No, Noah, there’s not a Santa Claus

No Santa Claus

Image from YesIAmCheap.com

In the 1890s, a little girl named Virginia wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Sun, saying that her friends told her Santa Claus didn’t exist and seeking reassurance from the newspaper because her daddy told her that if it was in the Sun, then it was true. The editorial board famously responded with a letter titled, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

The response goes on to say that the world would be a dreary place and the light of childhood would be extinguished if Santa didn’t exist. But I don’t think this is true. I sure hope not since we plan on telling Noah from the beginning that Santa is not real.

I know this is probably not a popular way to go, but it’s what Bobby and I have decided. Here’s our reasoning:

  • We don’t want to lie to our kid. That’s putting it bluntly, of course, and I’m not accusing anyone of hurting their child by telling them Santa exists. For us, it has potential to create a trust issue when Noah finds out — because he will find out, just like every other kid does — Santa isn’t really real. If we are telling him in every other instance that he can trust us and that we won’t lie to him, why should this one be different?
  • We don’t want to run the risk that Christmas becomes all about the gifts. The Santa myth puts so much emphasis on presents, and while we still plan to give gifts at Christmas, it’s just not going to be the main event. Looking back, I know I missed the point as a kid, and I want to try to help Noah understand that spending quality time with family and helping others are much bigger parts of Christmas than the gifts.
  • I wouldn’t say religious reasons have much to do with the decision, but we are Christians and will share our beliefs with Noah as he grows up. We don’t ever want him to think God is like Santa: that he doesn’t exist, or if he does, he only gives you stuff when you are “good enough.”
  • Not all parents use “Santa” to manipulate their kids into behaving better, but many do. We don’t want to be tempted to do that, because manipulation is manipulation, no matter how good the intentions are.

We’ve definitely put some thought into this decision, and I feel certain it’s the right one for our family. I think we will absolutely tell Noah the story of Santa Claus, but we just won’t tell him Santa brings him presents, comes down the chimney, eats cookies that he leaves for him or that Santa is “watching him.”

I don’t think he’ll be missing out on much because we will begin our own traditions, and he will have happy Christmases built on the values that we’ve chosen for our family.

If your family has chosen not to “do” Santa Claus, how has it gone for you? I’d love to hear from some folks who have older kids!

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21 responses to “No, Noah, there’s not a Santa Claus

  1. Seems like a rational, well-thought out decision to me. But what are you going to tell the little guy in re: other kids’ beliefs in Santa? Can’t have the little guy running around the playground and ruining the myth for all the other kids, can we?

    • I think that’s probably the one part we are still really thinking through. Ideally we’ll use it as an opportunity to talk about how it’s OK for other people to have different beliefs from us and that we should respect those beliefs even though we may not agree with them. How we have that conversation with a little kid is still in the works, though.

  2. We told Caleb and are in the process of telling Madilyn that Santa is a symbol of giving, and that he is a fun character but he is NOT real. I think it is neat that your 1st three reasons are exactly the same as the reasons David and I decided not to promote Santa in our home. Your last reason is great and one that I never had thought of.

    As a teacher I have seen wonderful children get nothing for Christmas and then be confused as to why the “bad, mean kid” got everything and they think Santa made a mistake, when really all it was about was which family had the most money.

    • I’m glad to know we aren’t the only ones. How did it go with Caleb?

      And I hadn’t really thought about it from your teacher perspective, either. That’s really sad.

  3. I was 4 when I learned the “truth” because of a mean older kid on the playground, so my memories of Christmas don’t have anything to do with Santa. What I do remember is knowing that my gifts came from my parents and really appreciating them, helping people in need with my family, and spending a lot of time meditating on the Birth of Christ. I love those memories… I only remember a few of the toys i got, but I have so many memories of making pots of soup with my mom and dad to take to the men that lived under the overpass, etc. I want that for my baby, too!

  4. We have never done Santa, pretty much for the same reasons you listed, but maybe not in that order of importance. I’ve found that boys especially have a really hard time distinguishing between reality and make believe. Luke still at 8 asks if something is real or pretend on a tv show. Maybe it’s because he almost exclusively watches documentaries and reality shows, so when we watch something like All Creatures Great and Small about James Herriot (who was a real person and authored many books), he asks if it’s really James Herriot on the show. No, Luke, that’s an actor playing a real person. It’s confusing.

  5. We’ve never had a problem with them telling other kids. We told them not to. Of course, they aren’t around other kids as much as kids who go to school.

  6. There is some letter from a mom to a kid floating out there (maybe on Pinterest??) that explains that Santa IS real because Santa is the spirit of giving…. it is like the sweetest letter that will make you shed some serious tears!! I love the story of Saint Nicholas…. that might be a good way to eventually teach Noah the history of “Santa Claus” and teach him that Santa is a fun character that comes out at Christmas time, but that he isn’t the center of the holiday. 🙂 And I totally agree about the whole “Santa’s watching you” tactic to getting your kids to behave…. I want to meet the parent who’s ever followed up with that….

  7. Caleb is now 15 and did great growing up in a house that does not promote the myth/lie of Santa. We did tell him about Saint Nicholas and how the whole Santa tale came to be. We reminded him often that Santa is not real and is a symbol of how we should give to others. His most confusing time was around 3 and 4 because of the bombardment at preK and in public. We just continued to remind him of the truth.

    To our knowledge he NEVER told another kid that Santa was not real. We told him that some parents like to make Christmas more fun for kids by telling them about Santa, but in the end the kids end up sad because Santa is not real and thier parents lied to them.

    We do not SHUN or ban the image of Santa in our home we just keep it low key. When Caleb was little we had his picture made with a Santa every year, because Santa is a symbol of the holiday. We still display these pictures each year. Madilyn also has her picture taken with Santa each year. This year she is a bit confused at how he can not be real, but also be in her pictures. We are telling her that the man is in a coustume.

    A really good movie that tells the story of Saint Nicolas for kids is The Veggie Tales Christmas movie called Saint Nicolas a Tale of Giving. Madilyn loves it and it helps us to remind her that Santa is a fun symbol that we use to remember to give to others.

  8. A fun thing we do in our house is….

    We pick a kid in need (usually from our church giving tree or the one we have at school) to buy for. As we are picking gifts for the child I told Caleb and will tell Madily (3) that we are playing Santa for this child. As we wrap the gifts we talk about how we should give to others and that when we give we are like Jesus and Santa and that giving is what Christmas is all about.

  9. While I can appreciate everyone has certain beliefs, I feel I must speak on Santa’s side. I grew up in a faith filled home with a mother who always stressed and taught the belief in Jesus. She also participated in the Christmas tradition of Santa coming down the chimney…complete with fake Santa boot prints coming out from the fireplace. I have many, many friends (now all 24 and up) who had the same background as I do, and not one of us feel that we were lied to or mislead. We all have a firm belief in Jesus and never once questioned if He was real because Santa turned out not to be real.
    Santa isn’t someone who came to save the world and give eternal life. If you teach your children the right faith and beliefs behind Jesus and the correct beliefs of Santa…there is no mistake between who is who.
    To this day, I still feel the magic of Santa. The magic of giving to others and the joy behind it. There is a magic in children’s eyes when they think they hear hoof prints on the ceiling or see Rudolph’s nose in the sky. Why take away something so special? Teach your children to have a giving spirit like Santa is. Show them the joy in giving and how great it feels to make it magical for someone else, even for their own kids one day. To deprive a child of that child-like innocence and excitement is a diservice. As they get older, they won’t care to have a big red man come down the chimney anyway, but they can care to give like he does and make it magic for others. The story of Jesus and how He gave and always will, can easily be taught in tandem and still not associate Santa biblically. I’ve always had the joy and excitment that comes with Christmas and giving because of Jesus and in celebration of His birthday. The “Yes, Virginia, There IS a Santa Claus” is legendary because it so effortlessly captures the magic and the spirit of giving. Why take that away from anyone?

    • I definitely see your point, Cindy, and that’s why I don’t have a problem with people who do tell their kids Santa is real — in the right way, like you are talking about. I just think for our family that sharing the STORY of Santa while also letting Noah know that he’s not some magical figure who travels the whole world in one night is the right choice for OUR family. I think there’s still a lot of magic and joy to be found in Christmas, even without expecting a jolly guy in a red suit to appear in the middle of the night.

      I think the STORY of Santa is historically important, and I wouldn’t deprive Noah of that. But I also want him to understand that there’s no list being checked twice, no Santa (or anyone else) watching and waiting for him to screw up (because that’s also not the view I have of God) and that the reason some kids get more/less at Christmas doesn’t have anything to do with how good they are.

      I also don’t consider it “taking it away” from him if he never experiences it in the first place. Like I said in the post, we plan to incorporate our own holiday traditions; we’re not going to stop celebrating Christmas and all the good things and feelings that go with it.

  10. There’s no Santa? I actually always feel a little silly and deceptive talking about Santa with my kids. Your post gives us all a little something to think about, thanks!

    • How old are your kids, Ann?

      I’m really glad Bobby and I talked about this early on. It’s really not going to be an issue this year (Noah’s 7.5 months right now), but I know we won’t be arguing about it later. And our family will also know what to expect.

  11. I let my children decide….I know, I know I am the parent and should make choices for our family, but I also know that if my child wants to let their imagination run wild at Christmas and believe in Santa I am not going to stop them. I have never told them there is a Santa, when My children ask I answer with the Question “What do you think?” I do not see allowing my child to use her imagination as me telling her a lie. Eventually the kids do get older and the answers will change. As for kids telling others their beliefs are wrong….it happens all the time, but that is where it comes back to the home life. I am teaching my children to pick their own path, and know that it is ok to take a turn that may lead you back the other way.
    While some of my childrens holiday memories will not doubt include Santa, they will also include other things, like helping others in need, baking cookies together and shareing them with the neighbors, reading the story of baby Jesus, spending time with family and friends, giving gifts, getting gifts, and decorating a tree. I however highly doubt they will ever look at it as having been misled or lied to because I did not tell them not to believe in something, Allowing Danielle to believe in Santa for several years did not harm her or our relationship. She still comes to me with here problems, and she trusts my judgement and guidance,. but more importantly she knows when it comes to what or how to believe the decision is ultimately up to her. I could delude myself into the belief that I can controll what my child believes but in the end, all you can do as a parent is lay out the paths in front of your child, point to the one you think is best and hope and pray that is the one they choose to follow.

  12. We’ve made that same decision … and what I keep bumping into, over and over and over again, is that my kids still question because society is so inundated with Santa. And their friends – even at church – believe in Santa — which (hello, Mommy!) means we could be wrong apparently. It’s a challenge some days to tell the truth in spite of others and know our children will hear it and believe it.

  13. I came to this blog as a result of a Google search looking for ways to have “Santaless Christmases” with our 3 1/2 year old and am relieved and inspired by the discusssion. I am a mother of a rather bright preschool daughter who has been on and off making mention of “Santa” and “Christmas” since September. The ramblings have not been such that a response has been warranted but the mere topic makes my head spin.
    A little background: My husband and I have been married 17 years and decided (more years than I can remember) NOT to celebrate Christmas in regards to gift giving. We are not religious, as such and do celebrate the reason for the season (to us): Family. We’d always been pretty adamant that we were going to continue in the same regard with our children. In enters the birth of this much anticipated little girl–now what? I, like many of you, love the wonder and spirit that the season (and Santa) brings but do not feel 100% comfortable with purporting the Santa myth. I LOVE your reasonings (especially the second and third bullet points) and would only add that we do not want any child of ours to credit the “jolly bearded man in the red suit” for items that hard working people who love her gift.
    In reading your responses, I appreciate the idea of the STORY because to me, it honors all–the only difference is the interpretation. I guess for now, we’ll “roll with it” to some degree–perhaps read the story, talk a little (really, I don’t think she’s able to discern yet fact from fantasy–“…we can go SEE Dora and Foofa, right Mommy?”) about Santa as a symbol and and a LOT about family and celebration.
    Last point–parenting is tough, we all do the best we can with what we have to make decisions that we hope/pray will positively affect the choices they make that result in who our children become. It’s an experiment (scary!) and I’m forever in search of the PERFECT ingridents to facilitate a positive end (a compassionate and intellegent critical thinker); I gather that sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. I’ll tell you this, I admire all you parents who DARE to raise your children (counter culture) instinctually rather than following the status quo.

    • Glad you found this, Danee, and I really appreciate your comment. Please come back and update me after the Christmas season has passed because I would love to hear how it goes.

  14. Here are a couple of things to think about.
    1. When teaching, I had a Jehovah’s Witness student, they don’t believe in any holiday. She felt left out of all the fun activities and parties we had. She could not do anything. It was hard on her and she was a killjoy to a lot of the other kids.
    2. We had Santa, but we always participated in our churches activities to celebrate the Christ in Christmas. We had a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas, and we had a Nativity where the baby Jesus was removable and we “laid him in the manger” on Christmas morning singing “Happy Birthday to Jesus”. We also made sure we read the Christmas story on Christmas Eve for bedtime story.
    3. I have also heard of people only giving 3 gifts to their children because the Wisemen each brought a gift to Jesus. I wish I had heard that one before we had kids. I would have liked to do that one. That, reminding the kids that Jesus only had 3 gifts so they only got 3 gifts.
    4. Look up the real story of St. Nicholas. It tells of how he became known for giving gifts to children. It’s really a great story and it is true, as well as coming from a christian background.
    5. Do what you think is best for your family. However, make sure Noah knows that 99% of the kids will believe and since he doesn’t, it may cause trouble with the other kids, their families and the teacher(school). AND realize, for yourselves, that parents can be ruthless when it comes to stuff like this and you and Bobby may get phone calls, emails, etc. because you have “ruined” Christmas for other kids. Parents become really Nasty when it comes to their kids Christmas and their beliefs. Trust me on this one, I know from 1st hand experience.

    Good Luck!

  15. Let me add one more thing! We have always told our kids that even though Santa brought the gifts, he sends us the bill and we have to pay for them. Santa has to pay his elves and have food for the reindeer and Santa needs money to live just like us. Yes, we pay and that is why they don’t always get everything they want either!!

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