Christmas is upon us, and now that Gordon is four years old, he’s really enjoyed decorating our Christmas tree and seeing the lights around town. We’ve been reading lots of Christmas stories, listening to old Christmas songs, and I’ve even sneaked in a couple Christmas shows.
But there’s one thing we haven’t done: we haven’t told Gordon that Santa is coming. And we’re not going to.
Now, I know this can be a controversial issue, and I’m not going to tell you how to handle this topic with your little ones. But here’s how we handle Santa in our house.
1) We enjoy all the books and stories and songs that feature Santa Claus, but we don’t tell Gordon that Santa is “real.” Eventually, kids grow up and learn that Santa is not real. For some kids, they can feel disillusioned when they realize their parents lied to them for years.
My husband and I have made a point not to lie to our son, even when it’s convenient. We want him to grow up knowing that our word is good and that he can trust us to tell the truth.
2) As Christians, we must remember that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God. This is why, when talking with Gordon, we often refer to Christmas as Jesus’ birthday.
When we read stories about Jesus, I specify that those stories are real, that they really happened a long time ago. This is to help Gordon differentiate between true Bible stories and fanciful fiction.
3) “He sees you when you’re sleeping, And he knows when you’re awake, He knows if you’ve been bad or good, So be good for goodness sake” (from Santa Claus is Coming to Town).
Thoughtful kids (like my son) can become concerned with the idea that Santa Claus is somehow watching them all year round. The same idea goes for the Elf on the Shelf, which even “moves” positions periodically. We don’t want to instill paranoia in our son, so this is not a message we share with him.
Instead, we do tell Gordon that God is always with us and we can pray to Him at any time about anything.
4) In the myth of Santa Claus, we are told that only good girls and boys receive gifts. There have been plenty of studies over the years that tell us the danger of qualifying our children as “good” or “bad.” Instead, we tell our son that we love him no matter what. That’s why Gordon gets Christmas presents regardless of how he behaves.
At the same time, we don’t bribe Gordon to “be good” by using the promise of gifts at Christmas time. (Check out Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason by Alfie Kohn for more info on why it’s important to move away from both rewards and punishments.)
And what about kids whose parents can’t afford to get them presents? The message those kids receive is that they’re undeserving of gift, which is not true and is harmful to their self esteem. Let’s take judgment out of Christmas!
5) Since we don’t refer to Santa as real, we don’t label any of Gordon’s presents as coming from Santa Claus. All of Gordon’s gifts are clearly labeled so he knows who gave them to him—and who he should thank. This teaches him to appreciate the thoughtfulness of his family and friends.
At this point, you may think I’m Grinch’s mother. But I know Gordon doesn’t feel that way. We spend plenty of time enjoying all of the festivities that Christmas has to offer, and he gets plenty of toys under the tree.
But in the end, Christmas isn’t about the magic of fictional stories but about the awesome glory and joy of the birth of Jesus our Savior. That’s the message and tradition we want to pass down to Gordon.
What about you? How are you handling the message of Santa Claus in your home?
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14 NAS).
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