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!