We don’t teach our children Santa is a real person. Besides the fear that the lie will erode my children’s trust in me, I have a very practical financial reason: we can’t afford to.
Our society pressures us to pull off the perfect Christmas. Everyone needs everything on their lists. The decorations must be perfect, the food plentiful and delicious. But that’s a whole lot of stress that I don’t need.
I chose to skip the stress and tell my kids that Santa isn’t real. This doesn’t ruin their Christmas. It doesn’t take the joy out of it. In fact, it gives us an opportunity to have the best holiday we can.
What We Do
We love to watch movies, read stories, and participate in Santa culture. We make Santa crafts, and practice our “Ho Ho Hos”. My kids know and recognize him. They are not deprived of the fun that surrounds Santa.
They also know that he is just a man dressed up in a costume and an idea. We talk often about how Santa is fun, how he is pretend, how he doesn’t really come in the house, and how we are responsible for buying their presents.
Why Take the Magic Out?
Santa is a glorious example for my kids. We talk about the joy of giving, receiving, and the meaning of the season all while living within our budget. And celebrating within our means.
There are so many lessons that come out of these activities. Besides getting all the socialization surrounding Santa, they also get to learn about how Santa is folklore, we get to talk about budgeting and responsible spending. We get to explain want vs need, contentment, and self control.
Now, with all of that said here is the real deal: when my kids look at their gifts and compare them to their friend’s, I want them to know that the gifts were constrained by our budget. Not their behavior or Santa’s favor.
I want my kids to know that they didn’t get iPads or XBoxes or an expensive phone because we have to buy those things, not because Santa chose to give them cheap gifts where he chose to give their friends expensive ones.
Where the Real Magic Comes From
Christmas is always at the top of kids’ lists of favorite holidays because they get presents. But the magic of Christmas comes from generosity and love. The gifts and Santa culture are secondary.
We need to set a strong example for our kids about this time of year. Kids will not learn to take joy in togetherness, giving, or self control if we don't give them those things and model self control for them.
While I don’t begrudge my kids taking joy in the possession of things, I also want them to find joy in the giving and generous spirit of the holidays. This is an acquired taste for people of all ages. The Santa lie is the polar opposite of this spirit. Let's keep the symbolism of Santa but loose the materialism by being honest with our kids.
I want my kids to know that I didn’t spend $500 on things for each of them for Christmas on purpose. Toys break. They outgrow clothes. Things eventually disappear from our lives, one way or another.
What doesn’t slip through our fingers? Time used to build a solid relationship. Time used to make memories that will keep us laughing for the rest out our lives. Teaching my kids to bake Christmas cookies or fruitcake, make a wreath, wrap presents, or even just having a heart to heart talk is by far the most valuable thing you can spend on a child during the holiday season.
Making your Children Santa
I highly recommend using the holiday season to encourage your kids to be Santa. You can do it this on a budget and use it as a great way of spending quality time together.
With your kids, bake Christmas cookies, breads, or anything else you may have a fancy for. Then package up the goods, in pretty cellophane (available at craft stores), and drop them off at your local fire or police department, to EMTs, nursing homes, or anywhere else you know needs a little holiday pick me up.
You will never forget these memories, you kids will get to bring to joy to others, and practice self control. They won't just get to indulge in a fantasy; they will get to experience Santa.
We don’t lie about Santa because we are dedicated to sticking to our budget during the holidays, but also because we don’t want to shift the magic from the generosity, compassion of the season or our time spent together to a fictional character that we know our kids will quit believing in soon.