What do you tell your kids about Santa?

The night before Christmas, my sister and I would do our annual ritual. Decorate cookies with frosting and sprinkles. Place them on a special plate, and leave it out with a glass of milk for Santa.

I was also sure to grab the bag of carrots for his reindeer. We didn’t want to forget about Rudolph did we?

We’d watch the weatherman on our local station track Santa and run to bed when he showed him flying over our area, and try to get fast to sleep as quickly as possible.

One night I was sure I heard him and his reindeer land on the roof. I peered across the bed to my sister who looked as wide-eyed as I when we heard his jingle bells and a “HO HO HO” from the living room.

Maybe I dreamt it all, maybe we had some good actors in our family. Or maybe it was Santa.

We’d wake up in the middle of the night and peek into the living room to see what he left behind. Under the twinkle of the tree lights there was a huge pile of gifts. We’d whisper and tiptoe around peeking at the boxes–Careful not to touch them, we knew that would ensue a butt whipping.–But we’d read the names on the gifts and see who’s was who’s. The big one behind the tree was my sisters, the strange-shaped packaged one with a giant bow was mine.

It was such a joy to do this year after year.

I’m not quite sure when it dawned on me that Santa wasn’t who I thought he was. Maybe it was finding random presents around the house before Christmas. Or noticing that my mom and Santa had the exact same handwriting. Maybe it was some jerk kid at school who ruined it, I can’t remember. But I never told my siblings anything otherwise.

My parents never did either. When I’d bring my detective work to their attention they’d find a way to twist the tale so that I still believed. And for a while it worked. I’m cool with that.

Photo by Jackie Willome Photography (more coming soon!)

These memories, and a post on my friend’s blog got me thinking about this tradition. There’s no question about it, Santa is coming to our house. In fact, Lil’ J has already met him. Twice. The magic will live on in my home until my kiddos are old enough to do their own detective work. I hope that’s not until they’re at least seven or eight. Christmas never seemed quite as fun and magical after I knew my parents were behind Santa.

Last night we put up our tree together. Like last year she laughed when I shook the decorations. I think next year she’ll be able to help me hang more of the decorations, and soon enough, she and her siblings can be in charge of it all, and they can discuss their own Santa stories and theories.

I didn’t see my parents as having lied to me, or distrust them after that. Looking back, I admire and thank them for letting me have that childhood experience.

Sure, sometimes I wonder if it’s right that an old white man steal my thunder and take credit for my hard earned money and gifts, but you know what? I have no problem with that. Someday, when they’re older, they’ll understand the sacrifices I’ve made for them. She’ll have plenty of time to thank me later.

Now I just have to hopeΒ all of the families with different views about Santa stories don’t ruin the fun for us. I guess you can’t blame kids for sharing what they know. Lord knows kids have word vomit and no filter. But it would be nice if my children could experience some of the magic I felt around the holiday and I can feel like a kid again.

Does Santa visit your house?

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  1. I found out when my I notice the Easter Bunny had the same hand writing as my dad…after that I kinda put two and two together I was TEN! haha I am SO glad I believed so long and hope to raise my kids up believe in the magical santa claus! It makes the holiday fun (and a good threat to not getting gifts!) my mom always said I am gonna call santa and tell him you were bad she always called my grandpa! I’ll probably always call my grandpa too he was SO good at pretending <3
    Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  2. We just started talking about the Santa thing. Our daughter just turned 2. We both grew up in standard American homes where Santa brought loads of presents and we have no qualms about inviting Santa into ours even though we’ve taken to celebrating Solstice as an immediate family rather than Christmas. Our holidays are such a mish mash of traditions anyway AND Santa was magical for both of us, so we want her to have the same.

    I worry, though, about the influence of materialism and the commercial nature of the season. On Black Friday, we stay away from the stores intentionally, opting to “celebrate” Buy Nothing Day and the National Day of Listening instead. And we give very minimal gifts on these big holidays, opting for just 1 or 2 for our daughter the last two years and we plan to continue in that vein for the foreseeable future. After all, the winter holiday season is about a lot more than GETTING STUFF and we want to walk the walk on that; not just talk a good game while still smothering ourselves in crap.

    But how will we explain why Santa brought her just one present while he brought all of her friends dozens?

  3. Oh yes, Santa was THEE man!!!! Unfortunately for me…my parents were SO convincing that I would argue with my neighbor friends over his authenticity!!!! lol….I was 12 – yes TWELVE!!!!!! When my grandma let the ball dropped. Hey! It needed to be done. For my own sake. lol.

  4. We allow our kids to believe in Santa, but our Santa is BLACK! Its been a challenge because mass media and marketing show Santa as a white man. πŸ™‚ I tell my kids everyone’s Santa is who they want him to be. My (our) Santa is brown-skinned! I hate (Yes, a strong but fitting word) that a fact American figure gets to be white. I feel this way about our society as a whole. Now I’m pretty liberal, so Santa could be Asian or Hispanic or Carribean or whatever. But I get turned off by the idea of every good thing being white in our society.

    I have to paint a different, more diverse and realistic picture for my children.

    We have 4 children and now make sure to teach Christmas is about baby Jesus. It’s a celebration for Jesus and we must keep that at the front of our thoughts and activities. My kids can believe in Santa as long as they want. We’ll be supportive.

    My son asked me last night if the tooth fairy is REAL. He lost another tooth yesterday at school and a classmate told him there isnt a tooth fairy. I replied, if you don’t believe in the tooth fairy it’s ok. I told him if he wanted to believe he can and if he wanted me to tell him the “truth” I would. He said he wanted to believe. I will share the truth when he is ready.

    As a Christian it is challenging to allow my kids to believe in nontruths. I don’t want to distort their truth about God. I don’t wish to set them up for failure, but we all know we stop believing one day.

    How do others deal with giving false credit to an imaginary white figure? If you don’t want to address race, how do you deal with lying as a Christian?

  5. T’ Wina, Santa was sometimes black with my family. I went to take pictures with black Santa. Haha. But I know what you mean about many of the American heroes being white. I don’t have a huge problem with Santa I guess cause he still can’t top me and I’m not white.

    As far as lying, I don’t know. I guess I don’t really see it as a bad lie. Guess its one of those things I’ll have to face God about someday πŸ˜‰

  6. My daughters believed in Santa. My youngest was a true believer for a lonnnnnng time. We even downloaded a picture from the internet of “Rudolf”. “Rudolf” even wrote her a note. When she found out the truth, she had a chuckle. We let her know how much fun it was to have her believe in Santa. I think it’s all in how you handle it.

    My older daughter told me she figured it out early, but was afraid to tell me. She thought that if I knew she knew the truth, she wouldn’t get any toys…..just clothes.

    Enjoy this verrrrry short stage in Lil’ J’s life!

  7. Santa was such a HUGE part of my Christmas growing up. When I found out his secret (my parents kept the box of a present he’d given my little sister! I saw it in the garage) around 10-yrs-old, I knew instinctively that it wasn’t fair to ruin the secret for my younger siblings. I have no idea if I told my mom I found out or not. And then, when my youngest siblings were finally old enough for us to drop the ruse altogether, my mentally handicapped uncle moved in with us and we had another reason to keep believing.

    Santa is totally coming to our house, but he only fills stockings. If my kids ever ask why they don’t get piles of gifts like their friends, I figure I’ll say something along the lines of “I spoke to Santa and we agreed that Mom & Dad would buy you presents and he would fill your stockings. Then he has more presents to give to other kids that need them, too. You’re still awesome. Your mom and dad are just awesome, too.” (Not those words EXACTLY, obviously.)

    The problem I’ve encountered is that I’m so straight forward with my 3-yr-old about everything else that I have a hard time telling her about something I KNOW isn’t true. But then, I’ve found it’s gotten easier in the past few conversations we’ve had, so maybe it won’t be so hard for long. πŸ™‚ And then she’ll take care of educating her siblings.

  8. I love how you guys considered the reindeer with the bag of carrots! So sweet, so thoughtful- I never once considered the reindeer. I can’t remeber exactly when I stopped believing in Santa but I do wnt my children to experience the magic of waiting for Santa. Nowadays with technology there are so many useful tools to help it along. My sister-in-law found a website where you type in your child’s name and they most beleoved thing they want for christmas and Santa himself emails you (actually your kid but using your email address obviously) a video message about how he’s been watching. The look on my nephew’s dace when his dad told him he got an email from Santa was priceless! I can’t wiat for that πŸ™‚ I also don’t feel lied to about the Santa Claus theory- I think it’s a wonderful part of childhood.

  9. MY husband and I were just discussing how we might handle this someday when we do have kids. My mom told me from the start that Santa was something we used to make Christmas fun. She wanted to be clear the real reason for Christmas is celebrating Jesus’ birth. I want my kids to know the same. I always got one gift labeled “from Santa” and I sat on his lap and sang the carols about him, but I knew he want not real. And I was a-ok with that. But the hubs still believed for awhile. He thinks you can do both. I think encouraging make-believe is good and healthy, as long as you are clear it’s make-believe. I feel sorry for kids who have that horrible “Santa isn’t real” moment. And for their parents who sometimes freak out that someone told them. I want to avoid that. And all the materialism.

  10. Growing up Christmas was indeed my favorite holiday, coming from a large family of 7 made it all the better;) however when I was around the age of nine or ten my dad slipped up and we caught him bringing in the bikes, ooopsies.. But oh well that still didn’t stop us from putting out milk and cookies!! BTW the carrot thing is cute my neices and nephew do it now and I just sit back and giggle.

  11. I never grew up believing in Santa and neither did my husband, but we took our 15 month old for her first and only Santa picture for her 1st Christmas last year. It was a fun memory but we definitely want to keep the holiday focused on Jesus’ birth. I don’t feel like I missed out on the magic of Christmas and still enjoyed all the secular Christmas shows that came on.

  12. I will always remember when I found out Santa wasn’t real – I was eight and my mom was blow-drying my hair for Christmas Eve mass when I asked her (and wouldn’t let her hedge around with noncommittal answers.)

    I was devastated. I didn’t understand why everyone would lie to me like that. I felt tricked and betrayed and stupid. That year’s Christmas was terrible! But by the next year, I was able to realize that that one horrible Christmas was nothing compared to all of the magical memories I have from believing in Santa. I wouldn’t trade those for the world. We’re definitely “doing” Santa for my son.


  13. Loving your stories! I wanted to add that I don’t remember when I “found out” he wasn’t real. Bu I remember growing suspicious of his handwriting being like my moms, then finding presents before Christmas… We put two and two together but I kept the magic going for my younger siblings. Like Erin Marie.

    Of course in our home the TRUE meaning of Christmas was always taught. We never tried to tie Santa in with that, haha, but made sure it was its own lesson every year.

  14. I just had this conversation with someone else recently… Growing up there really wasn’t a conversation about a santa, we were poor and so we never had lists to give to our bio mother because we knew we wouldn’t get it. So for us Santa didn’t exist.

    So when I had my first child I knew exactly what I was going to do… teach my child about the true meaning of Christmas, it is about the birth of Christ, the guy who was born to save our souls…

    My first child didn’t believe in santa, actually he didn’t believe in any fictional character. Because he was always with me whenever I had to help out a character get dressed and be with them while they were in the suit.

    Anyways all three of my kiddos (10,5,4) believe in what they believe in. If they want to believe that there is a santa then they can and we won’t stop them, but I refuse to give credit for all I do to some fat white dude. The tags on our christmas gift tags say, Mommy, Daddy, Auntie, Godparents and Jesus Christ or JC and our Jesus is black so… I am ok with giving JC credit because without him we wouldn’t be able to give our kiddos what we have…

    But that picture of Lil J with santa is Freaking Adorable!

    Thanks for sharing your story… πŸ™‚

  15. Santa does not visit our house. My husband and I had been on the fence about it, not really caring either way, but my daughter as a toddler started having panic attacks thinking that Santa was going to be coming to her house. She told people she was canceling Christmas. So, we thought it best to let her in on the truth so we could still have Christmas. We figure it’s about Christ anyway, so if Santa isn’t involved then it really isn’t a big deal. BUT we have had to explain to her that other kids believe in Santa and not to tell them anything. Our son isn’t very excited to see Santa either, but hasn’t yet been subjected to all the questions and comments from friends and family like my daughter was, so he’s seen Santa but he has no idea what Santa is besides a creepy old man wanting to give him a hug. After the mess with my daughter I’m doubting anyone in the family will be bringing it up to him, unless they want to calm his nightmares for a few weeks.
    Sometimes I wish my kids had the whole Santa thing, but it’s not worth the anxiety they end up feeling, maybe my kids were born broken or something, I always remembering being excited about him.

  16. We don’t celebrate Christmas. Not religiously or even secularly. We do however respect that this is a time of year where many people do celebrate this day. We even attend holiday gatherings of our families b/c it is a time when many family members are in town, and people have time off of work, and its also way to celebrate the year and prepare for the new year. Sol is young now, but is very curious and this year she notices specific things, so when she is old enough to ask we are going to tell her the truth, Santa is a myth, he is a make believe character that (blah blah blah) and this is what people believe about him. It is frustrating that since we are not teaching her to “believe in him” per say, that his image is everywhere. This means I can’t just ignore him and Christmas, but I wouldn’t want, b/c I want her to grow up respecting everyones traditions and beliefs whether we prescribe to them or not. I am very grateful that the school she attends doesn’t celebrate Holidays, and we don’t have to do any deprogramming her once she gets home. LOL. I also plan toexplain to her that Christmas is the day that people celebrate the birth of Jesus, but also do the same for Hanukah, Kwanzaa, and Soltice. Of course once she is able to digest it all, but I want her to be raised with a conssciousness and awareness that I wasn’t. Growing up I had no idea their were people who weren’t celebrating or believing what I was believing.

    The tricky part for us is that there are a lot of kids in our family and they don’t follow our same traditions, and I fear of potential conflicts with their parents when kids are sharing their holiday/Santa stories. I think that if their kids are able to share what “santa” brought them, then SOl should also be able to express what she feels about Santa without feeling like she’s done something wrong.

    Its an interesting dynamic b/c our lifestyle is so different than the rest of our family that they usually are offended by us choosing to do something different, even with our diet and choices of food consumption. I just wish that as open as we are to celebrating with them during the days they observe that they were open to the same with the Muslim holidays and traditions we hold dear.

  17. santa comes to our house! my daughter is so excited and asks daily how he’s going to come through our gas fireplace. it’s fun to reason with her and make up stories. of course, we are religious and try to put emphasis on the birth of Christ. so, we say santa is bringing gifts for Jesus’s birthday. it’s a way to tie together the two. i think it’s great that you encourage the fantasy. it is seriously such a magical time of year for little ones!

  18. I don’t think “Santa” will be stopping here. I just don’t have that n me to make it all up and keep it going. My mother has already nicknamed me Scrooge.

  19. My DF’s family was never big on Christmas where as me and my mom thrived at that time of year. He doesn’t want to tell Kiwi there’s a santa, but I’m all for the magic and wonder of childhood ESPECIALLY when it comes to my favorite holiday. She’ll be two by next Christmas so we have to come to an agreement

  20. Hi! I used to follow you when you were preggo! Glad to have found you again, lots has happened to us including triplets! Santa is def. coming to our house, though Im a bit worried my 5 year old may be too smart, gotta watch the handwriting, the wrapping paper, etc… I caught my mom putting the presents around the tree when I was 6, so sad.

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