What Do You Tell Your Kids About Santa Claus?

What do you tell your kids when they ask if Santa Claus is real? Parenting columnist Karen Green shares her response, and the reasons behind it.

I try not to lie to my children. If I serve them salmon for dinner, I tell them it’s salmon, not chicken. If they ask if they’ll be getting a shot at the doctor when I’ve scheduled the appointment solely for the purpose of getting shots, I say yes. If they ask if the shots will hurt, I tell them they might. If they ask me why I don’t like Caillou, I tell them it’s because he’s whiny and obnoxious.

And if they ask me if Santa is real, I tell them no.

Well, that’s not entirely the truth. If they ask me if Santa is real, I tell them “Gramma is Santa.” Because, really, she is. Thanks to their grandmother, my children have a magical, wonderful, family-filled, gift-filled Christmas that we all enjoy immensely. Truly, I love Christmas with my husband’s family. But Christmas is Christmas—Santa is something else.

“Gramma is Santa,” I tell them, quickly adding, “But don’t tell any other kids that, because we all believe different things and we don’t want to ruin it for anybody.”

My children look at me, their blue eyes widening. But there are no tears in those eyes—there is the glimmer of mischief. They begin to laugh.

“You’re funny, Mum!” They slap their sides and shake their heads. “Santa took the cookies last year, and Rudolph ate the carrots,” my six-year-old reminds me. “Santa’s coming to my party at school—the real Santa!” insists my four-year-old.

They keep laughing.

Every year, I tell them that Santa is not real. And every year, they believe he is, despite me. (Or to spite me, I’m not sure.)

My reason for not wanting to lie about Santa is twofold. For one, I am Jewish, which means that technically, so are my children. Culturally we celebrate the holidays and traditions of both faiths in our family. But Santa, for all of his pervasive imagery at this time of year, is still pretty foreign to me. I find him creepy, not magical. And it’s weird for me to encourage a belief in—nay, idolatry of—a creepy (sorry, jolly) old man that sneaks into people’s houses at night.

The other part of it is that I am not fond of the way that adults act around the Santa myth. Dressing babies in their red-velvet finest for pictures of them cradled in the laps of total strangers—I don’t get it. I also don’t like invoking Santa as reason for a child to behave—although, I was thoroughly amused when a parent at school drop-off said to her crying child, “Remember, Santa wants you to be happy!”

This doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in magic—I do. There is lots of magic in my children’s life, whether we are looking for fairy doorways in the knots of trees or wishing on the stars that shine bright out here in the cornfield. But magic, in my mind, does not extend to the Santa Claus myth.

Of course, my children disagree.

So this year, as in years previous, we will, in fact, be setting out milk and cookies for the fat man (and a little something for Rudolph—sigh), and again, my children will wake up bright and early to see if Santa was “here.” And there will be presents under the tree from him, and I guarantee that I will get caught up in their happiness and excitement. And when they inevitably tell me what a boob I was to think that Santa wasn’t real, I’ll just give them a big smile and shrug noncommittally and drop it until next year.

…And give a silent prayer of thanks that my kids still haven’t heard of the Easter Bunny.

What do you tell your kids about Santa Claus?

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