I really thought I had written a blog post about why our family doesn’t do Santa. But apparently, I didn’t. So here’s the post I thought I wrote last year.
When I found out that Santa Claus wasn’t real, I felt betrayed. My parents had lied to me. They had deliberately deceived me. I was angry with them, and I vowed that I would never do the same thing to my kids. It turns out, Max also felt lied to when he found out Santa wasn’t real. We both agreed: Our child would know that Santa Claus was a character, like the Disney princesses or Thomas the Tank Engine.
Jackson knows that Santa is based on a real person. He knows that person gave presents to children, and that some people make believe he is real to spread the spirit of giving. Santa is a game that some adults like to play with their kids, and we’re not going to spoil it for them. As far as I know, he’s never told anyone that Santa isn’t real. Well, he’s never told any kids. A couple of times, adults have asked him what Santa will bring him for Christmas, and he has just looked at them and said, “Santa Claus isn’t real, you know.”
When Jackson was 2, we went to the Brentwood tree lighting. “Santa and Mrs. Claus” were there. Jackson wanted to have his picture taken with them. I made sure he knew they were just people playing a part, and he said he did, but he still wanted to see them. So, we did.
I think it’s very possible to have the magic of Christmas and spirit of giving without Santa Claus. Christmas specials are awesome! The Nativity story, even if it never really happened, is moving. You can instill a spirit of giving in a child without perpetuating the myth of a fat man who flies around the world in a sleigh pulled by reindeer.
Last year, some of my friends’ kids were beginning to doubt, and they were so stressed at the thought of telling their kids that Santa isn’t real. That’s a stress we’ll never have.
This year, some of the same kids and some new ones are having their doubts. In two separate Facebook conversations, two friends – who aren’t friends with each other – used the phrase, “Those who don’t believe, don’t receive.” And that just upset me. Essentially, these people are threatening their children to keep them believing in Santa Claus. They’re saying, “If you don’t believe in Santa Claus, then you won’t get any presents.”
This is wrong for so many reasons – Santa isn’t real, after all. Threatening a child this way doesn’t reinforce any magic, and it certainly doesn’t evoke the spirit of giving, only the spirit of greed. It reinforces the idea that Christmas is for getting presents, instead of for sharing them.
On the adoption.com forums, there’s a topic titled, “The Santa Claus debate.” I was so happy to see that many parents have stopped telling their children that Santa is real. Personally, I only know two other families that don’t do Santa. Even one of my good Jewish friends does Santa, which really confuses me. (While her husband has always been Jewish, she converted, so her relatives are mostly Christian; thus, they do Christmas and Hanukah.)
Back to the point, so many people on that topic noted the same things I have – not wanting to lie to their children, celebrating the magic of the season in other ways, not using Santa Claus or a fake elf to force their children to behave (although I did find it really funny when Felicity Huffman’s character on Desperate Housewives pulled “Santa’s cell phone number” out of her cleavage). Others made points I hadn’t even considered, such as having to explain why “good” children didn’t get as much from Santa as “bad” children did, or having foster kids who wanted to know why Santa had forgotten them at their Mom’s house. (Although apparently, you’re not allowed to tell your foster kids that Santa isn’t real.)
Speaking of the elf, I’ve actually had the “Elf on a Shelf” for many years, but to me, he’s an ornament that my original maternal grandmother passed down. I never knew he had some deep, dark purpose. Maybe that’s why Max and Jackson find him disturbing. I think he’s cute.
So, no, we don’t do Santa. We also don’t do the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy (though we do put money under Jackson’s pillow). It hasn’t seemed to scar Jackson for life, so we assume it won’t scar Cassie either. Honestly, I do feel that my parents’ deception about Santa scarred me. I really do. That’s why we don’t do Santa.