The Santa Fiasco (and owning our Unbelief) #It worked for me#holidays#lil kids#religion December 23 2010 | Guest post by Amy Watkins Ho, ho, ho? Anyone? Photo by Amadika. Our girl doesn’t believe in Santa; she never has. When she was just old enough to anticipate Christmas, we watched one of those old, stop-motion specials on TV, and she said, “That’s pretend, right?” “Right,” I told her, reaffirming what she had recently learned about Elmo and Dora the Explorer: fantasy is fun, but it’s not real. When she was four years old, she announced to her neighborhood pals not only that she didn’t believe in Santa, but that “Santa Claus is made up baby stuff—totally not real.” The effect was like a cannonball in a crowded swimming pool or the words “public health care option” at a town hall meeting. By the time Alice hurled herself into the living room, half the neighborhood kids were in pursuit like a mob of townsfolk storming Frankenstein’s castle. Even the normally shy followed her through the still swinging door, eight or ten furious children shouting: “She said there’s no such thing as Santa!” “There is no such thing as Santa! You’re mad ‘cause I won’t say there is!” “There is so a Santa! Our mom said so!” Related Post Can you be pagan and celebrate Christmas with your kids? I love cheesy Christmas songs, I love fairy lights. On the other hand, I feel hypocritical at the school Nativity play. “There is not! It’s pretend! You’re stupid!” “You’re stupid! Santa’s real—we saw him in a parade!” In the absence of a more comprehensive guide, I offer these rules of thumb: 1. Do not, under any circumstances, tell another person’s child there is no Santa. Honesty will not score you play dates. At this point, I noticed a glaring omission in parenting literature: no book I know of explains how to defuse a neighborhood jihad caused by conflicting views on the existence of arctic-dwelling toy distributors. In the absence of a more comprehensive guide, I offer these rules of thumb: 1. Do not, under any circumstances, tell another person’s child there is no Santa. Honesty will not score you play dates. 2. Do not, under any circumstances, laugh hysterically at an angry mob, even if the mob is smaller than you and does not have actual pitchforks, even if you really, really want to laugh. I herded the other kids outside with a few vague reassurances in my best calm mom voice, sure I’d hear from somebody’s parents sooner or later, and went back in to deal with Alice. Her cheeks were redder than Kris Kringle’s, her jaw set in a stubborn clench. “There’s no such thing as Santa Claus,” she said. “I know,” I said, “but your friends think there is.” “But there’s not! It’s pretend. You said it’s pretend.” “I know, but it’s not something to fight about. They can believe he’s real and you can believe he’s pretend and you can still be friends. Their pretending doesn’t hurt you.” “Fine,” she said, “I’ll just say I believe in stupid Santa Claus.” “You don’t have to say you believe in Santa, just don’t talk about it with them,” I told her. “Talk about something you all like. Talk about Christmas lights or cookies or Elf. Talk about presents!” “I’ll just say I believe in Santa.” She had been too angry to cry, but now her blue eyes filled with tears. She looked absurdly like the kids in the TV special when they realized Santa wasn’t coming and Christmas was ruined. She looked defeated, and I wondered, why was it rude for her to talk about Christmas as she had experienced it? The leap from Santa to the other big man up north is not, in this case, a long one. I realize that comparing belief in God to belief in Santa Claus may offend some people, and I don’t mean to trivialize the conversation, but the analogy, in this case, holds up. As a non-believer, I have taken my own advice too often. Afraid of offending, I avoid discussing religion. When avoidance is impossible, I dissemble, give vague answers or change the subject. Most people assume that I believe some version of what they believe. Usually, correcting the assumption isn’t worth the awkwardness or potential resentment. The Santa Fiasco was a teaching moment, but I taught my daughter the wrong lesson. The Santa Fiasco was a teaching moment, but I taught my daughter the wrong lesson. Instead of teaching her to speak confidently and calmly about her beliefs and to listen respectfully to others’ stories, I taught her to avoid conflict, to keep quiet. If it comes up again, I will explain to the kids that some people don’t believe in Santa (in fact, some people don’t believe in Christmas—imagine that). The next time someone assumes I believe in God, I will also try a direct approach. “Actually, I’m an atheist,” I might say. “Have you seen Elf?” Reporter Name * Reporter Email * Original text Enter the original text here. Edited text* Enter your suggested copyedit here. Notes You can add a note for the editor here. * Required information. Fix Typo Guest post written by Amy Watkins Amy Watkins is a skeptical mama, poet and and host of the free weekly poetry podcast Red Lion Square. The one thing she really misses about church is singing Christmas carols. http://www.redlionsq.com PREVIOUS Catching up with Pushba and Lada NEXT Parenting tips from a teen who grew up going to festivals Show/Hide comments [ 62 ] I love this! Before I even got to the part where you spelled out the comparison with atheism, I was thinking "I'm going to post a link to this on the atheist forum". I think you are right on target, on both Santa and nonbelief. And on dealing with an angry mob too! 🙂 Reply Thank you for posting this article, as we go through the motions of Christmas (I don't believe in the Christian reason for Christmas, but I love to make gifts and give them to people) I really have been wondering what I will tell my daughter as I raise her. I know if I tell her Santa is make believe, but based on a Catholic saint, my mother will have a fit… I've learned slowly to stick up for my beliefs, but in as non-confrontational manner as possible. For years I struggled with the idea of a god..then a couple of years ago I straight up realized I didn't believe in one and that Buddhist ideas followed more closely with what I believed. To this day, it causes a lot of friction within my family, but usually I simply just say "I'm Buddhist, so I don't follow those beliefs, but here is what I do believe in…" Inform without being pushy and obnoxious, or at least try to. Reply As an atheist, don't you technically "not believe in Christmas?" How do you explain your celebration of a holiday about the birth of a super-natural god-figure to your children? Is Christmas even compatible with raising atheist children, or should you make your cookie/present/party season at another time to avoid confusion? Reply I'm an atheist, too, and I see no confusion here. Like it or not, Christmas in America has become very secular. Most Christians have a Christmas tree, which is clearly described as a heathen practice in the Bible. Christmas as we celebrate it now is very much a mishmash of dozens of traditional winter celebrations, myths, and stories, many of which pre-date Christianity. Reply The practice of having a Christmas tree isn't mentioned in the Bible. That verse is referring to the "worship" of an adorned tree. Christmas includes a lot of traditions associated with and stemming from pagan and secular practices, but the reason behind it is what I think matters. You don't have to believe that God became a man to celebrate Christmas! Reply One of my friends who is Christian pointed out that Jesus's birthday is more than likely sometime in the summer. Her family makes a birthday cake for Jesus, because the rest of the traditional Western celebration doesn't really recognize the birth of their savior. I'm not Christian, but I thought that was pretty awesome. 🙂 I've celebrated Christmas my whole life, but it was never about religion. It was just a time for family and friends. Reply Shepherds watched flocks during lambing season, which isn't summer. Christmas is a folk festival cooped by the early church. No big deal. Reply Annika, I'm sure some atheists choose not to celebrate Christmas for the reasons you mention. For me, it's a family tradition with, I admit, some problematic religious overtones. I love the holidays–gifts, the emphasis on charity, the movies we watch and food we eat only once a year, eggnog in my coffee. I do stubbornly call it Xmas, though. I would also clarify that I am not raising an "atheist child." I hope I am raising a free thinking child who will someday choose how to define herself. Reply In our family, Grandma only makes her secret-recipe molasses thumbprint cookies between Thanksgiving and Christmas. And part of our family are Jehovah's Witnesses, so we typically get together and exchange gifts sometime in the summer for a pool party. There are a lot of different ways that families celebrate and have fun together. Reply Just to warn you, by calling it Xmas you would be only turning off those people who don't know much about Christianity but still call themselves Christian. The "X" is a short form for Christ, X representing Christ through the Greek alphabet (X looks like the "chi" letter in Greek, which was a common abbreviation for Christ). The -mas part of Christmas means "dismissal" in Latin, which happens at the end of a Mass in the Catholic church. Essentially, people were told "Ite, Missa Est", literally, "Go, it is dismissed" and were send on their way for the "Christian mission". Basically, Christmas when said Xmas is still saying the same thing… Christ's Mass or Christ's mission. Reply I think I will start calling it MasX then in hopes that people will realize that I am dismissing X or Christ:) Reply Haha! That would work a lot better lol. In our family we call it Giftmas! 😀 I call it Krismas!! Far too confusing to change a name that the bulk of society knows the season for (plus I get visions of George's dad in Seinfeld with his Festivus). Any time I refer to the season in writing, it is so. Not offensive for anyone I don't know well enough to write to and those I do know, well they get it. I also don't use the term Atheist to describe myself, but if a box MUST be ticked, then that's the closest fit I guess, although a couple of sizes off. I love the Buddhist values that I know of, but def don't know enough about it and am not metro-chic enough to call myself one without finding out. I have met far too many trend followers who tag themselves Buddhist without really knowing anything about it either (real bugbear for me). Quite a compliment for you true Buddhists out there though! So anyway, after wee mini-rant there, Merry Krismas to all!!! Reply As a Christian who is seriously considering no longer celebrating Christmas due to the pagan origins, I don't see any association between modern Christmas festivities and the birth of Jesus. Indeed, I believe Jesus was born around September to coincide with Sukkot. Reply In the end I don't think it really matters, you know? My family celebrates Christmas usually sometime in the first week of January for various reasons, but we celebrate the "Christian" Christmas. Reply As an agnostic from an athiest family I guess technically we don't "believe in Christmas", but I think for a lot of people Christmas has little to nothing to do with Christianity and hasnt for a long time. Christmas becomes whatever people want it to be, which for my family and friends its a time of giving, happyness and family – not the birth of Christ. I think its a bit different where I live in Australia because although we are 65% a christian nation, majority of those are the "I guess I believe in God, but never go to church or know any of the religious stories" type Christians. Due to that Christmas is not seen as a religious holiday first and foremost, its an awesome few paid days off work to be with your family. If we could call it something other than Christmas without being seen as pedantic or extremist (or without ppl asking us what we're talking about!) I'm sure we would. In fact my brother an sister always say Happy Solstice instead of Merry Christmas as they want to dissociate the holiday from religion and the looks they get, even from other atheists/non christians/agnostics is priceless! Reply jesus wasn't born in december!!!! do some research Reply Wow, this is really fascinating. I was as a kid a whole hearted believer in Santa. I was CRUSHED when my cousin told me there was no Santa when we were 11. I remember that icky feeling in my stomach to this day. I felt betrayed and to this day, much as I love my cousin and we are close still, I have never quite forgiven her. My daughter this year is 10. She believes in Santa and fairies and other such things with her entire being. And not because this is what I taught her necessarily, but because it is who she is. And part of me loves to watch it and part of me dreads that inevitable conversation in which I know she will sob when she realizes it is me who placed those presents under the tree for her. I think you are doing what is right for you and it is admirable. There is a fine line between avoiding conflict and standing up for your own beliefs. It's a lifelong lesson for us all. Good luck on your journey. Reply Thank you, moonspun. Walking that fine line can be rough, but we're learning to do it, I hope. Reply I just had a conversation with my friends about this. I asked everyone if Santa comes to their house, and was met with a variety of answers. Two of the Moms told their kids that Santa wasn't real, and when the kids got to be 4-5 they decided to believe anyway. Even with a Jewish Dad. Most of the other families admitted that it has nothing to do with Jesus. It's family tradition. I told my 2 year old daughter that he's not real, but that it's fun to pretend. The Santa game is very important to her Grandma. So we can play, but I'm going to use it more as a way to teach her about giving and charity. And sure, if she wants to make cookies for Santa with Grandma, I'm fine with that. Because I get to eat them. 🙂 Reply That's what I told my two-year old as well. Reply i don't think christas has to do with religion either. i don't believe in god but i still celebrate it with my kids. i make it more about family and gifts. i think it is possible to not promote santa and still celebrate christmas. you can make it about other things… like giving to the poor, or giving each other gifts, or just spending time together. i don't think you need to omit christmas all together just because you don't believe in god or promote the idea of santa. you can make christmas your own way. as for teaching her daughter to stick up for herself, there are just somethings that you can't really stick up for yourself on. santa being one of them. i don't think it would be fair to tell other children that santa doesn't exist. that isn't fair to the children that do believe and could make parents a bit uncomfortable. i do promote santa and the whole belief in santa and i would be a little upset if someone told my children that there wasn't one. that is like telling children who believe in god that there isn't one. there are just some things that don't have to be stood up for or argued about at really young ages. i would tell her not to say anything to other kids at all. and if it gets brought up to be very evasive. like, "i guess, so, or it is fun to believe in santa, or i hear santa lives at the north pole, how can anyone live there? it is so cold!" teach her to stand up for other things. god and santa are just two subjects going to make everyone unnecessarily mad… and she is too little to deal with that. Reply I agree up to a point. At what time/age/point should someone stand up for their beliefs. I don't think as an adult, I should have to constantly try to avert people's attention from the fact that I am an atheist. I'm not going to be rude to anyone about their beliefs, but I don't think I should have to hem and haw about mine either. Unfortunately, there is a strong pressure in our society (meaning the USA) for people who believe like me to be quiet and not make a ruckus. But what should I do when people try to teach Creationism in public school? I think it is important for both sides of the belief to learn to hear differences of opinion and learn to get along. I think that goes for the children who do believe in Santa as well. Reply When I was little, I attended Catholic school, but because the isolated area we lived in, had to ride the first half of the way on the public bus with the high school students, and then we took a transfer. On my first day of kindergarten, I found out there was no Santa, and how babies were made. I spent the rest of my young years at Christmas time trying to get my mother to admit there was no Santa. Finally she got so fed up with me that she screamed, "OK! THERE'S NO (EFFING) SANTA! BUT COULD YOU AT LEAST LET YOUR LITTLE BROTHER HAVE A MAGICAL CHILDHOOD?!?!" I felt really bad about pushing it so much after that…. my mother really made me feel like a bad person because I didn't believe in Santa and she desperately wanted my brother to, for some reason. Just so that she could tell him a few years later that there wasn't one? It doesn't make a lot of sense to me, but she must have been getting somekind of validating, warm fuzzy feelings about playing Santa that made it so important to her. Reply I don't want Santa to exist in our Athiest/Agnostic, but christmas celebrating house. Our Daughter is only 17 months, so it's not a big deal this year, but since my husband and I both also avoid conflict, I don't know what to say to our well meaning relatives who ask our girl if she's "excited for Santa". Reply you might be surprised what she ends up saying to people who ask her that! a friend of mine was worried about the same thing and her little boy said "no. I dont believe in santa, but you can." it was awesome. Reply So cute! Reply That's exactly the response I would hope for in the future! Reply I agree that Christmas has become a very social holiday, and therefore think that any one can celebrate in any way they want to. 🙂 My family is religious and in our house it was almost like having two holidays when i was growing up, we had advent and we had christmas. I love all the specialness of it, but to be honest was never that into santa. I laughed so hard reading about your mob because my first grade teacher literally had to escort me out of the classroom when i said i didnt believe in santa! I plan to raise my daughter the same way my parents raised me, this is christmas with our church and why we celebrate it. This is christmas the "non-denominational" way and how lots of people celebrate, both are ok and both are fun. Reply Out of curiosity, has anyone had any angry parents knocking on their door after your child has let it slip about Santa's existence? I don't plan on having the Santa stuff as part of our Christmas celebrations (and since we do things on a different day then other people, it would make it complicated anyways), but I worry about having to deal with other parents if my kid lets things slip. I have already seen kids in school get chastised for telling other kids the truth, so I know it is possible, but I would like to hear how other people have dealt with it. Reply I braced myself for it after our "santa fiasco," but it never happened. Reply I was that kid. I never believed in Santa and he was never discussed as anything other than fiction in our house. So 30 years ago I was the kid who told the other kids there was no Santa (and how babies were made)… and my mom got yelled at by the other moms. Reply This is a tough topic for sure. On one hand, I don't believe in the basic tennets of what the Christmas holiday is "about" (I don't do the quotes to be offensive, I just feel like its changed a great deal from the original intent) and I really don't want to lie to my kids. Ever. About anything. On the other hand, I want my kids to grow up loving the idea of fantasy and being able to have a healthy appreciation for, well, magic. I am a Pagan afterall 😉 I also fear this exact situation, my kid being the one to burst the Santa-loving bubble of others. So, to get to the point of this, I have thought up what I think is a pretty good solution. My idea is to basically tell my kids that, no, Santa might not be a physical person, but he is a representation of some great ideas. Things like giving to others, hope, and (again) the magic of our world! So, while our family might not think about Santa as a real man who will physically come to our house, it is great to "believe in Santa" as a symbol of love, happiness, hope, sharing, and so on. My partner's and my beliefs have a bunch of symbolic figures in them, so I think this would translate well in to other things we might have shared with our little ones by then. Basically, my kids still get the fun of Santa and sharing in at least part of the joy with their Santa-believing friends but we get to stay completely true to our core ideas. The conversation will obviously be longer and more in-depth than that, but that's the gist of my idea. I could write pages on it, so I'm stopping myself. Anyway, I hope that sounds like something that might help someone else. Any thoughts? Any big holes in this I haven't thought of? Reply This seems sensible to me, especially if it follows your overall belief system. When I was a kid, Santa was a game we played sometimes with our mom or other adults, but we always knew we were pretending. It was still fun and I think we got "the magic" without the loss later. Reply I just wanted to say that even if you don't believe in the spiritual significance of Christmas carols, you can still sing them. I grew up Agnostic and became a Christian when I was old enough to make an educated decision, but we still sung the songs. Of course my dad's explanation as to why a virgin could give birth was hilarious and rather awkward for him ("Um, well if you believe in Jesus…" "But Dad, who is Jesus? We never talk about him. Is he like Santa?" "Erm, well I think so…but he was real, but with more magical powers if you're into that stuff…"). But if the songs make you happy, then sing them! I still sing more secular Christmas songs than religious because they were part of my childhood. Reply Ha! Your dad's explanation sounds like some I've heard (and given). 🙂 The trouble with Christmas carols is not having many places to sing them. I always liked singing in church with a big group of people. There aren't many secular settings for that. Some friends I know go to a UU sing along every December. Reply I'm not sure that the analogy between discussions of Santa and religion does necessarily hold up– children aren't really capable of reasoned discussions in the same way adults are supposed to be, so being conflict-avoidant around kids isn't a terrible solution. That being said, adults often don't see reason when it comes to religious beliefs either, so I've never understood the importance of "sticking up for your beliefs." Having a kid avoid the topic of Santa altogether just to avoid upsetting other kids seems like a reasonable idea. But that's just my opinion… Reply From my point of view, it's not so much "sticking up for my beliefs" as it is living openly and honestly–being "out" as a non-believer, I guess. I don't want my kid to be told to avoid tough topics (as you say, not a bad approach to the whole Santa conversation) while I also model avoidance whenever differing opinions come up. She is learning now how to deal with the world later, and I want her to know that disagreements are not always bad. As OffbeatMama demonstrates, we can tell our stories and share our different points of view without being unkind. That's the spin I wish I had put on the Santa issue for all the kids involved. Reply I love the photo you all put with my post, by the way! Reply Christmas is for everyone. It's a populous holiday, by design. If it's not secular, then why is Fox News so upset about the disappearing Christmas jesus? I own Christmas. I celebrate American Christmas. Frankly, I don't care what silly myth has lead to a work holiday today as long as I get my time off. I don't have to believe in Elves, a baby jesus, flying reindeer, or leprechauns to enjoy a break from work and presents with my family. Reply I was kicked out of Sunday school because of my non-belief in Jesus and Christianity when I was four years old. I stood up for myself and they showed me the door! At the time I did happen to believe in Santa and the Easter Bunny. Reply Oh, this was fantastic! Thank you for sharing! My husband and I, as atheists, were determined to not introduce Christmas or Santa to our daughter, but we didn't want her to feel left out of The December Celebration either. So, we do it our way. We celebrate Solstice, since that is rooted in science. We have a tree, because we like them, and much to the dismay of our family members, we told her from the get, there was no Santa. However, we did tell her that a lot of Christian families enjoy the whole Santa thing, and in the spirit of polite tolerance, we shouldn't tell them otherwise. Of course, we have run into issues over the years, but they were the opposite of your experience. There have been several extended family members who have told our daughter flat out that Mommy and Daddy are liars and that there is so a Santa and if we say there isn't, she shouldn't believe us. Yeah. We don't speak to those people any more. That was very difficult to deal with. Thankfully, my daughter understood that wasn't the case, but it was a very shocking display of how passionate some people are about it, and how far people will go to shove their beliefs onto other people, even when that other person is a 4 year old. Reply OMG!!!! That's the most ridiculous awful thing I've ever heard! I could almost understand a religious person saying that to your child about God (of course it would be terrible and totally wrong and you'd chuck a fit, but at least could see how it could made sense to them at the time). But to tell another person's child something they KNOW is a total lie, and call the PARENTS liars is unbelievable! I am so outraged on your child's behalf and am thankful those people are no longer in your life. Imagine what other damage people like that could do. Reply It was petty horrifying because the close members of our families who are religious, were totally respectful. It was these few people (on opposite sides of the family & never knew each other)that did this. They were also the same ones who thew a fit because I wouldn't have my daughter baptised. They told me that if she died without having that done, she'd go to hell. I told them I didn't believe that to be true. It was an ugly fight, but I stuck to my guns, and I know I made the right choice for my family. Both incidences really brought a lot into focus about certain people, and based on that, I chose to not have those people around my daughter. And I don't regret it at all. I never asked them to agree with my decisions, and I certainly don't require their approval. But telling my daughter that Mommy and Daddy are liars went to far. I really appreciated this story because before my husband & I made the decision to NOT do the Santa thing, I had no idea how strongly people felt about it. I just didn't think it would be such a big deal. We always felt that it was more important to be honest with our daughter and we don't think omitting the Santa myth means we love her any less. Reply I love this. Sorry she had a run in with the other children. Myself and my brothers were raised not believing in Santa (although we were Christians), my Mother just didn't want to lie to us. As I see it, why would I not raise my child to believe in Jesus but believe that Santa was real? My husband seems on the fence, because Santa was a big deal for a while at his house. We still enjoyed Santa Claus movies, and etc, but we always knew it was pretend. Reply I think children get the difference between a myth or a story and something real. I just told my daughter that some kids thought Santa was real so she was not to tell them he wasn't. My reason behind telling her Santa was a myth was because I was teaching her to believe in God who she couldn't even see and wanting her to believe also, so I felt if I told her Santa (who she could see) was real and then she "found out" he wasn't it might effect everything I taught her. Just tried to be real. Reply Some of my Christian friends feel this way, too. Like you, I just want to be as honest with her as I can be. Reply I am a Christian who will skip telling my children about Santa because I want them to be grateful to God for the presents they get and not a mythical creature, and to know that they aren't actually being rewarded for good behavior with possessions. I have heard the logic that telling your children about Santa can aid their critical thinking because they have to come to the realization that not everything adults tell them is true, and work through it on their own. That seems healthy. In any case, I don't think there is any real harm done whatever parents decide. Though I would say that if you are going to be honest with your children about Santa from day 1, its polite to instruct them not to ruin it for other children, just like it's polite to instruct your child not to bash other people's religious or political beliefs to their face regardless of the validity in your eyes. Reply I agree, Leigh. I wish I had had the respecting other people's beliefs talk before the whole thing blew up. Reply "I have heard the logic that telling your children about Santa can aid their critical thinking because they have to come to the realization that not everything adults tell them is true, and work through it on their own." Yeah. My boyfriend and I are a little conflicted about lying to our (future) kids about Santa, but both of us had pretty positive experiences of figuring out the inconsistencies in the Santa story when we were about 8 or so. Both of us later used that experience to figure out the inconsistencies in our birth religions and free ourselves from unhealthy reasons for believing in said religions. Now we're very happy atheists. So all-in-all, I'd say Santa was an extremely positive experience in our lives. Still, it feels very weird to lie to a child. Reply I believed until I was 10–I think it's a sign of a great imagination. I wrote my own stories about what Santa did in the offseason, and today I'm a screenwriter, so something must have stuck! Reply Darling "neighborhood jihad caused by conflicting views on the existence of arctic-dwelling toy distributors" is the best phrase I've read in awhile. Reply My man's parents (Christians, who celebrate Christmas as a celebration of the incarnation) never taught their son that Santa Claus was real, so he grew up assuming that he wasn't. So convicted was he that he never had any trouble. When he was about three, a woman stopped him in the grocery store and asked, "So, is Santa going to bring you anything good this year?" Nick looked up at her, rolled his eyes, and said, "Santa is not real." The woman looked at his mother in shock, and said, "Well, then, who fills your stocking on Christmas?" He rollled his eyes again, and, with his hand on his hip, said, "It's a MAGIC stocking!!" Apparently, he also demanded that his parents hang their stockings near his, so his could teach theirs how to be better magic stockings– their loot wasn't as good as his, usually. Reply OMG thank you for this article. I long ago decided that I wouldn't teach my kids to believe in Santa. Personally i have no memory of ever believing in him, I always pretended to believe because I thought I'd get more presents that way. Finally my mom caught on that I knew and we all stopped pretending. Unfortunately I have no one to ask for advice. Even my Jewish friend celebrates Christmas (and her kids believe in Santa). My in-laws were downright angry that I wouldn't take my son to get his picture taken with Santa. When we said we weren't decorating they went out and bought us inflatable lawn decorations and demanded we put them up. My Jewish friend actually GAVE me a Christmas tree when I said I didn't have one. So we went through the motions this year, but I felt like a lame fake poser hypocrite. I vowed that next year would be Christmas free in my house. Wish me luck with my own personal jihad! Reply So obviously this is way late, dofnup, but I could give you a big hug. I too felt like a lame-fake-poser-hypocrite because in the end we made our own motions: cookies for Santa that disappeared and magically appearing presents that Santa brought. It was half-hearted and I'm pretty sure my fella caught on. I am all in for incredible surprises, loving gestures, festivities with family, and trees indoors, but that is where it ends for me. Hopefully I'll disappoint myself less this year and not spend too much time worrying about disappointing everyone else. Reply Thanks for this article! I'm an atheist mama and I was starting to worry about how to handle christmas once my son is old enough to realize what it is. I've decided to go through the motions of it for fun but to put my own spin on them. The christmas tree can be a houseplant or shrub. Cookies can be any shape. Religious and non-religious carols can be sung. I think I'll take the opportunity to discuss lots of religions and explain it as a celebration of peace. Reply My grandma (a hardcore Catholic) used to buy live tree/shrub looking thing that she liked (here in Mexico) take it home and let my dad and his 7 siblings go at it and decorate it when they were growing up. It was inexpensive, it would last a while and it kept all those kids busy, even for a little while. My dad seriously got teary eyed when he did the same thing last year instead of the traditional tree. I NEVER saw him get that way with any other tree we had decorated. That was beautiful. Faith aside, isn't that a great gift? Some memories that you get to carry on and share with others? And making cookies with your kid(s) is always ace! Yum! Reply Late into the game, but here I am! I also grew up not believing in Santa. When I asked "Is Santa bringing me my toys?" My mom simply answered "Mommy and Daddy work really hard to give you toys at Christmas, honey. Santa goes to other houses, for other children and doesn't have time to go to all of the houses, he skips ours. Maybe he goes to your friends houses, but not here." So when other kids said "santa bla bla bla" I was all "He doesn't come to my house, my mom and dad buy my presents and put them out when I am sleeping." Ahhh parents were so busted, but in the way they're busted when the kids finally say "Heeeeeeeeeeey, Barney has a zipper on his back…" Yes, in the same way that you said "Avoid it" my parents did too and in the end, everyone's gig was up at sometime. Maybe not the best way to handle it but you know. It worked at the time. Reply I'm glad that you're being up front with your kid! I had a suspicion that santa wasn't real for a few years and finally confronted my mother when I was somewhere around 10. She confirmed my statement that "Santa isn't real, it's just you and dad, isn't it." but was very shaken up and upset, and said that my dad/grandparents would be disappointed. So I pretended to not know for years, just to keep the adults in my life happy. "Santa" still brings stockings to my parent's house, and leaving out cookies and hot chocolate didn't stop until sometime in high school. Thanks for not being so attached to the warm fuzzy feelings that you get from being Santa that you make your kid pretend. Reply Late to the party, but I wanted the conversation to have this perspective: I'm Jewish, and did NOT grow up with Christmas. I didn't feel deprived, and with the other Jewish kids, all laughed about how silly Santa was. What did break my heart, though, was being told that if you look closely at Elijah's cup on Passover, you can see the wine level go down…only for Passover to come around and not have that happen. I think the use of the words "game" or "imagine" might have made that easier to take. Anyway, I think it's good that you're teaching her to see it as something fun and silly rather than the gospel truth. I'm just sorry the other kids were jerks about it! I guess other people trying to push their celebrations is in the spirit of the season… Also, as an addendum, if you ever have hard financial times and can't go all out on presents it'll probably be easier for a kid to take than if she thought it meant she'd been bad and Santa was punishing her. Reply Seeing a Santa at two different malls, solved my son's mis-beliefs. Daughter wanted to go to a friends house because they believed in Santa. We survived. We did Christmas eve church then came home and unwrapped the presents, let the kids stay up until forever, finally went to sleep. I got up Christmas day and did the Christmas day shift at work. All is well except having the play the Santa game for great grandchildren. Family time celebrations. Reply Join the conversation Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *Comment Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Subscribe me to your mailing list No-drama comment policy Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.