Over-Thinking Christmas: What do you tell your kids about Santa Claus?
At the weekend, we took Max to meet Santa Claus at the Conifox Christmas Experience. It was a great day: before getting to the man himself, you go through a series of rooms staffed by actors dressed as elves/reindeer/Mrs Claus, etc, who do various different activities with the children, so, before he even got to Santa, Max was already living his best Christmas life, basically:
From this, you will have correctly deduced that Terry and I are very much on Team Santa when it comes to Christmas, and what to tell kids about how their presents get under the tree. I know some parents don’t want to go along with the idea, as they feel it’s essentially “lying” to their children, but Terry and I both grew up believing in Santa, and it was one of the things that helped make Christmas magical for us, so we’re keen to allow Max to have that experience too, for as long as he’s young enough to still believe in it. (Also very keen to make sure he doesn’t end up doing what I did, though, whereby I realised Santa wasn’t real, but didn’t want to spoil it all for my parents, so I continued to pretend to believe in him until it basically got to the point where they’d started to think I was seriously slow on the uptake or something. I just… it’s the look on their little faces, you know? How could I ruin that for them when they were obviously getting so much joy out of it?)
(Also, as for lying, we’ve discovered that we’re quite comfortable with that, tbh. I mean, it’s not ACTUALLY “against the law” to go out without your hat on when it’s below freezing outside, and the park wasn’t REALLY closing that time we were in a hurry but he refused to get off the roundabout, so… yeah. It wasn’t THAT big a leap for us from those things to, “There’s an old man in a red suit who breaks into our house every year,” really…)
We have, however, thought long and hard (Because over-thinking is my jam, as you know…) about how we want to go about embroidering the myth for him, and, because it’s something we’ve obviously never had to consider before, it’s only just struck me how complicated it can be, especially given that everyone has different traditions, and approaches the idea of Father Christmas (If they do it at all) in such different ways that it could easily become just a little bit confusing for a small child.
I mean, what happens if you tell your kid that Santa brings aaaaallll the gifts, but then the child next door only gets one thing from him? What if FC brings one kid an iPad and another a mouldy apple or something? How do you even begin to explain that kind of thing? Also, do we HAVE to do Elf on the Shelf? Even although he’s kind of creepy, and I’m 100% likely to forget to move him, just like I forgot to put the treat inside Max’s advent calendar on Saturday night, and now I still can’t forgive myself?* What if we declare our house an Elf Free zone, but then Max starts school, and all his friends are like, “How come you don’t have an elf?” WHAT THEN, PEOPLE?
(*He has an advent calendar you fill up yourself, but because we’re putting little edible treats in it, I don’t want to just leave them there for a month, to go stale, so I’ve just been filling it up a couple of days at a time. It’s… not working out too well, thanks for asking…)
As we approached our first Christmas with a baby, this time last year, we started thinking about some of these things, and asking around to find out what other people do. From that, we realised there’s a ton of different approaches: some people say that all of the gifts come from Santa Claus, while others say only the contents of the Christmas stocking does; some don’t do stockings at all, while others ONLY do stockings, and so on, and so forth. Confusing? A little bit, yes. Like, could all of us parents not just get together at some point and make sure we’ve got our stories straight with this? Or do children actually just breeze into school after the holidays, and not even ask each other what their Christmas traditions are? (I don’t think I ever asked around about other people’s Christmases, now I come to think of it, but I was a bit of a weird kid, obviously, so that doesn’t necessarily mean anything…)
Anyway! We’ve talked it over, and our current decision is that we’ll probably tell Max that one or two of his gifts come from Santa Claus, while the rest come from us – partly to make it easier to explain why different children get different amounts/types of gifts at Christmas, but also because of the story my mum keeps repeating about the time she overheard me telling someone that it was really weird how I always got gifts from Santa, my grandparents, aunts and uncles, and even family friends, but NOTHING AT ALL from mummy and daddy. I mean, can you IMAGINE?!
(I’m also tempted to adopt the tradition from my own childhood whereby, while we were out visiting my grandparents, Santa would creep back into the house and leave a smaller gift in my bed. I found out later that my parents only did that one year because my mum discovered a present she’d forgotten to put under the tree on Christmas morning, and decided to just stick it in my bed, instead, but then they had to continue it forever more, or I’d have wanted answers. They do it to this day, actually.*)
(*No they don’t.)
(I mostly just want to do this because I’m thinking it could be a good way to persuade Max to go to bed on Christmas day, rather than just partying all night, which is exactly what I can tell will happen. He’s started practising already, in fact…)
(I’m also pretty adamant that, when he’s in our house, Santa will drink wine and maybe a nice cheese board, rather than the traditional milk and cookies.)
(WTF with all the parentheses, Amber? I mean SERIOUSLY?)
There’s obviously no right or wrong answer to this one, as every family is so different, but I’m fascinated to know how Christmas works in other homes, so do tell: what are your traditions, and how do you deal with Santa Claus? And, as far as Elf on the Shelf goes, it’s OK to tell Max that we gave our Elf clothes by mistake, and now he’s a Free Elf, off living the free life, right? RIGHT?