How Santa Came to Be My Enemy and What I Did About It

It was Christmas 2007.  Davey was deployed, and I was struggling, and that Christmas Eve, I’d stayed up till nearly 2:30AM, assembling a lovely, retro-style, play kitchen with ten million parts and instructions written in Chinese.  I was exhausted by the time I was done, but this was to be three-year-old Rosie’s big gift – her Santa gift – and it was just adorable.  So worth it, I thought.

In the morning, when Rosie stumbled into the darkened living room, lit only by the tiny, multicolored lights of the tree, she stopped and stared. When at last she had wrapped her mind around what she was seeing, she just breathed, “Oh, thank you, Mommy!”  And I gritted my teeth, smiled and said, “That’s from Santa!”

That’s the year I began to hate him.

After that, I started to notice the things my children thought and said about Santa.  “Why don’t poor kids just ask Santa for what they need?”  “You won’t get that for me?  Well, I’ll just ask Santa.”  Santa was destroying their sense of compassion and charity and increasing their greed.  And I was getting angrier and angrier with him.

And then, two years ago, laying in bed one night, I said to Davey, “I don’t want the children’s nicest gifts to be from Santa.  They should be from us.”  He balked, but I couldn’t take it anymore.  I had no Santa tolerance left.  That year, Santa brought them all a nice pair of slippers, along with a note about how he knew our home was drafty, and sometimes their feet got cold, but many children didn’t even have a home, and could they perhaps remember those children?  They skipped right by the slippers and onto the other gifts.

The next year, there was still some Santa talk, and wish lists got written, but never mailed. Santa delivered little packages of stationary, so that they could write to long-distance friends and cousins.  (This was Davey’s idea.)  Many letters were written this past year, the younger ones especially using up all they had by summer.  I keep cards and envelopes in my desk drawer now for their use.  (Cousins, write back, please!)

This year, there has been no Santa talk at all.  We still have a gift planned; this one is also Davey’s idea, and a little more expensive than years past, but totally within our new Santa parameters.  Which are?  The gift must be relatively small and it must apply to all the children, meaning it could be a whole-family type gift, or one easily duplicated for multiple children regardless of age.  And it must not outshine the gifts given by parents, siblings, aunts or grandparents.  You know, the real people.

My Santa rage is gone.

If I had it to do all over again, I like to think I would never introduce Santa at all,  but I don’t think that would ever actually work out.  Davey and I have drastically different mindsets on things like this.  I think I’d be hard-pressed at any time to get him to give up Santa altogether, but we can both live with Santa like this.  Also, in addition to curbing the kids’ gimme mentality, and no longer undermining our Christian call to love and assist those less fortunate, there is one other plus: we don’t appear to be counter-cultural freaks.  At least on this.  Maintaining Santa in some form drastically cuts down on the number of times you have to explain your parenting decisions to random strangers who frown upon anything less than absolute conformity.  And if you’re anything like us, you spend enough time explaining yourself over real issues without having to add a fat guy in a red suit to the mix.

I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re happy that your children never thank you for their gifts because they think those gifts are from Santa, and you don’t have any issues with greed or uncharitableness or any other unpleasantness, then carry on.  But if anything about Santa’s influence over your children bothers you, it can be changed.  You are not stuck with Santa just because you started with him before you knew what you were getting into.  You are a creative person!  And there are always to make the world conform more to your parenting principles, no matter how divergent they seem to be.

Take what you have and do what you can to make it into what you want it to be.  You’re absolutely allowed to do that.

9 Comment

  1. We did sort of the same thing. The last Christmas we really had “Santa” was about three years ago. All the big gifts were from him and so my kids didn’t really have to thank anyone for them. Big disappointment for us. So the next year we decided that Santa was going to take a back stage. We do three gifts per child (one of which is usually a book) and then Santa does the stockings. We’ve been much happier with this arrangement. And for my husband, he was especially worried about the whole finding out Santa isn’t real thing because when he found out, it really rocked his faith in his parents (ie. how could they lie to him?). So hopefully this way, with Santa not being the focus of our Christmas and being more of a fun (but backstage) thing we will not end up with that particular issue.

  2. I so get your feelings, Santa is a big part of my extended family’s experience as my grandfather was a Santa’s helper and Uncles and cousins have been played the role. But luckily, he did not bring the biggest gifts. I went with the 3 gifts from Santa (Wise men brought 3 gifts) and our Christmas celebrations always included a birthday cake for baby Jesus.

    Have a blessed Christmas.

  3. We almost always bought presents for less fortunate children, so early on I realized it would be tough to explain why Santa brought them nice things but we had to buy those things for other kids. So Santa just does stockings. He gives cool, battery operated toothbrushes that mom would never buy. Collectively, the stockings are great, but usually no item in it is very expensive.

  4. When our first child was young, he asked why people have to give toys for the poor (Toys for Tots) when Santa brings toys on Christmas. Uh…good question. We explained that Santa only brings one toy for each child and many parents can’t afford anything at all. That was the first year Santa brought only one toy. We kept Santa’s gift unwrapped to make the distinction between gifts from mom and dad and those from Santa.

    For many years now, my children receive three gifts — no more than the Christ Child. Faith was fairly young when we started that, so we allowed that stockings were filled by Santa. We still “say” they are but none of the children believe any more.

    The thing I always disliked about Santa giving the gifts was that the children didn’t say “thank you” because…well, Santa just leaves them. I much prefer thank yous.

  5. Beckie R. says:

    I feel your rage and pain. For us, Santa gives you one special gift. Frequently, it is not even the most favorite gift at the end of all of the gift giving. This year, though, I have encountered the, “I’ll just ask Santa for an American Girl Doll,” thing. I have told the children they are not to ask for very expensive toys from Santa because it is just plain rude. Santa brings them a gift out of the goodness of his heart and so they should treat him graciously.

    It seems that most of us dislike the no thanking part of this gift giving. I think this year I might have the kids send Santa a thank-you letter.

    For our family, we have different parts that believe differently, and so it becomes difficult to field all of the different questions the kids have about how it works.

  6. Oh, I hear you on the complexity of the Santa issue. Santa was always a big deal for me growing up. My mom always put out an impressive display, even if the gifts themselves weren’t too expensive. I’ve had a hard time walking way from that, even with the cost of $3 stocking stuffers adding up to real money with all the kids.

    I think I’ll take your encouragement and continue to pare it down. But what will really happen is that I’ll go with the fruit and nuts and candy in their stocking and one small present besides. And maybe the coloring books? And crayons? And that little notebook? THIS is what I call ‘Santa creep’. I start with good intentions, but then there’s a bit more and then just a bit more and suddenly what I’m giving is totally out of proportion to what I wanted to do originally. I’m my own worst enemy on this front, I’m afraid. 🙂

  7. This is one of the many reasons we do “Santa” on St. Nicholas Day. He brings three gifts (like the Wise Men) and my kids know that he is a real guy, b/c he’s in heaven praying for us, but when my 5yr old asked last year flat out if he REALLY brings the presents, i couldn’t lie. I’m too scared that he will get a lie about that caught up in the other very real parts of our faith that you can’t see (and i’m not saying this is how it should be for all! just how it works for us! lol )

    So i talked about how St. Nicholas isvery very VERY real in heaven, and its fun to pretend that he brings presents, and he prays for us and he loves us and wants us to be good like JEsus, etc etc. so its still has all the magic and fun and pretend, but the truth is there (so they say thank you :-p ) and the truth of Santa is there too, so we’re also not counter cultural freaks lol <— huge issue with my family. but slowly, they've adapted that Santa comes to us early, and on Christmas, we open presents from whatever family has sent them. oh and stockings too, although those are definitely from Mom and Dad. just consumables, rolls of tape, tic tacs, etc. aka cheap stuff that they think are the best! things! ever!

  8. I’ve never enjoyed filling stockings, mostly because all those little, stocking-sized gifts really add up to a lot of cash! And it was just one more thing for me to try to pull together on Christmas Eve. 🙂 We moved our stockings to St. Nicholas Day, and they are smallish homemade ones. I put chocolate coins in the toes, a clementine in the heel, and hot cocoa packets and Little Debbie Christmas tree cakes in the top. Nothing extravagant, and all of it is eaten that morning. 🙂 I like Sarah’s nut idea, too. I’ll have to remember that for next year!

    We’ve talked about the silliness of writing letters to Santa, as he is a SAINT, who works with God, and what could you possibly tell him that he doesn’t already know?! And I’ve never taken them to sit on Santa’s lap, because I’ve never seen a child actually enjoy that, and I think, quite frankly, that it’s a little creepy. 😉

    I think thinking of Santa as a Saint really helps, too, because we don’t generally pray for material gifts from anyone else. In their own minds, it helps keep things in perspective.

    1. ohmigosh YESSSSsssss to taking them to sit on his lap. it is creepy and weird and i NEVER liked it as a kid and refuse to do it now (i mean, if they asked, sure) b/c SCARY lol. sooo many pics of kids hysterical with santa and while i do chuckle at them, its really just kinda mean.

      ditto to easter bunny (man sized rodents, who thought that wasn’t terrifying?!)

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