My five-year-old stood in line to see Santa this year, turned around and looked at me perplexed. “But Mama, Santa’s not real!?” she announced in a too-loud voice.
I stammered to get out the words, “No! Shhhh!”, as I approached her in case she decided to make her case further and I needed to cover her mouth. I darted a wide-eyed glance to my husband before scanning the parents around me to see if anyone was glaring back. No one was, but I still felt the need to say a quiet, “I’m so sorry” just in case.
My girls know the truth about Santa. But we still “play Santa.”
There are many reasons why I told them the truth about Santa.
For one, I never believed in Santa, but we “played Santa” growing up. Secondly, there are some spiritual reasons I have about telling them the truth. But this year the third reason I told them the truth about Santa proved to be the one that makes me have no regrets about it – I want them to have truly grateful hearts.
I want my daughters to know that it’s not a jolly man in a red suit and white beard who magically grants children’s wishes all over the world. Instead it’s parents who work really hard to earn money and buy gifts because they love their children and want to give them good gifts. With that said, some parents work really hard because they love their children and want to give them good gifts, but they still aren’t able to.
Throughout the Christmas season my oldest girl, EG, made many requests for different toys. For instance, she wanted an American Girl doll and a Bitty Baby doll, but she already has a Bitty Baby doll. I told her she wasn’t getting another Bitty Baby doll because she already has one. She said to me a few times, “Well, I’ll just ask Santa for it.” “Do you remember what I told you about Santa?” I asked her back. “Yes, I remember” she replied.
Then she wanted the American Girl doll changing table, something that was out of our budget. I told her that she was not getting that changing table because it was too much money. Later, we did find another brand on Amazon for less money, and she got that one, but at the time I had an honest discussion with her about the fact that gifts cost money and that the changing table costs too much.
On Christmas Eve when we prayed at dinnertime I talked to the girls about how there are children who will wake up tomorrow and not have the toys they asked for or maybe even any toys at all. I explained to them that there are parents who are really upset because they can’t afford to give their children what they asked for. And then we prayed for these children and parents.
All the while these conversations were going on we “played Santa.” They visited him, got their picture taken, laid out cookies, milk, and a carrot for Rudolph on Christmas Eve. That night both girls were both wide open with excitement – running around the house squealing and jumping. EG made a game plan for what she was going to do when she woke up in the next day. “I’ll come downstairs and go into you and daddy’s room and wait there. I won’t go into the living room, Mommy, I promise!”
On Christmas Day she came popping down the stairs at 6:15 sharp. When we made our way into the living room “Santa toys” were laid out just as if he had been there.
What happened the rest of the day, however, is what assured me that I made the right decision to follow my conviction about Santa. I kid you not, that girl must have told her daddy and me twenty-five times thank you for her Christmas gifts. She said over and over, “Mommy, I love my Christmas gifts, thank you so much for giving them to me!” And “Daddy, this is the best Christmas ever, thank you!”
Honestly, her response even shocked me.
There were even a few moments when she questioned what she got. “But where’s that Bitty Baby I asked for?” and “Why doesn’t my changing table say ‘Bitty Baby’ on it like the one in the picture?” and “I asked for a doll with blue eyes and this one has brown!” But even with her questions she accepted the answers and continued with a grateful heart.
Now next year might be different. Who knows, next year she may pitch a fit for something she doesn’t get and whine and complain all day. But as far as this year, I was happy that she realized that we, her parents, gave her those gifts because we love her in the same way that God, our Father, gives us the gift of Jesus because He loves us.
So how do we handle friends who talk about Santa and say he’s real?
I talked to EG, and told her that children love to play Santa, and that’s good! But that she should never tell other children that he’s not real because it’s important for parents to do that themselves at just the right time for them. I told her to just say nothing at all or say, “I like Santa, too.”
Do I think Santa’s bad?
No!! I just think Santa’s unnecessary. It’s just a personal conviction I have, and the more I thought about it I couldn’t ignore it. For me it came down to pleasing the world and making everyone around me comfortable at the expense of my conviction or doing what I felt was the right thing for me and my girls.
Some Other Thoughts on How I Landed Here
As I thought through the whole Santa thing more this year than ever before, I thought about how parents who are poor must really dislike Santa. We only see the happy side in our lives and on T.V. and in commercials. We see children getting what they asked for because their parents can afford it. But what about the parents who can’t and there’s this lofty expectation that Santa Claus is going to provide it for them? I can’t imagine being that parent who has Santa almost promising something to their children that they in return are expected to deliver. I don’t know, but I’m assuming many of those children don’t believe in Santa anyway because their parents have been forced to have hard conversations with them.
But with the real story of Christmas – the story of Jesus – there is no disappointment. There are no empty promises. At Christmas we all get the best gift any person could ever get – the gift of our Savior Jesus Christ.
Keeping the focus on Jesus gives children in all situations the hope that they need. Not a hope in possessions, but a hope in the only One who will ever be their greatest gift.
Where do you land on the Santa thing? I’d love to hear!