Welcome to Unsolicited Advice, the weekly advice column in which I dispense advice no one asked for to people who don’t even know who I am.
holiday Christmas season is upon us and everyone is pulling out their favorite traditions, treasured keepsakes, and festive good cheer. However, a dark shadow looms over the Christmas of some parents and its name is…
Over the past few weeks, I’ve come across several social media threads arguing the merits of performing the Santa Claus ritual for small children. Since no one asked me and this is Unsolicited Advice, I thought I’d answer the unposed question: Is it okay to skip the Santa Claus routine for your kids?
My unsolicited answer is – YES. You can skip the Santa Claus stuff. It’s fine.
My good friend Amelia Hamilton (author of the adorable Growing Patriots children’s book series) finds my position appalling. She feels that a parent who would decline to engage in the Santa Claus tradition is robbing their child of a unique, magical experience. Christmas is about wonder and the unexplainable joy. Parents light up the imagination of their children when they share the playful spirit of a magical jolly old man who gives presents to all the children of the world every Christmas Eve.
I think she is right about all that. There’s something special about watching your kids see the fruits of their faith in jolly old St. Nick come to life. It does spark a special kind of wonder.
It’s also a lie…an elaborate hoax that will necessarily one day end in broken hearts and distrust. I know parents who can’t even bear to tell their children “no” lest it damage their fragile feelings but have no qualms about setting up their kids for the biggest letdown of their young lives. There is something tragically sobering about realizing your parents not only lied to you but tricked you for most of your young life. It feels like a betrayal. A magical betrayal, but a betrayal nonetheless.
I’m being comically harsh here. In reality, I couldn’t care less what you choose for your Christmas traditions, but as someone who never engaged in the Santa ritual for my own children, I can tell you that they’ll be just fine if you don’t do it…and in fact maybe even better.
I have no moral objections to Santa. I grew up with the tradition myself, but married into a family that chose not to do the same. My husband’s father is a pastor, and he has always felt that it is wrong to spend so much time and energy celebrating a fictional figure when the season is about the real birth of a real savior (I know, atheists. I can hear you screaming already but just save it for your own advice column).
I agree with him on that point. I do think it’s rather harmless, but as a Christian, I also think it is my duty to seriously consider the message I’m sending with Santa – or more to the point, the message I’ll be sending the day my child finds out I’m a devious liar capable of carrying on an elaborate charade for years. The miracle of Santa is pretty fun, but the miracle of Jesus Christ is world-changing and life-saving. If there is any “magic” to be promoted it seems more productive to be promoting the kind that actually doesn’t end in your kids walking in on you stuffing stockings while you’re on your third glass of wine. It just feels wrong for Christians, anyway. We’ll put weeks of preparation and hundreds of dollars into crafting the perfect Santa experience, and one night in church (if that) nurturing the incredible story of a poor little infant who was born into filth but who’s singular life would offer a hope no one had ever known before. His life literally changed the course of human history.
But Santa is still lots of fun. I get it.
In preparation for this column, I asked my 12-year-old daughter if she ever resented that we didn’t do the Santa thing. She let out a confident, “No way” before turning up her nose in distaste. When I asked her why she said that (and I pinky-swear we have never really talked about it before this moment) she explained, “I’m glad I never had to be heartbroken over it. Besides, what’s the point? We get presents with or without Santa”.
So take that for what it’s worth. And take this also – the other thing I’ve very much appreciated about not being chained to Santa is that I’ve never had to deal with the stress of the “Santa” hunt. Also, we get the “credit” for the gifts we work so hard to give, not some freeloading old white man who eats all your cookies but won’t even clear his own plates.
To be sure, we have always been adamant about instructing our kids not to ruin it for other children. As far as I know, they’ve always honored that. As judgmental as my unsolicited advice may sound, at the end of the day it’s neither here nor there. I love seeing pictures of my friends and their little ones enjoying the traditions of Santa together, and I also love not having to fuss with any of it myself.
So if you love the Santa thing, go for it! Have a blast and treasure every moment.
And if you don’t want to do the Santa thing, don’t. Your kids will be just fine and Christmas will still be fun and wondrous and all of those beautiful things you think about at the holidays. I don’t think anyone in this house has ever once missed the guy in the red suit, but we still look forward to Christmas together every year.
You will too. Promise.