The Santa Dilemma

Thanksgiving Day is behind us. Now begins the free-fall till December 25th. The days and weeks will fly by. There is so much left to do: decorating, baking, wrapping, singing and hot cocoa sipping. There is holiday music and outdoor lights.

And there is Santa.

Santa and I have an interesting relationship.

(Spoiler Alert – My beliefs about Santa may not match yours – be prepared).

As a child, my family celebrated Christmas with yummy home-made food, carol singing, lovely fellowship, piles of presents and (most importantly to our family) the reading of the Christmas story (via Luke 2).

(Spoiler Reminder – Not kidding!! If you are a young child or even a not-so-young one, and Santa is coming to your house this year, stop reading now.)

What my childhood Christmas memories don’t contain, is any belief that Santa was real. He was as real to me, as Cinderella or Tom Thumb. His story was sweet and fun, but not something I was to take seriously. Christ’s birth was the only reason for the season. I was warned however, that some children did believe very strongly in Santa and that I was to keep any and all Santa/Cinderella comparisons to myself. My parents were firm on that point. Our belief (or lack thereof) was to have no impact on those who chose to embrace the jolly Old St Nicholas.

Some people didn’t understand the stance my parents took. “Why not let her believe in Santa?” they would ask. “What’s the harm?” So worried about my mental health (as a child in a Santa free home) one well-meaning friend left a giant teddy bear in our car one Sunday morning after church. I was three, and when we got to the car, I spotted the new bear and became very excited. Mom and Dad thought the bear was lovely and a very sweet gift, but they wondered who had left it? The tag read (of course) “From Santa”.

To this day, we do not know who that particular Santa was. I loved that bear regardless of who left it for me, and the story remains a family favorite… so thank you to the mysterious Santa from 30some years ago.

But I digress. Why didn’t my parents tell me about Santa? It was simple. My Mom vividly remembered the day when a classmate told her Santa wasn’t real. She was maybe 8 or 9, and this news devastated her. Even at that young age she vowed to never put her own children in a similar situation. She reasoned that if we never believed in Santa to begin with, our little hearts wouldn’t break when we learned otherwise.

And you know what? We didn’t miss out on anything….not really. It’s true we never got our picture taken with Santa. It’s true that we were never told we would get coal in our stockings if we were naughty (even if that’s what I deserved a year or two). It’s true that we watched any Santa themed Christmas special as if it was just another cartoon. It’s also true that none of that mattered in the long run. We had (and still do have) wonderful Christmas celebrations together. We share memories and eat good food. We give each other hugs and silly presents. We wallow in a beautiful day of family fellowship. We want for nothing.

But here’s the funny thing…as a grown-up, I love Santa! I have for years. When it was time to decorate the Christmas tree in my first apartment, I found myself drawn to the Santa ornaments. So, those were the ones I purchased. As the years went by, Santa became my holiday decorating theme and over time a larger collection evolved. I have ceramic Santas, wooden ones, glass and metal ones. I have wall hangings and Santas that sing. I have a full set of dishes, a cookie jar, and big mugs. (That friend who acted as my own personal Santa all those years ago would probably be proud.) 
My Santa-free childhood, and my Santa-heavy adulthood were never in conflict until we had a little one of our own. We decided early on that we would try to find some happy medium

We take him to get his picture taken with Santa each year (this was the first year so far that he wasn’t happy about it). We’ll read him The Night Before Christmas, and Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus, but we’ll also read Luke 2 and Christmas in the Barn. We’ll tell him that Santa is a nice old man who gives gifts to boys and girls in honor of the greatest gift ever given – the Christ Child. We aren’t going to push the “He knows when you’ve been sleeping” bit. Honestly that always seemed creepy to me…brings to mind Santa in a ski mask peeking over window sills… Anyway, our Santa will bring one gift for Little Guy. The rest of his gifts will be from family members and friends. We aren’t going to push the Santa thing, but we aren’t necessarily going to discourage it either. Hopefully we’ll find some safe middle ground, where he can enjoy all the Santa aspects of Christmas without distorting the Christian meaning of the holiday.

I know some of you are thinking we should follow my parents’ footsteps and forgo Santa totally. Some others may think we should go the opposite direction – all Santa all the time. I don’t know who’s right, but I do think the system we’ve chosen will work for us. If it doesn’t, I’m sure Little Guy will let us know. In the meantime, if you think his Santa exposure is lacking, you can always leave a large stuffed animal in my car for Little Guy with a tag that says “From Santa”. 

I drive the big tan Chrysler.

Happy Holidays to you all – regardless of  your opinion of Santa Claus.


  1. I think your middle ground sounds perfect. We only had one present 'from Santa' the rest were from family.

  2. I think it sounds like a great plan. Having not been from a Santa house myself, I have great fun leaving "reindeer tracks" (combo of glitter and oatmeal) and almost-finished plates of cookies. I agree there can be a happy medium. Plus, there's always the Legend of St. Nick, which is a great story whether Santa is celebrated or not.

    Enjoy this blessed season with your family!



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