not to based on our personal values and beliefs. So what do we do about Santa Claus? 4C’s Angie Good and Christine Fields, parents and professionals in the field of early care and education, know that the decision to tell your children about Santa Claus can be a tough one, and that it’s different for every parent, every family and every child.

Angie: As a little girl, Christmas time was always one of my favorite times of the year. I have vivid memories of spending Christmas Eve with my family and tracking Rudolph as we drove home in the late hours of the night. I always seemed to find his red glowing nose gracefully flying through the sky. Once I found him, I urged my parents to drive faster so that I could hurry and get home to bed. Because, as we all know, Santa never comes if you’re awake.

Santa is magical and all the events leading up to that night felt (and still do feel) magical, everything from baking Christmas cookies, seeing the Nutcracker Ballet with my Grandma and all of the things that happened in between. I don’t remember a time not believing in Santa and to this day, I can’t recall how I found out that Mom played that role. What I do remember , and the thing that sticks with me when people ask me if I believe in Santa, is the sheer sense of joy, happiness and magic associated with that jolly old elf.

Christine: We do not do Santa Claus at our house. My husband Jim and I made the decision not to do fictional characters such as Santa Claus, the Tooth-Fairy or the Easter Bunny before our daughter Maggie was born. We jokingly said we were going to have to lie to our daughter enough as she was growing up, we didn’t need to add to it by saying the Tooth-Fairy was going to put something under her pillow.

Although we were joking, ideas like these did influence our decision. I didn’t want to put something fictional such as a big man coming into our house at night time into my child’s head. I think it’s a little creepy that there is a common belief in America that some big man dressed in a red suit breaks into everyone’s house and places presents under a tree. Don’t we set alarms to keep this sort of thing from happening?

Angie: As I began to have children of my own, there was never a doubt that Santa would be welcomed into our house each and every holiday season. As a matter of fact, I can honestly say that I would have three very disappointed little people if he missed our stop. My hope is that the traditions that my family and I have shared with Santa Claus create that sense of magic not only for our family, but other families that we encounter. And although my kids certainly get excited to see that one present that Santa will bring that they haven’t even mentioned to me yet, we also talk about the ways in which we can share that magic with others.

My 13-year-old is aware that I play the role of Santa in our house, but I can see the sheer joy he feels when he talks to his younger sisters about that magical night. In my head, I know that Santa isn’t a real human being.  In my heart, when asked by anyone, I do believe in Santa. And as my children grow, I hope that I have provided them with the hope and magic of Santa long after they know the truth.

Christine: Santa, in my opinion, was created to showcase the love and care that goes on throughout the year: he wasn’t created so children could express their wants. “Getting” is hugely emphasized in the media, and sitting on Santa’s lap and telling him what you want for Christmas is a family tradition in many families.

In my family, we emphasize what WE can DO for OTHERS. Yes, we celebrate Christmas in December. We celebrate Jesus’ birth. We put up a Christmas tree. We hang up stockings. We put our shoes out for Nikolaus to fill with goodies not because our daughter believes that St. Nick is really responsible for the nail polish in her sneakers, but because it’s part of our heritage, our German family tradition.

But these rituals are about something more than gift-getting. Our daughter Maggie makes presents for family members, and she helps us pick out gifts for friends and family. We talk about what each person likes and dislikes so the gifts are meaningful, and reinforce the connections we feel with family and friends. We make the holiday about family, friends and giving, and we can do that without some man in a red suit breaking into our house.

Angie & Christine: Our families are not so very different. The reasons why we choose whether or not to foster a belief in Santa  in our children reflect many of the same values. We both want the holidays to be a celebration of family and good will and we want to teach our children to be charitable and kind. In the end, what every parent chooses to do should reflect the values and traditions of their family: there’s no right or wrong when it comes to Santa Claus!

2 thoughts on “What Do You Do About Santa Claus?

  1. Great Blog! It’s funny because before I had my daughter I agreed with Christine. Now, I can’t bear not to let her indulge in the ‘Magic’ of Christmas. So, here’s my thoughts….because I don’t want to lie to her or let her think that it’s okay for a man in a red suit to break into my house, I’m going to be honest. I’m only going to answer the questions she asks me, maybe with a question itself – she’ll say, “mommy is santa real” and I’ll say, “what do you think?” All in all, I think that I may tell her that Santa himself is not a real person that can do all of those wonderful things, however, it is so fun to pretend and believe that he is. And even though we know the truth, we will still look for rudolph, listen for sleigh bells, hang our stockings, set out cookies and wake up to the many presents that ‘Santa’ had left behind!

  2. As I was reading through the blog again, I noticed it may seem I have contradicted myself. Just for clarification, we do not tell Maggie that Nikolaus comes into our house and deposits goodies in her shoes. Maggie knows that Jim and I are the ones who put the goodies there. We do this tradition because it is a way to celebrate our German heritage; even Protestants in Germany celebrate St. Nikolaus Day. Anyone who does research on Nikolaus will find that he portrayed the kind of caring and thoughtfulness the season should exhibit.

    I had an interesting experience today that actually happens often during this time of year. As I was working the Holiday House at Maggie’s school, I talked to some other parents regarding the Santa Claus issue. I told the parents that we do not do Santa Claus at our house. The discussion stopped when children came in to the room to shop. Later in the afternoon, one parent said to me, “So, you don’t celebrate Christmas?” I kindly explained that we do celebrate Christmas, we just don’t include Santa Claus in that celebration. Unfortunately, this is a judgment that is placed on our family every year. Family members ask Maggie if she’s “been good”. Strangers will come up to Maggie in department stores and ask what Santa is bringing her. When I tell people Santa does not bring the presents, a look of shock, horror, and distaste is shot my way.

    To quote Jim Belushi, “Holding different beliefs is celebrated it’s not illegal.”