I’ll never forget the day I figured out that Santa wasn’t real. My little sister and I were playing in my parents’ bedroom, deciding that we would crawl under their bed and hide. It was there, on the carpeted floor, that we found two rolls of wrapping paper — the wrapping paper that “Santa” used for our gifts.
We confronted my mom, who reminded us that first, we had a little brother who was enamored by Santa. Therefore, under no circumstances should we blow Santa’s cover. Secondly, she reminded of our guiding Christmas rule: “if you don’t believe, you don’t receive.” Thus, I was getting Santa Christmas gifts until I moved out of the house during my junior year of college.
My four children, from a teen to a kindergartener, all believe in Santa. Granted, some of them are now in on how Santa works — how that Christmas magic really manifests. However, the ones who know that Santa gets some serious help from Mom and Dad also know that you’d better believe (or at least pretend to!) if you want to receive.
I know that many families don’t “do” Santa for various reasons. Some find it downright creepy or weird. Others cannot afford it. Some families don’t want to, as they say, “lie” to their kids. I’m fully supportive of whatever families decide to do. But for us, in our household — Santa’s gonna Santa.
I think my commitment to keeping the Santa spirit going for as long as possible stems from two reasons: one, my own childhood. My parents did Santa, and my siblings and I absolutely loved it. None of us wound up in therapy over our parents “lying” to us about Jolly Old St. Nick.
There was something absolutely incredible about trying not to fall asleep on Christmas Eve night, hoping to hear the reindeer hooves hit our roof. In the morning, we’d rush down the stairs to see if Santa reliably took a bite out of the cookies we left out for him and drank the milk (he always had). Then we would proceed to enjoy the most amazing, wished-for gifts, while wearing our flannel Christmas pajamas. I want to give my kids this same experience — for as long as they will enjoy it.
The other reason I’m determined to let my kids believe in Santa for as long as they want is that childhood is such a short season in a person’s life. Let’s be real; the world is harsh. News is almost always bad. And being an adult — with bills, ailments, relationships, career changes — is downright stressful. Christmas morning was one time in my own childhood in which nothing else existed but pure joy.
Now, what we don’t do, before you DM me, is use Santa as some sort of threat. In fact, the other day, we were listening to Christmas music. My tween said, “Isn’t it creepy that the song says Santa sees us when we’re sleeping and awake?” My husband and I both agreed that yes, that’s just weird.
I don’t threaten to call Santa when the kids screw up. Because kids are always making mistakes, just like adults; it’s how we learn and grow. As tempting as it is in the moment, to intimidate my children with the promise of canceling Christmas if they don’t get their behavior in order … I don’t. I want Christmas to remain a happy, twinkling bubble that I refuse to burst.
We visit Santa every year and take pictures. This, of course, brings up questions of who is the real Santa, Santa’s appearance, how he gets around the whole world in one night, and more. Like all parents, I’ve had to get creative in my answers — when I do answer my kids, that is. In general, my response is, “What do you think?” Yes, I flip it back to them. I just don’t want to screw up my response and somehow they realize prematurely that Santa has a lot of help from Mom and Dad.
We leave out milk and cookies on Christmas Eve night. Some of my kids write letters for Santa — which are absolutely adorable — and place them on the mantle. (However, this is also when we usually discover that what they said they wanted for gifts has changed … because of course it has.) Then begins to process of waiting for everyone to fall asleep, which takes quite a while with four excited kids.
As a mom, it is absolutely thrilling and nostalgic to meet my kids in the living room on Christmas morning and watch them tear into their gifts and stockings. Their squeals of joy, the steaming mug of coffee in my hand, and the photos we take in our Christmas pajamas gives me all the holiday feels. I’m grateful to give my children the Santa experience for every year that I possibly can — because I know there’s only so much time before I won’t get to. There will come a day when each of them will no longer believe, when they won’t be little and hopeful.
Santa is merry and bright. He is a symbol of generosity and cheer. I won’t let him go before everyone is ready — because his spirit is exactly what so many of us need right now.
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