I never believed in Santa. My sisters and I left cookies and egg nog out on Christmas Eve. We also received gifts under the tree with gift tags that read: 'From Santa.' Yet, I never remember thinking that there was an actual Santa who ate the cookies or left the gifts. I always knew it was my mom and dad. I don't think anyone ever told me Santa wasn't real, but my parents never tried to get us to believe in him. I remember my sisters asking my mom once if Santa was real and she just answered, "What do you think?" In my family, Santa was a fun idea, but not the main focus.
To be clear, I have nothing against the idea of Santa. To me, Santa just stands for the spirit of giving and the enjoyment of giving and receiving gifts. I don't see anything wrong with promoting this spirit. I do, however, have a problem with going out of my way to perpetrate a lie to young, impressionable minds. And therein lies my problem with Santa. Of the very few things on which my husband and I do not agree, Santa is at the top of the list.
In my husband's family, Christmas was all about Santa. All toys received were waiting near the tree on Christmas morning, unwrapped and ready to be played with, as a sign that Santa had just stopped by and left them there to be discovered. Everyone went to great lengths to keep the kids believing as long as possible. My first Christmas with the family, I was warned to not say anything at all about Santa not existing because the nieces still believed. It is not my place to say what other people should or should not tell their children about Santa, but the thought of purposely lying to my own children about this turns my stomach just a little.
So here is my dilemma: What is a confused mom to do? I have never talked about Santa to my kids, but it seems like EVERY PERSON with whom we interact this time of year asks my kids if they are ready for Santa, if they have been good for Santa, what they want from Santa, or any other number of questions involving the jolly old man. On top of that, every TV show the boys watch (with the exception of the amazing and wonderful 'Dinosaur Train') has a Christmas episode seemingly every day about St. Nick. And then, of course, my husband and in-laws constantly talk to the boys about Santa. I don't want to just say to them "Well, Santa isn't real" but I also can't bring myself to tell them he is or talk about him to them at all.
As I've hashed this out in my mind, I think part of the reason I never really "believed" had to do with 'Angel Trees.' You know, the trees with the tags on them with the gender and age of a child in need that people could choose and purchase a gift for. This was a major part of our holiday season growing up. Even the year my dad was unemployed and my parents had to borrow money from my grandparents to make ends meet, we still sponsored an Angel Tree kid (I'm sure they would be horrified to know that I know about the borrowed money, but my parents had apparently never heard the saying "Little pitchers have big ears.") Um... hello? If there really was a Santa, wouldn't he give those kids toys? Why would these kids need us to buy them anything? I love, love, love the tradition of giving to others this way and the 'Angel Tree' is something I've continued with my boys. So... how long before they put all this together?
I just wonder when they find out the truth, if they will question other things we've told them. I don't want to have a conversation where my side sounds something like, "Well, I never believed in Santa, but I let you do it. What? God? Oh yes. God is real. Really. He is." I just don't know. I guess I had always planned to take my mom's approach, but that obviously doesn't work when half the family makes such a big deal of Santa. Luke is already asking how Santa will come down the chimney if there is a fire in the fireplace. He obviously believes.
I guess I just continue focusing on what I feel is important about Christmas -- the joy, the spirit of giving, the time spent together -- and on Jesus, the most important gift of all. And hope that when they realize he's not real, they don't use Santa as a reason to doubt the truth of every other thing we've ever told them.