things my son misses since we don’t do santa

We don’t do Santa in our home.

Brandon and I decided before we were married that we didn’t want to start a Santa Claus tradition when we had children. We had a myriad of reasons. Some silly, some practical, but most of a more spiritual nature.

I hate a disclaimer, but it’s imperative that I give you one so you don’t cut me off and stop reading right away.  I JUDGE THEE NOT! I really don’t have any feelings about you and your family doing Santa presents.  Really.  I don’t care.  Playdates will NOT be cancelled if I find out your kid is going to talk about his trip to see Santa.  “Tsk tsk” will not be muttered from me because of your family’s Christmas traditions.  I really don’t care if your family pretends Santa.  I promise!

OK, with that out of the way, on with the post!

If you tell someone that you don’t do Santa (I’m looking at you strangers in the grocery store who always ask my son “what’s Santy Claus bringin’ you, curly top?”) people usually give you a look of horror. They wonder if it’d be possible to call CPS for this sort of offense. And then follow the response with a look of pity bestowed on the sweet little boy who is completely ignorant of the wonder that Santa could bring him.

Bless his heart.

santa ornaments are not banned from our home. promise.

In our quest to operate as intentional parents, we questioned the tradition of an elaborate backstory, sneaking around, and attributing the presents we worked so diligently to buy to a man who doesn’t actually exist. We came to this decision and then sat back and waited to become parents to implement our well thought out plan.

Turns out, this one actually stuck! All the Negative Norberts were wrong. We didn’t abandon our lofty parenting ideas on this one! (Yay us!)

(Turns out, the Negative Norberts were wrong about quite a few of our parenting goals.  A post on that will be happening in the future.)

Sadly though, on our son’s fourth Christmas we’ve started to notice that he’s really missing out on a few things since we don’t do Santa. I wanted to share them with you, readers. To help better inform those of you who may also consider forgoing the Santa Claus tradition.  I hope you too can make an informed decision, and save some heartache.

Santa Photos- Who doesn’t love a smelly old man wearing a polyester beard holding your sweet babe? Who doesn’t love an opened mouth, red faced, silently screaming child in a Facebook photo? Oh. I know I sure do and I hate that we miss out on that rite of terror rite of passage.

We’ve never had a Santa photo around here. And I have to say, good grief, I hate not being able to complain about the mall Santa photo price gouging!

If you’re worried that my child might need the valuable experience of a little harmless, parent-present stranger danger, don’t worry. For some reason our church’s St. Nicholas play has ended with W crying for the past two years. It really isn’t scary. It probably had more to do with being scared of sitting alone in a stressful situation when the lights went down for the play, or because the under 2 set was traumatized this year and he’s a very (VERY) empathetic child. Or possibly he felt he was missing out and needed his own “I’m terrified of the bearded man in the red coat” action.  Not sure, but we got that valuable experience nonetheless.

all four of w's tree reveals since his first Christmas. we have these in frames in place of the annual santa photo some families display every year.
all four of w’s tree reveals since his first Christmas. we have these in frames in place of the annual santa photo some families display every year.

Magic- Goodness yes. He doesn’t get to experience ANY magic!

He doesn’t get to experience the magic when he sees our beautifully lit Christmas tree in the early morning hours of St. Nicholas Day.  (See above photo)  He doesn’t experience magic when he anticipates what’s in the gift boxes scattered under the tree. There’s no whimsy when he takes in all the beauty of the Christmas season.  Nope.  Magic free.

If you truly think that my child is lacking any whimsy or imagination because we don’t believe in Santa, then please, let me send you a list of the 4,000 daily pretend scenarios he dreams up. If magic were the most important virtue of the Christmas season (news flash- it is not) then W has magic in spades.

Christmas movies- It must be tough censoring all those Christmas movies to make sure he doesn’t see Santa!  I’m a crusader constantly leaping across the room to silence the television when “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” gets shown for the millionth time on TV.  It’s exhausting. 

Look at it this way. Does your child “believe” in Elsa? Certainly not. He/She knows that Elsa is a character from a movie. In the same way, we watch plenty of Christmas movies in the weeks leading up to Christmas. (I love any and all Rankin Bass over here. And also “Prancer”- the best.) Sometimes (especially this year) the movies bring up questions about Santa. We explain to W that the movie is just fun and fantasy, and reiterate that mommy and daddy give you presents. Any talk that reassured him he’s receiving presents puts the question of Santa out of W’s mind.  The thing is, I’ve noticed that every version of Santa in the movies is a different spin on the legend.  I think most parents have to answer some questions after inquisitive kids watch Christmas movies.

Believe me, I’m not anti-Santa as a character- I bought Santa wrapping paper for heavens sake!!

"i want to be a dentist!" proof that we aren't curmudgeons who don't allow Christmas fun!
“i want to be a dentist!” proof that we aren’t curmudgeons who don’t allow Christmas fun!  he doesn’t have a choice.  he will be watching “Rudolph”.

The opportunity to have his worldview accidentally shattered by another kid. Man oh man, I hate that he isn’t given the opportunity to learn the truth about Santa from a buddy, or to accidentally see a gift and find that mom and dad are actually the purchasers of Santa’s loot. The opportunity to question all he believes as an eight year old is one that I’m sad he’ll miss.

Personally I had quite a few issues when I discovered the truth about Santa. (Shoutout to my frenemy Haley for letting me in on that one.) I questioned why my parents would lie to me. If they had lied about Santa, were they lying about God as well? I know it sounds extreme, but for a 10 or 11 year old it truly was a crisis of faith. I was unsure about several things thanks to the discovery of the Santa myth. I don’t think it’s necessary to put my son through that sort of uncertainty. I’ve had plenty of friends who never experienced any sort of existential crisis due to the revelation that Santa didn’t exist. This isn’t me telling you that it’s bad for your child’s soul to pretend to be Santa. This is simply my experience and my conviction.

(Remember my “I’m not judging you disclaimer? I’d appreciate the same courtesy from the “lighten up” school of parenting in regards to this one.)

I was a thinking child, and before I stopped believing in Santa I would pray fervently to him to grant my wishes. Many times these prayers took place two or fewer days before Christmas. (Not great timing when gifts have already been purchased, lemme tell ya.) When you’re told that all you need is faith and belief in a being and your wishes will be granted, it’s upsetting when your wishes aren’t fulfilled. Santa was so tied up in my definition of Christmas that I struggled to separate it for years. I still struggle with wanting to focus on everything temporal during the Nativity season but that’s my own lack of faith, obviously. I don’t want to give my child too many distractions so that he can grow up with his definition of Christmas always being first and foremost Christ’s birth.

I feel like this is a good time to insert another disclaimer.  My son is NOT in the business of shattering any child’s worldview.  We would never teach a three year old that “Santa is a lie”.  The last thing I want to do (especially since I run a daycare) would be to upset other families.  We just tell W that “some kids get presents from Santa, but you get presents from Mommy and Daddy”. I know someday we may have a bit more of an in-depth conversation about the existence of Santa.  Assuring a child they do, in fact, receive presents is a pretty great way to quell any doubts!


Lies. Er, I mean, little fibs? Or is it “white lies”? I just hate not being able to lie to my kid!  It’s my parental right! 

My main reason for abstaining from the Santa thing was mostly to do with not wanting to lie to my child. I don’t have any right or place to judge another family for believing in Santa. And I pray I don’t. Seriously. If you’re able to do Santa with minimal lying- more power to you! But I know that I couldn’t have. As he gets older, W asks so so many questions. So many. At least 40 an hour. I know that I’d end up telling some big fat untruths if we had gone the Santa gifts route.

On a lighter note on this same topic- my parents (who did a great job of raising me, Santa or no) had to come up with a funny little lie to help curtail my Santa wish list one year. They explained that they had to reimburse Santa for many of the gifts. And that maybe I shouldn’t go too terribly overboard. It was pretty genius. I definitely took it into consideration!  Take note of that one, Santa families!

Elves and Peeping Toms- My baby misses the opportunity to allow a stranger to watch his every move and to trust anyone simply based on the color of their suit and hat.

Once again, don’t think this is a blanket statement. Celebrating with Santa does not mean I think your child will be especially prey to child molesters.

Lately we’ve worked on W’s body safety and teaching about privacy with our private parts. He’s at a critical age for understanding what is safe and what is not. I don’t love the tradition of teaching him that your private moments can be invaded by a man in a red hat. I especially don’t love teaching that anyone who went to a costume shop and rented a red coat and white beard can be trusted.

w gets plenty of presents. don’t fear. and, we don’t have to hide them! which makes for a much less stressful Christmas Eve.

Presents- Poor little W doesn’t receive anything under his tree on Christmas. Pitiful pitiful boy.

Are. You. Kidding. Me??

Our child receives ample gifts on Christmas morning from us and from other family. And we’ve yet to hear a complaint from him.

This argument is the funniest because it always comes from adults who know the truth about Santa. WHERE DO YOU THINK YOUR CHILD’S GIFTS CAME FROM?! You bought the gifts and placed them under the tree. You are capable of taking the credit instead of attributing it to Father Christmas. I promise. It can be successfully done.

look at that face. he's got Christmas magic in spades.
look at that face. he’s got Christmas magic in spades.

I hope this post doesn’t give an air of judgment, or pride, or of me having figured out the first thing about parenting. We’ve certainly not done things perfectly when it comes to the Nativity season or with our lack of Santa. Just a few weeks ago W asked if I could “let Santa come to our house to bring him presents”. Of course we had a conversation about how he DOES, in fact, receive gifts. No parenting plan ever goes off without a hitch. (Maybe we can blame the Christmas movies for that one?  I’m not sure.)

This is simply my effort to outline the common misconceptions about our family that we hear regularly about the Santa tradition.

Now, on to resuming your regular Christmas prep with or without a host of elves at your disposal.

PS- Have you posted your ornament photos with #GandVOrnaments yet? Well, ya should.  Deadline is December 19th!


7 thoughts on “things my son misses since we don’t do santa

  1. Great post! Though we are a “Santa family” I love hearing about your approach and I admire your conviction and ability to stay true to your beliefs. Thank you and Merry Christmas!

    1. Thank you! I appreciate any Santa families who don’t call protective services on us for not doing Santa!! ;~)
      Hope y’all have a wonderful Christmas and a sweet first Christmas with that precious baby girl!

  2. Thank you for this! I don’t have children yet, but I have tossed about the Santa Dilemma in my head enough times that this was really illuminating. I was a Santa Believer(tm) for several years longer than my classmates, and had more than one screaming, crying argument with a friend because I devoutly believed my parents wouldn’t lie to me. Worse, when I began to suspect this deep and abiding betrayal was real and confronted my mother, she wouldn’t give me a straight answer. She fed me the “Yes, Virginia” newspaper article, which felt like a further betrayal AND an insult.

    My parents never told me the truth. I was just left with the vague and dissatisfying concept of Santa As Metaphor which — let me tell you — doesn’t go far with a ten-year-old, especially when coupled with the realization that Mom and Dad won’t be straight with you.

    Do I still get wound up about this? Er. Um. Well. Yes. Evidently.

    I think I really, really like the idea of not lying to my children.

  3. I LOVE All of this. Every single bit of what you wrote is how I feel. The only difference for me was that I never believed in Santa. So fe om that perspective I can tell you that I still have extremely fond Christmas memories.

    1. I need to give people your name as a reference when they insinuate that I’m ruining my child’s life by not doing Santa. See? Leah turned out just fine!!! Enjoy your tropical Christmas! I am so not jealous. Nope. Not one bit.

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