Questions for a Santa Family -- Part 2

The Burns' daughters with Santa in 2009
This is the second post covering a list of questions I asked my friends Ryan & Molly Burns, about being a "Santa family."  (Read the first post here.)  Whatever perspective you have about Santa, I hope this series has been an opportunity for you to evaluate and question where you are.  (After all, the purpose of this blog is to be a forum for leaders of children to think, challenge, and discuss.)  Let's continue with the interview:

If you had to do it over again, what would you do different and what would you do the same?
We aren't sure we would be a Santa family if we had to do it over again.  Every year, especially as the kids get older, we battle with keeping the focus of Christmas morning off the presents and more on what Christ did for us.

What we would do the same:
  • Minimize the amount of gifts Santa gives (he currently gives ONE gift, we parents take credit for the rest).
  • Santa is not a "works-based" giver in our house; he comes to help celebrate Jesus' birth.
  • Santa pictures.  We love watching our kids talk to him and visit with him (or cry because they are scared; only once for each of our girls has that happened; we're not that cruel).

What we would do different:
  • We don't think we can downplay Santa much more than we already do unless we started out with it being a "game" and pretending.  Our efforts for getting the kids to believe are minimal; they want to believe, making it easy to follow their lead in the imagining.

What advice would you give to other "Santa families"?
Here are some thoughts:
  1. Santa should not be an idol in your child's life, or yours.  If you get upset about someone "ruining" the truth about Santa for your child, chances are you are holding too tightly to that tradition.
  2. Hold the idea and tradition of Santa loosely.  In that, if a classmate tells your child that Santa's not real, don't let it make or break your Christmas, and don't be afraid of their feelings getting hurt or them being sad.  Help your child work it out in a healthy way.
  3. Minimize the role Santa plays in the joy of Christmas.  He can have a role, but a small one.  Minimize by talking less about what they want from him and more about how they can help others celebrate Christ's coming.
  4. In our home, Santa leaves a smaller amount of gifts.  Whenever we talk about Santa, we remind them of Santa's role by asking, "And why does Santa come at Christmas time?"  Hopefully, their answer is, "To help us celebrate Jesus' birth!"

What do you want to tell families who don't do Santa?
As much as possible, try to remind "non-Santa" children that though they know the truth, that doesn't make them better than their Santa-believing friends.  Sometimes there is a stigma or tendency to think that kids from don't do Santa are more mature, and kids that do believe are "babyish."  This can do two things:
  1. Make the parents of Santa families feel like they were silly or foolish in their choice of traditions.
  2. Make the children of Santa families feel stupid or childish (especially for older kids, like 6-, 7-, and 8-year-olds).
We haven't personally experienced this, but can see it easily happening within a community of friends with a lack of communication about traditions and a lack of communication to their children about other families' traditions.

(You can read the post Don't Kill Santa Claus to hear some reasons why kids shouldn't tell other kids that Santa isn't real.  The core reason is that this is a parental authority issue, and not a moral issue.)

How is your family changing, and where is Santa's place in your family moving forward?
This season we have discussed whether or not we wanted to tell our children now that Santa isn't real.  After praying about it and talking about what that conversation might look like, we decided that there is a great value in them working it out on their own, instead of forcing the conversation.
In anticipation of our kids learning the truth about Santa in the next year or two, we are excited about the kinds of conversations we can have with them about real vs. imaginary, and how Jesus is real because we have His Word and His Spirit.  If they can feel a sense of attachment to someone who isn't real and they can't communicate with, how much more can they know, love, and trust in our Lord who has given us His Word and His Spirit, to know who He is and how much He loves us.

Thanks, Ryan & Molly, for taking the time to share your thoughts and your heart!

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  1. What a great interview! Thank you for posting this. We're a Christian pro-Santa family. I tell my kids that Santa comes to bring presents because of Jesus' birth. I loved the advice that was given to minimize Santa's role; that's something I'm currently struggling with for my family (he brings ALL of the presents).

    Anyway, thanks again. :-)

  2. When our first child was born, I prayed about what to do about Santa. I got a two word answer: Don’t lie. We treated Santa just as "real" as Snow White and Pooh Bear. Looking back 25 years now, as all my children are entering adulthood, I know it was the right approach for our family. It kept the focus on Christ without destroying the fantasy.

  3. I told exactly how my family did it in part one. Dad did make sire to tell us don't tell your friemds Santa isn't real. We where the girls that would have told are classmates exactly about baby births had they asked I really pigeon holed my dad on a lot of things him being much older then my mother so he was one who had to tell me everything. He said once we started school some of friends may thunk Santa's real you know he is just pretend but don't ruin their fun and pleasen o discussing babies. Most embarrassing conversafions wjen sis was in pre k and I think I was in 1st grade ya don't want to know but we where reminded no talking about baby birth at school every yr after that. We where also told before easter not to ruin easter bunny for those who believe even if it was totally goofy to us.