A couple discusses a possible alternative to the Santa tradition

K.Ullrich-Hodges is joining me for our post on Santa Claus. Chris H. talked about some of the reasons he embraces the Santa Claus tradition, so this post talks about why K and I anticipate trying something different for Christmas with our yet-to-be-born child(ren). There are a few reasons we may be parting with the typical Santa Claus tradition, but there are a few reservations to consider (particularly on the part of B more than K).

K- For starters, there’s the classic “Christmas is too commercial” angle. For me, this ties into childrens expectations for receiving a lot of presents, and receiving exactly what they want. Maybe this is odd, but as a child I remember friends writing extensive lists of everything they wanted, but I didn’t want to write a list. I can’t remember giving a list of “wants” to my mom for Christmas. (K grew up in a single-parent household.) The expectation of getting a bunch of stuff seems to make Christmas itself more focused on receiving.

B- I am the middle child of five siblings and we always had a fine Christmas growing up in terms of presents. We weren’t wealthy by any means but my parents found ways to make money stretch. For me, I personally felt that my family was able to maintain a pretty strong Christian focus despite the presents. Granted, expecting presents from Santa was a really exciting part of the holiday for me. Also, I learned pretty quick not to ask for things I knew I wasn’t likely to get, even when I still “believed.” (Granted, I’m still a bit bitter about not receiving a TalkBoy, although I did get a tape recorder and microphone instead.)

K- I should add that my criticism of Santa Claus isn’t a reflection on my own mom making Christmas all about Santa Claus or anything. And I think there are plenty of families out there who have found ways to maintain a Christ-centered focus even with the Santa Claus tradition. But personally I’d rather separate the celebration of a holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus from the receiving of toys and other goods.

B- That’s one way we could turn the Santa tradition on its head, getting our kids involved in picking out gifts for Secret Santa for other families. I think there are ways to include the Santa tradition while integrating volunteering, giving, etc. At the same time, like I said, receiving some presents from Santa is a great memory even now.

K- I think it’s possible to maintain that sort of excitement of receiving gifts, but moving it to a different day so gift-receiving doesn’t compete directly with my view of what Christmas is supposed to be. The Russian New Year is a great alternative tradition. In Russia, all of the traditions of gift-giving, tree decorating, etc. are shifted to New Years. Father Frost (their equivalent of Santa Claus) would deliver the toys on New Years Eve. Granted, this is due to the influence of Soviet atheism, but all the same I really like the separation.

B- So you’re all for the separation of Church and State and Christmas and Santa.

K- Haha right. The Russian Orthodox Church does celebrate the birth of Christ in early January. But that holiday is focused on Jesus, not Father Frost. So the separation works out.

B- That would seem to be a way of having your cake and eating it on a different day, but I still see potential problems I see. First, it will still be difficult to make this alternative make sense when our kids are immersed in a Santa culture. When does a child hit the point where they are going to be smart enough not to blab to the neighbor kids that Santa Claus doesn’t visit us?

K- Kids only believe in Santa until about 2nd grade, I think, right? To me, that’s not too many years to be battling with the neighbor problem. Plus I think our kids would think it was cool that they have a different sort of tradition. Also, it’s likely that there will be other kids who don’t have a Santa tradition, depending on the demographics of their school.

B- Well, they’re already going to be Mormon, so depending on where we live that may not be the only difference they have, for good or ill. Oh, and then there’s the “lying” problem. People who say it’s not cool to lie to kids about this made-up character. With Father Frost we’d still be doing that anyway.

K- I’m not married to the Father Frost idea, I’m just in alignment with the gifts on New Years idea. I’m undecided about Frost. Either way, we’ll still give them presents from us anyway.

B- But Father Frost could be a convenient stop-gap so that they don’t blow “Santa’s” cover for other kids. They would have an alibi for why Santa isn’t visitng the Hodges home. Sounds like we have more to hammer out in terms of the details. I thought writing this would be a lot more straight-forward and simple.

K- Pretty simple to me!

8 Replies to “A couple discusses a possible alternative to the Santa tradition”

  1. As far as the list of wants goes, I think doing so or at least having the opportunity to do so provides children (at least it did for me) with the opportunity of self-denial. I remember writing letters to Santa, and my parents reading over them and saying, “Now son, you still want Santa to think you’re nice, right? What will he think of you as a person, if you give him a list two years long?” It was an excellent point and it taught me to be judicious in my desires. The next lesson was manners: “Son, Santa has to make (or procure, i couldn’t really believe they had been made in his workshop if they said “Mattell” on the package) and deliver toys to every child on the planet in the freezing cold. Do you know how lucky you are to receive that much effort and planning?” So I was profuse in my gratitude and my acknowledgement of Santa’s efforts on my behalf and the behalf of children everywhere century after century. That got me thinking about all the behind-the-scenes work done for me by mere mortals, like my dad who went to work and my mom who did load after load of laundry and made meal after meal. The repetition must have gotten to them, and they deserved my help. It really helped me to be considerate of others and not to abuse their kindness.

  2. I have always felt odd as an adult about the whole Santa and Jesus parts of Christmas.

    First we tell our kids these fantastical stories about both characters and then when they reach a certain age they are told by some friend at school that there is no such thing as Santa.

    How many kids start to wonder when the other shoe is going to drop. Why would my parents have me believing in Santa and Jesus whom are both celebrated on the same day and then find out one of them was made up. What does that do for the other one.

  3. My husband and I felt uncomfortable with Santa for the reasons described by TinJones, so we decided to be very up front about Santa with our kids- we are very clear with our children that Santa is a pretend person – like Spiderman or Dora the Explorer. At Christmas time we “play Santa”- giving gifts to each other, and even a secret Santa. We will still take the kids to sit on Santa’s lap, and we will even speculate about how fast his reindeer might travel, but we all know it’s just a game, and that Jesus and Heavenly Father are real.

  4. Sometimes little children get confused.

    We imagine Heavenly Father is like a man with a white beard who loves us.

    We see that Santa Claus is a man with a white beard who loves us.

    But Heavenly Father is not Santa Claus.

    But sometimes Heavenly Father—and heavenly Mother, and Jesus—like to play Santa Claus.

    They may not send a gift specifically for me every Christmas—or perhaps I just don’t recognize it. But sometimes they do, and sometimes I do.

  5. i like the father frost thing. not only for the separation but because he sounds a lot more frightening than santa and therefore better at instilling the proper reverence and respect kids should have for deity. none of this cuddling and butterflies nonsense.

    having nearling frozen to death and been buried in the occasional avalanche, i would not cross the frost man. whereas santa can do nothing to me unless i’m one of those sensitive and weak misfits toys.

  6. Do you think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill here? Millions of kids have grown up, gone through the Santa phase, and have turned out okay. If you don’t want to do it, fine, but all the claims of terrible consequences seem a stretch to me. I don’t know anyone who stopped believing in God because he or she was disillusioned about Santa. Kids need a little magic in their lives. Let them enjoy this time. Next some people will probably not let their kids enjoy Halloween.

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