the Santa resolution

/// this post was written when Lily was only 4 months old 
and about to celebrate her first Christmas. 
Two years later, we're still not doing Santa. Here's why:

We've thought long and hard about it, and we've decided to not to Santa with our kids.I know some think we're a couple of Grinches for not doing it, but let us explain. We're not not doing Santa, we're redeeming Santa.

Here's what we're not doing:
  1. Using Santa as a reason for our kids to "be good"
  2. Showering our kids with presents because they're on their best behavior
  3. Telling our kids he's a magical man who will bring them presents if they obey us
  4. In a nut shell, lying to them
  5. Telling our kids Santa is bad, anti-Christian
  6. Allowing our kids to tell other kids Santa isn't real.
Why? Because for us, Christmas is about Jesus. Christmas is the celebration of the greatest thing to happen to the earth EVER. God coming to us, to live among us, know us, understand us, and eventually die for us. Christmas marks day one. Not in a literal calendar, but symbolically December 25th is when we celebrate that. The incarnation. God coming to live among men. A God who was not above us, but in every way made himself like us. A God who was not content to have us separated from him forever. A God who never said "obey me and I'll love you" (like Santa seems to say), but who did obey perfectly and then gave us his reward. For no reason except love.

But I'm guessing you already knew we thought that. So why ruin the fun that Santa can be? Honestly, it comes down to authenticity. We want our kids to trust us and know we'll always tell them the truth, especially because we will tell them of the great love God has for them, and showed them in Jesus. We don't want to confuse them with other larger-than-life ideas of Santa and flying reindeer when we're already introducing hard-to-conceive things like God and eternity. Our kids won't hear lies from us, bottom line.

But not doing Santa isn't really an option. It's obvious you can't ignore him. He will be a very present element of the holiday season, so we're choosing to redeem, instead of all-out reject him. We're telling them the true historical story of St. Nicholas, and how he was the root of the present-day Santa Claus. We're telling them about how St. Nicholas was a real man who loved God and lived like it. We're telling them about how he gave to children in need, out of a changed heart. How his generosity was celebrated and still is today, by the giving of gifts, especially to children.

We're celebrating the life of St. Nicholas with our kids. And in doing so, we'll also give gifts (yes our kids will still have the childhood experience of running with glee to the Christmas tree on December 25th to open presents), but not from a mythical Santa; from us, in the spirit of St. Nicholas.

Here's what we will do:
  1. Give gifts in the spirit/remembrance of a man who, changed by God, did great things and because we love our children. 
  2. Teach obedience throughout the year, not for Christmas presents, and not using the "Santa threat" (he sees you when you're sleeping!!)
  3. Celebrate Christmas with the culture. Enjoy it. Watch the Christmas movies, sing the Christmas carols. Do the Christmas crafts, and buy Christmas gifts.
  4. Use the person of St. Nicholas as a testimony of how God truly changes hearts, and what beauty can result
  5. Ultimately, celebrate, have fun, and point our kids to Jesus, the ultimate gift-giver who did not give us his acceptance or love because we were good, but indeed when we were enemies of him, he chose to redeem and save.
This hasn't been the most popular of ideas, and we get that. We don't think it's the only way to "do Santa" and we certainly won't be judging any other families who do differently. But for us, this is how we can, in good conscience, celebrate Christmas.


  1. Hey Em, we have a similar belief system to you. We will be telling our kids about St Nick, and that Santa Claus is "make believe". We still want to do Santa pictures and have traditions like cookies and milk before Christmas, with the knowledge that it's all pretend and for fun. The majority of our Christmas traditions and celebrations though will centre around Christ and the meaning of Christmas.

    I do have two areas I struggle with because of this decision. a) that as much as I tell my kids that they CANNOT tell other children that Santa is pretend, I believe they probably will at some point. They're kids. If I was in that situation, I probably would have. We'll cross that bridge when it comes though.
    b) nobody in our family is going to be on board with us about telling our kids santa is pretend. Nobody. It's going to be really hard because I can just picture the grandparents telling them "oh no, Santa is REAL"...another bridge we'll cross eventually!

    :) love this post though and the choices you've made!

    1. I hear you!

      For the second concern, we were in the same boat too. None of the grandparents (and our kids have 6!) liked the idea, and often forgot. Lily's first Christmas they'd all baby talk to her and ask about Santa and one relative bought her a reindeer stocking (can't remember if there was a Santa on it, but I think there was too) and later said "oops, I forgot you don't really do Santa".

      There is grace when they forget of course. I gladly accepted the stocking (it's not at our house anyway, it's Lily's for at my parents house if we happen to be there at Christmas), and when we get the "oops, forgot!" response, we're never upset or frustrated.

      That said, you need to be forward with your relatives. Ours all read this blog post when I posted it two years ago and we reminded them when we heard them talking about Santa and will continue to do so.

      Bottom line, you're the parents, it's your decision!

  2. Anonymous7.12.12

    We're very much like you guys, Em. Our boys are bigger and they have never for one day thought that Christmas was less fun because they didn't have Santa! I think it can be even more magical when you embrace truth. Mind-blowing really. Love your decisions! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Leigh7.12.12

    My family has the exact same views as you. (except we never really got into St. Nicholas and, to be honest, I don't know that story well). I'm 23 now and I've never wished that I had believed in Santa when I was younger and I've never felt like I was missing out on Christmas fun. Even when I was 6, I cringed when people asked me "what I asked Santa for this year," and, "had I been good for Santa," and when my friends told me "what Santa had given them." I can't remember what I said to other kids but I don't remember there ever being an issue with me telling them Santa wasn't real-- I think one of my sisters might have though!

    We did celebrate the Dutch variation of Santa Claus (Sinterklaas) at the beginning of December, but we always knew that it was just for fun and that it was really our parents giving us the small presents and "pepernoten" in our "klompen."

    We also never really mentioned the Easter Bunny in our house and yet I have wonderful memories of fun Easters. We did do the Tooth Fairy thing but our parents made it clear that there wasn't really a fairy; that it was just a fun thing to pretend but the money really came from Mom and Dad.

    Such a buzzkill, I know. I wouldn't have it any different though. My parents proved throughout my childhood that they wouldn't lie to us under any circumstances, even white lies, and I really respect them for not feeling pressured into welcoming Santa into our house.


    P.S. I don't think there's anything creepier than an old man watching me while I'm sleeping. *Shivers*

  4. Anonymous8.12.12

    As your relative, Em, I read and respect your decision, but for those who have commented that you don't want to lie to your children...do you know anyone who was truly traumatized as an adult by the "lies" their parents told about Santa and the Easter Bunny, or who doesn't trust their parents because of those two fictional characters? Is it really a lie as much as it is making magical memories? I mean, would you go to Disney World and tell a starstruck five year old that that wasn't really Cinderella, just a person in a costume? I understand the decision not to do Santa for religious reasons, but the "lies" reason I have a difficult time wrapping my head around.

  5. I agree with you (is this Maggie?) on that - I don't fear my kids being traumatized by the lies and finding out that Santa or Cinderella aren't real. My major reasoning for not wanting to fib about Santa is that he IS larger-than-life and magical and God-like in character (all-powerful, ever-present, etc), and I don't want Jesus to fall into the mix of make believe.

    I'm concerned that my kids may believe in Santa and Jesus and then when they find out Santa was a hoax, they'll assume Jesus is too. For that reason, I'd rather tell them the truth about these larger-than-life holiday characters like Santa and the Easter bunny so they don't question us telling the truth about the stories of Christmas and Easter when they're told. Does that make sense?

  6. I always knew the truth about Santa and never bothered me. The funny thing is, when in primary school, it seemed like everyone (except couple of kids) knew Santa is their parents, but nobody cared. We were all more excited about the snow (oh, the fun we had having ball fights, making snow men and so on), about carols, oranges and cookies. If we got something for Christmas, it was great, if not we shared whatever we got. I learned about St Nicholas in school, and I thought it was an awesome story. When I came to USA, 4 years ago, I couldn't believe kids really think Santa is real. I've been married for 2 years, we don't have kids (yet) and I never talked with my husband about this subject, but I'm sure whenever we'll have kids we will do the same thing. I'm not going to forbid the Christmas tree, and gifts, so on so forth but my kids will have a Christ centered Christmas.

    Thanks for sharing your way of keeping Christ in Christmas!

  7. It's funny to me the strong opinions that the Santa discusion brings. Our family doens't celebrate Santa for a number of reasons and the most important to us is that he takes away from Jesus's birth. We're not sharing one of the most miraculous events of history, the birth of our Savior with Santa. I'm not sure if you've read Treasuring God in our Traditions, by Noel Piper, but she makes some very good points regarding the subject. I'm actually doing a giveaway for her book today.

    1. Hi Jessica! Yes, I've read and really loved that book! What a great idea for a giveaway :)

  8. Hi! Just found your blog from Pint-sized Mama. Totally agree with you about this. We just had our first little girl in October, so this is our first Christmas with a child (although we're not doing a lot in the way of presents since she won't remember, and hoping our parents don't either...). I'm still a little worried about telling my husbands parents - my parents are a non-issue since we never believed in Santa Clause, for all of the reasons you listed. But I LOVE the make-believe of Santa movies and stories, just like I love fairytales and magical children's books. So we pretend, but we like to be upfront and honest too. Thanks for sharing this!

  9. You have no idea how nice it was to read this post!We have two girls 3 and 4 and have never done Santa with them for pretty much the same reasons as you (we believe each to their own).Up until the last week I had never met/heard of other parents who didnt do the whole Santa thing!So,thank you for sharing as you have made me feel a little more normal :)