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To Santa or Not Santa

To Santa Or Not To Santa

By Amalah

Hi Amy!

I am curious about something. Do you and Jason try to make Santa “real” for your boys? My husband and I have been discussing this lately because this year is the first year our boys are really going to be old enough to understand all the Christmas excitement. My parents always did the Santa thing and tried to make it real for us. We left out the cookies and milk. After we went to bed, my dad must have taken a bite out of one so it appeared in the morning that Santa had been there. We even left out carrots for the reindeer. One year, I remember hearing Santa on our roof! I learned later that it was my grandma’s husband up there stomping around to get all of us kids excited. Even with all this going on, I don’t remember feeling disappointed when I found out Santa wasn’t real. So I am not sure why, but I don’t really want to do the Santa thing for my kids. It kind of seems like lying to them and I think they will have just as much fun receiving gifts knowing they are from Mom and Dad. What do you think? Is Santa part of the magic of Christmas and I am destroying the fantasy for my little ones?


OOOOOHHHHHHHHH good question. I like it very much. Even though, truly, I believe it’s up to each family to ultimately come up with the right decision for them, and for their kids. And even if we all end up coming to completely different decisions and even maybe thinking that the other family is “doing it wrong,” I personally see and understand both sides of the Santa argument.

That said, yes, we are a Santa household all the way. Here’s how we got there:

Jason and I both grew up in very, very fundamentally religious households. VERY. So of course the focus of Christmas was the Nativity story and birth of Jesus, not gifts and Santa and all that. HOWEVER, my parents did allow me to believe in Santa when I was young. I saw him at the mall and sent him letters and watched the Christmas specials about Rudolph before leaving out cookies before bed, which would be gone in the morning with a thank-you note from Santa. At some point, sure, I found out it was all pretend and it was absolutely no big thing at all. Just part of growing up, as I saw it, to stop believing in silly little kid things like Santa and the tooth fairy.

My parents’ church (and many of their friends) liked to warn them that believing in Santa would lead to me doubting in other things my parents had told me about, namely, of course, God and Jesus and heaven. Honestly, I am very grateful that my parents had more confidence in the teaching and guidance they provided for me pretty much every day of my life than to let the fear of one little seasonal fantasy completely undermining all that interfere with me just getting to be a normal, regular kid who wrote letters to Santa Claus. (And in all honesty, my extremely strict, sheltered upbringing would later interfere with what I do consider being a “normal” and “regular” kid, and THAT was what caused me to rebel and leave the majority of it behind. Blame the tenets of extreme religious fundamentalism itself, not Santa, for my current heathen ways, if you must.)

My husband’s parents, on the other hand, went in the other direction. He was told that Santa wasn’t real right from the start. This alone led to him getting in trouble at preschool when he (of course) told his classmates that their parents were lying to them and that there was no Santa. Then, unfortunately, they took it to a completely unnecessary extreme — around age five his family attended a church that declared Christmas an altogether pagan holiday and ordered congregation members to skip it entirely. So from age five until…eight or nine (when the pastor abruptly changed his mind on the subject) my husband was denied Santa AND a tree AND presents. And to this day, that’s pretty much exactly how he sees it: Being denied something fun and magical and “normal” from childhood. (I mean, please note, this was an EXTREME situation that went waaaaay beyond just “not being told the Santa story.”)

I entered motherhood without strong feelings either way about Santa — I mean, I have very fond memories of it from growing up, but I was naturally a very imaginative kid who never had much a problem separating fantasy from reality, and I recognized early on that this wasn’t such an easy thing for Noah. Plenty of kids at Noah’s school celebrate Hanukkah instead, so acceptance of different beliefs is practically built into the December curriculum. I figured we could easily explain Santa in a respectful way that would not lead to him accidentally crushing his little friends’ dreams. And yeah, it is essentially a culturally-sanctioned lie. I definitely see the potential for problems.

But Jason…well, there was no question about it. He didn’t “get” Santa as a kid, so by God, his kids were going to GET SANTA.

And so, we have Santa. Magical childhood fantasy or therapy for us to work out our own baggage? Probably a little of both. Ezra doesn’t yet get the concept, but Noah has for two years now and you know what? It’s delightful to watch. I adore it. It just warms my heart and makes me feel so…GOOD. He gets so EXCITED. It’s all so MAGICAL. He’s so focused on being NICE and not NAUGHTY and counting down the DAYS and is it time to make the COOKIES yet, Mommy? We have an app on our phone where Santa can “call” Noah and praise (or warn, but he takes it a little hard so I never use that one) his behavior. We went online to “research” what reindeers eat so we could leave the right food out and he sometimes goes over to the chimney to holler up a report about how good he’s been that day.

Someday, he won’t believe in it anymore. I won’t get my yearly photo on Santa’s lap anymore. He’ll roll his eyes at us and ask for a gift card or something so he can go shopping without fear of us buying him something embarrassing. Someday he’ll know that none of it is real — from Gabbaland and Star Wars to Harry Potter and Tolkien. But I hope that someday after that, he’ll maybe appreciate that there was a time when his parents were capable of giving him the gift of magic, of making it real for a few short years, and that we did just that, while we still could.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Olivia

    December 15, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    We’ll be going light on the Santa business in our family. My husband is from a different country that doesn’t do Santa so Christmas is more about Jesus for him anyway. And I just don’t get the LOVE some people have for Santa. It might be because I grew up in a rural area where there was not Santa at the mall (there was no mall) and for some reason Mom didn’t encourage letter writing or cookie leaving. We got the obligatory gift from Santa, but it that was it.

    So Santa was a fun story, I enjoyed singing the usual songs and don’t mind the imagery, but meh, he does not need to be REAL for my children. (Also no sitting on Santa’s lap ’cause I find that CREEPY)

  • Erin

    December 15, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    My husband grew up in an atheistic (militantly so) household WITH Santa, I grew up in a completely religious (dad’s a minister!) household without.

    We’ve had this discussion, and our kids will never get a Santa (I’m completely unscarred by my lack of santa gifts as a child, and never felt cheated or anything, I also never told anyone else it wasn’t real, as far as I know.)

    The only people who are upset by our lack of Santa in our as-yet-unconceived child’s life are his family, who would be horrified if we took the kid to church because God is imaginary, so I think we’ll make it work – they’re not completely illogical. It’s definitely an individual thing, though, and no one’s business but their own!

  • Heather Ben

    December 15, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    My kids are not old enough to get it yet but we will be a Santa house too.

  • Cora

    December 15, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    I don’t usually comment, but today made me a little misty-eyed. My stepson is 10 and this is the first year without Santa. He wasn’t traumatized or anything–he’s just a really logical kid who figured it out on his own. That being said, it was wonderful the one year I got to be Santa, complete with the 5am wakeup call. It’s great to see a kid believe. It’s like the Christmas movies say–Santa isn’t about seeing to believe, it’s about faith. I think Santa teaches our agnostic child to believe in something greater than himself and to focus on being good and kind to himself, his family, and others.

  • liz

    December 15, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Ours was a Santa house until one of MM’s classmates spilled the beans. MM has been upset that Santa’s not real, but not that we lied to him.

    I told him that I wish Santa were real, too, because the world really needs someone kind and jolly to bring joy to all the children of the world in one night. And that we all need to be Santa for each other.

    And then I asked him to never tell any other kid that Santa doesn’t exist. “Don’t be that kid, okay?” And he promised never to tell.

  • Jen W.

    December 15, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Santa will for sure visit our house. I love the magic of it. Kids only have a handful of Christmases where they will “believe” and I feel like that is one of the wonders of childhood. When I started to figure out Santa was my parents, maybe around 2nd grade, my mom asked point-blank if I knew who Santa was, and even though I was pretty sure it was them, I remember thinking I didn’t want to spoil it for HER, so I told her “of course, Santa is Santa” and enjoyed one last year of it before I had to grow up.

    But here’s the big question I have: Does Santa wrap presents?
    My twins are 13 months, so while this is not their first christmas, this is the first cognizant christmas. Last year we had two newborns, so did no wrapping of any kind. This year I’d like to form traditions we can stick with (and will be in photos in the family archives) so. I know he did at my house growing up, always in a completely different paper than the rest and I think my mom had the neighbors fill out the tags so no handwriting recognition. But it makes sense that a dude who has to get all the way around the world in one night might not want to spend time wrapping.

    Isabel: I have the “gifts from Santa” wrapped in different wrapping paper with Santas on them. Also, Santa has a team of very nimble elves (have you not seen the movie Elf?).

  • AJU5's Mom

    December 15, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    We have decided to not do it. Our kids are too young to really understand (1 and 3), and it just seems easier. We are loving the Veggie Tales Saint Nicolas though, so my 3 yo isn’t totally clueless on the topic. I love a friend’s approach – they explain that Santa is just a fairy tale creature like the others. They explain that some people “believe” in him, and I think they have been good at not “spilling” the beans to friends…

  • Sara

    December 15, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    We love us some Santa in our household and with my daughter just 3 this year, she’s really starting to “get it” and that really is, as Amy said, so magical to watch. We have the elf on the shelf, we’ve done Santa messages to her online, she reads Santa books, we visit Santa at the mall and if our roof wasn’t so steep I’d be sending the hubby up to the roof to stomp around and jingle bells (as I got this as a kid too and it was so exciting to hear). I didn’t come from a atheist house, but we also didn’t ever go to church – and I’m looking forward to doing Christmas Eve service this year with my girls… my personal belief is there’s room for both, and Santa is only going to last a few short years and I want to enjoy it while I can. 

  • Susan

    December 15, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    We’re a Santa Household. Always have been. Always will be. *laughs* I have 4 boys – ages 16, 16, 12 and 9, and none of the older ones have ever spoiled it for the younger ones nor have they ever spoiled it for their classmates – they get the magical part of it – that there is a little bit of magic in Santa. They never felt “lied” to or that we let them down by doing the Santa route. This is probably our last year with my youngest believing, but we’ll still do “Santa” – the kids will still get a gift labelled from Santa and their stockings will be from “Santa”. It’s just how we roll at our house. You couldn’t have said it any better, Amalah – “…when his parents were capable of giving him the gift of magic, of making it real for a few short years, and that we did just that, while we still could.” And while 3 out of the 4 don’t believe any more – they still do believe in the magic of the season and what it can be and bring. (Also, to clarify – we do know the reason for the season – Christ is a very important part of our family – the boys all go to parochial school, and we very much teach the lessons of the season as well. We just choose to do the Santa route as well.)

  • JulieAnn

    December 15, 2010 at 2:41 pm
  • Sara M

    December 15, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    We do Santa at our house–for the first time this year! My boys are 3yo and 18mo, so the oldest is judt starting to understand Santa and presents and such. We also have elf on the shelf, but he doesn’t quite get the connection of that yet. We are also planning to use Santa wrapping paper for the gifts from Santa and no other gifts will have Santa paper.

  • rkmama

    December 15, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    My dad’s rule was that if you stopped believing you stopped getting gifts, needless to say I got gifts from Santa until I left the house at 21:).
    I consider growing up with that burst of magic at the holidays one of the greatest gifts my parents gave me so my husband and I continue that tradition with our 3 and 5 yr old. Watching them have so much faith in something they can’t see actually gives me more faith when dealing with the tougher, grittier sides of religion. Pretty cool what a little magic can do.

  • Belle

    December 15, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    No Santa?!!? Tha’ts crazy and sad talk. Half the reason I want babies (OK maybe not half, but one reason) is because you get to do all that fun stuff all over again – Christmas, Easter, everything! You get to experience it all though their eyes! I can’t fathom NOT doing Santa.

    Clearly, my one-sidedness (amongst other things) is why I do not write the advice around these parts. 😉

  • J

    December 15, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    I don’t have children yet, but I know for sure my home will be a place for Santa. The feeling of pure joy, waking up and running into the parlor and going batshit crazy because “omgggg Santa caaaaame!” I could never deny my children that. I feel it’s innocent magic and in a world so crazy with not so nice stuff going on, why not let them believe in the good that is Santa. I have a lot of younger cousins and seeing them believe in Santa with all their heart makes me feel a twinge because I remember what it was like to be them. Was I a little bummed out when I learned there was no Santa, sure? I never got angry that my parents “lied” to me, but was actually grateful for letting me experience something that made me so very happy and caused me no harm. I knew I had future generations to look forward to sharing that magic and joy with. Not to sound harsh, but I kind of feel that when you do tell your child there is no Santa and they don’t handle it well, in a “typical” way, then there’s some sort of other issue going on stemming from something other than “you lied to your child.”

  • Tasterspoon

    December 15, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    I think it’s sweet that parents go to the effort of genuinely playing make-believe with their children just because it makes the kids happy – qualitatively different from lying. That’s what Santa is to me, and that’s kind of how I took it when I “found out.” If the OP is truly taking a philosophical stance, that’s one thing, but if it’s just a rationalization because she can’t be bothered, that’s a little sad. (Although maybe she does a million other holiday traditions, I am no one to judge.)

    We were a practicing Catholic family with Santa, which translated to leaving out cookies and stockings, and getting presents (in unique wrapping paper) and our stockings filled. I think I hung on to Santa a little late, for a year or two after I had serious doubts, but part of me understood that it was as much about magical thinking, and playing a game with one’s parents each year, and I didn’t want to give that up. And like Jen above, I sensed that it would make my Mom a little sad that those years were over. As soon as I had the talk with my Mom (I was the youngest) my parents gave up all pretense and didn’t even bother to fill each other’s stockings, which made me sad, and also made me realize that maybe it was a pain in the butt for them. So I started filling their stockings after that (they’re now a receptacle for small gifts, hotel shampoos, tchotchkes from work, that kind of thing, and remain the one thing we can open before church on Christmas).

    My family never did the lap photo, which I also think is weird, but my husband’s family did it every year but never had stockings. Many flavors of Santa. (I’m just learning to accept that he’s going to blow $25 every year on the lap photo for our daughter.)

  • Kari

    December 15, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    My parents are very conservative, so I grew up without Santa. They told me about him, that some people like to believe and play the Santa game, and told me that I should never spoil someone else’s fun. I was a good girl, so I never did. It still was part of the magic of Christmas for me, because my parents framed it as if I was in on a “big kid” secret. I liked being smarter than everyone else. hehe.

    We won’t do Santa with our kids, just because it’s not part of my holidays, but, like my parents, I will encourage wonder and imagination in many many other ways. It’s our personal preference to have Christmas focus on Jesus and family and food and to make birthdays bigger present times, so the lack of Santa fits in with that as well. The only thing I hate is when people act as if I missed out on some big childhood thing by not “having” Santa, or when people judge other people for lying to their kids. I think that everyone has to do what works best for their family.

  • J

    December 15, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    In respoinse to Jen W. the way my mom explained how presents got wrapped and why some paper might be wrapped in the same paper as gifts from her and my dad was that parents were asked to please supply the wrapping paper, Santa would dropped the gifts off and help wrap a few presents but his helper elves did the rest, and so we wouldn’t recognize my mom’s handwriting, in very plain general print she would just mark the presents with either a “J” for me or an “E” for my sister (our first initials)

  • Suzy Q

    December 15, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    I don’t understand, MJ. Your Santa experiences as a child were happy and magical and fun, and yet…you don’t want the same for your kids?

  • Bethany

    December 15, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    We always did the Santa thing at our house. I believed until at least 5th grade when my parents had to tell me because I was the kid who believed so strongly that I was fighting with other kids at school who tried to convince me he wasn’t real. My parents explained it as more of a Christmas spirit. Then I got the important job of keeping it special for my younger sisters. It has always been somewhat of a magical feeling that you just feel at Christmas time. We were also a religious household. That magical feeling usually starts at Christmas Eve church for me. Now that my son is 19 months old, it will be his first Christmas that he really gets it. He recognizes Santa and can say, “ho ho ho.”. I am so excited for Christmas morning when he can really enjoy opening presents. I get a little weepy thinking about being able to make Christmas a special time for him. I also can’t wait to teach him about being kind to others, especially at this time of year. He already says, “money” everytime we pass the Salvation Army buckets, so he donates everytime. @Jen W: my parents wrapped our presents in special wrapping paper that we found in our stockings. We knew that our gifts were the ones in that paper under the tree. That paper never ever showed up later and we never saw the remnants. There didn’t need to be tags since we knew about the paper. We were smart kids who would have played investigators on whose handwriting it was :-). Just a thought that worked for us. I will probably continue the tradition.

  • Katie

    December 15, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    Santa only filled stockings at my house while I saw a kid (no wrapped presents)… I like that since the stockings are on the fireplace and everything. We got other gifts under the tree that we knew were from mom and dad. When I got to the age at which I would ask about Santa being real, my mom always responded with “as long there is love, there is santa” or something abstract along those lines. Pretty sure she would still tell me that today. I like how that is not a lie, but still leaves room for a little magic.

  • Ellen

    December 15, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Before I had a kid, I was pretty anti-Santa and did think it was like lying to your kid. Now that I have a kid, I get it, and I understand why parents (and kids) enjoy it, and I certainly don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.
    But I’m still not doing a big Santa thing with my kid, just because it doesn’t seem important to me. I haven’t outright told him that Santa isn’t real, but we don’t do cookies and letters and all that. We do have some books about Santa, and maybe when he gets older (he’s not yet 3), he’ll want to make more of it, and I won’t stand in the way of that. But I’m not going to push it and fake enthusiasm for an idea that just isn’t all the compelling to me. Christmas is still fun, Santa or no Santa!

  • Brooke

    December 15, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    We don’t do Santa. Mostly because we got hung up on the being good means you get presents when really getting presents means your parents could afford to buy them. Our comfortable middle-class lifestyle is not something we deserve from the universe because of our good behavior.
    It has been easier not to do it anyway, since the logistics of trying to do Santa when we are traveling over Christmas would be rough.

  • Cheryl S.

    December 15, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Read “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus”. To me, Santa is about the magic of childhood. I get misty eyed when in the movie The Polar Express the little boy rings the bell from Santa’s sleigh(and he can hear it) and his parents are like “Oh. Too bad. It’s broken” because that magic has already been taken from them. I think most of the “magic” gets taken from us as we get older. I want my daughter to have it now. And, purely selfishly, it’s amazing to see that sort of wonder in the eyes of a child.

  • Lindsey

    December 15, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    It’s very interesting to see everyone’s family histories, and it also makes you realize that no one is wrong! I was raised by an agnostic mom and a very athiest dad, but we still had Santa with NOTHING religious. Santa still comes to our house, even though I am 29 and the youngest kid is 16 – we even put the cookies out and snicker about my dad eating them. Last year, we even put a little brandy in the eggnog, knowing dad would like it. 🙂

  • Monica

    December 15, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    I am shocked at the number of ‘no Santa’ families on here! I guess a lot of it has to do with how you grew up and what your family traditions are. We are totally a Santa household and this year my oldest is 3, so it’s really our first year of her understanding any of the Holiday season this year. I have never seen her more excited than when we decorated our tree and when she started to see lights on the outside of houses. Magic, indeed.

  • Amy J

    December 15, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    My daughter is 2 months old, so luckily I do not have to decide this year. We are a mixed religion household, and she will be raised Jewish, but some of my favorite memories are from Christmas morning and Santa.

  • Jay

    December 15, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    I’m also shocked by the number of “no Santa” homes too. We always had Santa (my mom was also of the Stop Believing = Stop Presents) mode, and I’m fairly certain all my friends growing up had Santa too. For me it was part of childhood and I couldn’t imagine denying my child the fun and magic of it. I loved picking out which cookies I thought Santa would most enjoy and making sure that the carrots for the reindeer were peeled nicely. Santa will use different wrapping paper than the gifts from mom and dad, but his handwriting will look very similar to mine! I don’t remember any anger about my parents “lying” to me–by the time you figure it out you can understand love and giving as abstract concepts anyway, and that’s what Santa represents to me.

  • JB

    December 15, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    So….the PASTOR said to “tell your kids there’s no Santa Claus,” and then 5 years later ~changed his mind???~

    He sounds like a peach. I wonder what the pastor will tell us to do next???

  • JB

    December 15, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    So….the PASTOR said to “tell your kids there’s no Santa Claus/presents/Christmas tree” and then 5 years later ~changed his mind???~

    He sounds like a peach. I wonder what the pastor will tell us to do next???

  • JB

    December 15, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    Double post sry. (What will the pastor think….)

  • Alanna

    December 15, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    We still do the Santa thing at our house and we’re both adults and know that Santa isn’t real. And yet… we still leave out cookies and they’re gone in the morning, and Christmas morning there are presents from Santa under the tree. 🙂

  • Abi

    December 15, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    I have to be the voice of dissent, because I never believed in Santa, and I’m really glad I didn’t.
    I think that my relationship with my parents was such that I really needed all that extra proof that they loved me. if I had been getting awesome presents from some strange old man I’d never met, but not such great ones from them, I’d be confused. I needed to know that my parents loved me so much that they bought me that amazing enormous box of crayons that I wanted so much. I guess I just feel that Santa is sort of impersonal and downplays how much your own parents care about you, and all the work they go into to making Christmas special.
    I never felt that I missed out on anything, and I think it also helped keep Christmas magical at all ages, because we never had the feeling in our house that “Christmas is for the children”, that I keep hearing from others. Christmas was magical every single year because there was no ‘before santa’ and ‘after santa’. It is still my favorite holiday by far, and it is, and was, such a special time for family, why let a stranger steal the show?

  • Kimberly

    December 15, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    My family growing up was a Santa house. In fact, I cried when I found a receipt (when I was in jr. high no less) that was concrete evidence that there was no Santa. My brother is 14 yrs younger then me so I got to enjoy Santa and the magic for at least twice as long as most people. The year the movie The Grinch came out with Jim Carrey, he came to visit us instead. When we woke up Christmas morning (I was home from college) all that was under the tree was the Dr. Seuss book. All the presents under the tree, along with all the ones from Santa, all the stockings and a good part of the decorations were piled up in my parents 4Runner parked in their garage covered with fake snow with a stuffed Grinch sitting at the wheel. It was so great. My brother and I must have started at the scene for a good 10 minutes before we started to unload it and bring everything into the house. My parents ROCK and I hope to make the holidays as magical as they always have for my future kids.

  • Julie

    December 15, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    My husband is German, so we celebrate St. Nikolaus’ birthday on December 5th instead.

    Besides the cultural differences, we’re a foster family and our kids came from a birth family that didn’t have Santa. It was better to continue to call Santa a story, rather than imply he was real and that he just didn’t visit them at their first home. My parents still give them little “Santa” treats on Christmas morning, but the kids know they’re from Gramma and Boppa.

    I think that we missed out on some of the Christmas magic…

  • Rachel

    December 15, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    Ooooooo fun topic. I grew up in a household where Santa was a fun fictional character, one that we talked and joked about, but I was never led to believe that there was, literally, a fat man who dressed in a red suit-thing and climbed down every single chimney in the world. I don’t feel like I missed out on anything – the presents still said they were from Santa (in my mom’s handwriting) and Christmas was, and still is, magical and about Jesus and presents and all of it. My mom tells me that she was absolutely crushed to find out at about 9 years old that Santa wasn’t real, and she wanted to spare her kids the disappointment that she felt. When we have kids, I probably will approach the Santa character as a fun, fictional story.

  • Kate

    December 15, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    I grew up with the Santa story. Looking back on it, it wasn’t the focus of Christmas by any means, but definitely a fun little part of the holiday. I knew I wanted my future children to have an imagination, and to believe in fun things like Santa and the Easter Bunny, for all the reasons the pro-Santa parents have mentioned. HOWEVER. My daughter is almost 5 now, and for some reason I’m having a crisis of conscience this year. I keep thinking, ‘I am LYING to her!’ I
    *never* thought I would feel this way. I *love* the idea of Santa! I don’t think it will harm her in any way. She loves the whole concept. But I feel guilty and I can’t figure out where it came from!

  • Katie

    December 16, 2010 at 12:12 am

    We weren’t so religious, but until my dad died (when I was 27), he would argue with me about Santa. I’d say I didn’t believe in him, and Dad would say, “BUT I DO!!!!” All the presents would have gift tags signed “Santa,” but we all recognized Dad’s handwriting. I think it’s sweet and harmless. I think my father really, truly believed in Santa as the spirit of Christmas, rather than as a fat dude who did home invasions.

  • Angie

    December 16, 2010 at 12:20 am

    My father is/was the local Santa Claus in our town. It started when my sister and I were really little, and my mom belonged to the local women’s club, a kind of a rotary sort of service/social organization. My dad and another member’s husband would take turns doing “chimney checks” and bringing a present around the 18th of December or so to make sure everything was set for Christmas Eve. 

    I was always leary of Santa when I was a toddler. A picture ran in the local newspaper of our chimney check that showed me terrified, just barely getting close enough to hand Santa a carrot for Rudolph.

    Having our own up close and personal encouters with Santa led my sister and I to believe so strongly that one year after our “chimney check” my sister and I ran to the window and saw a plane passing overhead. We were sure the red light was Rudolph, and our excitement was so powerful that both my sister and I SWORE that we saw a sleigh pass overhead with a hand waving over the side, wearing a green glove. She’s 33, and I’m 31, and to this day, our stories have not changed.  🙂

    I figured out the truth about Santa when I was five. I wasn’t angry about being lied to, but I was sad it wasn’t true. I was a very logical kid and easily made the leap that if Santa wasn’t real, neither were the tooth fairy nor the Easter bunny in the same conversation.

    Incidentally, the other dad who played Santa got sick one year, so my dad was our Santa for the chimney check. He was the only Santa I wasn’t afraid of. I was happy to sit on his lap and cuddled up to him, and afterwards I asked my mom if she and Mrs. Claus shopped at the same jewelry store, because Daddy and Santa had the same wedding rings.

    My dad was the official Santa at our local amusement park Winter Wonderland. He was retired at that point from his teaching job, and he managed the pool in teh summer and drove the school bus. He also picked up a few months work delivering mail for our regular carrier who was in Iraq, so the kids who would come visit him as Santa would find themselves visiting a Santa who knew which bus they rode, who their teacher was, whether they listened when the lifeguards told them not to run at the pool last summer, or even knew their address.

    Once their parents realized that Santa was their mailman, the kind bus driver who kept their kids safe every day, the finder of lost packages and lunchboxes and violins and pool toys, he got a pretty devoted following for about a decade.

    He’s even a semi-retired Santa now. He only plays Santa for my niece and nephew and sometimes my kids’ friends at Christmas party of two. He always puts a blinking red light in the backyard so the kids can look out the window and “see” Rudolph. He remembers how scared I was as a toddler, and he is the gentlest, least threatening Santa there is, as a result.

    He is the spirit of generosity. He is warmth and comfort and make believe come to life. Once a year, millions of people all get together and decide to simultaneously believe in something. They perpetuate a belief in generosity, kindness and magic. It is the ultimate flash mob, a sort of gathering of millions of people around the world who decide- on one night every year- to share in a good sense of fun, and whimsy, and generosity.

    In some ways, they fact people all over the world who speak different languages and believe different things and observe different customs all basically decide that they are going to AGREE on something if only for one day a year… well, that’s magical in its own way. 

    I don’t believe in Santa, but I do believe in my dad. 

  • Michael

    December 16, 2010 at 5:18 am

    I say ‘yay’ for santa and ‘bah humbug’ to everyone else….haven’t you people seen that documentary called miracle on 34th street? It was in a court and they put santa on trial and santa won.

    My daughter just learned to say santa. She says it with a smile on her face and a glint in her eyes.

    Seasons greetings to everyone.

  • Emily

    December 16, 2010 at 8:51 am

    My family was Jewish, so obvs. no Santa – although I do have to thank the insane Christmas present culture for my mom getting all competitive and wanting me to think Hannukah was JUST AS GOOD by piling on the loot. However, I married into a semi-religious Christian family which is VERY Christmas focused, with heavy Santa traditions. My husband and I live close enough to both of our families for our now four-year-old to basically have the best of both worlds holiday-wise, while we have been free to not create holiday traditions in our own house. That’s actually very helpful when your religious heritages don’t match up.

    However, this year the boy is all about Christmas stories and is very interested in Santa, what Santa will do when he comes into the house, how Santa will interact with our cat, how Santa addresses the size problem with the chimney, etc.  Since we’ve let him lead the tradition-creating, we’ve discovered that the boy believes that the best thing Santa could possibly do would be to leave him a bag of M&Ms. And so that is our present version of Santa – a magical being who goes through rather extreme effort to deliver bags of M&Ms.  We’ll see if that works. Honestly, he’s still rather present-agnostic, even though he gets piles of them constantly, so I think the charm of Santa is in the magic, not the loot.

  • Kari

    December 16, 2010 at 9:54 am

    I’m one of those “no Santa” people, and I’m shocked by the amount of no Santa people, too! Even people at church think we are horrible. I try not to make a big deal about it. It’s not that I think Santa is awful. He’s just never been part of my holidays, and I can’t figure out why I would include him now.

  • Courtney

    December 16, 2010 at 10:21 am

    We’re going to be a Santa family. My son is 15 months now, so he doesn’t *really* get it, but he LOVES the tree and all the decorations. Growing up, Santa was big in my family and my husband’s – my parents would shake bells so we thought we heard the reindeer. And they told us that the reason our presents were in our family’s wrapping paper was because Santa was in such a hurry to give presents to all the kids, that he didn’t have time to wrap them so he asked my parents to do it. Made sense to me! I love the magic aspect of it, the “be good so Santa will come” aspect, the anticipation . . . it’s just so fun. And even after I figured it out (and I was never angry either), it was fun to keep it going for my brother.

    The Easter Bunny, on the other hand – I don’t know about that. It makes NO SENSE. I mean, I get that Santa is a crazy concept but it’s a rabbit! That brings chocolate! Because . . . Jesus died? I think we’ll pass.

  • Maggie

    December 16, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    I am all about santa! This is the first year my 9 year old doesn’t believe and it makes me so sad. I remember vividly the magic feeling about Christmas and I want my kids to have that too. I did worry a bit about the lying thing, but the kicker for me was the first year my youngest sister stopped believing she said “Can’t we just pretend I still believe in Santa Claus”. That made me realize Christmas loses the magic when the belief in Santa is gone and the sham is really just parents doing what they do everyday and that is making something special for their children.

  • Ami

    December 16, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    We did Santa as a kid (yay!) and we do it now for our family. It’s not the focus of our holidays, but we encourage it. One way we keep the focus in the right place is to not go overboard with gift giving; we always say “If three gifts is good enough for baby Jesus, three is good enough for us!” So each kid gets three presents from us, and one from Santa, plus their stocking. We also have a red velvet cake and sing “Happy Birthday Jesus” for dessert. And, finally, we’re Catholic so we celebrate Advent — a whole season of preparation, and we read lots of Christmas stories before bed during Advent, many of which are about the true meaning of Christmas. In my mind, Santa and Christianity are not mutually exclusive.

  • Karen

    December 16, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    We’re a non-Santa household. But we celebrate Saint Nicholas in a big way–on St Nicholas Day we hang bags of chocolate coins on our neighbors’ doors, the kids get three presents each, and it’s just a special day all around. We talk about the real Saint Nicholas, who was the origin of the current Santa myth.

    I “believed” in Santa until I was 12, and boy did I feel stupid when I figured it out. My husband has a nephew who felt so betrayed when he found out Santa wasn’t real that he declared his parents were “liars” and he would never believe anything they said. (Yeah, that kid had other issues, but it scared my husband away from ever wanting to do Santa for his kids!) Our kids don’t feel they’ve missed out. I don’t feel we miss out. They look forward to Christmas just as much as any other kids. (And yes, we have taught them to not tell their friends the truth about Santa—we’re not killjoys!)

  • Denise

    December 16, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    I love that my 7 yr old son said that he knows Santa is kinda real and kinda pretend but he’s still not really sure. Just makes me laugh. He wants to be part of the Santa fun even though he knows it’s a game. His age 5 sister believes the same as he does.
    Kari–you said all of what I wanted to say about my personal feelings on Santa. Angie — I teared up reading about your dad as Santa. I guess I felt what you wrote reflects how much you love him. Thanks for sharing.

  • Kati

    December 16, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    We’re big on Santa… well, I’m big on Santa and my husband humors me. He didn’t really get Santa like I did as a kid since he is the youngest by about 10 years. We’re all religious and always explain to our 21 month old that Santa leave presents to celebrate Jesus’ birthday. I’m also planning on making a birthday cake on Christmas Eve because if there is one thing my kid gets, it’s cake. I love the magic of Santa and probably “believed” in him a little longer than I would have (that whole childhood cancer thing- parents won’t tell you no on much of anything then), but I wasn’t upset or had ever felt like I was lied to. Kennedy doesn’t appear to be scared of him or think that it’s in any way scary (now, next year could be different).

    My Mom had the stop believin’ stop receivin’ message too- I was married before Santa stopped visiting me. If you can’t tell, my Mom is big into Christmas too. I’m glad that we have grandchildren in our family now to create that magic for.

  • aew

    December 16, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    We are Santa folk. In my childhood home and current, the big Santa gift is kind of a parental free pass to indulge. The big gift usually isn’t all that big or expensive, it is just that one thing they really, really want. We don’t buy gifts throughout the year, only birthdays. Mom & Dad gifts are pjs, small educational toys, etc. It’s great as a parent to just let go and get that one thing that makes no sense at all !

  • leanne

    December 16, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    What I find really disappointing about the Santa thing is the fact that Santa brings really expensive toys to the rich families and nothing to poor families.  The history of the fictional character of Santa is interesting – beginning with the charming St. Nikolas bringing gifts to those in need, evolving to C*ca c*la using him as a symbol to perpetuate commercialism.  I get the need for magic, for having something to believe in.  For us, Santa is a character in a story and we ‘play’ Santa.  It is our responsibility to be Santa and we donate gifts, clothes, food to shelters (all year round!).  Tonight we’re having a big Christmas party and wrapping gifts for needy families in our community.  In my opinion, the true magic will come when my kids are old enough to see the need and be a solution to the problem. 

  • Becca

    December 16, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    We were a Santa household. Santa presents were never wrapped, but my sister and I always instinctively knew which presents belonged to each of us. (With a little inspired help from Mom, of course!) My husband and I don’t have kids (yet), but when/if we do, I hope to be a Santa household again. I believed until almost high school, and I never felt any kind of feelings of betrayal once I figured it out. That’s just silly, in my opinion.

  • Sara

    December 17, 2010 at 5:43 am


    I don’t have kids yet but i plan on continuing my parents traditions. I was raised catholic and my parents celebrated the full 12 days of christmas all the way to epiphany on Jan. 6. In our house santa brought small nice gifts and filled the stockings. Only on epiphany did the big gift come because that was when the wise men brought the big gifts to baby jesus. I like this tradition because the christmas filling seemed to last longer since we were only allowed to open a few present a day until the 6th. It did cause a little frustration as a child when my friend would ask about what i go for christmas and i wouldn’t be able to answer, but in the long run it was well worth it. 

  • Kim

    December 17, 2010 at 10:44 am

    We’re an athiestic family, and I’m actually having a harder time telling the Nativity story. (I know that may be upsetting to some folks, and it isn’t meant disrespectfully at all- it’s just my personal reality.) My oldest is four, and knows all about Santa, but she’s just started asking about the other side of Christmas, too.
    Santa doesn’t wrap his presents. My favorite family Santa moment was when my young cousin saw the elaborate tableau of army men he’d gotten, turned to his dad, and said with big ol’eyes, “Santa must have stopped at our house last, because look at how long he took to set up my present!”
    Oh yeah, magic.
    We’ll keep it going as long as the girls live at home. They’ll figure it out on their own, just like they’ll eventually figure out what their faith will be (I do have faith, it just isn’t in an omnipotent being.)

  • Mary

    December 19, 2010 at 5:55 am

    As a small child I believed in Santa, although I was a little suspicious when I saw shadows shaped like my parents come into my room and fill the stocking at the foot of my bed when I was half asleep, half awake. When I clued in that Santa didn’t really come down the chimney and it was Mom and Dad who filled my stocking, my mother explained that everyone who gives gifts at Christmas time is a Santa Claus. I was satisfied with that and continued to enjoy the Santa stories while thanking my parents for the stuffed stocking every Christmas morning. I never thought of it as a lie.

    If I could respectfully make a suggestion to Kim, perhaps you could tell the nativity story as an allegory, which indeed much of it is: a story of a baby bringing hope to the world and being honored by the richest (three wise men, or kings) and the poorest (shepherds) with gifts. It’s a powerful story rich with symbolism, and as you say, your children will grow up to decide for themselves what they believe or don’t believe. If I were a non-Christian, I would see nothing wrong with telling children what Christians believe, just as I am interested to know what Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and atheists believe (or not!)

  • MommaFergie

    December 20, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Wait.. WHAT? Are you telling me there is no Santa?

    As a 30 year old (I still receive presents from him) via my mom and I love it. I will believe in Santa forever, because to me he embodies the giving spirit of Christmas. While he may not be physically real, I believe he is most definately spiritually alive in all who love the magic of the season.

  • […] to come to the house, I now understand the magic of Santa. I know there is debate on if we are lying to our kids by telling them there is a Santa, but the fiction helps create the excitement of this special time […]

  • Latoya Bridges

    December 22, 2010 at 2:29 am

    We are Santa folk. In my childhood home and current, the big Santa gift is kind of a parental free pass to indulge. The big gift usually isn’t all that big or expensive, it is just that one thing they really, really want. We don’t buy gifts throughout the year, only birthdays. Mom & Dad gifts are pjs, small educational toys, etc. It’s great as a parent to just let go and get that one thing that makes no sense at all !

  • Angela

    December 27, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    I had a very bad experience when I was entering 2nd grade and some children made fun of me for believing in Santa. I was embarrassed and angry that my parents had (as I saw it) deceived me. So, I chose to tell my children that Santa is the spirit of giving in the tradition of St. Nicholas. At ages 8, 6 and 2 they have not revealed the truth to their friends as far as I know. Same with the Tooth Fairy. We still have the Tooth Fairy bring a treat, but they know who the Tooth Fairy is and they get to keep the tooth. 🙂