What to do with Santa?

Santa doesn’t come to our house .

{Gasp!}

Yes you heard me right. We don’t do Santa.

I know this is a hot topic, and before I go anywhere else, I want to say that I am no way suggesting that Santa is evil, or that families are “in sin” by having Santa come to their home. This is where our family has personally landed, as we strive to point our kids to Jesus during the Christmas season.

That being said, here is what we have decided as a family when it comes to Ol’ St. Nick.

We desire to avoid confusion.

There are many reasons for why we chose this route; the bottom line is that we don’t want to muddy the waters when it comes to teaching our children about God. Noel Piper puts into words exactly how we feel about Santa (emphasis mine):

For several reasons, we have chosen not to include Santa Claus in our Christmas stories and decorations. First, fairy tales are fun, but we don’t ask our children to believe them. Second, celebrating with Santa and manger will postpone a child’s clear understanding of what the real truth of God is. It’s very difficult for a young child to pick through a marble cake of part truth and part imagination to find the crumbs of reality.We want our children to understand God as fully as they’re able, at whatever age they are. So we try to avoid anything that would inhibit or distort that understanding.

Third, think how confusing it must be to a literal-thinking, uncritical preschooler. Santa is so much like what we’re trying all year to teach our children about God. Look at the “attributes” of Santa:

• He’s omniscient—he sees everything you do.
• He rewards you if you’re good.
• He’s omnipresent—at least, he can be everywhere in one night.
• He gives you good gifts.
• He’s the most famous “old man in the sky” figure.

But at the deeper level that young children can’t comprehend yet, he is not like God at all. For example, does Santa really care if we’re bad or good? Think of the most awful kid you can remember. Did he or she ever not get gifts from Santa? What about Santa’s spying and then rewarding you if you’re good enough? That’s not the way God operates. He gave us his gift—his Son—even though we weren’t good at all. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He gave his gift to us to make us good, not because we had proved ourselves good enough.

—Noel Piper, Treasuring God in our Traditions (You can download this book for free here.)

So what, then, do we do with Santa?

We don’t ignore Santa.

We don’t ignore Santa when we see him in the mall. They get a bit excited to see him, just as they would Mickey Mouse, Sleeping Beauty or Lightning McQueen. But in our kids minds, as much as they can comprehend, he is fictional.

While Chris and I feel completely confident in our decision to not have Santa visit our house (we have made the same decision for the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy) there is some good that “Santa” can bring to our celebration of Christ’s coming. 

St. Nicholas was a man who loved God and gave all he had, in secret, to those in need. We talk to our kids about St. Nicholas, the true Santa Claus. The Veggie Tales movie Saint Nicholas-A Story of Joyful Giving is a great resource, as it tells the story of St. Nick and how he gave to others in the name of Christ.

I really love this idea, where “in the spirit of thoughtfulness and generosity practiced by St. Nicholas, family members put little cards, treats or gifts inside.” We put the stocking up at the beginning of December, and fill each other’s stockings with gifts of encouraging words and small treats throughout the month.

We desire to guard other family’s traditions.

My oldest son is in First Grade and I cannot be there every moment to cover up his mouth before he shatters his classmate’s Santa dreams. I try to remind him, whenever Santa comes up, that it is not up to him to tell people about Santa; it is up to the parents to tell their children the truth about Santa, NOT HIM. He seems to get it, and I just hope that my kids NEVER do something like this!

So, what do you do about Santa? Incorporate him in your traditions? Ignore him?

26 replies
  1. snow joy
    snow joy says:

    Yes, we also flat out tell our kids that Santa is pretend, but I’ve never thought about what they might say to their friends! How funny!!

    Reply
  2. Caroline
    Caroline says:

    Katie, I remember reading some other time on your blog your family’s thoughts on Santa, and then showing it to my husband. You said it so well. We feel VERY similar to you, and do much of the same things (including not wanting our children to shatter other children’s ideas).

    Thanks for explaining this so well!

    Reply
  3. Lisa notes
    Lisa notes says:

    We didn’t do Santa either, and my kids always loved and still love Christmas.

    We also told them not to burst the bubble of others who did believe. However, when my Jenna was 3, she told her 5-yr-old Santa-believing cousin that Santa wasn’t real. My niece (now 20) still says that scarred her (but I think/hope she’s kidding!).

    Reply
    • Katie
      Katie says:

      Oh no! Funny family joke, now!

      I want to be sensitive, as I know so many have fond memories of Santa as a child. Me, I think I was just too practical minded, as I have no memory of believing in Santa. I alway knew it was my parents!

      Reply
  4. Joy
    Joy says:

    Having fun with Saint Nicholas Day on Dec. 6 is one way to teach truth and learn about history, geography, cultures, and worldview without mixing “Santa Claus” into the celebration of Christmas. We’ve gotten some good ideas from Pam Forster at doorposts.com.

    Reply
  5. Jan
    Jan says:

    What a great post! Thank you! My son is only two and we’re not even there yet (give it another year or so), but it’s been a question as to what we would do. I grew up knowing Santa, but he wasn’t a big deal. He brought one gift. My husband grew up not knowing Santa. We aren’t into getting a picture of our son with Santa (besides, he’d probably cry). :) You put things very simply and answered a lot of questions we’ve asked ourselves. Thank you for this comforting post.

    Reply
    • Katie
      Katie says:

      That definitely makes the decision easier, I think—that Santa wasn’t a big deal. I know for some who have treasured memories of Santa, the really want to give that bit of childhood to their children. Sweet memories, for sure.

      I really haven’t experienced much flack for not doing Santa, from family or friends, and it makes it so much easier to make Christmas more about Jesus.

      Reply
  6. Stacey
    Stacey says:

    I remember the day I found out the truth. I was crushed and strangely the only one my age who still ‘believed’. I wondered aimlessly through Christmas as an older kid. I knew Jesus, but how to be excited when there was no “Santa”?

    It was for this reason too, that we wanted to build Christmas with the true meaning for our girls. To celebrate Jesus. We have celebrate all month the season of advent and to have a birthday party for Jesus on Christmas Eve. We do give our girls gifts and have stockings on Christmas day.

    The tooth fairy is another deal. When we are talking blood and teeth – we pretend she is real. :) They are on to her though!

    Reply
    • Katie
      Katie says:

      Though it is not the main reason why we don’t do Santa, that is another factor—I don’t want my kids to experience that crushing feeling, and then make Christmas a disappointment. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but it was not a risk I wanted to take.

      Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  7. Amy
    Amy says:

    We don’t do Santa (or the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy) either. Although both my husband and I grew up believing in all of them, I am so glad we chose to teach our children differently.

    My children are ages 5 & 2, and this has been such a trial and error experience for us concerning this whole subject! I first started out telling my son that Santa was not real – only to see him in the mall. I’ll never forget him looking at me saying, “Mommy, you said he’s not real. He’s right there!” So, like you mentioned, ignoring him doesn’t really work in a world where he’s all over the place this time of year!:)

    My son (who is very outgoing) has never hesitated telling other children that Santa is not real. Now that he’s 5, he is a little better at keeping it to himself! (Thank goodness!)

    Despite all of the challenges that go along with it all,I am so glad that we are doing our best to teach our children the real meaning of Christmas!

    Thanks for the great post! It was really encouraging for me. :)

    Reply
    • Katie
      Katie says:

      He absolutely cannot be ignored, as He is everywhere. Last year, my son was in Kindergarten, and he kept struggling with me over Santa being real, “But all my teachers say he’s real!”

      We had a long talk about why we chose not to tell him to believe in Santa, and how we didn’t want him to think that one day we would tell him God is not real, too. He got it. I think we need to be able to be totally up front about it, and it helps.

      Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  8. KellySinging
    KellySinging says:

    We have always explained the truth about Santa to our boys and don’t do the Santa thing. They are just as much excited as any kid would be, and they talk about Jesus a lot during Christmas.

    Reply
  9. MommaAsh
    MommaAsh says:

    I just wrote on my blog today about why we don’t do Santa either. For the longest time I thought I might be the only one LoL! Unfortunately a lady from my church felt attacked bc I said she was lying to her kids about Santa, but I told her she was bc it wasn’t truth. I also added I don’t think she is bad for doing Santa or less of a Christian, I was just sharing MY personal conviction.

    Too often I think Christians do things bc other Christians do them, we don’t seek out the Lord & see what he would have us personally do. Here’s the link to my blog if any are interested in reading it.

    FinishingHISrace.blogspot.com

    Reply
  10. Christa
    Christa says:

    We do not “do” Santa either. We choose to teach our children about St. Nicholas and give small gifts in our stockings on Dec. 6th. We are Christians…so Christmas is about Christ’s birth. That is our focus.

    Reply
  11. Jenni
    Jenni says:

    Although I grew up believing in Santa, my husband did not. I remember how I used to believe but don’t have any bad memories of finding out the truth. However, we also “do not “do” Santa” at our house. In fact, just this week, one of my dear friends shared with me the exact words she uses with her children and it really resonated with my husband and I. She says, “Santa is a game played at Christmas.” With my son only 3, it’s an easy way to avoid him “bursting the bubble” of another child, but we are not in anyway saying he is real. If we encourage children to believe something we KNOW is a lie, how to we help them sort out truth from lies as they grow up? Just my opinion!

    Reply
    • Katie
      Katie says:

      I have recently heard about putting it as the “Santa game” and that has been helpful for us, in keeping our 6 year old quiet. There have been few conversations recently that we have been holding our breath! I truly do not want to cause problems for other families!

      My three year old? She is determined to believe in Santa! Whenever she brings it up, we say “You know, Santa’s not real, right?” She adamantly tells us HE IS! *Sigh* At least we’re not worried about her bursting any bubbles!

      Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  12. Christine
    Christine says:

    I was convicted by God before our first child was even born in this area. These past two years I have felt Him nudging me to speak out on it with people who ‘do’ Santa, and have not clearly thought out why they do it, other than it is tradition in their family. Our children know of Santa, know him like any other fairytale, and are told some families pretend he is real, so do not talk to other kids about it. (They are REALLY confused about why anyone would want to lie to their kids.) They have always been just as excited for presents when they come from us and their grandparents! For those who make Santa ‘real’ they ARE deciding to put an idol in their home at Christmastime. Any person or thing that is given god-like attributes is an idol, and therefore is a sin against the commandment “Thall shalt have NO OTHER GODS before me.” For some reason, Santa has become ingrained with many Christian families, and they refuse to believe they could be doing wrong. Our family is not perfect in any area, but we have learned that we must have an answer for why we do or don’t do everything in our home. If we are asked about it, our reasons must be explained. The families I have talked with over the Santa issue are offended that they would be questioned on it–but have no problem putting me through a grilling over why our family homeschools. (And often try to talk us into putting our kids in ‘regular’ school if we admit some parts are difficult!) I do not desire contention in the the Christian community, but I believe the addition of Santa is what brings it–not the exclusion of him.

    Reply
    • Katie
      Katie says:

      Yes, Christine, Santa can bring potential confusion, but we need to be careful in how we approach it with those who have chosen to allow Santa in their traditions.

      I think many of the Christians who do Santa have not thought about it as long and careful as you, and they certainly do not see Santa as an idol (nor do I.) I personally would tread very lightly here, especially in initiating with others around you.

      I think many of these parents have fond memories of Santa as a child, just like they might have good memories of going to Disneyland, or camping, or a big birthday party. So, they are just trying to give their kids fun family memories, building on what they experienced themselves.

      We have decided it is best for our family to not do Santa, but I think we need to be careful to put the label of “sin” on something that the Bible is not clear on. How we celebrate Christmas is a gray area. We must each decide what is best for our family—what we think gives God the most glory—and walk in obedience to that.

      I know of many Christ-following families who include Santa, to differing degrees. They all love God, love their children, and have a God-glorifying Christmas celebration.

      Thanks for your comment, and for reading!

      Reply
      • Eliz. K
        Eliz. K says:

        My husband and I are right about here on the Santa thing. I didn’t grow up with Santa, and don’t see the point. Christmas was wonderful and magical in spite of “missing” that part of it, and I want my kids to have the same exciting memories that focus on the truth and not some fairytale. My husband grew up with Santa and has such happy family memories of playing along with it– his dad still writes a Santa letter and leaves cookies out, even though their youngest was 30 this year. As we’re expecting our first this summer, we shall see how this plays out…

        Reply
  13. Kat
    Kat says:

    I’m going to print this out for my dad, who gave me BIG time grief last night after having supper with him & my step mom. :((
    Thank you SO much for sharing.

    Reply
  14. Norman C Carr
    Norman C Carr says:

    Please remember people the true meaning of christmas is the rebirth of the sun.The early church claimed this holiday because they could not destroy it.Christian have a problem with historical truth.You going to make Jesus be born on the 25 of dec.Youre going to make him the reason for the season.The truth is Santa may have alot more to do with it then you think.The ancient peoples believed that such beings visited the earth doing that time of the year and blessed the homes of the those who did good the past year.You treat Jesus like he a fact and everything else is false.Thats not the case.Imean i love jesus too and i go to church sometimes but i have need to believe in other things aswell.And I STILL BELIEVE IN THE EXISTENCE OF SANTA CLAUS.I will not put him on the level of God or Jesus but based on a childhood experence that i know my mother had nothing to do with i believe that he is real.Even if hes only a spirit or Angel.And im not the only adult who dose.Peace

    Reply

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