Questions for a Santa Family -- Part 1

The Burns family, picking out their Christmas tree a few weeks ago.

As I promised, here is the first of two posts from Ryan and Molly Burns, close friends of ours that incorporate Santa into their Christmas traditions.  It is mostly from friends like these that I have come to see that this really is an amoral issue.  We don't do Santa, and whereas I used to see it in black and white, I now realize that there can is a lot of gray area around this topic.  I asked the Burns a series of questions, and here's what they had to say:

What were you told about Santa when you were kids?
Our experiences were similar -- fat jolly man, chimney, flying reindeer.  Neither set of parents went over the top (i.e., no hoof stomps on roof or reindeer dust in the yard), nor did either set use the "you better be good or Santa won't bring you presents" tactic; he came whether we were "good" or "bad."

How did you find out Santa wasn't real?
Ryan saw the present in the attic (age 8), and thought, "Oh, that makes sense.  Of course it's Mom and Dad.  Yay!  I get a Nintendo tomorrow!"

Molly (age 9) finally just realized it, "You mean this whole time . . . .  huh.  I hope I still get my bike."

All that to say, we were not sad or angry; it was a natural progression for us both to figure out what was really going on.

Why and how did you decide to become a "Santa family"?
When our oldest was a baby and we were trying to decide, Molly read an article sent to us by a friend from a Reformed theological background, about how a child's imagination is a powerful thing.  If they can imagine a world with Santa, elves, magic, etc., how much more can they dare to dream about a heaven where God reigns and all things are holy and right and just and pure.  The argument was for fostering a childlike faith, but also the power of a child's imagination and the doors that "Santa" and his world can open, so we can better talk about Jesus and the real world and heaven.

What have you told your kids about Santa?
We have told them that he comes bearing gifts to celebrate Jesus' birth.

All other traditions and folklore they picked up culturally, whether it was from songs, videos, family members, schoolmates, etc.  All the mystery and magic that surrounds the idea of Santa they came up with and shaped their own ideas of him.  For example, our 3-year-old doesn't seem to care too much about him as a person; she's just glad he brings her presents.  Our 7-year-old seems to enjoy the actual man himself when they run into each other once a year at the mall.

What do you enjoy about being a "Santa family"?
We both enjoy the kids' anticipation of his arrival as the holidays approach.  We enjoy watching their grandparents talk with them and enter into their world and get excited with them.  There is something childlike and innocent about their amazement at the seeming magic of it:  "I asked for it, and he gave it to me!"

Has anyone told them that Santa wasn't real?  If so, how did you handle it?
Yes, many times.  We just ask them, "Well, do you think Santa is real?"  Their response is "yes," thereby putting an end to any conflict.

Very recently, a classmate with older siblings told our 7-year-old that Santa was not real.  She said it hurt her feelings, but after asking a few questions we think she think she was just sad at the thought that it was possible he wasn't real.  If he wasn't real, she figured, traditions that our family does would go away, and that made her sad.  She was sad that she wouldn't go see him at the mall, set out his snack on Christmas Eve, and receive a personal note from him on Christmas morning.  She's still mulling this one over, and we found a book at the library about the life of St. Nicholas that may blow this whole gig up.  We'll see how it goes. 

Be sure to read Part 2 of this interview.


  1. This is very similar to the approach we have taken with our kids. They have loved the idea of Santa and are so excited when the stockings are full on Christmas morning. We have always been mindful to keep the focus on Jesus and also have a wonderful Advent tradition. Our 8 yr. old is starting to ask questions, so I'm expecting this to be the last year of full belief in Santa...thanks for this post and sharing the above article...very insightful!

  2. Thanks for this post Joey! This is something we have been going back and forth on (however both sets of grandparents had near heart attacks when we said we may not do Santa). So, it has been helpful to hear how other people do Santa. It was SO good to see you and Joanna on Sunday!

  3. I've enjoyed what all of you have said. We always planned to do Santa. We both grew up with him, and never even knew it was an issue until a few years ago. Our plan changed a couple of years ago, though, when our eldest became really afraid of him. Santa brings their stocking, but that it is about it. I like some of the aspects of this (they know to thank us on Christmas morning), but miss some of the fun that comes with Santa. It is rather funny to see the looks on their faces when someone in a store asks what Santa is bringing or tells them to be good since he's watching. Santa or not, I think it is hard in our commercial society to keep the focus on Jesus during Christmas. The kids (and adults) tend to focus on the gifts regardless of who is bringing them, and as Christians we need to be really intentional.

  4. Thanks for all your feedback. I know the Burns appreciate it! This topic has sure made for fun conversations.

  5. Good take on it. Your right is is amoral. it isn't always "good or bad people" Plus there are a million different other ways to teach your kids morals. Great interview!

  6. I gave my dad no choice. Bejng veey imaginative smart 3 yr old I equated do to grinch movie let me point out my birthday is nov 23 so I was just 3 that Santa would steal my presents. So I was told truth about Saint Nicholas. I was also told Santa was fun go pretend and that we had to pretend when cousin was around I later found out my cousin never really believed something about jo chimney in my condo and he didn't see fat man being able to fit down his chimney but he pretended to believe for long time to make his mother happy. My mother was 19 when had me so she really wouldn't have known what to tell me when I did Santa flip out. Seriously I some how moved the 5' bookcase in front of door when I was probaly under 3'. 3' was max as I was tiny child tikl ahe 8 and still then on small side. Thus it became age 3 child was told it all while except for 3 youngest sibs i don't know oldest of 3 youngest so idk what her aunt told her sadly mother told lie to the two youngest. But us oldest 4 at age 3 where told of saint Nicholas and Santa was fun pretend. It is sad she lied to them because they have developmental delays they may never fully comprehend truth. It just what we had to do. Full sister laughed at age 2 when saw Santa. Yeah not likely she would believe. We still went to mall for pictures with silly pretend of Santa something about making grandparents happy and we took easter bunny photos as joke to point of insanity. It was only ever metioned when we where going to take pictures with the rabbit and given fact it was clear we were all to clever for that lie 2 yrs old cousin on down to brother youngest of us oldest 4 bunnies don't lay eggs. Cousin is a little older then me just under 2 yrs older then me. Bjt we still got easter baskets and went on egg hunts without illusion of easter bunny. And I still can't believe my aunt talked me into wearing the bunny suit for some little kids when I was about 12. It just how it workex for us.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience.

      Funny you mention about bunnies & eggs. My mom convinced my brother and I that we had a rabbit that laid eggs. But that's another story for another day!