Re-post: Reconsidering Christmas, Part I: Goodbye Santa?

by Camille on December 2, 2012

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This post is originally from December 2011. Today in Sunday School, we discussed the Christmas tradition of Santa Claus and childhood memories of the Claus. Our teacher asked how we planned to handle Santa traditions with our children, and I shared a little about our alternate (and largely unpopular) point of view. After careful thought last year, Charlie and I made some difficult decisions about how Santa will be celebrated in our family. Thus, for your consideration, here are our thoughts and plans regarding the big guy in red. 

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Ok. So I know the very title of this post will have many of you (my close friends and family included) doing a confused double-take. And if you continue to read what I’m about to say, I’m sure that more than a few will banish me permanently into Grinch-Scrooge-overall BAH humbug! territory and maybe take away my Christmas cookies. 🙁

That’s okay. I probably would have done the same thing not so long ago.

I mean, based on appearances, you’d still think I was a Santa-hat wearing, cocoa-pushing, snow-hoping, present-buying, fanatic.

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At this moment I have Griswold-inspired Christmas lights strung brightly across the front yard (and I would have more, but Charlie only lets me add one thing a year, and he gave me this sob story about not wanting to break a hip, so no icicle lights on the front roofline this year. 🙁 And the snowman has a broken arm, and the penguin is missing a nose…but there’s always next year, right?)

I’ve both attended and hosted numerous Christmas parties…


made Christmas cookies…some of them quite frightening.

decorated the tree…

wrapped gobs of presents…

Heck, I’ve got Frosty painted on my big toe and Rudolph on the other.

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But the truth is that lately, I have been feeling less than enthused about the whole Christmas thing, and folks…I need to figure out why. So this post is my attempt to process some new thoughts, share some ideas, and try to redefine what I want Christmas to mean for my family.

First on the agenda….Santa. 

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I’ve always been a fan of Santa–the “jolly, happy soul” bringing peace and joy to children everywhere. Miracle on 34th Street and a host of other Christmas movies made it pretty clear that only the bad guys don’t believe in Santa, and that one’s amount of Christmas spirit  is directly proportional to belief in the man in red.  I have Santa ornaments and figurines and rugs and plates and aprons and sweaters, sooooo…. it may come as a bit of a shock, but (Please take a deep breath now) I’m thinking of not doing the Santa thing with my kids. At least not in the way you’d expect.

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Now as Ellie is only 10-months-old at the moment, I know I have a little time to fully decide how we will handle Santa in our house. But since the chubby toy-maker is everywhere this time of year, he’s on my mind. Also, I read this AMAZING BLOG discussing the “Christmas Conundrum” from Jen Hatmaker the other day, and it inspired me to try and put some of my similar thoughts into words.

So here’s the conversation I’ve been having with myself these days:

The Players:

Camille #1: The Goodbye Santa! Me

Camille #2: The I Believe! Go Santa! Me

How could you even consider messing with Santa? You are definitely going on the “naughty” list!

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Well, for one, I don’t want to lie to my children. Ever. And I think being completely honest (in an age-appropriate fashion, of course) is even more important in a family formed through adoption. One day, we hope to adopt children from foster care, and many foster kids, no matter their ages, have a difficult time trusting people…especially adults. I don’t want to do anything that would add to their confusion or mistrust.

Are you crazy?! You’re not lying to them. You’re just creating a magical world of fun. Were you damaged for life when you found out Santa wasn’t real? No. And you have a lot of good memories from Santa’s inclusion in your childhood. Why would you take that away from your kids? 

I do have a lot of great memories…like running down the stairs with my sister on Christmas morning to see what “Santa” brought for us, and I hope my parents understand how incredibly grateful I am for all those memories.

But I also remember being a pretty curious kid and always having a feeling something was a little off about the whole thing. What about kids with no chimneys? What about homeless kids?  Questions require more and more inventive stories. With a strong desire to be a good kid, I really wanted to believe, but I felt guilty for early doubts. I kept “believing” until about the fourth grade, because hey…I got presents, and I was afraid of hurting my parents’ feelings. (They LOVE playing Santa…still do.) But I remember feeling awkward when I finally asked my mom to admit the truth, and on that first Christmas morning when I definitively knew, and they knew that I knew…well, I was sad. I felt almost ashamed…like I’d let them down somehow.

In most things, we progress gradually from childhood to adulthood, but leaving Santa behind is an abrupt “umph!” into reality. No, I’m not “damaged,” and I cherish letters from “Santa” my Mom put in our stockings and the time she had a friend–complete with real beard, jelly belly, and authentic suit–stop by the house on Christmas Eve…before he started deliveries.  🙂 

But despite those sweet memories, I have to consider what is right for our family in the long term. Remember the adoption thing? In addition to foster care, we might adopt internationally one day. Did you know that Santa rarely visits orphanages in Ethiopia? In fact, it seems that Santa most often prefers kids in developed countries, and did you know he brings nicer, more expensive gifts to wealthy kids?  It just doesn’t make sense to start traditions that can’t easily include all members of our future family. 

But have you seen this picture? She already LOVES Santa! You can’t take him away! 

Oh man! You’re pulling out the big guns; she is the cutest baby ever, and considering I’ve already bought Christmas clothes she won’t be able to wear until next year, we’ll probably continue the pictures with Santa tradition. I’m not planning on fostering any dislike toward Santa or cutting him out of our lives completely. I just want him to be in his right place as an interesting Christmas character rather than the central focus of the entire month of December. I think my kids can smile for pictures with Santa while still accepting him as a character. 

Well….are you going to stop watching Christmas movies? You love Christmas movies! And guess what? Santa is always the hero! I mean, The Polar Express makes you almost believe in Santa at 30-years-old, Camille. Why are you taking away the magic? And are you going to get rid of all your Santa decorations? That’s a lot of seriously cute stuff to keep in the attic. Your kid is going to be that brat making all the other kindergartners cry with her non-belief. Ugh! 

Ummm…..we will still watch Christmas movies while wearing flannel pajamas and sipping hot cocoa because it’s not Christmas around here until we’ve seen this:

and this:

and this:

and this…

And lady, if you think you’re touching my Santa decor, you’ve had a little too much eggnog.

So how can I include Santa in our lives without including him in our Christmas morning? I don’t want to confuse my kids, but I need to find a way to put my beliefs in action while still allowing them to live comfortably in a world overrun by the Claus.

Well…the way I see it, Santa is kind of like The Little Mermaid.

Yup. You heard me. See, when I was little, I loved The Little Mermaid, and since I’ll probably watch it with her a few dozen times, there’s a high chance Ellie will like it too. We will watch the movie, sing the songs, and read books featuring Ariel, Sebastian, and Flounder. She can have a Little Mermaid blanket and pictures and figurines, and she’ll be able to talk pleasantly to other little girls about the story. But she will know that it’s all a story. We will celebrate the wonder and magic of The Little Mermaid, but we won’t believe IN the mermaid. I don’t want to steal away any magic, but I think we can teach our children to appreciate Santa as a part of Christmas culture without the need to present him as a factual reality. But don’t worry, we’ll also teach them to be respectful of your child’s beliefs and to refrain from sharing too much about our family’s weird practices. Peace y’all. 

Your kids are going to be SO mad at you when all the other kids ask Santa for Playstations and iPhones and get them because their parents aren’t ready to give up the game. They’re going to feel excluded and different. You mean mama! 

Well, my kids are probably going to be mad about a lot of stuff, but that’s too bad. Romans 12:2 says a little something about not conforming to this world, but being transformed by renewing our minds to better know God’s will. And I’m pretty sure God doesn’t care all that much if we believe in Santa Claus. In fact, I’m pretty sure the whole Christmas season has something to do with….

Oh yeah. That’s right. The baby Jesus. You know…the birth of the Savior who would later die to save us from our sins? You rarely find a sparkling candy cane village constructed for that guy in the middle of the mall. 

So when it comes down to it, I guess my main concern with Santa is that he takes too much focus away from the real meaning of Christmas. Especially in his modern state, Santa has become the smiling face behind mass materialistic, self-indulgent, voracious greed.

Now my parents took definitive steps to focus Christmas on the right things–delivering food baskets to the needy, attending church services, praying together, etc., but as a small child (older child, youth, ahem…adult)– those pretty-wrapped presents were always on my mind. For young and old alike, the miracle in the manger is often too easily muted by the holiday “cheer.” 

How are you going to get your kids to behave without Santa? Don’t you want an Elf on a Shelf? Santa encourages good behavior!

Another major issue for me. I want my kids to behave because they love and respect me (or you know…just fear the wrath of MOM!), and not because they believe if they’re good, some dude from up north will bring them whatever they ask for. 

Also, Santa’s love is conditional. He brings you stuff…if you’re good. Not a bad lesson for this world, I suppose, but I’m more interested in what my kids will internalize about more important matters. I’m talking about GRACE folks. You know…freely given to all of us despite our extremely “naughty” behavior, and a difficult concept for many an adult to truly grasp. Instead of thinking about being good to earn a reward every day of the season, I want my family focusing on the unconditional, awe-inspiring love sent to us in the ultimate gift of Jesus. 

And the Elf? Yeah, he’s cute…I get it, but honestly, he kinda creeps me out. Y’all, I can’t manage to move the dirty socks off the floor, move the clump of dog hair from under the high chair, move the toilet paper from the floor to the holder. Do you think I’d have a chance of remembering to move my elf? Plus, when I was five-years-old, I think the little snitch would have given me ulcers. Besides, Ellie seems like the kind of kid who would probably just smash him and hide the pieces in the return air vent or something anyway.

Why so many thoughts about Christmas anyway? You’re depressing me. 

As I’ve become an adult, Christmas has become a time of increased responsibilities and stresses. Bulleted points on the to-do list multiply like bunnies. Christmas parties, cards, decorations, shopping, presents, wrapping, travel, cooking, etc.–I love it all, but I also feel oppressed by it sometimes. I know I bring much of it on myself, and I know it will be hard to say goodbye to some of these things, but I desperately want to find a way to cut through the trappings to create a more simple Christmas. A Christ-centered Christmas. 

And part of that may very well mean bidding  a partial adieu to Mr. Claus. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Santa, Christ-centered traditions, etc. so please feel free to comment…even if you think I’m a Scrooge. 🙂 And please keep in mind that I fully respect and will continue to enjoy the traditions you choose to practice in your family. I just have to figure out what’s right for mine, and I don’t think that only one of us has to be right. 

Well, I guess I can’t argue with that…but you would have had SO much fun playing Santa! 

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeanene March 30, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Obviously, I am waaay behind here, cause this is an older post. But, it’s funny…it addresses something my husband and I were just discussing this morning. I came here because your story includes adoption…I was excited to hear that you hope to adopt from foster care eventually(we did, two little ones!) But, today…we were discussing what we want to DO about Easter…we both have older children…and many of the things that we did with those older kids were done on “auto pilot”…this time around(I am 44 and DH is 54) we are far more determined to be intentional in how we handle things…the babies are 16 and 20 months old right now…this seems like the perfect time to address all of this…they really aren’t big enough to “get it” yet…but, we want a solid handle on this stuff before December rolls around this year…and, we’re pretty sure this is the last Easter where we can get away with “doing nothing” because they aren’t big enough to know the difference…it’s tough…I don’t want to steal their joy…but, I DO want them to understand what Christmas and Easter are REALLY about…and I DO want them to realize that the worlds take on BOTH, is incredibly materialistic…it’s not right…and we do not want to promote it! So…thanks for sharing this…I’ll read on to part 2~LOL


Liz May 7, 2013 at 10:48 pm

When our first daughter was a baby, my husband and I made the decision to celebrate Christmas without the annual visit from Santa. For many of the reasons you cited above, we became the “freaks” who wouldn’t let their kids experience the magic of Christmas. That was nine Christmases ago, and we have never regretted that choice. Now we’re navigating the process of really giving Christmas back to Jesus as you discuss in your Advent posts. It’s such a struggle between feeling like I’m somehow stealing joy from my children and knowing in my heart that making these changes will be the best gift I can give them. It’s encouraging to know we’re not alone.


Camille May 12, 2013 at 1:11 pm


Thanks so much for stopping by the blog. 🙂 We still have many that think we’re “freaks.” Luckily, she’s been so young that it hasn’t really been an issue up to now, but as she gets older, I think it’s going to get more complicated. I’d love any advice you have! 🙂


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