Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Santa isn't Mandatory (Or Frugal)

I've done a little bit of research on the folklore of Saint Nicholas. Stories conflict about who he was and who he helped. One thing seems consistent through the various stories: Saint Nicholas was a man of God who helped the destitute.

Santa Claus of today seems to be a glutton who probably has some serious gut dysfunction from all those cookies. He seems to pass over the poor of the world, and heap toys onto the wealthiest children this world has ever seen.

My parents did Santa when I was growing up. We got a stocking from Santa. When I asked Santa for a piano, I got a mini piano, because he only can bring things that will fit in a stocking. One year, my Dad had my oldest brother, who was nine years older than me, get us all up in the middle of the night to peer down the stairs at Santa putting toys in our stockings. We thought it was awesome how the dog didn't bark at Santa, since the dog always barked at strangers.

Dan's parents omitted Santa because they thought it was lying to their kid. I can agree with this point. If we put gifts in stockings in the future, we won't lie to our children and tell them someone else bought them for them. We might tell the story of a kind man who gave to the poor, and remind our children that they too should be thinking of those less fortunate than themselves.
I don't like that for some families doing Santa feels obligatory. No tradition should feel forced. We may do Christmas differently than others, but we are evaluating each tradition open to us and deciding if it is something we want for our family. It will probably be years until we have a set of traditions that we are truly content with for our family, and I think that's a good thing.

66 comments:

Clisby said...

My husband's parents never did Santa either. My family did, and I loved it - but of course it isn't mandatory. Also, my family threw in the twist that I've never heard about from anyone else - when we were old enough to understand about money, they explained to us that Santa brought the gifts, but they paid for them. So we weren't confused about why richer kids got bigger presents.

We didn't really say much about Santa with my now-13-year-old; once when she was 3 or 4, I asked her what she wanted Santa to bring her for Christmas; she looked at me like I was crazy and said, "Mom, Santa isn't real." My 7-year-old took it all more literally, and to my surprise still believes in Santa. Oh, well, gotta send 'em to therapy over something.

Have you ever read the Betsy & Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace? They're set around the turn of the 20th century in a small town in Minnesota. I always liked the sound of one family's tradition - on Christmas Eve they'd turn out the lights in the parlor and parents and children would stuff their presents for each other in the stockings. (I gather these were fairly large stockings, but obviously we're not talking bicycles and pianos here). There didn't seem to be any pretense about Santa coming. My mother told me about eagerly awaiting Santa's arrival, but she was born in 1928 - I suspect all the Santa stuff has grown exponentially since 1900.

I was amused when my 7-year-old came home from school recently and told me some kids don't believe in Santa. I asked whether they got presents, and he said yes. When I asked how the presents got there he said, "They say it's just magic." Ummm - OK.

Anonymous said...

We do Santa Claus at our house, my oldest has questioned his existence, but my saying of "If you don't believe then you don't receive." pretty much put a cabash on that one.

We have a younger little man coming up and I want him to enjoy the spirit of Santa for a few more years go come.

My oldest asked me if I believed in Santa, and I said, "Of course I believe in the spirit of Santa Claus or St. Nicholas and what he stands for."

I then talked to him briefly about the history of this kind old man who made toys for children and gave it to them.

The most magical part of childhood was hearing Santa's sleigh bells under our bedroom floor when we awoke on my Grandma's farm with a booming Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas.

So for now, I will encourage my boys to enjoy the sights, wonders of this joyous seasons. They know the true Reason of the Season, Jesus's birthday, but as well they enjoy the tradition of Santa Claus that has been a magical part of childhood for many generations.

Childhood is so fleeting, and magic in the during this time is part of it.

I am not disagreeing with your stance Emily, your a great mom and following your own beliefs, but even I want to believe in St. Nick for a few more years yet as well :) in the eyes of my boys......

Mom in Canada

Minn said...

I agree with your view on Santa. It seems unnecessary and a bit materialistic to me.

Our Family Is His said...

We grew up with Santa. It was just part of the Christmas celebration. However, when I grew older I started to have a little niggling in my head that said, "hmm, really", but never went anywhere with it.

Then we had two little boys. Both of them have Autism and are very, very, very literal. VERY. This is common with children with Autism. We started to think about Santa again. How if we lie to him for the next 6 years (this was when he got his diagnosis), will he believe us when we tell him there is a Jesus. No, really son. I know we told you Santa existed you just couldn't see him, but Jesus is differen. He exists, you just can't see Him. We couldn't take that chance. That's an eternal thing for us, for him.

So, our decision was made very easy because of our kids problems.

Jen said...

I can respect your choice to not do the santa thing. I do have to disagree with the last comment about the santa and materialism. I think there are people who get it messed up but the true magic about Santa is the spirit of giving. It's the act of selfless giving without expecting to get anything back. I don't regret having the magic of santa as part of our Christmas, and as my kids are older, I expect this will be our last year of the innocent belief. One of my favorite memories is the year that I asked and learned the truth about Santa and my parents allowed me to be a part of putting the stockings together for my younger siblings.

With that said, I don't begrudge anyone their own personal belief system and way of doing things. I just hope you are not the type who encourages your kids to ruin it for those who do believe. I never understood that type of parent.

Rachel said...

We don't do Santa with our children, but we tell them about St. Nicholas and that in his memory many mommies and daddies like to pretend to that they are receiving gifts from him. Then we talk about how daddy has worked hard all year, to take care of what we need, so we don't need to pretend to receive gifts from St. Nicolas. Instead we can honor St. Nicolas' memory by giving to someone that really has a need.
My in-laws are Santa-crazed! So it's really important to us to acknowledge "santa," but tell our children the truth.

Anonymous said...

So it's okay to force the imaginary, omniscient "god" but not something harmless and magical like Santa? You're willing to teach your kids that some invisible man who has the ability to know everything you do, think or feel and sits on high waiting to pass judgment but for them there is no Santa, who like most thing is neither good nor bad, he simply a symbol of giving. Well, I guess that makes you parent of the year...or a joy stealing religious zealot.

liveoncejuicy said...

I grew up with my mom doing Santa--very traditional Christmases. I did Santa big time for my teenage kids when they were small. I have a five-year-old now and we talk about Santa coming, but she just helped me wrap up her Daddy's stocking stuffers--so we while we talk about Santa, she knows Daddy and Momma buy the presents. She's also helped me make gifts for her brother and sister.

I don't mind Santa--but I agree with the lying thing. Not for religious or Jesus reasons--but because I think that lying isn't a good thing to do. So we don't make a huge huge effort to make our kids really believe that Santa is an actual person who comes down our non-existent chimeny. My parents did, and I can remember being devestated to learn it was my mom who put ashes on the carpet.

My son has Asperger's and like the other poster who has autistic kids, he takes things SUPER literally. (Raining cats and dogs? When he was little, he thought he could run out and get him a pet. I'm not even kidding.) However, there was no problem with the Santa thing. Both my big kids, when they were probably five or six, just sort of transisted into realizing that Santa was a tradition and not a reality. Same as Ruby is doing now.

crabcakes said...

No family should be forced to do the holidays as anyone else does. I don't understand why people get all worked up over whether someone says "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays". Seriously, someone just said something nice to you so smile and shut up. People get all ownership-minded when it comes to Christmas and it's a horrible spirit to be in if you complain about what someone else says or does. You have to do what's right for you.

That being said, I think the same is true about taking the Santa story to the extreme by calling it deception. The whole "I'd never lie to my kids!" feeling about it is odd to me. Parents fib to their children all the time. We kiss a boo boo to make it better and it "magically" heals the boo boo. Maybe we shouldn't do that because it's a big old lie and we all know kisses don't heal boo boos.

My feeling is that this white "lie" is one that brings joy and good spirit in my home. We don't have a huge budget but Santa does come and he does bring gifts and I encourage the story with my young children. Also, Christmas is a purely secular holiday for us. Christ wasn't born in the winter so we don't celebrate his birth on December 25th. Therefore, it makes more sense for us as a family to celebrate the festival from a non-religious standpoint. (To me the bigger holiday for Christ is Easter, so personally I think of him more on this day)

My overall wish is that people would celebrate the holiday as it works for them and let others do the same. Stop walking off in a huff when someone says Happy Holidays and in the same respect, stop getting mad when a school has a Christmas tree.

Live and let live (but don't ruin the spirit of joy for anyone else either)

Melissa said...

Emily,
I just wanted to leave a quick comment about how adorable your three little guys are! You are truly blessed....

Melissa

I'm Lori...and maybe I'm you, too. said...

I love the Santa myth. And we also do St. Nicholas on Dec. 6 because my family is Austrian. I think if you approach it in the real spirit, it's not hard to translate a cherished childhood story to a beautiful tradition you love even though you know your mom is putting the presents under the tree.

Carla said...

I grew up with Santa. Even though we were poor, "He" went overboard at Christmas. Mom still does and I can count on two car loads of toys for the kids from her (she said she bought them so much this year she was embarrassed and saved half for their birthdays and next year, ai ya ya!). Christmas was stressful as a kid because we literally spent most of the whole day opening presents yet it seemed like we didn't get anything.

For my kids, I had intentions of not perpetuating the Santa myth but it is so prevalent in our society. DS is especially inquisitive so if he asks, I ask him what he believes and I respect what he believes. DD doesn't seem to care either way. I did tell them that I was Santa's helper, which is why we have his gift early (they usually get one gift from him, except the year we were adopted by a health club for Christmas. While we appreciated the thought, I wish we had of been consulted before hand as they could of found a family who really needed it. We like simple and they overwhelmed us. We ended up donating almost everything).

Kari said...

No Santa in our household! We do celebrate St. Nicholas' day every December 6th, but we celebrate him as a generous man who followed Christ's example of charity.

For our family we really do strive to keep Christmas very Christ centered and Santa just doesn't fit into that equation.

Anonymous said...

A couple of things I wanted to say.
Not wanting to lie to your kids as a reason for not having santa is, in my opinion, BS. If your 3 year old walks in on your having sex will you tell them what you're doing as to not lie? Probably not.
How is someone giving gifts with the name santa on them any more materialistic then exchanging gifts at Christmas at all?

I don't think there is anything wrong with not pretending in Santa (with an actual valid reason) but I also think there is nothing wrong with pretending there is.

And really anon, who clearly doesn't believe in God,- Why are you even discussing Santa or CHRISTmas at all? When Satan's birthday comes around I'd love to hear you traditions but this isn't the season for it.

Amy said...

I am always so surprised at the depth of emotion and strength of opinion generated by the Santa debate. When did a mom who teachs her children about Jesus and not Santa become "joy stealing religious zealot"? And this in the spirit of Christmas?

And what if the Christians who are teaching their children about Jesus are right? I know there are a lot of people who don't share my beliefs and think Jesus is imaginary, or a crazy historical figure or a delusion. But He is very real to me. How cruel would it be of me not teach my children about their Savior and how to have eternal life?

Amy @ thecircusmcgurkus.blogspot.com

Amy said...

Oh, and I just wanted to tell you Emily that your blog is looking very cute. I can read the whole thing now without having to scroll from right to left.

You don't need to publish this comment, I just wanted you to know. :)

oceans5 said...

We do Santa up big around here. It was always so wonderful growing up with so much excitement and I want to give that back to my kids. They know the real meaning of Christmas. We balance between Santa and why we have Christmas. At our house Santa brings the big gifts. For example their play kitchen. I love seeing how excited my kids are on Christmas Eve. Emily is right about it not being frugal but that is something that I accept. Each family has to make their own decisions but for our family Santa is something that will be done for as long as my children believe. My grandma still hides a "Santa" gift under the tree for the grown ups in our family each year.

Adorable pic of your boys Emily.:)

Anonymous said...

Count me among the "joy stealing religious zealots".

-K-

Ps. The blog is looking good, Emily!

Jess said...

So now everyone who doesn't believe in Christianity is a Satanist? Way to be accepting. (Or perhaps Anonymous is a...Santaist...ba dum ching!)

Anyway, I agree with crabcakes- Jesus wasn't born in the winter, and the only reason Christians celebrate that time of year is that the church, when recruiting the pagans in Europe, wanted to "overwrite" all the big pagan holidays- in this case, solstice. Christmas is really a pagan holiday dressed up so that Christians can celebrate. Nothin' wrong with that, but Jesus really isn't the reason for this particular season.

Treva said...

We do Santa at our house, but I believe in Santa and as my daughter gets older and understands things better I will explain to her that Santa is God's way of putting the spirit of giving inside of us. So essentially we are all Santa every time we give to someone else, even if it's not at Christmastime.

Right now though my daughter is only 5. So right now she believes in the man in the red suit and that's okay with me b/c I think part of my job as a parent is help my child stay innocent for as long as possible. And Santa, in my opinion, is something innocent to believe in. But just b/c we believe in Santa doesn't mean Christmas has become some big selfish ritual about getting as many presents as possible. We get 3 gifts from Santa (plus a stocking from Mom & Dad) b/c Christmas is Baby Jesus' birthday and we are celebrating the 3 gifts the Wise Men brought to Baby Jesus to celebrate His birth. And we know she understands b/c she always tells us that she asked Santa for 3 things to help celebrate Jesus' birthday.

To help a bit more in keeping this focus I'm seriously considering making a birthday cake for Baby Jesus as a Christmas dinner dessert. As young as our kids are right now I think we need to do what we can to preserve their innocence while also bolstering up their beliefs in ways they can easily relate. And kids understand birthdays and birthday cakes quite well!

Anonymous said...

Our family had the Christmas programs and special services at church. We had a tree and the presents underneath were from mom and dad, etc. Santa (and the Easter bunny) are fun, just as cartoons on television are fun. It's ok to like them but they are not real. Carmen

SoMo said...

I think you have many sweeping generalizations. First, we do Santa, but don't go overboard. I don't like the clutter and I find that kids get overwhelmed with a ton of stuff. Second, we go through and donate toys that aren't being used before Christmas and before b-days. Third, how do you know what Santa does and does not bring to poor kids. I have donated to the Angel tree at church and the Salvation Army and as far as I know the parents put Santa on those presents. Santa is not just a man in a red suit that arrives in a chimney, he is in all of us if we choose.

As for Santa being a lie, I think it is BS, as well. Do you tell your kids to stop imaginative play, because it isn't real? Do you tell them to stop making up stories, because it is not real? Kids need imagination and what is so wrong with the parents joining in.

My daughter is 7.5 years old and she asked me if Santa was real. I simply asked her what she thought and without hestitation she said yes. Then we had a discussion about faith. I know that some day she will know the "truth" about Santa, but the longer the better in my book.

mary bailey said...

This will be my child's first Christmas not believing in Santa---he's 10yo. When he believed we always empahsized to him that we had to pay Santa for the gifts that he brings. We also have always told him that the whole reason we give gifts is to celebrate Jesus and His love.

For what it's worth, I'm sure Jesus was not born on December 25th. It makes absolutely no difference to me. We celebrate and worship him all year long but Christmas is a time when we can focus in on the the fact that He chose to come to earth as a helpless, tiny baby and experience this human life. He didn't have to do that. He could have chosen some other way, but He chose to leave the comfort of heaven for a little while because of His love for us.

Merry Christmas to you, Emily, and to all your readers!

Jen said...

"And really anon, who clearly doesn't believe in God,- Why are you even discussing Santa or CHRISTmas at all? When Satan's birthday comes around I'd love to hear you traditions but this isn't the season for it."

Oh dear. Are we going to start this here? Christmas isn't even Jesus' birthday. If you want to go that route keep in mind that the Solstice is the actual reason for the season and the church adopted it in order to make it easier to convert us heathens so as not to take away the pagan celebrations entirely. If you want to get technical, it is the Christians who have no cause to celebrate this time around.

I love the holidays. All of them. Why ruin it with everyone trying to claim them as their own? Ridiculous.

Mrs. DFx40 said...

My husband and I have been discussing this more and more as we get closer to having children. Both of our families grew up with Santa and my parents in particular went out of their way to keep me believing. And I did...to a much older age than my friends. Which might be why I was so devestated when I relized that Santa wasn't real and that my parents would lie to me about something so ridiculous. So after some thought we decided to not do Santa at our house. We will still exchange one or two gifts, and just focus more on helping others during this season.

I am personally not going to discourage anyone else from celebrating with Santa, or try to tell them what they should do. But I do wonder, Emily, how does your family feel about yours and Dan's decision? My grandmother told me I would ruin Christmas for my children if I didn't do Santa.

Anonymous said...

I may not agree with you on alot of topics, but I do agree that no tradition should feel forced. My children know that Santa isn't real. We've never done the Santa myth--they know who buys their presents. They also know not to ruin it for other children whose parents teach them differently.

Since you feel that no tradition should feel forced, does that apply to all traditions or just traditions like Santa? How do you feel about forcing your children to learn the Jesus myth or any of the other Biblical myths that Christian parents teach their children? Do those also apply?

Anonymous said...

I just saw the comments from the people who believe that non-Christians are Satanists. God and Satan go hand in hand. If I don't believe in God, I'm certainly not going to believe in his arch enemy. That's just laughable.

Anonymous said...

Emily, I think this is the first time I've read your blog and actually agreed with the subject matter! I'm not sure what to think about that, lol :)

My husband and I will not tell our kids Santa is real, either. He was raised a Jehovah's Witness (although he's not one now) and didn't celebrate Christmas at all, and he always thought that kids who believed in Santa were stupid. I just never felt the need to do this with my kids.

We are going to tell our kids that Santa is a celebration of St Nick, like you said, and that we can honour that memory by giving to those who are less fortunate. Basically, we're going to spin Santa as a way to give to others anonymously via toy drives and the like. We'll still do pics with Santa and any other fun stuff, but my kids won't believe that Santa is a literal man who comes through our chimney.

Blessed said...

Mrs. DFx40, please hear from a mom who has been through a LOT of similar proclamations from family about how we are going to "ruin" our children--you and your husband need to decide what is right for YOUR little family unit, when you have kids. Grandma did what she thought was best for her family, and there is no need to be critical of it, but your family is different and you have complete freedom to do things differently, with no disrespect to her.

I am with the commenters who think lying about Santa is dangerous. It is a poor standard to set as parents, and why would the kids believe you about God/Jesus if you lie about Santa?

We have never told our children there is or is not a Santa, but since the idea of Santa is everywhere, they have always assumed there is one. BUT I have been very careful not to lie to them--when they ask how Santa can get down the chimney when we have a fire going, I just ask, "That's a very good question. What do you think?" My oldest, now 9, has just this year actually listened to my response, and has figured out there is no Santa. But she is not traumatized, because she realizes the answers were there for her to discover when she stopped to think things through, and she is proud of herself for knowing now what the grownups have always known. I am stopping her from telling her sisters, though--I want them to have the same awakening experience, if possible.

If anyone would like a nice transition for explaining how Santa is a symbol for giving, the Little House on the Prairie books have some sweet Christmas stories that are excellent jumping off places. There is of course the first Christmas (I believe in book that bears the name of the series) when the rough-talkin' friend of Mr. Ingalls hikes miles in the snow and swims across a frozen river to deliver Christmas presents to the girls "from Santa." Then in another book (anyone remember which one?) Laura is asking her mother about Santa Claus and Mrs. Ingalls explains that everybody is a part of Santa, when they are giving gifts at Christmas.

For Christians, there is a lovely correlation here of what it means to love sacracifially, which is what baby Jesus represents--the gift of eternal life with God, at enormous cost to the Giver. And how we are the hands of Christ when we give in His name.

For non-Christians, they are touching, true stories about love and family and growing up!

Emily said...

Mrs. DFx40, I haven't talked to my parents about our Santa choices. I think my Dad would be fine with it, but my mom might not be, but I'm not sure. It's never come up. Maybe this year it will.

Anon on forcing the "Jesus myth", I will teach my children all about Jesus and the truth of the Bible. That is not a matter of traditions to me, but a matter of eternity.

Rachel said...

I find it interesting that often, when people think of the "poor" they think of people here in the states, living on low incomes. My family could qualify for help from many of these charities mentioned, but work hard to live within our means, and so we don't need them. And though there are people here that are truly destitute, they are often the lucky recipients of the donations made to salvation army and angel tree. :)
I think the people Emily is referring to are the millions and millions of poor who do not live in such affluent nations.
I lived a couple years in the foothills of Tibet. Poor people there are poor. No one wants to help a poor beggar child, because after all (in the minds of the people around them), they must have lived such a bad life previously that they deserved the living hell they are in. They freeze, they are hungry, and no Santa will be showering them with toys and gifts.
Young girls who are being used as sex slaves in SE Asia, children who are recruited as soldiers in Africa, orphans forgotten and left on the streets in South America, they will not get their hearts desires from a cute, chubby white man this year. It's our job, and unless we teach our children to take action with us (instead of trusting that a magical santa will), we are continuing the cycle.

Clisby said...

"and why would the kids believe you about God/Jesus if you lie about Santa?"

There, at last, is an excellent reason to lie about Santa. Kids *should* be skeptical about the things their parents tell them. It's idiotic to expect children to believe in God/Jesus just because their parents say it's true. That's not true belief. Sure, when they're little, they'll believe for that reason. But sooner or later, they'll believe on their own - or they won't. A belief that's based on "that's what my parents taught me" is pretty silly. Parents teach all kinds of nutty things.

Penny Saver said...

Santa is certainly not mandatory, but it is fun and harmless, encouraging the spirit of giving and imagination. It's part of the holiday for my family but I don't think it has to be there to have a magical and wonderful Christmas.

Santa really does come to our house on Christmas Eve. (A friend of the family wears the suit, with his own white beard and bowl full of jelly. :) ) He brings each child one gift and asks nothing in return, which is what the spirit of Santa is all about. It's a fun tradition, and none of the kids have asked if Santa is real, or if ours is the real Santa.

Either way, my four year old is TERRIFIED of Santa. He wants absolutely nothing to do with him - didn't want to sit on his lap for a picture, didn't want to hear Santa stories, asked me to turn around when we encountered an inflatable Santa at the grocery store, and asked that he not come this year, just to leave his present on the porch! He is not the kid for whom Santa is a magical thing, but the other kids at our Christmas celebration love it. I'll be taking my son for a walk when Santa arrives this year. :)

We aren't Christians, but both grew up in households that celebrated Christmas as a more secular holiday and we continue to celebrate in that way. It's tradition for our family even if it isn't celebrating Jesus. In our home, we celebrate Winter Solstice (yesterday) and Christmas Eve and day are spent with our families. (I also agree with the poster that not believing in God also means I don't believe in Satan, so the idea of non-Christians celebrating Satan is just false.)

Emily, those boys are too cute! Much cuter in color. I like this layout better, too.

Anonymous said...

Jen,

I find your ignorance hysterical. You do realize that Christmas was stolen from the pagans and never had anything to do with Christ in the first place?
And for you to imply that atheist celebrate Satan's Birthday is even more hysterical because to believe in Satan would be to believe in a god and that isn't what atheists are about. LOL.

Captain Cleavage said...

I think that whatever "reason for the season" you have to celebrate this time of year is a personal/spiritual choice. If you are christian jewish athiest pagen etc it all depends on what is best for your family and what traditions you want to pass along.

For some the santa tradition is important. For others it is the story of baby jesus.

That being said We should respect others views and belifs.

Emily how do plan on teaching your kids not to (as some have put it) "ruin it for others".

i know you home school but what about cousins or friends they meet at church etc. who comme from family's that do belive in santa. Are you going to make sure to teach them not to tell those kids that santa isn't real? just curious :)

p.s.Your blog is looking great!

Anonymous said...

My three year old has yet to ask about Santa. I'm a pretty literal person and will just tell her it's a traditional thing and send her to my partner LOL. He's the one interested in those kind of things.

He celebrates solstice (with a sweat lodge and gathering) so now me and my daughter join in with this.

We both desired a family-oriented Christmas (and Eve). A couple days to make a big dinner and various desserts. Watch movies or go to the movies. Open our well-thought out gifts for each other. Warm and comfy come to mind. We're still feeling out our traditions as well. -Cris

Sabrina said...

I would like to know what a "valid reason" for not doing the Santa thing would be. I find it interesting that it's ok for people to say that your reasons or beliefs are BS. I mean, come on! Maybe they are to you, but that is nothing more than opinion. I do not agree with many of the things posted here, comments especially, but I do not feel the need to say your thoughts/beliefs are BS. Aren't we adults? Would you tell Emily to her face that it was BS? I realize that the blog is controversial in nature, but can't we be kind?

Who cares who gets to celebrate? No one should feel guilty for NOT celebrating, and no one should feel guilty FOR celebrating. At my house, we do the Santa 'game' because that's what it is. It's a game--pretend, and my kids know that. When asked two years ago by our then 5 year old, we did not lie to her. She chooses to pretend and play the game, so it is still magical for her and our sons.

We do not go overboard at Christmas although compared to the poor around us, we celebrate like kings. I have recently been very burdened by the materialism that goes along with Christmas. I am not saying that everyone is materialistic, but I have seen it, and it's right here in my own home. And I hate it. We are trying to move away from the materialism. I think that if we are honest, there is a bit of that in most of us.

Emily said...

Captain Cleavage, on ruining it for others, I don't see it as a big deal if kids tell other kids Santa isn't real. I will tell my kids that other kids might believe in Santa, but I wouldn't want them to lie so that the other kids still believe. I would let it be up to them whether or not they keep their mouth shut. I remember when I still believed in Santa, I knew other kids didn't, but it didn't stop me from believing.

Stacy said...

My husband and I have been discussing this recently and we both don't feel inclined at all toward "doing Santa." My son has started to notice the big red guy and knows his name is Santa, but we haven't made a big deal of it. We also don't plan to fool him, it just doesn't feel right for us. However, we also don't plan to get all freakishly uptight about it either, like I've seen people do. I'll tell him, if he asks, that Saint Nicholas was a good man who helped people. If he happens to get presents from people who note them as coming from Santa, I don't plan to say anything much about it unless he asks to know more. We might even study about Saint Nicholas to understand more about what he did.

My focus this Christmas is to do some direct teaching about Jesus. Up to this point we have sung a little, prayed, and talked a bit in a direct way, but now I've bought a couple of Christmas books telling the first Christmas story. So far, he's really interested in them and keeps wanting to pray too. I'm excited about him sharing in an understanding of our faith and am always praying that he will share that faith from an early age.

So, Santa isn't a big taboo for us, just not a focus either. I can totally see why people think it's fun, and I don't plan to mix anything negative into our celebration by "dissing" Santa, so to speak. I have said he was a good man from a story, that's it so far.

Captain Cleavage said...

I think that it is a big deal. as I said everyone has there own beliefs and way of doing things. we do santa in our home and family but we also celebrate the birth of christ. As a parent I want my child to know that others do not beleive the same things as we do. In my opinion it is the parents choice to keep up the santa tradition or not. I think it is a matter of respect. Just as you would not want someone to tell your little ones that jesus isn't real or that he was not the son of god because they were raised with diffrent beliefs others would not want your kids to "ruin it" for their kids because of what your family believes.

a simple way to do this is say

"While we celebrate the birth of jesus at christmas and you know that santa is not real some of your friends/family do belive in him. He is not a bad thing and represents the spirit of giving. Be respectful of their beliefs."

I understand not wanting them to lie absolutly and I agree but their is a line of respect we need to give each other and children should also learn that as well.

Stacy said...

I forgot to mention that I like the new colors, the new photo of you, Emily, and the picture of your kids. It all looks much more warm and appealing, in my opinion. Also, color pictures are nice to see.

Anonymous said...

I'm 29 and I still believe in Santa. And he never disappoints. :)

-T

Anonymous said...

I was raised without believing in Santa, and I appreciate it. My mom would tell me "Santa's in your heart" but not real. I understood what she was telling me. I'm glad she went about it that way, appreciated her honesty, and Christmas was such an exciting time when I was a kid, even without the myth of Santa.

Many years later, when I was older, she said she didn't want to lie to us because she was MORTIFIED when, as the youngest of 6 kids, she found out Santa wasn't real, and her siblings goofed on her.

Side note: This is probably not a good thing, but I remember elementary school, when my peers actually believed in Santa, I would think in my head "ugh - your parents are lying to you, and you are gullible" I never ever said that out loud as though. I was a shy kid.

I do appreciate my mom's honesty. She was/is honest and upfront about many things.

Organizing Mommy said...

Hey Emily, your choices are so similar to the ones we made at your age that I have to giggle. And I really have no regrets about never having done santa. In the past couple of years, we have felt led to eliminate Christmas. Amazingly, our kids were absolutely fine with it. We still do family things and many of the traditional things, but not with the same motive as "the spirit of Christmas". I know you'd really "bring out the loons" if you took on that stance, eh? I do not necessarily "go public" with my views on this on my blog, since I don't think people could really understand, and it's not my goal to take away from anyone's happiness. I know most people love it and consider it to be a Christian holiday. If you enjoy your holiday, don't do any research on it. (LOL)

Anyway, you are always on my blog, and that is so sweet. Not sure how you manage to keep up with it all.

Mary said...

We don't have kids yet, but I look forward to "playing" Santa with them. I don't see it as lying any more than putting on a costume and engaging in a game of pretend would be.

I plan to present it more as a folktale, sharing stories of who Saint Nicholas was, how he served God, and the time in which he lived. I expect some of my little ones will catch on quickly (I was 3 or 4 when I decided Santa was a "nice idea" but not a real person!), but it will be interesting to see each of their personalities. Once they are old enough to question, we'll have a nice talk about the Spirit of Christmas, symbolism, etc., and how they are now "Santa," too, ready to be a part of creating fun and pretend for other kids.

Emily, does your family do any kind of Advent wreath or candles? I think it is a beautiful tradition (one my husband grew up with but not I) and look forward to incorporating it into our celebrations with devotions, Scripture, and prayers. I hope you'll share with us some of the traditions in which you *do* partake!

Anonymous said...

Emily - I'm the anon from the post on December 22, 2009 7:44 PM.
Not sure if it even matters, but me and my two sisters are now unapologetic atheists. Our mom is vaugley accepting. So there's that data point.

Paula said...

My husband and I wanted from the beginning to keep Christmas about the birth of Christ so every year we make a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas eve and then on Christmas day we light birthday candles and sing happy birthday to Jesus then we all blow out the candles and eat the cake.

Atheist Mama said...

Yeah, we don't do Santa, either.

I mean, I'm not ANTI-Santa. I'm not offended by Santa decorations, lol...I just figured the people who bought the gifts should get the credit.

Trust me, my kid still enjoys the holiday...and this year I even put "from Santa" on one of her gifts...I'm sure she'll crack up. She has a great sense of humor.

On another note...DD thinks Santa is "Creepy". When I asked her why she told me because he's some guy we don't really know who sneaks into our house when we are sleeping.

I gotta admit...the kid DOES have a point, hahaha :D

Anonymous said...

A few year's ago we were at my SIL's on Christmas Eve with her then 6 y/o DS and 9 y/o DD. They are very conservative Christians; no Santa, no Easter bunny, no Halloween, no Toothfairy, etc. The 6 y/o was going on and on about how anyone that believe in Santa is "stupid" and he was just so cynical about the whole thing. My MIL and I kept razzing him about how he was going to be put on Santa's naughty list for not believing. He just kept rolling his eyes. It broke my heart and ruined my Christmas.

Blessed said...

Clisby, you made me laugh. : ) You quoted me to make a point, and I could not agree with you more.

It does not matter what a person's background/heritage, etc. was growing up--if a person never stops to question and find satisfactory answers for why she believes what her parents taught her, then she is not yet adult, not yet in her own mind, her own skin.

We are trying to raise our kids to know what we believe is Truth--but to also search for confirmation of that truth in their lives and in the world around us. And at some point our kids will probably challenge us on the validity of our worldview. I would not have it any other way. They will have to use their own brains and sift through what they have learned from us, their parents, and throw out the bad advice and human failings, and hold onto what is "good, true, right, lovely, excellent and praiseworthy."

I guess I'll find out later where the whole Santa issue falls on this spectrum! ; )

I like Anonymous's mom's saying that "Santa is in your heart."

And Atheist Mama, I could not agree with your DD more! Esp. the whole "force your scared kid to sit on a strange man's lap and smile" photo shoot. Ewwwwwwwww!

Amanda said...

We haven't started the whole Santa thing with our son yet since he's only 2. If he sees a Santa decoration he knows that its Santa, but has no idea who Santa is lol. Your kids are adorable by the way! Thats a great picture of them!!!

Carrie said...

I don't care if other people do Santa, but I am not going to tell my kids that Santa is real. I never believed in him either. I guess I just don't really see the point. Anyway I've never commented before, but I wanted to tell you I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the new blog look. You look really pretty in your new picture too! You have a beautiful family.

Kelly said...

Atheist Mama...
I lovedddd Santa when I was little, and when I was 8 and decided that there was no such thing, it was kinda a "whoa, thanks even more mommy and daddy" kind of thing. The realization that they were doing even more for me than I initially thought made all of the Christmases, in retrospect, even better.

Anonymous said...

I don't think there's anything wrong with telling one's children bthat Santa isn't real per say (though psycological studies have found it to be developmentaly beneficial for the most part: http://blogs.wsj.com/juggle/2009/12/22/yes-virginia-there-is-a-santa-claus-the-importance-of-magical-thinking/), but I do think that if (as my mom would say) "your family doesn't believe in Santa", then it's important to make sure fantasy and imaginative thinking/play are encouraged in other ways.
It's also extremely important that your kids know many kids DO believe in Santa aned that they need to respect their beliefs. A "My family doesn't believe in Santa" is fine IMO, but "There's no such thing as Santa" is not. It's actually an excellent way to teach your kids about respecting the beliefs of others, even if they personally "know" (or think they know) that they're "wrong".

Whenever I think of Santa, I think of my mom's story from childhood. Her family was quite poor. Tyhere were 4 kids, and her dad was often laid off, especialy at Christmas. Her mom stayed home during the day, and she and my Grandpa would clean offices in the evening.
My mom said that though she never worried about Xmas, even when her dad was laid off, because she knew Santa would come and there would be gifts for everyone no matter what, and sure enough there was. Nothing extravagant by any means, but the #1 toy that was on everyone's list (this was the 50's so easy bake ovens, bee bee guns, betsy wetsy's and the like) , some smaller/more practical gifts, and a stocking full of treats.
My mom said, when she figured out there was no Santa, and to this day when she thinks about it, her heart swells with gratitude, because she see's that her parents loved her and her siblings so much that they would save a little bit each month to put away for Xmas, make sure that no matter what they had a special say to look forward to, and that they didn't have to worry about money because "Santa brought the gifts". She still can't believe that they would work so hard to make Xmas special for them, and not take any credit for it, ever.

My parents were considerabley more well off, we always had a special Xmas (and still do), and when I figured out there was no Santa (8 years old I think?) I was pretty proud of myself for figuring it out, but that was about it, nothing tramatizing. My husband on the other hand who's parents are fundementalist Christians, didn't "do Santa", and eventrually didn't "do Christmas" either, and he has alot of emotional baggage around the holidays for this reason.

Rebel Cry said...

For over a century America's parents spend 8-10 years of their children's lives teaching that Santa, elves, and flying reindeer are real while spending a fraction or less of those years proving through love that God lives.
Children are raised to be thankful to a cooperate myth rather than God, the One giver of ALL gifts. The origins of the lie of Santa Clause are less of an innocent secret than a dirty lie. You would not lie to your boss or your own mother like that every day. Yet, for some reason people seem fit to keep their children in a world of handy mandy and his minority talking tool box and yes, Santa and a sack full of toys for the naughty and the rich. (good point there Emily!)
We all learn to get in the name of Ole Nick and then we all learn to give in his name. We learn then teach about fictional miracles of flying mammels other than bats; an obessee senior citizen that can somehow unload billions of toys in one night (for the rich and naughty).
Heaven's sake please give and teach the glory of the true miracle of Christmas, the one that truly made all your good Christmas memories, Jesus. Peace and good stuff.

Treva said...

"Captain Cleavage, on ruining it for others, I don't see it as a big deal if kids tell other kids Santa isn't real. I will tell my kids that other kids might believe in Santa, but I wouldn't want them to lie so that the other kids still believe. I would let it be up to them whether or not they keep their mouth shut. I remember when I still believed in Santa, I knew other kids didn't, but it didn't stop me from believing."

Emily, I have to say I agree with Captain Cleavage. While you might not see it as a big deal, did you ever stop to consider the feelings of the family involved? They may believe that Santa is a fun and innocent practice and want their children to hang on to it. As parents we need to guide our children into acceptable behavior and that often means teaching them when they need to remain quiet and keep their opinions to themselves. Some kids may handle the news pretty well as you did, but what about the kid who doesn't handle it so well? You know the kid that bursts into tears and goes running to mom & dad b/c they're confused and weren't allowed to come into the enlightenment on their own (which they all do at some point -- I've never known any kid not to do so). What about ruining your relationship with that mom & dad, be it friends or family? If the parents feel that your child ruined Christmas for their family, that could cause a serious rift between you and whoever feels their Christmas joy was jeopardized.

prism207 said...

Do you plan to have the tooth fairy visit your kids? Hell, I had a fairy visit my toddler and leave a stuffed animal to ease the loss of his pacifier.

I lie to my kid all the time...At the zoo, when it is time to go home and he wants to see the birds--"Sorry honey, the birds are napping" works quite well. Are you seriously saying you never "lie" to your kids?

I don't see Santa as a lie, however. I see him as a myth, and a fun childhood tradition.

sunnymommy said...

Some people don't need Santa Claus to make Christmas materialistic. We just did Christmas with one side of the family and we came home with 48 items for my husband and myself and 69 items for my children ( I have TWO kids). That's 117 Things!!! In the first round cut immediately through the door after kids got put to bed, 22 adult items and 41 kids items made it into the keep box. More will likely be cut from the kids' box when I see which ones they ask for/remember. We tell them every year that we would really, truly be happy with less gifts. Maybe they think we are just saying that; I don't know. This year I was told I would deny them "the joy of giving" and they didn't care if we gave some away and didn't keep all of it. So what do you do Emily? I know you said your kids didn't get a lot from you because they would be receiving a lot of gifts from relatives. I don't know if your relatives are as overboard as mine. But, how do you handle the deluge? No matter what I do, (and we try hard to celebrate Christ's birth) this makes the focus of Christmas for my children the gifts. Any thoughts?

Kristie said...

I have to agree on the point of not spoiling it for others as well. It's a matter of respect. It was rather unpleasant the day a kid stood up in my kindergarten class and announced that there was no such thing as Santa. It wasn't that big of a deal for me for some reason, but I remember that many kids were really upset about it.

Emily said...

About telling other kids about Santa, what I meant is that I don't think it ruins other kids' belief in Snata. Most kids will go home, have a little chat with their parents, like many described in this very comments section, and go on believing.

sunnymommy, we are already dealing with what to keep, too. I'll write a post about it next week when we figure out what stays and what goes.

Our Family Is His said...

One thing we do when the large number of presents comes in is, prepare in advance. For the last few weeks we have been going through the boys rooms. We have been tossing toys that were broken beyond repair or had enough missing parts that they were useless. We then made a big box of donate for charity, a box of things for friends of ours, and the rest they kept. The thing is, they didn't even miss the large amount of things we got rid of. They have a very small collection of toys they really enjoy now, and the rest is blessing others.

Another thing is, my Dad lives very far away. He can't see the boys at Christmas but wants to give them gifts. So, he sends us money to buy for them (since shipping is almost as expensive as the gift itself). I can buy 1 or 2 larger items they would like to have rather than tons of little items. My Mother-in-law is very close, but my father-in-law is disabled. So it's easier for her if we do the shopping for her for our sons. So, again, we are able to limit the number of presents and make sure we get things they really want. We often do themes as well. For example, this year our younger son is moving out of his crib. We bought him a bed. My mother-in-law bought him bedding that is western themed, and a toy that is in the same theme. My Dad got him jammies that were in the same theme. He will love it, he will like the theme, and it's things he wants and needs.

staci @ teaching money to kids said...

At our house, Santa is more like Mickey Mouse, or any other celebrity. It would be harder to convince my kids that he doesn't exist since they have pictures to prove that he does.
I am, however, prepared to disown anyone that tries to convince them that Santa will bring them whatever they want. Right now we are all happy that we can ask Santa for a Candy Cane, and he always delivers. And we don't have to mess with the flying, sneaking into the house, or any other "lies"

Guinevere said...

I don't want to do Santa with our future kids. I think it's sort of unnecessary -- why go out of my way to lie about something that they're going to have to realize isn't true anyway? Christmas can be perfectly magical without trying to convince them of some silly story. That said, if they see the popular depictions of Santa in stories and whatnot and believe independently, I wouldn't rush to correct them; I'd let them figure it out on their own. I'm just uncomfortable with lying to them.

That's the theory, anyway; we'll see what happens when I actually have kids. I also hope that we'll be able to focus on church events, charitable giving, and family time together rather than the Santa/presents paradigm. That's what I consider an "honest, real" Christmas, kwim?

Gizmola said...

You need to read "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" by Betty Smith. It is a terrific novel and it clearly outlines why it's important for children to believe in Santa and other myths. Children should have an active imagination. They should be able to imagine worlds and ideas beyond what they see in front of them. They'll never strive to do or be anything in life if they see nothing else but the world in front of their face. Read to them, encourage them to pretend and play and dream and use their imaginations. A child focused only on the tenable truths is a deprived child indeed.

And no, atheists do not celebrate Satan's birthday, etc. Atheism simply means a lack of belief in a diety. That's it. It doesn't imply any other belief system. I speak as a born and raised atheist. Who celebrates Christmas, watches "Charlie Brown Christmas," believed in Santa as a kid and who volunteers to make the world a better place.

heather said...

i have to say that the idea of giving credit to the people giving the gifts...ie not wanting santa to "get credit" for gifts bought by parents is kind of silly to me.

i mean honestly, who cares who gets credit? i don't give gifts so i can get credit.

and in the end if a family does have santa as part of their traditions, eventually the kids will know and as mentioned, likely appreciate the effort given even more.

we celebrate with santa and he "gets credit" for the biggest and best of the gifts. he's magic and we believe! ok i believe, the girls are at the questioning age...

to each their own is fine. just had to mention this though as i've heard it before and it just seems so silly and petty.

Kristy with Kids said...

A friend from Europe (Eastern Europe I think, I honestly don't know where), while talking to my husband at work, mentioned that in her country they celebrated their birthday by giving other people gifts. You didn't GET gifts on your birthday, you GAVE them, so you got gifts on OTHER people's birthdays. This, possibly, is behind people exchanging gifts for Christmas, answering the question, "Why do I get gifts when its Jesus' birthday?". We're considering the VERY controversial concept of not doing gifts at all, except for those given to a charity. I grew up with the traditional Christmas and don't think it has any ill effects, but I have come to believe that adding gifts tends to focus the child on what they receive, not what they can give or on Jesus. I'm sure the grandparents will make up for the lack of Christmas presents at birthday time :)

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