I mentioned in my last post about Advent that we don’t do Santa with our children. We made the decision when our son was young and it wasn’t easy. Going against the norm can be hard but we felt very strongly about why we were choosing to do so.
I actually have very strong and happy memories of Christmas when I was younger. We always spent Christmas Eve and Boxing Day at my Grandparents and they went all out to make mine and my sisters’ experience incredibly magical. There was the usual build up of mince pies and whiskey left out on the hearth and carrots for the reindeer and in the morning we would squeal, “He’s been!!” There would be sooty footprints left on the carpet, bites out of the mince pies and carrots (the whiskey was always gone though…). One year I had started to question his reality and on Christmas morning there was a beautifully written letter from Father Christmas himself! There were piles of presents from him and little stocking gifts as well. Hadn’t we been good…
You’d think with memories like that that I would want to recreate that magic for my own children but I don’t. The come down from finally (and it took a while- well into secondary school) realising that it was Grandma and Grandad all along and not some red and white bearded guy, was tough. Not to mention, embarrassing as I tried desperately to reason with my peers his existence. This is one reason that helped us to form a decision on whether we did Santa of not. Here are the other reasons why we don’t:
As I grew into an adult and remembered my Christmas experiences I had a heart stopping thought. I never said thank you. It’s not really expected to write to Santa and say thank you. My Grandparents spent all that money, all that time and I never said thank you to them. That really upset me. We decided that we want our children to be grateful for what they receive. That they know that we have worked hard to afford the gifts we and other family members have bought them.
It’s a bit creepy
Have you stopped and thought, really thought about how creepy Santa is. I mean one night a year some fat guy that you don’t know but are supposed to trust is nice, climbs down your chimney in the middle of the night and puts things in your house. Eats your food and then leaves…
Our son definitely thought about this, all the time. He was the point in which we said “no” to Father Christmas. He was genuinely scared of the fact that someone would come into his house in the night and that frightened him. Even the gift leaving bit wasn’t enough to persuade him. That was enough for us.
It becomes a tool in manipulation
“If you’re not good Father Christmas won’t come”, “He’s watching all the time. You won’t get any presents if you’re naughty…” How many times have you heard that? How many parents actually follow through with these threats? How many times did I watch my mum pretend to phone up Santa in a bid to get my sister to behave? Too many. Was there always presents on Christmas morning? Yes, of course there were. You’d have to be pretty harsh to not give your child their gifts. But then how confusing is that message? We believe that gift giving is something you do regardless of how someone has behaved. You do it because you love that person and want to show them that you care. It is not something you give with a caveat.
We don’t lie about anything else
We’ve made it very clear that we tell our children the truth. Always. Appropriately and with a level of understanding suitable for their age. Whether it’s about death or where babies come from, whether it is about war or why the sky is blue. We give them the correct answer. Why would we do anything different at Christmas? Our children, especially Joseph, are so curious and inquisitive. Always asking questions to try to understand things. What a mess we’d be in if we played the Santa game! I don’t want them to feel how I did when I realised Father Christmas wasn’t real.
The true meaning of Christmas
We try to stay focused on the true meaning of Christmas. That it is Jesus’ birthday. That we remember and celebrate His birth and a way of doing this is by giving each other gifts. We spend Christmas morning at Mass and then open presents once we are home. They can choose one gift to open before we leave. We keep Christmas Day as relaxed and calm as possible. Three children and very generous relatives means lots of presents and excitement levels rising. So we don’t fuel this by adding Father Christmas into the mix as well.
Some people have worried that our children won’t experience the magic and excitement of Christmas if we don’t have Santa. We disagree. They are so excited still, so happy and I feel they do not miss out at all. The only thing we now find hard is other people who say things like “is Santa coming? What is he bringing you? Have you been good?” We’ve explained to the children that everyone celebrates differently and we must respect others beliefs. If it is appropriate, us adults will step in to tell the well meaning person that we don’t have Santa but more often than not we just smile and nod and explain to the children after why we didn’t correct them.
So there you go. Some thoughts on what our family has chosen to do about Santa. What does your family do?