It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
I love holidays. All holidays. I love celebrating and now that I’m a mom I love it even more.
This year I had so much fun making family Halloween costumes (You can see them here). The boys really enjoyed eating Thanksgiving food. And now, it’s Christmas. I am in love with my Christmas tree, even if all we have done so far this year is put it up–no ornaments. And Steph bought family stockings that I have been wanting for years. I have all the crafts planned and all the cooking ideas and I’ve spent way too much money on Christmas gifts. But I love it.
However, I have had a concern prickling my subconscious: Santa
I don’t want to teach my kids to believe Santa is real. And not just Santa, but the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy and that damn Elf on the Shelf, too. But at the same time I was doubting myself. What if I was stealing the magic of the holidays or the innocence of being a child by not convincing my kids to believe?
I think I may have found a solution!
There are five big reasons I don’t want to teach my kids to believe in Santa (et al)
1. I don’t want to lie to them.
I want my kids to know they can trust me with anything and everything no matter what. And I feel like if I create a foundation of dishonesty in their most formative years, I might not ever recover.
2. I’m not into bribing or manipulating my kids for good behavior.
I want them to make good choices and be good people because it’s the expectation and for the intrinsic rewards, not for gift-wrapped packages under a decorated tree. Also, I don’t want them to feel like they have to earn gifts or my love. My main love language is easily physical touch, but receiving gifts is a close second. I want to give my children gifts as an act of love and I don’t want them to ever feel like they have to do something to earn my love. I love them simply because they are mine and that will never change.
3. Santa is a creep.
He spies on kids all year long. He judges their worth. And then he breaks into their homes while they are sleeping. That does not sound fun.
Also, I’m not a huge fan of the fake Santas who pose for photos. I’m sure most of them are wonderful and have no ulterior motives. But some of them are disgusting.
I let the boys take a photo *near* Santa this year when we ran into him at a craft fair because there was no line and the photos were free.
We walked away and paused so I could get them ready to go outside and a couple of high-school-aged girls wanted to take a silly photo with Santa. The same Santa who had no problem with posing next to my stroller refused to take a photo with these girls unless they sat on his lap. They only wanted to stand next to him, but he pressured and insisted they sit on him.
The girls left without a photo, and I was furious. It was absolutely inappropriate for a grown man to insist that teen girls sit on his lap even though they made it clear that 1) they did not want to and 2) he made them uncomfortable. I worried about all the innocent children who sat on his lap throughout the day.
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4. “Santa” WAS real.
St Nicholas was orphaned when he was a teenager. His wealthy parents left him a lot of money. He heard about a man who was going to have to sell his three adult daughters into slavery because they were so poor he couldn’t afford food much less a dowry, which means they couldn’t marry. One night, the oldest daughter washed her stockings and hung them by the fire to dry. The next morning, she saw a lump in her stocking and found enough gold inside to provide food for her family and pay her dowry so she could marry instead of becoming a slave. The next morning, another bag of gold was found. The third night, the father stayed awake to catch who was helping his family. When he was discovered, Nicholas asked the father to not tell anyone about his deeds.
St. Nicholas helped people throughout his whole life, and he always tried to help in secret. He didn’t want attention or thanks. I feel like it is more important to teach the spirit of Santa Claus/Christmas/St Nicholas is one of generosity and giving that should last all year long and not just during December.
5. I do not want to negatively affect my kids’ faith.
Religion is a tricky subject. I want to teach my children about my spirituality and faith. I want to teach them about the saints and Advent and the 12 Days of Christmas, and Epiphany, and Lent–all things I didn’t really know anything about until I was an adult. Some of them I had never even heard of until I was an adult.
And I want them to know it is okay to question. They do not have to choose the same religious belief system I have chosen–I won’t force that on them. But if I trick them into believing in mythical creatures and people when they are children, then later when they are questioning whether God is real or sovereign then what validity is there in anything I could say?
What will we do instead? Two Things
We will share with our kids what being a gift giver really means and how to promote the magic of Christmas by creating a spirit of thankfulness and giving and family tradition.
I love giving gifts, and I think I’m pretty good at choosing meaningful ones. I love making gifts (handmade gifts are my favorite to receive!). We will make an effort to teach our kids how much fun it is to give thoughtful gifts. We will demonstrate thankfulness in all seasons and conditions. And we will always focus on family and togetherness as most important not only during the holiday season, but all year.
We will still do all the Santa things (and Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny) but we will tell the kids “This is something that we (children and adults) pretend because it is fun.”
Does tricking our kids into believing in Santa inspire creativity? No. Can we encourage creative thought and play and still be truthful? Yes. Imagining that Santa exists and believing that he really does are two completely different things.
So we will still bake cookies for Santa (peanut butter, because they’re my favorite) and we will still write him letters (duh. With two English teacher moms they’ll probably write several drafts of each letter). We will still read books about Santa (and St. Nicholas). We will still fill their stockings after they go to sleep on Christmas Eve. On Easter they will still wake up to Easter baskets. When they lose teeth they will still find glittery money under their pillows from the Tooth Fairy. But they are always going to know that we are all pretending these fun things together. Moms pretend to be the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.
I know this isn’t ideal for everyone.
And that’s okay. I promise I will ask my kids not to tell the truth to other kids before I send them to school. But I am very much looking forward to building traditions with my family that include fun, love, and happiness for all of us.
What is your favorite holiday tradition from your childhood? What is your favorite tradition you celebrate with your kids? Tell me in the comments!
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