If, like me and my husband, you have doubts about making the visit from Santa the central event of your holidays, let me tell you the story of why we decided this iconic character shouldn’t visit our house.
Let me say, before we start, that I have nothing against Santa. I like him and his rosy cheeks. Nor am I some Grinch who hates Christmas. On the contrary, December 1st, like clockwork, our house is fully decorated and Bing Crosby is Dreaming of A White Christmas. Still, my husband and I have decided to go against the tide and not include a visit from Santa in our holiday traditions. The gifts under the tree are from family and friends.
Before I had kids, I couldn’t understand why other parents around me would go to such lengths to make the story of Santa believable. The letter, the photo, the half-eaten cookie. It all felt like an exhausting lie.
“When you have your own kids, you will understand”—a standard phrase that became true so many times. But in the case of Santa, my view did not change after having kids.
When our son was born, we were convinced that we did not want to do the whole Santa thing. I could not see myself putting on what felt like a whole charade. But, looking around to all the Santa excitement, it seemed like we couldn’t avoid it.
In his first two years, our son was too young to care about Santa. He was just ecstatic with the lights, the decorations, the gifts. Before his third Christmas, we decided to get ahead of the Santa wagon. Instead of waiting for him to ask, we explained that the story of the true Santa, Saint Nicolas, is the moving story of a kind man, a long long time ago, who would go around and offer poor children gifts.
In honor of that man, for Christmas, we all become Santa and offer each other gifts. In the question of whether Santa exists or not, the answer is that he did exist, but now he exists only in stories. He does not ride a sleigh around the world every Christmas Eve to bring gifts, though. Simple as that. Our daughter, now three, is going to hear the same story this year.
The most common remark we get in response to our decision is that we deprive our kids of the magic of Christmas. My reaction is, have you watched kids? It takes a lot to destroy magic for them, as they go on discovering the world balancing between imagination and reality. Mice can talk, bicycles can fly, and, yes, a man in red can go around the world on a sleigh over one night. Kids do not need us for this imaginary world.
On the contrary, I think that many of the newest traditions related to Santa are thought out by and addressed to adults. It feels like we have taken a lovely tradition, stripped all its magic and brought it down to our own mundane adult world, trying to make it more “realistic.” In the process, we have added one more source of stress in our already overflowing life.
Of course, there are parents who enjoy every moment of it. Which is great. But most parents I know seem to be stressed over Santa, the letter, the cookie and everything that comes with. And that is what I mostly fail to understand.
Why set up yourself for that? It is ridiculous to claim parents are lying to their kids when they tell them about Santa. It is just a fun story, a game we play. It is the extreme effort in making it believable, of leaving no ambiguity, that makes it look like a lie after all.
And our own kids? How do they like the holidays without Santa? They both look forward to decorating the tree, choosing the gifts and spending time together as a family. And I am proud to see that they enjoy this process a lot.