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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Santa Claus is a glory hog: Can I please tell my kids the truth?

As a real person, Santa Claus seems like he'd have to be a nice guy. Building toys all year round just to satisfy the desires of children all over the world in one marathon delivery service UPS would kill to be able to emulate. This is his goal in life: to give good children their just recompense and to give bad children, well, their just recompense: coal. Although with energy prices the way they are, naughty children might not even deserve that much.

But here's my beef with Santa: he's not real. I'm sorry if this broke your spirit to hear it from me. Just don't read this out loud to your children if you want them to believe the fallacy until the eyes of innocence surrender to the weight of evidence to the contrary. Like closets full of toys that wind up under the tree with Santa's name on them. Hmmm...

Now, I never really thought about this until having my own children, but now that I do, Santa ticks me off. After Christmas, my son, 4, told me he wanted to write Santa a thank you letter for bringing him all his little heart desired. While I'm grateful he's grateful, the gratitude is completely misdirected. Away from parents. We put the time, blood, sweat, and money to making that boy's Christmas memorable. Santa? He just sat on his imaginary rump and took the credit. I can assure you Santa didn't make anything my children got for Christmas, unless he got a $1.23/month job at a Chinese factory. I can also assure you he didn't deliver any of the presents, unless he was wearing a brown uniform and shaved his beard. And I can especially assure you he didn't build the kids' kitchen set. I did. And egad was it a big project. The thanks I get? "I'm so glad Santa got me all the things I wanted!" Well, call me old-fashioned, but I don't like being mistaken for a fat old man who wears a red suit and sneaks down people's chimneys at night and eats all their cookies.

Why can't I just tell my kids: "You know, Santa is fiction. Like Harry Potter, only harder to believe. Every toy you're now enjoying? That's me and Mommy. Why don't you write me a thank you letter?" I don't think I even got a verbal "thank you" for anything I gave the kids openly from Daddy and Mommy. Although they have repeatedly expressed how happy they are with what they got.

I guess the hard part of this is that society teaches them to believe. And we parents love the innocence it takes to believe such tales. So we reinforce it. We even brought our children to our church Christmas party where Santa came. Our son informed Santa he wanted a "toy combine tractor" which he had seen in a store. He thought it would be easier for Santa to just go buy it than make it himself. (It is. Trust me. I made a play kitchen, remember?) Our 3-year-old daughter sulked on an unknown man's lap until he finally put her down with a candy cane. Anyway, days later, when someone asked my son if he knew what he was getting for Christmas, he nonchalantly said, "A toy combine tractor."

"What if you get something else?"

"I'll get it. I talked to Santa about it."

And us sucker parents, who had already gotten him something else, couldn't crush the simple faith of our child in a fictional glory hog. So he got a "toy combine tractor" and the other present, which he loves as well. Does anyone else see something wrong with that scenario?

I vote for a world without Santa. For parents' sake. A world where I can shower my children with gifts and they in return shower me with love and affection. Besides, isn't Christmas supposed to be about He who bears its namesake? I think a better way to celebrate would be to tell the kids that Mommy and Daddy picked all the presents and paid for them, built them, or ordered them because we love them. But, it is Christ who gives us all things, right down to the holiday itself. Without Him, there'd be no Christmas. There'd be no presents. There'd be no us. If we emphasize that instead of Santa Claus, wouldn't the holidays be more complete?

That said, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the kids open and play with their new toys. Now excuse me while I brainstorm how to kill off an old, fat, one-man-show so I can get a thank you letter from my appreciative son.


  1. ha, ha! we agree! there is no santa at our house. . . apparently the only kids in our entire city who didn't have santa visit. . .

  2. Just a thought…..Isn't part of the Christmas Spirit about doing things for others without receiving any credit for them? I think it is fun for the little ones to get something from Santa, and to just see their eyes open up with excitement and joy. I don't mind not getting the credit; after all it is about bringing joy to others without being in the light. I agree we need to focus on Christ more, but I believe we can teach the children to remember Christ and believe in Santa while they are little. Service without credit is one of the biggest lessons Christ wants to teach us. I think it almost brings more joy not to tell them.

  3. Super well written essay! Love it. I never encouraged the Santa myth with my last 5 kids. I didn't discourage it, but I never mentioned it or labeled any presents "from Santa". I don't think it had to do with "thanks". It had to do with Santa being put with the other myths of Superman, Charlie Brown or the Easter Bunny and not even compared to God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost. I don't use any wrapping paper with Santa, no Santa ornaments, no notes from Santa. That's not to say I won't read "Polar Express" or "Night Before Christmas". Those are stories, and stories can be fun. It's just that I don't come right out and SAY, Santa brought it or say "Ask Santa for what you want." I think it's okay to let kids know who really buys the presents, if they ask. And...I absolutely don't believe in bringing Santa in to a Church party. I know that used to be more common, but I thought it had quietly gone by the wayside. Great job, Mark.

  4. Thanks for the feedback.
    And to Anonymous: Yes, there is joy in giving anonymously, as in commenting anonymously. I actually thought about that aspect while writing this up. Forgot to include it, obviously. While I do realize there is some merit to throwing some credit elsewhere, what I am saying is it doesn't, and maybe shouldn't, go to a mythical dude who flies about on a big red sleigh. That's why I did bring in the whole argument in the end about where the gifts actually come from. While they may originate from us short term, long term it's all from God, and that's what we ought to be teaching. I think it's that anonymous joy in giving that makes it worth reinforcing the myth. I gotta say I'll be ecstatic to receive fan mail from my boy, even if it is addressed to Santa Claus. Maybe we divert the gratitude because parenting is largely thankless anyway, and adding in Santa Claus makes them grateful for once, even if they don't realize they're really showing gratitude to parents.

  5. Why do you need credit? Or the thank you letter? To me, seeing the joy that is brought to little kids....that is all the "thank you" I need! It warms my heart EVERYTIME seeing them playing with the gift, wearing the gift, enjoying the gift, taking pride in the gift, or sharing it with friends.

    Children should also know that SOMETIMES Santa doesn't answer every wish as if it were a demand! I know soo many kids that ask Santa for things and they DON'T always get those things. It's an understanding that every person, young and old should don't always get what you want. Even the smallest of minds have been able to grasp this concept. Our society today is very selfless and extremely greedy.

    So yes, you can tell your children the truth....BUT

    May I also refer you to the editorial published in the New York Sun in 1897, by Francis P. Church. "Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus"

    I will forever teach young children that there is a Santa Claus. IT IS NOT ABOUT RECEIVING PROPER CREDIT! It is about love, which in my opinion is.....Christ-like.

    I will reiterate what "Anonymous" stated - "I believe we can teach the children to remember Christ and believe in Santa while they are little. Service without credit is one of the biggest lessons Christ wants to teach us. I think it almost brings more joy not to tell them."

  6. Just found your blog and I love the way you write! So please exuse me while I go read the rest of your posts (after discarding that big blowup Santa Claus on the front lawn of course... he's been deflated for weeks!)