Monday, December 20, 2010

The Great Santa Debate

"Are y'all going to do Santa?"  It's an awfully popular question when you have small children.  And it's been an ongoing conversation for the past 2 months or so.  But what does that mean, anyway?  "Do Santa."

Are you wondering if we're going to visit Santa at the mall?  Are you wondering if presents marked "From Santa" will be under our tree?  Perhaps you're curious to see if we'll put out cookies and milk for the jolly man or if we'll leave carrots out in the yard for his dreadful creatures reindeer.  (Do you know about my intense fear and hate of deer?  Stupid animals.)  Maybe you're asking if we'll utter his name in our house.  Some people don't, you know. Will we ban all songs about Santa in our house? 

A little bit of background for you:  I don't ever remember growing up with Santa.  Santa wasn't a big deal at my house.  Sure, we left cookies and milk for Santa.  We even had a handful of Santa decorations around the house.  We decorated Santa-shaped cookies with sugar sprinkles, red hots, and those microscopic candy balls that break your teeth.  We waved "Hello" to Santa as we passed him in the mall.  But we didn't go sit on his lap, we didn't write letters to him, and we didn't talk about him a whole lot.  We were never told that there WAS or WASN'T a Santa.  And I never ever felt like I was missing out on any part of my childhood. 

Fast forward to the present:  We have our own children.  So, what are we going to do?  We have lots of traditions in the Greenhill house.  You can check out some of them here and here.  However, Santa will not be one of our traditions.  To answer the questions above... No, we are not going to visit him at the mall.  I don't want to pay to have a picture of my two children shrieking in Santa's lap, and it's just not an important tradition to me.  There will be no presents "From Santa" under our tree.  Cookies and milk?  Perhaps.  I do like cookies an awful lot.  Carrots?  Nah.  Will we speak the man's name?  Sure!  St. Nicholas was a great guy with a great heart.  He's a great example to use as we teach our kids about giving.  We might ban certain Santa songs, but not for the reasons you'd think. 

So, why no Santa?  I could tell you it's because we don't want to lie to our kids.  It sounds terribly harsh, and it IS a reason, but it's not my main reason.  I mentioned a few weeks ago how I hate one particular phrase that has become a cliche in the "Christian world."  Goofy cliche, but true.  Santa is not the reason for the season.  My children are not the reason for the season.  Consumerism is not the reason for the season.  A friend shared a thought with me recently, and it has really stuck with me.  "Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  So, why in the world do we get a bunch of presents?"  Christmas is not a time to celebrate my kids.  It's not a time to celebrate my husband.  Is it a time to be so thankful for them that my heart wants to burst?  You bet.  But, I don't want Kate and Drew to grow up thinking that Christmas is all about them.  And I certainly don't want them thinking that they ought to be good so a fictitious fat man with a beard will bring them presents!  I don't want them missing out for even one second on the enormity of the gift of Jesus.

"But, how/what are you going to tell them?"  Beats me!  Really.  I don't know.  They can't talk yet, so they can't ask.  Ha!  ;)  We have a little bit of time to come up with a thoughtful and sensitive answer.  In the meantime, we are praying that our home will be a place of peace as "the weary world rejoices" because Christ our King is born!

What kind of Santa traditions do/did you have in your family?  If your family didn't "do Santa," feel free to share the reasons for that!  *Please remember to be kind and sensitive, as some thoughts (including mine!) may differ from yours.* 


  1. Santa is an important part of our tradition because it was an important part of mine growing up. We have seen the same Santa since I was 4, so 35 years of pictures and visits equals important to us. But we also realize and celebrate the real reason behind Christmas, and we try not to lie to our kids - we let them make our own decisions and question what they need to question. But I have to admit - when we go see Santa and he comes down the chimney and says "My babies!", I tear up just a little.

  2. I grew up with Santa. My parents would hide presentsfor me to stumble across after opening most of the other presents and say "well how did that get there?" but we don't do Santa with our kids (a decision the grandparents were NOT happy with, by the way!). Like you guys we wanted to have our energies spent on Christ. We talk about Santa and watch Elf and talk about how he is a fun story, but that's it. And since we live overseas in a place that does the American Christmas decorations for new years (they think Christmas and new years are the same) it's even more important for us to not keep the Santa tradition and it's less confusing for our friends when we try to tell them he difference in the holidays and how wecare celebrating jesus's birthday and not new years.

  3. PS- we are thinking about observing st. Nicholas day next year. It's December 6th. There are so many great stories about all he did for people. On this day children would find money in their shoes. We thought about getting chocolate coins for our kids' shoes and give some toys and clothes to charity.

  4. Mark Driscoll had an interesting response to this in the Washington Post recently!

  5. Mollie, my favorite things you said in this post were: "Santa is not the reason for the season. My children are not the reason for the season. Consumerism is not the reason for the season." and "I don't want Kate and Drew to grow up thinking that Christmas is all about them. And I certainly don't want them thinking that they ought to be good so a fictitious fat man with a beard will bring them presents! I don't want them missing out for even one second on the enormity of the gift of Jesus."

    We don't "do Santa" at our house either. My extended family are not Christians, and they think we're mean to 'deprive' our kids of the 'magic of Christmas'. But my kids are 4, 8, and 11, and for them Jesus's birth is the magic of Christmas. They love the holiday as much as other children, but are also aware that it is NOT about them. (And we spend Christmas Eve doing some sort of outreach, to emphasize this.) And they actually seem happier on Christmas than some of the children in our extended family, for whom the holiday is only about gifts. Just wanted to encourage you that you're not alone in your convictions, and that despite what some might say, you're not depriving your children of anything and they won't be scarred by not believing in Santa. :)

  6. Thanks for sharing that link, Rebekah! Mark Driscoll has some interesting takes on different things in our culture. I love his point about not demonizing Santa (as some Christians do).

    Jess, thanks for the encouragement! Now, to figure out how to teach them not to blab the truth to every child they know! ;)

  7. Anonymous11:13 AM

    We didn't do Santa growing up either. My parent's taught me that it's a game that other parents play with their kids and that I wasn't allowed to tell other kids because it would ruin the game. It worked pretty well. I never told other kids that there was no Santa and I even played along when adults used to ask me what Santa was bringing me because I didn't want to ruin the game for them either. My parents wanted me to know that Jesus is real and didn't want to confuse that with a pretend Santa.

  8. Oh, man! You WOULD write this just hours after I took Kate (your daughter and the apple of my eye) to the mall where, among other things, we visited the Macy's Santa mailbox to write him a letter!

  9. This is my first time here. I found you through Prayer of Hannah. I totally agree with you about emphasizing Jesus. Santa isn't banned in our house, he just isn't built up into something big. I have a post up today with a list of others who have blogged this topic and also our thoughts are going up tomorrow.
    Thanks for sharing. And good luck with coming up with what to tell them. Right now my boys 2 and 1 just stare at people blankly when they are asked what they want Santa to bring them. :)