It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The holiday season is filled with family, peppermint, lights, and magic, but it’s not without its controversies! “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”? Dare I mention….the Starbucks cup?
Perhaps the most polarizing of all Christmas conundrums as a mother is where my family falls on the Santa Spectrum. The Santa Spectrum ranges from families who are Santacentric all the way to the downright non believers.
The Santacentric household is easy to spot. In recent years, their homes have been plagued by powdered sugar and glitter during the holiday season because of the mischievous antics of tiny elves on shelves. Parents in the Santacentric camp are amazing. Holidays in their home are magical. These parents give generously without recognition, and create truly magical traditions! The biggest win for the Santa lovers? The naughty or nice lists. If these children dare misbehave from August to December, a quick little hum of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” can totally change their tunes.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have the Non Believers. Many parents in this group find themselves there unexpectedly but have made the choice very intentionally. For some of them, it’s because of the desire to avoid consumerism or merit based giving. For others, it’s an effort to focus more on the true reason for the season. These equally amazing parents hold tightly to their values and follow their convictions even when they go against cultural norms. They carefully and intentionally parent their children while still finding ways to make the holidays special. You can spot this family easily as well. They’re the ones whose four year old just explained to a complete stranger in a grocery store that St Nicholas died centuries ago.
When my husband and I became parents, we hadn’t given much thought on whether to Santa or not to Santa. As Christians, we knew we wanted the focus to remain on Christ’s birth and what that means for us. We didn’t really have a desire to promote earning presents, and I knew there was absolutely no way I would remember to move an elf every single night (props to you holiday mamas that do!)….but we also LOVE making magic and surprises and REALLY didn’t want to have “THAT kid” in preschool sharing fun facts about “The Late Great St Nicholas” with her Santacentric classmates.
We didn’t really address Santa at all with our oldest for her first few Christmases, but this year we were forced to choose a side. Our daughter is almost five and she has questions…lots of questions, and this year, she was obsessed with the big guy in red.
Her questions had gotten so specific, we knew we had to make a decision: Were we going to really try to sell her on Santa, the elves and The North Pole or were we leaning more towards the harsh reality?
Here’s what we came up with: We explained that the Santa Claus we see on TV, in books and at the mall is a Christmas character, like Elsa or Mickey Mouse. We told her there IS a North Pole, but that we didn’t know of any toy factories there. She knows that reindeer are real, but they don’t actually fly. We told her the story of St Nicholas and explained the present day “Santa Claus” as more of a verb. It’s what you do when you give without recognition at Christmastime. We told her that sometimes people dress up like the Christmas character Santa Claus/St Nicholas, but that really anyone can “be Santa”- even without the red suit!
We packed a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child and explained how, in doing that, she was being Santa for another child. The recipient would never know who sent it…it would just come to them- almost like magic! On Christmas morning at our house, each of our kids will be greeted with a small unwrapped gift from an anonymous giver in their stocking. We explained that some families choose to give all of their presents to each other in that way at Christmas, and that it’s not ever our place to tell anyone that the way they celebrate isn’t real. She knows everyone believes things a little differently and that we should always be respectful of that.
When all is said and done, my family ended up falling somewhere in the middle. I’m going to call us the “Sort of Santas”. It’s what works for us as we continue in following our convictions to be truthful and faith centered but also wanting to keep Christmas fun and magical.
I’m fine with where we landed, because as I get to know other moms on BOTH sides of the Santa spectrum (and the moms who fall somewhere in between), it becomes clear that we all have the same goals. We all want our children to have special holidays. We all want our children to have generous hearts and strong values. The truth is, Santa or no Santa, know that the holidays will be special and even magical for your children because of the time they have with you and the memories you make together. Know that whether your child is showered with gifts from the North Pole, or blessed with a single home made present mom and dad, the best picture of gratitude, generosity and your personal beliefs will be observed by how you live your life all year round.
Merry Christmas (and Happy Holidays)!