Holiday time is almost upon us, and for those that celebrate Christmas, the age-old Santa question looms large and remains a topic of dissenting opinions. Do you tell your kids the truth about Santa—or do you encourage them to believe?
It's ok, there's no right or wrong here from my point of view. I don't feel any strong religious or political significance behind it. The magic of Christmas itself is lovely and joyful; the family time, the generosity and goodness; the love of others--even the lights, choosing a tree and the hanging of ornaments. So I'm a fan of this sweet, loving bit of spellbinding magic. Christmas is about helping others, giving selflessly, and being thankful for what you do have, and not focusing on what you don't. It's also about the kids.
Still, many believe that to actively perpetuate the Santa idea, sneak around hiding gifts, and track Santa's route online, parents lie to their children. They're not wrong; you are technically lying or omitting the truth. So if that's your take, then telling the truth is entirely valid too—just expect a few tears.
My husband and I totally bought into Santa. I loved believing in him when I was little, and I willfully turned away from all the indications that he wasn't real. When one friend told me my parents were Santa, and he didn't exist, I told her, "well, he's not going to come to someone who doesn't believe in him, so your parents may have to play Santa. And to be honest, when I did finally ask and push and plead to find out, I felt pretty sad and maybe a bit angry when my Dad told me.
That's not what lasted, though. What continued was a love of the traditions, a love of choosing gifts to give to others, and a love of all things Christmas. From Silent Night to Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, I am only left with good memories of Santa. So I perpetuated the belief for our kids and had a great time doing so. I even hid separate wrapping paper, so the presents from Santa were clearly not from us.
Eventually, they discovered the truth, but they still put cookies, milk, and carrots by the fireplace for Santa and Rudolph every year. In fact--this is hilarious--my teen daughter just this very second as I am writing this came up and handed me an "Endless Christmas" coupon from last year's stocking for one small surprise from Santa. Her choice? A movie ticket. Yep, I'm pretty sure their kids will be believers too.
Still, after years of keeping up the Santa Claus charade, some parents find it hard to break the news that he's not real and don't know what to say. We told our kids the story of St. Nicholas and explained that Santa was not completely real but that the sentiment of sharing and giving to others is. By believing in Santa, Tyler and Kylie would become Santa for their kids and hopefully for other people in general who may need a bit of love or a little help. (We also reminded Tyler that some kids, including his younger sister, still believe in him, so he's not allowed to spoil it for them.)
In a way, our concept involved transitioning our children from receiving presents from Santa to "becoming" a Santa for others. We would sponsor a child whose family couldn't afford gifts, and we'd fill boxes and baskets for kids at orphanages and homeless shelters.
I recently came upon another mom's story that took the same concept and made it come true so that the Santa construct is not a lie that gets discovered, but an unfolding series of good deeds and the Christmas spirit
The anonymous post explains a specific and straightforward process for talking with your kids when they start appearing suspicious about the reality of Santa:
"You sure have grown an awful lot this year. Not only are you taller, but I can see that your heart has grown, too. [Point out 2-3 examples of empathetic behavior; consideration of people's feelings, good deeds, etc., the kid has done in the past year]. In fact, your heart has grown so much that I think you are ready to become a Santa Claus.
You probably have noticed that most of the Santas you see are people dressed up like him. Some of your friends might have even told you that there is no Santa. A lot of children think that because they aren't ready to BE a Santa yet, but YOU ARE
Tell me the best things about Santa. What does Santa get for all of his trouble? [lead the kid from 'cookies' to the good feeling of having done something for someone else]. Well, now YOU are ready to do your first job as a Santa!"
You can then have the child choose someone they know―a neighbor or friend, and secretly find out something that the person needs, then provide it, wrap it, deliver it―and never reveal where it came from. "Being a Santa isn't about getting credit, you see. It's selfless giving."
It's never too early in a child's life to teach them to have a kind heart and help others. Santa still comes to our house.
And a little magic never hurt anyone.