To Santa or NOT To Santa?

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Who knew Santa was such a loaded topic? Most parents can talk rationally about it, but some people get downright hostile about whether or not they play Santa and why, and they will defend their decision to the death! Of course the Santa decision has much to do with how you grew up, but you also need to consider how your spouse grew up then take into account your religion, your beliefs, how you want to raise your kids and more. Let’s explore both sides of the debate.

The Case for Santa

I grew up with Santa visiting my house and held onto the idea of him like a dog with a piece of bacon until I was about 13 years old. When I finally conceded that it was my parents bringing me the presents, I did not feel betrayed or lied to; I was just disappointed that the magic was over.

These days you can find my husband and I plotting and planning as Mr. and Mrs. Claus to our own 5 children. We’ve built family traditions around Santa. For instance, it’s fun to go to the mall to see him, and snuggling up to read ’Twas The Night Before Christmas is always a hit. Don’t forget all the terrific movies and shows that have Santa in them, like Polar Express and Miracle on 34th Street.

We feel like we’re bringing them something special when we sneak wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree and fill their stockings on Christmas Eve. We enjoy watching their faces light up when they see the tree in the morning. They even get a letter from Santa, and they love that the cookies they put out have been eaten.

The kids keep me on my toes with questions about Santa, like:

  • What if you don’t have a chimney? (he comes in another way)
  • Why didn’t Santa bring me the things I really wanted, like a cell phone and a Barbie Jeep I can ride around the neighborhood in? (be grateful; Santa uses his judgment on what you can have)
  • Why is the Santa I visit at the mall different from the Santa that comes to Daddy’s work Christmas party? (Santa has helpers who take your list to him)
  • How do reindeer fly? (magic)

The Case Against Santa

You only need to read all of the above to see that being Santa is exhausting, folks. Hiding presents, using different wrapping paper for Santa gifts, writing like Santa on gift tags, trying to shop without kids around (may I suggest online?!) and more makes it a lot of work. By the 26th I am wiped out, and I understand why many parents don’t want to even get that started!

Of course, those on the Non-Santa team have better reasons for being there than just not wanting to do a bunch of work. Not wanting to lie to their children is a big reason I heard when I did my informal Facebook poll. I mean, if a kid finds out Santa is a lie, then what else are his parents lying about? Jessica Epley, mom of 2 boys, said, “I don’t lie to my kids. I tell them they can believe in Santa if they want as Santa is the magic that lives within us.”

There’s also the disappointment of finding out there is no Santa when kids at school or family members tell how they do it in their home, so the Non-Santas want to understandably avoid that for their child. It’s also difficult to explain to a child, if a financial situation is not great, that Santa could not come this year or could only bring one small gift.

Another reason to go Non-Santa, is that Christians might want to represent the true meaning of Christmas instead of focusing on a make-believe person. They might instead talk about Saint Nicholas and his giving spirit and what that means to their family, and concentrate less on the material aspect of Christmas.

I’m going to end this debate by telling you something you already know: When you’re a parent you win some, and you lose some. Just do what you think is best as far as Santa is concerned, and you probably won’t be dragged into therapy with your kids … over THIS topic, anyway.



8 Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday With Extended Family

Remember when you didn’t have to worry about being in three or four places at once during the holidays? The dilemma of where to go seemed to be so easily worked out by our parents and extended family. Now that we are grown-ups, by the time the new year rolls around most of us seem to end up totally frazzled from celebrating the holidays several times with many sets of relatives. Adding your own kids to the mix can make situations even more crazy, leaving them – and you – feeling like the rope in a game of Human Tug-of-War. Below are some fixes that can hopefully help you and your family enjoy more holiday cheer this year.

  1. Combine family events. Instead of running to your parents’ house and then to see each of your siblings separately, consider having just one shin-dig at one location when most everyone can attend. To make life even easier, forego the sit-down dinner and choose to go the potluck route. Some people choose to throw a small party at their house every year on the second Friday in December, for example, and have things for the kids to do, like building a gingerbread house or painting ornaments.
  2. Consider an Open House. Choose a location (like your uncle’s house), a date, and a convenient time frame when family members can come and go as they please without the pressure of being on time for a meal. Serve finger foods and other easy fare to make it easy on the hostess.
  3. Attend the far-away celebrations only every other year or when you can afford it. Sometimes people marry someone from another state or move out of town due to a job change or other circumstance. This can leave many families feeling pulled in too many directions when the holidays roll around. It can be difficult to decide how to come together, so work out the details in advance.
  4. Negotiate annually. All families are different so it can be practically impossible to please everybody every year. One year your cousin may need to leave early to spend the rest of the day with her husband’s family. Another year it may just work out best to hold the event on a completely different day of the month. Which brings me to …
  5. Help your extended family realize that, for example, Christmas can be even nicer when spent on a day other than December 25th. You could get together with your grandparents a couple of weeks before or after Christmas Day for a much more relaxed mood. You would get to take your time opening gifts while enjoying each other’s company. What a time to treasure and look forward to every year!
  6. Do drop in. Elaine St. James, author of Simplify Your Christmas: 100 Ways to Reduce the Stress and Recapture the Joy of the Holidays, only visits her sister and her family to raise a toast but not to eat. She takes no food for the meal, no gifts, and says to her family, “We’re bringing ourselves and our best wishes for the season.”
  7. Just stay home. Some make the choice to celebrate Christmas Day at their own home every year. The decision may not popular, and you might have to defend it every year, but it could be the most relaxing and fun day of your entire year. Just imagine yourself hanging out in comfy sweatpants all day long while you play with your kids and their new toys, games and other gifts.
  8. If tensions get high between family members, think of others who may not have any family, or even a home. Consider serving food at a homeless shelter sometime around the holiday or being a bell-ringer for The Salvation Army for a couple of hours. Elaine St. James has another great idea: Make a paper bag lunch with a sandwich, cookies, fruit and juice drink and pass it out to the homeless in your area. These are great opportunities to take your kids along and teach them the true meaning of the holidays.

To ensure no feelings are hurt, make sure your family knows they are always welcome to spend holidays at your home (with some notice, of course!). With a little understanding and communication, everyone in your family can have a peaceful holiday season.


Kerrie McLoughlin is just a regular mom who writes about parenting 5 kids at

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