Dylan's favorite gift: Rockstar Mr. Potato Head.

In the United States right now, as well as other places around the world, the issue of whether to allow children a belief in the big guy is quite controversial. Parents who encourage such a belief are labled “liars,” accused of ignoring the true meaning of Christmas, of raising selfish and misguided children. Parents who teach their kids that Santa isn’t real are accused of taking the magic out of Chrsitmas, of selfishly wanting all the glory for themselves, of depriving their kids of a childhood.

And to be completely honest, I can see where each side is coming from! The idea of my kids waking up on Christmas morning to a stocking full of candy and treats that seemed to appear from nowhere is really fun to think about! And the look in their eyes when they see that the cookies they left out the night before are gone (except that one with a bite out of it, of course,) is the type of thing I live for as a parent. But it would warm my heart as well to hear them tell the story of Jesus’ birth, to know that they don’t have any falsehoods in their hearts surrounding this joyous holiday. I cringe to think that they would one day be disillusioned and never experience my favorite holiday with the joy they had when they believed in Mr. Claus.

So my children do not believe in Santa. And I’ve recieved a surprising amount of negative feedback for my choice. The way I see it is this: God gave us an amazing gift over two thousand years ago. One we did not deserve. We weren’t “good little boys and girls” and he didn’t have a list to check over twice. He gave because he loved. He loved because we are.

A belief in Santa usually comes with a feeling of anxiousness. Kids are on their best behavior, they are thinking of all the “bad” things they did throughout the year, and hope Santa will forgive them. (Which, with rare exeption, he always does!) They go to bed with dreams, not of sugarplum faries, but of fancy smancy toys they want want want. And when (if) they don’t recieve them, they are disappointed, annoyed, even guilty!  Christmas for so many kids is all about what they get, how much they get. I don’t want it to be that way for mine.

Now, I do think that you can raise good selfless kids with a very Christian Christmas and still “do” Santa. But I also think you can raise mystified, excited kids with a very special Christmas and not “do” Santa.  My decision was made a bit more complicated by the fact that my husband and I do not share a faith. I am a Protestant Christian, he is an Agnostic. Our Christmas holiday developed over three years of trial and error, but I think we’ve finally arrived upon something that works for both of us. (I’ll post more about that later, if anyone is interested. ) As it stands, the most difficult part of the Christmas season is getting my kids to understand that the existance of Santa is not something they should debate with their friends! I tell them that Santa is something we all like to pretend, and that we should play along if anyone says he is real. I’m curious, though: how do other Santaless parents handle that in young children?

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