I get asked a lot about why we don’t do Santa in our family. The most basic answer would be that it just doesn’t fit in with our values. This can be a bit of a heated subject, but I understand that every family places importance on different things, and there’s certainly no right or wrong way to celebrate Christmas. So here are some of the reasons we choose not to do Santa in the traditional way:
It’s a lie
A lie is “an intentionally false statement” or something intended to “to convey a false impression”. No matter how much you justify it by saying it’s just a little white lie, or continuing a tradition, or protecting the magic of childhood, unless you actually believe that Santa lives at the North Pole and flies around the world on his sleigh delivering presents on Christmas Eve then presenting it as truth is still a lie. And it often leads to more elaborate lies and deceptions as children get older and begin to question the possibility of Santa.
I’m sure plenty of people will disagree with me, which is fine. For me, it all boiled down to the simple fact that I couldn’t bring myself to look my children in the eye and tell them that Santa is real. I remember the moment when I was talking to Aaron and knew that I had to tell him one way or the other. The thought of lying to him made me feel sick inside and I just couldn’t do it.
Naughty or nice? Those aren’t labels I want to apply to my children, nor do I want them to think that other people must fall into one of those categories. It gives the impression that people are deserving or undeserving, and I don’t want them to believe that love is conditional on their behaviour. As a Christian mother, I want to demonstrate grace to my children. Grace is generous, free and can’t be earned. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve.
Santa is often used as a threat to manipulate children into behaving in a certain way. Bribery can certainly be effective, which makes it a very tempting discipline tool, but I want my children’s behaviour to be motivated by a desire to do what is right, rather than by a desire for reward or a fear of punishment. Besides, using the threat of Santa not bringing your child any presents leaves you with a big problem if they continue to misbehave. Either you follow through, which would be rather harsh, or you don’t follow through, which undermines your parenting.
It’s not fair
For some children, Santa fills their stocking with a few small gifts. For others, he brings hundreds of pounds worth of expensive presents. Does that mean a child isn’t good enough if they don’t get the costly gift they asked for? Or what about all the children in the world who are homeless or starving? How do I explain to my children that Santa gives nothing where it is needed most? Do those children not deserve their wishes to be granted?
Whether you celebrate it for religious reasons or not (and that’s an issue I still have my doubts about), surely Christmas is supposed to be a time of kindness and joy rather than consumerism and materialism. Yet Santa puts the focus on getting rather than giving. Children are encouraged to make lists of things they want, which parents must try to obtain or risk exposing the lie. Of course, adults usually throw in some moral lesson about how it’s better to give than receive, but most of what children experience at Christmas is centred around getting presents. How can children begin to understand the importance of giving to those in need when a supernatural being supplies them with lavish gifts from their wish list?
When you mention to someone that your family doesn’t do Santa, there seem to be two main objections. Firstly, that it robs children of a magical childhood, and secondly, that it spoils it for other children. In my next post, I’ll try to address some of the potential problems of not doing Santa and explore ways that Christmas can still be a magical experience for children.