When I was a child, I believed in Santa Claus. I don’t think my belief was long-lived, but I did believe in him until I was about 6 or 7. I never thought he brought all the gifts, but whenever I would get a “big” gift, I thought it was from him. I’m not quite sure if my mom or dad told me that, or if it’s just what I chose to believe. We lived in an apartment building on the 3rd floor, so I was certain that Santa just climbed down the fire escape while the reindeer waited on the roof. It made sense to me.
A few years back, before I had children, I was driving home from work and listening to the radio. They were talking about what families choose to tell their children about Santa Claus and why. A listener called in to share his thoughts. He said “ I’m a single dad and I bust my butt all year to provide for my kids. Why the hell should I let some fat white man take all the credit?” Although I was always cool with the idea of Santa, I had to admit that this man had a point.
After listening to that, I always wondered what I would tell my children about Santa. I didn’t think believing in Santa took away from the true meaning of Christmas, but I knew some people who felt this way. I even have family members who have never encouraged their children to believe in Santa. At a very young age, their kids knew the truth. Frankly, I understand and respect their position on the issue, but I’ve never felt like I would do the same. Yet, I remained unsure for a while, wondering what would my husband and I tell our little ones? Would we have them believe that this bearded man did it all? Would we tell them the truth and potentially let them ruin the magic of it all for their friends?
I was conflicted, especially since we are Christian, and what is most important to us is raising children who truly understand what Christmas is and why we celebrate it. It’s been commercialized so much, we were determined to raise children who weren’t caught up in the imagery, but rather in the true meaning of the holiday. They needed to understand why the birth of Christ is so important.
We now have two kids. My son is almost 5 years old and my daughter is 2. As far as they are concerned, Santa Claus does exist but he is a deliveryman. We teach them that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ. If you ask my son to explain things about Santa to you he will say, “All of my gifts are from God. Mommy and Daddy bring some of them, but Santa Claus delivers the rest of them to my house.” This was our way of teaching them that everything they receive–from their bed to their food to their toys– are gifts from God, but that the jolly, bearded man is purely a delivery guy who follows God’s instructions. And they also know that only some of the gifts are delivered by Santa. This works for our family.
I think there is pressure to have children believe in certain things, but as parents we have to determine what is best for our children and our families. What works for my family may not work for yours, and that is okay. There is no reason for all of us to teach our kids the exact same thing. I do think that if your family is Christian, children should understand why we celebrate Christmas. Now, what you choose to tell them about the bearded man… well that depends on what you want them to believe. Whatever you decide is what’s right for your family.
Christmas is a very meaningful holiday in our home, mainly for religious reasons. Admittedly, however, I do love the magical quality of this time of year. The look on a child’s face when they see a large Christmas tree, a Christmas show, or freshly fallen snow is a truly a wondrous moment for them– and for me. I enjoy it so much. One day, our kids will know that mommy and daddy deliver all the gifts from God, not Santa. However, we don’t feel like that day needs to be today.