A Santa-less Christmas

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– Santa doesn’t come to our house.
– My son doesn’t write a letter to him.
– My daughter doesn’t help set out milk and cookies.

That’s right. We’re THOSE people. Let me apologize in advance if one of my children happens to ruin Christmas for yours. It’s not personal, I promise. As a matter of fact, we haven’t really had a specific conversation about Santa to this point. He doesn’t really come up. Both Ethan (5) and Kate (2) would recognize the man in the red suit and could identify him as Santa, but they’ve never had their picture with him and they don’t expect gifts from him on Christmas. It would be interesting to see how my five year old might respond to your questions about the jolly old St. Nick because in our house, he’s treated much like Batman or Dora the Explorer — an interesting character to enjoy but not a real person to meet.

Obviously, everyone has reasons for their approach to Santa Claus, but my wife and I have decided not to make him a part of our traditions around the holidays. I’ve seen a few articles floating around over the past year or two that gives some of the reasoning why you might choose to divorce the man in the red suit from your gift giving tradition, but I prefer to frame it as a few simple questions that can really be applied to a lot of the ways we celebrate Christmas…or any holiday for that matter.

Why am I doing this?

Simon Sinek unpacks the importance of asking Why? in his now famous Ted Talk and subsequent book Start With Why. There may not be a better question to ask when it comes to doing things the way they’ve always been done. Why do I buy brand name products? Why do I believe in God? Why is Santa a part of Christmas? As I thought of the possible answers for this last question, I could only think of a few:

  • He was always a part of Christmas for me growing up, so I want my children to have that experience.
  • It’s a fun way to add excitement to the holiday.
  • Everyone else is doing it.
  • It’s behavioral conditioning. I mean, be honest. At least some of you have used Santa to threaten your kids into better behavior.
My purpose, then, is not to pass judgment on you if you happen to be a big fan of the jolly old elf but to encourage you to ask yourself the question, “Why?” That’s what we did, and for us, Santa just doesn’t pass the why test.

What am I teaching?

To my knowledge, no one has ever been significantly scarred because they anxiously awaited the gifts Santa would bring down their chimney only to grow up and find it was all a myth. In addition, it is not my intent to be melodramatic in my approach to the topic, but I do wonder what a child thinks that first moment he realizes it was all a charade. For me, my parents never really held the tradition closely, so I honestly can’t remember the feeling. I suppose I’m just trying to reconcile the desire for my children to grow up with an appropriate awe for the supernatural and the purpose of intentionally perpetuating a myth that I will have to undo at a later date. Some may argue we cannot give all truth to our children at once and will always have to reteach certain principles as they grow, and they would be right. My hope is, however, that this practice will be more about clarifying truth than reinventing it.

Will it impact the future?

I honestly don’t know. A quick search found a few different ideas on the subject. They range from a Huffington Post article that says it can be healthy to a Psychology Today article encouraging parents to Say Goodbye to the Santa Claus Lie. As a Christian, part of my thought process involves how a belief in Santa may impact my son and daughter’s feelings about Jesus. I don’t want to over-spiritualize it, but I also know that my faith is an important part of how I address things like Santa, super heroes, aliens, and more. I enjoy playing Batman vs. Superman as much as the next dad, but at the end of the day, my son knows it’s make believe. That’s a much different deal than hearing year after year that he has to be a good little boy to get what he asks for on Christmas.

Please don’t be alarmed. I’m not on some personal vendetta to see Santa eradicated from children’s books and malls. I’m not anti-tradition. I actually love tradition. I love the way that our history connects and grounds us. In fact, a proper understanding of the actual Saint Nicolas and the origins of the Santa Claus myth might be an interesting addition to our holiday conversations. We have just decided that Santa doesn’t have a place in our Christmas, and whether you end up at the same place or not, I hope you’ll at least ask the question, “Does he belong in yours?”

p.s. That Elf on the Shelf kinda creeps me out.
Elf on the Shelf

“Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.”

– Dr. Seuss

Brandon is the founder of A Life to Lead. He is also the husband of Beth, father to Ethan and Kate, and the coordinator of the D6 Conference.

5 thoughts on “A Santa-less Christmas

  1. this is us exactly. Santa wasn’t big in our childhood so we just didn’t really put Santa into our Christmas when the kids came home. The Vouce of the Martyrs does have a great children’s book about the real st. Nicholas that we’ve included in our Christmas reading for the last couple of years.

    And we did have to have the talk about not spoiling it for other kids, which has had varied success. 😉

  2. Brandon, glad to hear we are not the only ones choosing to leave out this tradition. Like you, we do not make a big deal about him being not real, we just choose not to encourage or participate. Probably our biggest obstacle with this is that my parents have always been huge Santa people, and they do not understand why we would not want him to be such a huge part of our traditions. I thought your blog was well stated and helped articulate conversations Ashley and I have had for years! Thanks!

    1. Thanks for reading, Josh. I would definitely say that those family expectations made your decision more difficult than ours. Obviously, I agree with you, though, so hopefully your parents can start to understand your reasons. Merry Christmas to your family!

  3. I sometimes feel all alone in not wanting to go along with the typical Santa-centric behavior so common place this time of year in this time period. It is refreshing & encouraging to be reminded that I am not (especially from a relative). The article was well written and struck the right tone and I thought the points put forth were valid. Many people could find this article helpful & thought provoking and even if their personal views remained unchanged they could walk away with a better understanding of a differing view point.

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