Why We’re Choosing To Skip The Myth
Before kids, my husband and I agreed to not teach our kids to believe in Santa.
We aren’t huge holiday people either. We get things we need when we need them. Birthdays are just another day, and I have always been okay with that.
But Christmas is different. Christmas is a time of celebration and thanksgiving. It is more than any other day, and certainly not about presents for us.
The kids are showered with gifts from loved ones anyway.
But Christmas really is about the birth of the man who saved the world. It’s a celebration of Jesus for us.
Here are our reasons for deciding not to teach our children to believe in Santa.
I Was Taught To Believe In Santa
Most kids are, right? I remember one year my parents made a phone call to my siblings and I posing as Santa. It was thrilling.
I remember the cookies and milk, and how I always wanted to eat them myself.
I remember being young enough to need to be held back by a baby gate. Gripping the bars, oozing with anticipation, itching to see what Santa had brought.
My twin sister and I would harass my sleepy older brother endlessly until he finally crawled out of bed.
I remember being too excited to read tags. Collecting a pile of goodies and playing with new stuff all day.
These are all spectacular memories, and I fear on occasion that I’m depriving my kids teaching them not to believe in Santa.
The Painful Reveal
It was Easter. I’d begun to have some doubts. Eight years old with some older friends who had hinted at the truth.
So I wrote a letter to the Easter Bunny and left it out.
“Dear Easter Bunny,
Are you real or not?
Circle Yes or No.”
And my parents told me the truth. Everything unraveled. The Easter Bunny? So Santa isn’t real either? Or the tooth fairy?
I felt betrayed.
(My parents were incredibly loving, supportive people. I’m in no way bad mouthing my childhood.)
And I wasn’t alone. My husband had a similar experience of feeling to and betrayed.
If Santa isn’t real, what about Jesus?
The Lesson Being Taught To Believe In Santa Teaches
Santa keeps a list. We all know the one. Are you on the Naughty or Nice list?
We achieve Nice status by being good little boys and girls. Don’t lie. Be kind. Pick up your toys. Listen to your parents. And if you’re good enough you’ll make it.
If not, a lump of coal for you. The unforgiving list.
Once a year we teach our children if they are good they will get toys. The lesson is: be good for reward. Or if you’re good then you deserve… stuff.
How This Undermines What I Want To Teach
Jesus teaches that we should be kind and loving without expectation of reward. Even non-Christian spiritual principles adhere to this rule. Don’t expect to be paid back. Christ even suggested that “reward” for being a believer could include pain and suffering.
My purpose is to be of service, and it’s not always pretty or pleasant.
How can Jesus compete with the jolly rosy cheeked Santa who showers children in presents for nominally good behavior?
We’re not good or kind and loving because we’re waiting for a return.
We are loving because Jesus has loved us unconditionally. Regardless of how bad we really mess things up. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done. Jesus loves me deeply through all my faults and darkness. And his love empowers me to love others.
And there’s no list. He doesn’t ever scratch me out for faltering.
Teaching Gratitude Without Expectations
I understand the convenience of having an elf spy on your ornery child to keep them in line. I really do. It’s hard, and the extra motivation to “be good” is nice once a year.
Santa is FUN and exciting and I love this time of year. As my kids get older I don’t want to deprive them of these joys and childhood games. But I hope I can teach them Truth without ever encouraging them to be good based on a fictional character.
I want them to know that to pretend to believe in Santa is fun. They shouldn’t cry if they mess up because they won’t get presents.
I pray they are grateful and not expectant.
I want them to be kind and loving because they have joy in their hearts and not because they want something. And I hope I can teach them by example and not just with words.