Are You A Santa Baby?


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My mom believed in Santa until she was 12, and when she found out, she had a crisis of faith. She thought her parents had lied to her. She thought God didn’t exist anymore. She didn’t know what to believe.

So we grew up knowing about Santa, but not actually believing in Santa. We took some Santa pictures each year, until the local neighborhood mall Santa was found out to be a sex offender, and watched shows where Santa was featured. We were instructed to not ‘ruin the story’ for other kids, so all through elementary school I kept my mouth shut when people asked if I believed in Santa. I knew presents came from my parents, that Christmas was about Jesus, and that there was some historical parts of the Santa story, as we learned about St. Nicholas and other world traditions around the Christmas time. I never felt like I was missing out.

Boof was raised in a totally different way. He believed in Santa. He got Santa presents every year, and doesn’t seem too damaged by learning it was a made up story. But when we got together I told him that Santa was not going to happen in our house. I wanted it to be like how I was raised. His mom was offended, thinking I was saying she was a bad mom for ‘lying’ to her kids about Santa. I didn’t actually believe that, or even say that, I just don’t know why Santa is such a big deal. I don’t mind imaginative play, or even learning about Santa, but I just can’t imagine teaching Potamus that his gifts come from a big guy dressed in red who comes down the chimney.

Now that Potamus is getting to the age where traditions and stories start to become a part of his life, I wonder how I, or we, will handle the Santa story. I don’t think Boof feels really strongly one way or the other, whereas I still feel squeamish about the whole thing. And yet, I don’t want my upbringing or brainwashing, to be transferred to my kid, who is perceptive and probably wouldn’t believe in a Santa story past 5 anyway. But I can’t help think about how religious stories and Santa/Tooth Fairy/etc stories are linked together. We learned about the spirit of Christmas without having it be attributed to Santa. But then, has that shaped my agnosticism…the lessons that goodness and love aren’t attributed to something like Santa…or even Jesus…like did my parent’s inadvertently set me up to struggle with any thing related to faith?

How do you handle the Santa story in your family?

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7 Comments

  1. I guess we are pro-Santa. In fact, my daughter is obsessed with Santa this year and is dying to go and see him. When I was little I thin my parents said something like “isn’t it fun to pretend about Santa,” but I think when I was really little I used to believe. We aren’t a religious family, though, so I don’t know if that is why I haven’t really put that much thought into the whole Santa thing. For us, the holidays are just all about Santa! Ps, love that picture…

  2. Interesting dilemma…I of course had no Santa! But, let me tell you something different. Our parents generation in India were brought up in joint families…So, the kids would get to spend lot of time with the grand parents…and they would be brought up on lovely fairy tales, which I guess helped explore their imagination…But, our generation was brought up in a nuclear family environment…and did not have such stories told to us…I think we missed out on something beautiful

  3. My dad didn’t participate in any sort of Santa stuff with my sister and I for religious reasons. He thought it detracted from the religious aspects of the holiday and he was concerned about the same sort of crisis of faith that your mom went through. My wife grew up loving Santa.

    We do the Santa thing with our kids. It was a great experience for my wife as a kid – a touch of magic that I can now see in our kids’ eyes on Christmas Eve as they wait for it all to happen. We make a PB&J for Santa and leave out carrots for the reindeer.

    Ultimately, one of the reasons I went willingly along with my wife’s desire to tell the kids about Santa was that I remember feeling left out of the party as a kid. It’s a really cool cultural touchstone. College kids enjoy bonding over coffee (or spiked eggnog) at Christmas parties with conversations about when they first figured it out.

    There’s a lot of division in society, but shared holidays and holiday traditions are one of the ways of bridging those divisions. I realize that some people have religious beliefs that preclude them from celebrating Christmas, but, for those who don’t, it’s a fun way of connecting.

    • I am really glad you commented, and have been mulling it over. I am so decidedly on the fence about Santa. Part of me thinks I did miss out on the normal tradition that all my friends participated in, and I feel like I’m missing out when I see how they’re re-defining and passing that tradition on to their kids now (seeing those cute pics via Facebook!)

      But then I also feel squeemish when I think about telling Potamus about Santa…or worse, answering questions about Santa. It’s a little more squeemish than thinking about telling him about Jesus or Christianity overall (since I’m struggling so hard to know if I even believe in that anymore), but actually telling him something that I know to be untrue…it’s sort of this wrestling dilemma inside me.

      But then I wonder if I can tell him the stories of Santa, without downright lying, or emphasizing it, but letting him explore and ask questions but not give answers. I don’t know. I feel so conflicted and like I’m bring my own issues to something that should just be sweet and magical!

  4. We “lie” to kids all the time in pursuit of teaching them important truths. We tell them cheaters don’t get ahead, but they often do. We tell them there’s no such thing as a boy color or a girl color, but there are because society has decided there are. Basically, we present them the world as we think it ought to be and then gradually ease them in to the way it actually is. One important truth is that there ought to be a kindly, magical, old gentleman who wants nothing but good in the world. He should teach them about sharing and about the importance of whimsy. As they grow older, we ease them in to the fact that there isn’t a physical Santa, but, as they are able to understand it more and more, they learn that they grow up to be a Santa for others (just like their parents did for them). Anyway, that’s how I view it. Regardless of how you approach it with your son, having parents who are concerned about raising him with integrity and love is all he needs, so don’t stress it too much.

    • This comment is really powerful and has helped shed light on the other angles of the whole dilemma. You’re so right about all the ways we do lie, even when it’s more us adults wanting something to be true and it isn’t yet (ala the boy/girl color example). I want my son to experience wonder and magic and all of those things that should be true all the time.

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