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If You Don’t Do Santa, You’re a Heartless Puppy Kicker

Trying to do Christmas without doing Santa via @chgdiapers

Or so it seems. It feels nearly impossible to not “do” Santa or the Tooth Fairy unless you sit your child down at age 2 and tell them it’s all a fairytale, and repeat this to them several times per year. Why didn’t we do this? The same reason why I don’t do or say anything in front of a 2-5ish year old that I wouldn’t want repeated word for word and/or re-enacted a the worst possible time. They just don’t have the filter or ability to keep it to themselves and not spoil it for others. I don’t want to be strung up by another parent when my child ruins it for their child, despite being told that others believe & it would make them sad to have it ruined for them.

This post isn’t about whether you should or shouldn’t, nor is it about the reasons why. It’s incredible that “Santa” is as polarizing as circumcision or breastfeeding among moms! If you don’t “do Santa” you are a heartless, cruel childhood-stealing scrooge. That’s simply not true for us but we have failed miserably in our attempt to not do Santa, since we didn’t want to be that puppy kicker.

I love Christmas, decorations, selecting & giving gifts, the family togetherness and the joy of the season. I’m not a Grinch, but I’m just not into Santa. I could write a whole post about why, but that would just be an invitation to be criticized & picked apart. No thanks. We figured we could just avoid the subject, not say anything about it until asked, at which point we’d explain the real story of the Christmas legend. We buy gifts, we decorate a tree, we listen to Christmas carols. We don’t visit Santa, talk about Santa, call Santa, write letters to Santa or say he’s “watching.”

We had no idea how quickly & deeply our child would fall into the Santa fantasy. As soon as she was born (so it seemed) family, friends & strangers started talking about Santa (I think adults enjoy the Santa fantasy as much as kids do!) Asking what she wanted for Christmas, if she was excited for Santa, what did Santa bring her. In hindsight, we should have immediately told her (even as a toddler) that Santa was not real, that Santa was a fun, made up game etc. I try not to invite criticism of our parenting styles, and since no-Santa parents are the lepers of society, we kept this to ourselves. We have a family member that sends letters from Santa every year and I feel awful hiding them away each year. I know I should tell her we don’t do Santa (I’m afraid she is paying for these letters) but it’s one of those awkward things where I didn’t say anything the first year because I didn’t want to steal her joy, and then it was hard to figure out how to say something, and now it feels too late.

Despite keeping Christmas simple with just a handful of gifts, focusing more on selecting items for others, adopting families and buying angel tree gifts, she fell for Santa and she fell hard. When she asked to leave cookies out for Santa, we realized that our the fat-man-in-the-red-suit of-which-we-do-not-speak approach was failing. So, we left the cookies out, and we ate them. Again, we should have at that point said that it was all pretend, but it’s so hard to tell that sweet, hopeful face the truth. We always wait until Christmas to put gifts under the tree, but they are all signed from Mom & Dad, save for one larger gift some years that is left unwrapped. She has never asked why the gifts were signed from Mom & Dad, she has never asked which gifts were from Santa, or why Santa didn’t bring her anything.

We were just as unprepared for the tooth fairy, when she lost her first tooth at school in Kindergarten, and they sent it home in a tooth fairy envelope with the class “tooth fairy bag.” They had already played it up so much at school, and she had received a lovingly hand-made tooth fairy pillow from a family member, so we felt stuck. It had been hyped up to her enough that she would be disappointed if we told her the tooth fairy wasn’t real before it had even begun. So, into her room we crept in the middle of the night. A few weeks ago she lost a tooth late at night, and when I poked my head in her room at 11 PM to see why her light was on, she was still awake. She told me her tooth had fallen out and wanted to not tell me, so she could find out if it was real, or us. The tooth fairy didn’t come that night because she didn’t go to bed on time! The next night the “tooth fairy” forgot until it was too late to try to sneak out of bed (the tooth fairy co-sleeps, LOL) but finally snagged the tooth the third night.

A year or two ago, she flat out asked me if the tooth fairy/Santa (I don’t remember which) was real or just us. From the hopeful look in her eyes, I knew she wasn’t ready for the real answer, so I just said “what do you think?” She said she thought it was real. Yes, a total cop out, I have never said yes or no either way.

I think she’s finished with losing teeth for now, and since she’ll be 9 in February, I am really hoping that she’ll figure it out before our boys (4 1/2 and 2) fall into the fantasy. It would be much easier if we could be very direct & clear from the beginning with them now before they pick up on all the Santa business.

Learn from my mistake. If you decide you don’t want to “do Santa” you need to say in no uncertain terms that Santa is not real and that it is just a fun fantasy. You need to say this clearly, firmly (though lovingly, of course!) and over and over again, while also telling them that they are not to tell other people about it because it is fun for others to believe. Santa is pushed and pushed from every direction including in school (insert comment about homeschooling here), so you can’t take a passive approach like we tried, or you’ll be stuck.

It’s a family’s decision whether or not they want to do Santa, and to what extent. I don’t think anyone is a better or lesser parent based on what they decide, and I’d appreciate not being called a scrooge or magic stealer or anything like that because I prefer to make Christmas fun and exciting without the aid of Santa & his elves! For the record yes, I realize it is 100% my fault that we failed at this!

If you decided not to do Santa, how did you handle it?


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Maria Moser
Maria is the mother of 3, writing about cloth diapers & going green. You'll often find her juggling her preschooler and typing 1-handed in between sips of cold coffee. Maria works with many companies within the cloth diaper industry and beyond, providing social media management, product development and other services.
22 Comments
  • Elissa
    December 6, 2015 at 12:19 pm
    Reply

    We don’t do Santa at our house. We started off doing it but when my oldest daughter 3 at the time wouldn’t stop saying she was going to ask Santa for basically every toy in existsnce, and couldn’t tell us what Christmas was truly about we told her the truth. We say Santa is pretend, and sometime fun. On Christmad day we do presents, and then “Have a birthday party for Jesus” my girls help me make a “birthday cake” and we celebrate Jesus birthday by giving gifts to each other just as you give gifts to people on their birthday.

  • December 2, 2014 at 9:51 am
    Reply

    […] post. Please don’t tear me apart. I’ve talked about how hard it is to do Christmas without Santa when you have family & friends shoving it down your children’s throats. I used to love […]

  • November 19, 2014 at 2:37 pm
    Reply

    I do Santa, but my I had family members who didn’t. I respected their wishes, and while I didn’t agree with it for my kids I did watch to see how it went for them b/c hubby wasn’t too sold on doing Santa thing. Well their son was about 4 or 5, and had opened presents at home before they came over to do family Christmas. We did stockings but we all just put a little in each. He went running downstairs, saw all the filled stockings went up stairs yelling “Oh Santa came! I thought I must have been really naughty as he didn’t come to our house”, and he had tears in his eyes. Of course being overly sensitive I had tears then too. His parents felt terrible. After that they just let him believe that he came to the family get together instead.

    I have felt wrath from people who can’t believe I lie to my kids and tell them about Santa. So I think it’s judgment all around and darned if you do and darned if you don’t.

    • November 19, 2014 at 7:07 pm
      Reply

      That’s really sad. It sounds like he really believed/wanted to believe. 🙁

  • Beth
    November 19, 2014 at 1:38 pm
    Reply

    My oldest found out as a toddler that Santa was not real. People would ask her what she wanted from Santa, and since she was scared of him she would start panicing (like full
    On panic attacks, hyperventilating, climbing her daddy to get away, lots of tears, ect.) and we just told people early not to mention him and that we don’t do it because my daughter wanted to cancel ALL of Christmas in fear that Santa was going to come into her house. To us Christmas is about Jesus and we weren’t going to loose that over an imaginary character in a red suit. We had to tell her, and every time we discussed it we would say over and over that we don’t tell other people. The only kids she told were my nieces (who were 6 yrs older and didn’t believe her. What a shock later on to find out she was right!) we never did any of the other imaginary characters because it wasn’t worth it.
    My son (now 5) is/was also petrified of Santa, so we just never did it. All the other kids his age believe, which makes him question us, which is uber annoying, but luckily he has lots of older cousins that for some reason are more believable than mom and dad.
    My 2 yr old wouldn’t have had a problem, but why ruin a good thing?
    I have no real preference for other people (not my kids, I could care less if people want to perpetuate Santa or not).
    The “best” part of the fear (if you could call anything about a toddler having panic attacks good) was that when my husband’s family saw the true fear that my oldest would experience whenever Santa was brought up, all their complaints against not doing Santa were silenced. It also helped a ton against the parents who thought we were horrible, how can you call parents puppy haters when their children are petrified?

    • November 19, 2014 at 7:08 pm
      Reply

      Well, that’s awful but the perfect “out.” I don’t think you should have to explain. “We don’t do Santa” should be enough.

  • Aleah
    December 20, 2013 at 2:52 pm
    Reply

    Unless your kid is super opinionated, I wouldn’t worry about them being a Santa-ruiner. I was a hardcore Santa believer and even when other kids told me he wasn’t real, I just dismissed them. My belief in the fantasy was way bigger than their disbelief in it! If you choose not to “do Santa” with your younger children (which is my husband’s and my plan for our kids), don’t worry too much about your children ruining it for others. If other parents really want their kids to believe, they can certainly sell it big, despite what any other kids might say!

  • Jenny
    December 19, 2013 at 8:10 am
    Reply

    No Santa here either! Same as Abby, he’s like Mickey. We can read books/ watch movies but we don’t teach that Santa will be coming. It makes it easy on my side of the family that my brother doesn’t do Santa. He’s paved the way for all those family members that think we have ruined our kid’s lives because of it. My husband’s family doesn’t know yet. Our son is 2 and ever since our 1st Christmas they have been talking to him about Santa. We are dreading breaking the news to them. Bring on the criticism!

  • Abby
    December 18, 2013 at 8:54 pm
    Reply

    We don’t do the Santa thing in our house either. We treat Santa just like Mickey Mouse, Cinderella, and all the other “fairy tale” characters that our daughters love. It’s true though- you have to make an intentional choice to be clear with your kids one way or another!

  • Jessica Long
    December 18, 2013 at 8:51 pm
    Reply

    I am an Atheist and I have this same issue with gods and other peoples religions following him home. I keep waiting for my 8 year old to realize that because I dont believe gods are real that I dont believe in Santa either but I guess he hasnt made this leap yep. Really most of the Trappings of the Season are an amalgamation of Multiple pagan festivities so I dont see any harm in Santa for a while. Sooner or later he will come to the realization and there will be a bit less magic here, maybe the baby will believe in gods and santa too! Honestly my Husband and I became disbelievers very early (5 and 6 respectively) so we are suprised he is still into santa at 8.

  • Hannah Avery
    December 18, 2013 at 4:20 pm
    Reply

    We make Jesus the center of our Christmas, but my 3 year old this Christmas also really likes Santa. We tell him all the time that the real one died, and that the others are dressing up in big red suits. We generally think the idea of Santa is fun, but the presents we give to him will be from us, but others at our family’s house might be from Santa (as marked). I tell him we give presents to each other because it Jesus’ birthday. I think watching Christmas movies with Santa in them is not helping matters. We love Christmas though, and have a huge tree, and decorate, etc. So who knows, what exactly he believes about Santa. Lol! I agree that you have to start early though if you don’t want them to believe in him. Most of his friends, if not all, also don’t believe in Santa, so thats not too hard!

  • Rachel
    December 18, 2013 at 3:01 pm
    Reply

    My girls are almost 5.75, 3.75, and 7 months. We don’t do Santa just like my family and my husband’s family. We celebrate Jesus’ birthday. Thankfully, we don’t have family members that encourage it. I’m sure that helps. I can’t stand when people tell me I’m taking away the magic of Christmas. Argh!!!! My daughters love CHRISTmas, and the secular version does not bring me joy, but the celebration of Christ’s birth does. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one that doesn’t do Santa. I’m glad I’m not the only one!

  • christine k
    December 18, 2013 at 3:00 pm
    Reply

    I don’t want to “do santa” and have been very adamant with family (who actually stopped talking to me over it) that it wasn’t going to be done. When my child (almost 3) is older, I want to tell him about all the holidays and all the origins of the different traditions. He’ll learn about Saint Nick, but I hoped that he wouldn’t think any more of “santa” than he does “curious george”. You know, someone you have seen in movies (Elf!!!!) but isn’t actually real.

    Much to my chagrin, we have SANTA PICTURES this year. WTF?! It’s semi my doing, too… I wanted to go to the local cloth store because they were giving away a stocking of goodies. Well, we were going to look at lights downtown as a family, so we all went. My husband, my 5mo old, my nearly 3yo, and myself. I am entering for the stocking and chatting with the store owner, and “Santa” asks my toddler what present he wants. My kid doesn’t know what to do from us. He’s never been exposed other than movies like ELF…. he walked up, let “santa” pick him up, and asked for a race car. *HEADDESK*.

    Of course, I had to take a picture because it would make family happy… and they were already in his lap at this point. But afterwards, as we were walking downtown, I mentioned that he saw someone dressed up like santa, just like in the movies. I hope he realizes that people like to dress up. I just don’t know what to do now, though. My husband is becoming more in favour of santa because it could be used for behaviour…. which I kindly point out that it doesn’t matter WHAT we say to our toddler, he doesn’t care and will behave how he feels fit at that point in time (which is normally not how we’d like him to act, but meh. he’s 35mo).

    I don’t even remember the point of my note anymore… I just know that I don’t want him thinking santa is real. I was 10 years old and believing in santa still…. my classmates ridiculed me and I stood my ground. My mother wouldn’t LIE to ME. I was a good girl. I did what my mom said ALLLLLLL the time. I believed everything she told me because she was my mom. That same year I found out santa was real. I was very upset… not because he wasn’t real, but because of all the teasing I went through because I believed her. I remember telling her I wish she would have told me sooner, and then reflecting on my peers teasing me and me KNOWING i was right …. and now I’m not. 🙁

    • Sarah G.
      December 18, 2013 at 5:42 pm
      Reply

      My mom was 14-16 years old and still thought Santa was real. When her high school classmates were talking at lunch one day, they were asking everyone how old they were when they found out about Santa not being real. My mom was shocked! She was thinking, “You mean….he’s NOT REAL??!”
      It’s funny to look back on now, but I’m sure it wasn’t very pleasant for her. My parents never did Santa with us growing up, and I don’t remember any sit down talks about it – it was just sort of an accepted fact for my siblings and me that it was just a story.

  • Sara D
    December 18, 2013 at 12:25 pm
    Reply

    Well there goes my approach with my 3.5 year old. We haven’t really done anything to start the Santa fad, but haven’t had the Talk to avoid it yet. He cant read and probably wont care who sent what. the presents stay away until Christmas eve as a little boy tends to open anything that looks remotely wrapped!

    I did want to say You didn’t Failed! you just learned more as time went on. You have/had ideals and although they didn’t play out as you thought – She’s believed in the Magic…. and Wonder, probably not so much the flesh and blood the kids at school are toting! <3

  • Cheri
    December 18, 2013 at 11:54 am
    Reply

    I think Santa is just the majority of the worlds way of distracting from the real reason we should celebrate Christmas. When kids are receiving more than they are giving, when people feel the stress of getting things done just right and when you feel less than b/c you only have 10 presents under your tree – proves that it’s not about any of that. It’s about the beautiful gift that God sent us to save us from the pressures of this world. All we have to do around this time is celebrate the birth of our Savior and of an eternal King forever. Spending time with family is essential whether you have presents to give or not. Anything else is just made up by people who don’t believe in eternal life and want to celebrate all that they have right now. It’s a time to search your heart and not your bank account.

  • casey r
    December 18, 2013 at 11:38 am
    Reply

    my kids know about santa because it’s hard to avoid, but if people ask what they want from santa, i just say that we exchange gifts in celebration of jesus’ birthday. they think it’s a fun story but know christmas is about jesus because we make that the focus of the season and talk about it fairly often. it does make me sort of … i don’t know… when people won’t say merry christmas for fear of offending but assume that all children are expecting santa to bring them things. i’m trying to not focus on receiving gifts at all, though the kids know they will get some. my kids are only 1, 3, and 4, so i think it’s easier at this point. they’re also not in school, which i know makes it way easier.

  • December 18, 2013 at 11:20 am
    Reply

    What you did sounds a lot like what we experienced. We have told our oldest (5) the legend of Santa/St Nicholas how he was a real person and that Jesus is the real reason for Christmas (our belief, of course), that Santa is the spirit of Christmas. We make a list but don’t say it’s from Santa, we also leave one unwrapped gift (this year will be a cradle for each big girl that was handmade by their dad)… along with stuff in their stockings.

    Last year we didn’t say anything about it, and at 4 I figured our oldest would.. she did outright ask if the angel tree kids got something from santa and I said that I imagined that something would come their way… (out of 600 kids, by Thursday of last week 250 weren’t adopted, and we found out SATURDAY via the paper, when they were already doing the distributing.. and were so sad, because we were without power and struggling with our own issues, not able to go the extra effort to do anything to help within a few short hours)…

    so maybe next year we’ll adopt an angel or two and do the shopping and talk about helping those that need help.. again.

    so basically we don’t say anything, but just go along with the tradition, or say it’s the spirit of it and repeat the legend.. without saying real or not BECAUSE of the fact that other people are so insistent about it.

  • Kelly S
    December 18, 2013 at 10:19 am
    Reply

    Our child is only 4 months old, so Santa is sort of not relevant this year.
    Our plan for future Christmases is to tell him that Santa is somebody that some people believe in (like Jesus or Buddha) and that some people don’t. Mommy and Daddy don’t believe in Santa or Christmas, but he is free to choose whether or not he wishes to believe.
    We will also try to teach him that the real spirit of Santa is to do nice things for other people and animals that need your help. Though I suspect this will be a lesson for when he’s a bit older.

    We will tell him the “truth” about the Easter Bunny though 😉

    • December 18, 2013 at 10:46 am
      Reply

      That was/is our plan too, but I didn’t realize that I had to be so proactive about “the talk”!

      • Amanda
        December 18, 2013 at 9:51 pm
        Reply

        I also didn’t want to do Santa and ended up with a believer. For us, it was the cousins (she has 5 the same age) who ruined it. We tried to tell her that he was not real, but she said she doesn’t care and would believe anyway. So she does.

    • December 18, 2013 at 10:48 am
      Reply

      Although you said you don’t do Christmas at all, right? That would make it much easier!

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