‘I believe Santa Claus is a lie’. Why one mama feels she owes it to her kids to tell them there is no Santa Claus.
A mama who feels strongly about always being honest with her children explains why she’s been conflicted about Santa Claus, and has decided to change up her family’s Christmas traditions.
Living in Singapore – a country rich in religions and different cultures – has taught my family many things. One of the outcomes of this journey was (and still is) learning how different cultures and religions coexist peacefully in such a tiny country.
Our two daughters, 3.5 and 5.5 (and us), have learned about the stories of Rama and Sita (Diwali), the lady in the moon, Chang Er (Lantern Festival) and the beast Nian (Chinese New Year), and alongside these stories we’ve told them why we celebrate Christmas and the story of Jesus’ birth. It is a pleasure to see how our kids indulge in these stories and celebrate cultural differences.
Christmas – and especially the Santa myth – today seems in line with a parenting style that I don’t support. I try to follow the principles of Magna Gerber’s RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) Philosophy, at the heart of which is respect: treating babies and children as individuals, trusting in their competence.
I believe Santa Claus is a lie. A nice lie, perhaps with good intentions originally, but telling children about magical reindeer and squeezing down chimneys feels like disrespecting their intelligence. I’m also bothered by the idea he only brings gifts for the good, and will punish – or at least shame – “bad” children.
The last few years we have kept up the myth that there must be a Santa who magically leaves a bag with presents on our doorstep. At the same time, we’ve tried to emphasise that Christmas is a celebration of light and people being happy about the birth of Jesus, and so we give presents to our friends and families as a sign of love.
I don’t feel comfortable lying to my kids any longer, but I also want to support them in their beliefs. The magic and wonder of childhood are fleeting, and I still want to encourage them while they last. I’ve started to tell my daughters how other families/different cultures celebrate Christmas, and started asking them which kinds of traditions and celebrations they want to create.
So starting this year, we are changing our Christmas traditions. (We’ve celebrated Christmas at the beach for the past two years, which is not very traditional anyway!). But Santa won’t play a very active role any longer. He will live through magical stories, arts and crafts, pretend play and much more. But he is not the one bringing presents, or shaming anyone for not being good. Santa will give way for family time, for love and for “giving” on a different level.
We are not religious, so we will enjoy the Christmas holidays together by spending lots of family time, eating something special on Christmas Eve as we always have, and later on placing our presents for each other under the tree. Just something small, nothing big.
This way I hope to create the Christmas I crave: a time with family where we are all reminded of how lucky we are, and that love and hope are the feelings that make us overcome all challenges in life.
This article was originally published in December 2015