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The Santa Controversy – We Told Them

***This has the potential to be controversial. I am not wanting to start a debate (yeah, right). No really, I’m not. Because it could get ugly. Instead I’ll encourage a healthy, uplifting conversation. Please tell me your thoughts and traditions about this subject. Just leave a comment!***

We told our kids.

For months, years actually, we’ve debated this. After a marriage Bible study on submission, I agreed to my husband’s wishes. As soon as I agreed, a weight was lifted. I knew it was overdue. The whole family was in the car on a long road trip and my husband began a discussion with the words “We have something to tell you. You might get upset, but we’ll talk through it.”

Then there was a pause.

The kids were silent. (Yes, it’s a shock if you know our family.)

The murmurs started and rose to a crescendo of:

  • “Is everything OK?”
  • “Are we moving?”
  • “Is someone sick?”
  • “How is my life going to change?”

I was thankful we were in the car because they couldn’t see my face. I fought back laughing and crying simultaneously.

Kevin continued the conversation and gently broke the news about Santa. And the tooth fairy. And the Easter Bunny. The tooth fairy was easy because we often forgot to leave money under the pillow. Last year my husband just handed money as soon as a tooth fell out. The first time it happened, I was outraged, but realized he truly didn’t know they still believed. Needless to say, they weren’t shocked about the tooth fairy. Or the Easter Bunny. But Santa…

They were so relieved we weren’t moving, no one was sick, and their lives really weren’t going to change, that the news about Santa was a relief.

“Haha! I knew IT!” and “Now it all makes sense!” was joyfully exclaimed.

One of our kids even wisely asked, “But Mom and Dad, how could you guys afford all of those gifts?”

“That’s the real magic of Christmas. Some years when we couldn’t afford it, God provided.”

“So why did I get those shoes last year?” (I’ll save that story for another post. A true Christmas Miracle!)

“How did you guys do it???”

We had a fun time of questions and answers followed by a discussion of keeping it a secret for others who still believe. “Let’s keep the special secret going for others. It’s each family’s decision if they tell their kids about Santa or when they reveal the secret.”

That is the magic of Santa.

My husband finally asked the biggest question he’s had for years. YEARS. “Do you guys feel like we were dishonest with you?”

“No,” they readily agreed, “it feels more like a game. Or a special secret.”

We discussed the aspect of Santa – is it lying or just keeping a secret? My husband and I were both very honest. We feel differently about this subject and told them. We apologized for not being honest. As a family the conclusion was reached that we protected the Santa Secret. The kids were not angry and didn’t feel like we had lied. Looking back, would we have done anything differently??? I really can’t answer that.

Over the years one aspect of Santa has burdened me. “Oh you better watch out!” I must admit – as a mom of young ones, I loved when Christmas rolled around and I could start talking about Santa seeing misbehavior. It was HUGE motivation to be good. I took full advantage of it. Many times, one of the kids would be throwing a tantrum and I would start singing “You better watch out! You better not pout! You better not cry, I’m telling you why!” Oh, the memories! In all reality, the message behind that is a strong one. Be good = Get presents.

I’ll never forget the year my daughter tearfully looked at me and said, “Mom, I thought I was good this year. But I didn’t get many presents. What else can I do to be good? My friend got (insert LONG LIST of the most expensive toys here) and I only got (really short list).” My heart broke. I wanted to say “Well, both parents work full time and she’s an only child – a really spoiled child.” Instead, I fumbled through encouragement of what a great kid my daughter is and how the real meaning of Christmas is Christ, not gifts. I realized how we are setting our kids up to base self worth on monetary values. I don’t think I used the “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” song after that. (Except on one or two occasions when feeling really desperate!)

Now, as I roam facebook and scroll through Pinterest, a new phenomenon is popping up. Elf on a shelf. It is adorable. Part of me wants to jump on board and play mischevious pranks with a toy elf. I can see the fascination. Another part of me wants to cringe at the focus – once again – getting farther and farther away from our core values. The real meaning. It hits me – What am I doing to show the real meaning of Christmas? Why just do it for one month a year? I haven’t come to any conclusion on what to do or how to change things, only that it’s up to my husband and I to do what feels right for our family. To live our convictions. To not impose them on anyone else.  Turn our eyes to the gift of Christ instead of gifts from/for others. Live each day for Christ. THAT is Christmas.

So I came up with a different Christmas tradition. Advent. But that’s another post.

One last confession… My house has yet to be decorated for Christmas. I haven’t even listened to Christmas music. Some of the magic is gone. Telling the kids about Santa along with looking at all the traditional recipes I can’t eat has pushed me into Grinch-mode. But I have a plan. I really want to do “magical” things all year. Instead of Elf at Christmas, I’ll be introducing another character for Birthdays. But it’s a secret. I’m also going to decorate while listening to Christmas music. Even if I don’t feel like it. (It’s not just the whole Santa thing that threw me off this year, it’s the Texas heat. It’s hard to get motivated when it’s 80 outside and we’re wearing shorts…) So… goodbye Grinch!

Building Bridges is about honoring family traditions and knowing when to change them.

What about you? Where do you stand on the Santa Controversy?

About Kimberly Vogel

I am a mom of four beautiful daughters, a writer, and a certified Early Childhood and Elementary Teacher who recently made the switch from teaching in a classroom to teaching her children at home. I am often found in the children’s area of my church where I volunteer and lead a children’s program. Writing is a natural outpouring of my love for my Savior. Follow along while I share my journey as a bridge builder with you. My prayer is that you start building bridges too!

4 responses »

  1. We don’t do Santa either. We never started it. It’s kind of a long story, and surprisingly it isn’t because of the obvious reason. Two primary reasons — first, my husband remembers how deceived he felt when he found out his parents had “lied” to him for years. It made an impact on him. I don’t remember ever feeling that way myself. But having brothers and a sister 7, 9, and 10 years older than me, I likely found out about Santa pretty early. 🙂 Secondly, my sister complained every year about how hard it was to do Santa. It was just so much extra work. So our daughter’s first Christmas, she was 6 months old, and my husband was on an extended work trip out of town. It was a non-factor that year. The next year, I asked my husband if he wanted to do Santa, and he said no, and I said okay. It was a 5-second conversation. Over the years, I’m thankful we made the choice we did. Elf on the Shelf is cute and I love seeing the different ideas, but again we don’t do it. We tell our kids that a lot of people do Santa, and it’s not wrong, and they should just not say anything at all. So far, it has worked out fine. Which reminds me I need to have that conversation again with them soon! We don’t do the Tooth Fairy either. A tooth falls out, and the child says “mom I need my money for my tooth”. Again, pretty simple. 🙂

    • Thank you so much for sharing your traditions and the WHY behind it. I love the simple truth of it all. The five second conversation… wow, if only all of our discussions can be that easy! I’m right there with you on the tooth fairy. For some reason, putting money under the pillow was just way too hard for me to pull off. I guess I just never understood why kids should get money for loosing a tooth. That money would be better served going towards dental bills or toothpaste. What strikes me the most is how your husband felt. I hear that from many men. I’m beginning to think girls love the “emotions” or “romance” behind it while guys really are just that practical. Hmmmmm….. What do you think?

  2. Santa is a tough one for me. It’s so fun and magical when they’re little that I didn’t want to miss out on those few precious years of twinkling eyes and wonder and amazement. However, Christmas just isn’t about Santa or presents and I didn’t want the true meaning to get lost. What we ended up doing is playing Santa with our kids but truly focusing on Christmas being about the birth of Jesus. We’ve never told them “Santa is watching” and we don’t tell them they have to be good to get presents (although they do learn that from other people, movies, songs, etc.). They make lists, we take a picture with him every year, they get so excited when they go to bed on Christmas Eve but other than that, there’s not a lot of talk about Santa (at least from Danny and me). To combat their desires to ask for outrageous gifts from Santa (bc they’re “free”) and to keep them from feeling like Santa didn’t bring them toys as nice as some of their friends, we told them that because we’re the parents, Santa talks to us about what he wants to give and we have to approve the toys, the price point, etc. haha!
    As you saw on FB, after much pleading, this year we added the Elf on the Shelf. I’ve known about this Elf for probably 4 years but never bought it because I just don’t like the focus on be good because “Santa is watching.” However, over the years, this Elf has really morphed from just being a spy in the house to playing pranks and games and doing mischievous things and *that’s* what my kids what in on. That’s the fun part. So, I bought him and he’s going to live here and play pranks and do silly things but any “the elf can see you” business will be completely self-imposed. I won’t be mentioning it. 🙂
    We ended up telling Jake about Santa last year. His logical mind was questioning the logistics of it all a lot anyway but still really *wanted* to believe and ended up being teased mercilessly by one particular kid at school. It was sad. He was sad when we told him but like your kids, didn’t view it as lying at all. He thinks it’s a really fun game and now he’s having fun keeping the game alive for his little brother and sister. 🙂

    • Thanks Julie for sharing your story! I love your explanation about Santa and the “Free” toys. That was always a tough one for me. I’m sorry to hear about Jake being teased – it’s something I prayed with him about a few times at church. Love his heart!!!! I miss being his shepherd. I can see the Elf fitting in at your house with all of the jokes… can’t wait to see some pictures. In Feb we will have our first bday of 2013 and I will incorporate some mischief then! I might need ideas. Thanks again for sharing your stories! Be on the lookout for my Advent post. I think your family would LOVE it!!


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