dear santa claus, please stop taking all the credit

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I was a skeptical child.  At a very young age, I figured out that the gifts Santa supposedly brought were really from my parents. Being INTJ (even then), I couldn’t bear the thought that this lie was being disseminated in my home, so I showed my little sister the presents in the bottom of our parents’ closet.  Yes, I did that.  And no, I don’t think she’s ever forgiven me.

In spite of all that, when I had children of my own, I went with the program and introduced them to the magic of Santa Claus.  We left milk and cookies on Christmas Eve and tracked the sleigh on NORAD, and on Christmas morning, there beneath the tree would be a delightful assortment of colorful toys, supposedly delivered sometime during the night by a fat jovial man in a red velvet suit.

I don’t know why I, an unbeliever, felt compelled to encouraged my children to believe in Santa Claus. Everyone else was on Team Santa, so I figured I should be too. It’s one bandwagon I kind of wish I had never gotten on.

Eventually Marie and James figured it out, as children always do, although Joe, the youngest, continued to believe. It’s a rite of passage, coming to the gradual realization that time and space would not allow one man, no matter how lively and quick, to deliver toys to every child in the world in the course of one night. And what about kids in Africa, and kids whose families don’t celebrate Christmas, and houses that don’t have chimneys, and apartment buildings? The whole story kind of falls apart, even though some kids keep on pretending to believe long after they’ve figured it out, because they’re afraid Santa won’t bring them anything.

By the time Joe was eight or so, we were going through a rough time financially, and I began to resent the fact that this imaginary man was going to get credit for buying the presents, when it was really me and my husband.  As a growing Christian, I had also come to the realization that Santa, that right jolly old elf, had hijacked Christmas in his flying sleigh.  What are we teaching our kids when we tell them that a stranger breaking into your house in the middle of the night to bring you presents has anything to do with celebrating the birth of our our Savior?  Am I being too INTJ here?

If Joe hadn’t figured out by now that Santa wasn’t real, it was high time he understood.

“Joe, I have something to tell you. You know the presents Santa brings on Christmas morning?  Those are really from me and dad.  I think you should know that.”

Joe’s big brown eyes filled with tears as he looked at me and sobbed, “I didn’t want to know that!!!”

That was not the response I expected, but I felt very strongly that Santa, who is after all a myth, was not going to continue to get credit for the toys and gifts that I bought with my hard-earned money.  “I’m sorry Joe.  Dad and I give you presents because we love you,” I tried to reason with him.  But he really didn’t want to talk about it, and by the following week he more or less “unknew” what I had told him, carrying on as if nothing had happened.

Of course, Joe eventually came to terms with Santa’s non-existence, and bears no permanent scars from his disillusionment. But looking back, I kind of regret ever letting Santa in the door.  Once Santa becomes a part of Christmas, it’s really hard to keep him from taking over. Jesus’ birth becomes an afterthought. The nativity is crowded out by a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer. Belief in Santa creates a kind of upside down theology in which children won’t get presents unless they believe and behave.

Also, Santa inspired the song with the worst theology ever, “Here Comes Santa Claus”:

Here comes Santa Claus,
Here comes Santa Claus,
Right down Santa Claus Lane,
He’ll come around when chimes ring out,
It’s Christmas time again.
Peace on earth will come to all,
If we just follow the light,
So let’s give thanks to the Lord above
‘Cause Santa Claus comes tonight.

Please don’t think me a Scrooge because I’m no longer on Team Santa. But I don’t need to believe in a fat man in a red velvet suit spending my money and getting all the credit to appreciate the wonder of Christmas. The Virgin Birth and God Incarnate in a little baby and angels singing Glory to the Lord is plenty enough wonder and magic for me.

If you grew up in the sixties, you might remember this filmstrip produced by Bell Telephone that has both the The Night Before Christmas and the Nativity Story. They used to show it at our elementary school back in the day. (I think the previous sentences had about ten anachronisms.)

Do you think Santa is an important part of Christmas?  Am I just a big old Scrooge?  I’d love to hear what you think in the comments!

About the Author

Kathleen Caron

I'm good at finding stuff, and I love to share all my discoveries. I write about the intersection between faith, family, fellowship and food.

  • Anastacia Maness

    Ha Ha! Kathleen, I agree completely. I had those same thoughts when I was a child. I felt I was forced to believe in something I knew was a lie because it wouldn’t be Christmas without Santa Claus. So I went along with it. But as soon as I was married I told my husband that I didn’t want to do Santa in our home. My husband didn’t fully understand but once I gave him a list of reasons why we shouldn’t do
    Santa then he was all for it.

    Another song that really irritates me and is the example I give the kids when they ask me about Santa is:
    “You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout I’m telling you why. Santa Clause is coming to town.
    He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows when you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake.”

    Last time I looked God is the only omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent one.

    LOL I guess I let my INTJ get ahold of me with this comment. I just wanted you to know that you’re not alone in thinking something is wrong with this picture. :)

    • oddznns

      Anastasia, so you’re an INTJ too. I wonder how many INTJ’s follow Kathleen?

      • Anastacia Maness

        Yes, I’m an INTJ too. Just realized Kathleen was INTJ from a post she shared about Lord of the Rings’ personality types. When I saw that I realized that was probably why I like her blog posts so much. I bet quite a few INTJs follow her. She thinks like we do. Scary. I know. ;)

        • Kathleen Caron

          Audrey and Anastacia, I believe we INTJ’s are a tiny weird minority of the population, which is why we often feel misunderstood. I’m so glad we have each other!

    • Kathleen Caron

      INTJ’s unite! Except we wouldn’t unite, because we’re not joiners, although we might start a book club or a philosophy circle. I’m glad I’m not alone, Anastacia. After I wrote it, I thought, “Gee, I sound like a really mean person,” but the circumstance called for it, and well, INTJ. I kind of like the Bruce Springsteen version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” though. Thanks for your moral support!

  • oddznns

    Too right Kathleen. We don’t do Santa. We do the tree and the crèche with the 3 wise men and baby jesus and the stars but no Santa.
    So now we know which song drives you nuts, tell us what is your favourite Xmas song?

    • Kathleen Caron

      My friend Carolina has the Three Wise Men come and bring the children gifts, which I think is sweet. That doesn’t feel as competitive with Jesus, somehow. Oh well, too late for all that. Hmm, favorite Christmas song? Probably Silent Night, how about you?

  • Pamela Hodges

    I grew up with Santa, and we did Santa with the kids. I still remember when I was told that Santa wasn’t real. The walk home from the playground seemed to take forever. I was 6? 7?
    Yes, you don’t have to have Santa to believe in the wonder of Christmas. Jesus was born and angels sang. My favorite song has always been “Away in a manger.” But I have always liked Santa, and I still do.

    • Kathleen Caron

      I’m so sorry you were sad, my sister was probably at least that sad when I told her. What is wrong with me anyway? I love “Away in the manger,” makes me cry every time I hear it. I love all the Christmas carols. I also love “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

  • Christa Sterken

    The guy sounds like a narrator from Disneyland. I hear what you are saying, I have wondered those things sometimes too. We grew up with Santa, and I don’t regret it one bit. My mom says I refused NOT to believe and my brother on the other hand was devastated to find out. Jesus wasn’t too much part of childhood Christmas. As a Christian who has kids now, it was such a confusing topic. My brother I think will not be doing santa with his little girl. I still love the magic of santa

    • Kathleen Caron

      Jesus wasn’t really much of my childhood Christmas either, which is maybe why I have a problem with Santa. Christmas does feel magical, doesn’t it? I think of it as the “deep magic” that CS Lewis writes about in The Chronicles of Narnia.

  • Karen Childress

    I knew I related well to you for some reason! I didn’t grow up with Santa or really celebrating Christmas at all (long story), but the whole Santa thing was very confusing to me. I remember asking a Christian friend (when I was about 12 years old) what Santa and trees, etc had to do with the real meaning of Christmas. Needless to say, even though my husband grew up with the whole Santa game, we don’t do it at our house. For a long time, nothing with santa was allowed in my house! I’ve lightened up a little bit, but my kids definitely know how I feel about Santa. They are familiar with the story of the real St. Nick, but not the commercialized Santa. I don’t think it is a good idea to lie to my kids. I agree with Anastascia about the Santa is Coming to Town song. When you think about it, teaching about Santa is a little manipulative, too- better be good or Santa won’t bring you something. Really? ugh! Done ranting. :-) (maybe)

    • Kathleen Caron

      Rant on Karen, I am all about the rant! Are you also INTJ?

      • Karen Childress

        I think I am INTJ, or something similar. Sorry about the lull in response time, I was internet-less for several days because of the ice here in North TX. And the Elf on the Shelf- that is a little creepy and what does it have to do with Christmas?

        • Kathleen Caron

          I am happy to say I was blissfully unaware of Elf on the Shelf when my kids were small enough to bring that monstrosity into my home. I’m afraid peer pressure would have made buckle.

  • La McCoy

    I like a different view!

    • Kathleen Caron

      Thanks Laura! I can’t help being a little controversial sometimes ;-)

  • Brianna Wasson

    We did Santa when I was a kid, but I figured it out in kindergarten. And somehow I didn’t really care either way. I guess because I still got presents. In our home now, we sort of do Santa. We just don’t make a big deal out of him. We never have. We kind of keep the mystery, but our kids both know he’s not real. At least I think they do. ;) (See — I’m not even sure because we make him such a not big deal.) Great post, my friend.

    • Kathleen Caron

      That’s funny Brianna, you know, when I talked to Joe he was nine and I really thought he knew. I just wanted to say, “Jig’s up! We’re not going to pretend about Santa anymore!” and then he started to cry and I kind of felt like a mean mom. But then a week later, he had forgotten all about it! Kids are so funny.

  • Joan

    We did the Santa thing when I was growing up. Eventually I figured it out. It doesn’t bother me to talk about Santa, but I know he’s not the reason we celebrate. So no, Santa doesn’t really bother me.

    • Kathleen Caron

      I know, I shouldn’t be hating on Santa. Maybe it is just misdirected hostility towards commercialism in general? I should probably be in therapy about this.

      • Joan

        I agree about the commercialism. I hate seeing Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving and all the retail hoopla. People buying things they don’t need with money they don’t have. Now, I’m sounding like a Scrooge! By the way, did you see Josh Irby’s post and offer of a free gift? It’s a heartwarming “Santa” story.

        • Kathleen Caron

          I didn’t get a chance to read it yet, but with your recommendation, I will!

  • Anne Peterson

    I believed in Santa long after other children did. I think I needed the fantasy. I let my children believe in him. But it’s funny, my husband did not like the fact the bigger gifts were from Santa and not us so he wouldn’t let me put From Santa on some items. “No, I want him to know we got him that.” he’d say. I smile now, just thinking about it.

    Everyone is different. I love how Joe just handled it like many others would denial. “I’ll believe what I want to believe, thank you.” I don’t mind Santa having a tiny corner of a child’s imagination, but to crowd out the manger. Well, something is wrong with that for sure.

    Loved the photo for this piece.

    • Kathleen Caron

      You know Anne, your words give me pause. Maybe I didn’t need to be jealous of Santa. Joe is a grateful child, always has been; maybe children know all along that the presents are from their parents.

  • Teresa R

    I grew up believing in Santa until I got old enough to figure it out. When my children were old enough to understand, I explained that Santa was a made up character like Superman, but that Santa represented the spirit of giving. My kids still sat on Santa’s knee and told him what they wanted for Christmas, and they had no trouble with knowing the truth from the start

    • Kathleen Caron

      That was a wise way to approach the whole Santa thing, Teresa, I wish I had the wisdom to do it like that. I think my kids would have been totally ok with that.

  • Janelle

    I don’t remember actually telling the kids there wasn’t a Santa. We all enjoyed the fantasy, I guess, even when we knew it wasn’t true. As they got older, we looked at the season in a historical way, Saint Nicholas and all, and looked at how other people celebrated around the world, and I guess it’s become another cultural and family event for us, rich in many ways both silly and meaningful.

    • Kathleen Caron

      Also a very wise approach. I wish I had alot of do-overs from my kids’ upbringing; so many things I backed into, because I didn’t know a better way and I was in over my head.

  • kathunsworth

    Kathleen Santa has grown fat and large on the backs of parents paychecks. The big fat red Santa was in fact a design by Coca-cola, I discovered in my research on a design assignment.
    My daughter asked me at a very early age what did our sponsor children in Africa and South America get at christmas. A wise old soul who worked it out early and smiled at me and said Mum I know its you!

    My son also worked it out early and this left me feeling sad…..because there is a balance a magical balance where innocence comes into play. We never made christmas about Santa that was just one of the many good things. Mostly for us it is about giving, sharing and a whole lot of family get togethers. Time spent with the ones we love. There are no glitter paths through the house, no cookies put out, or doors wrapped as presents anymore, I treasure that innocent time and move to the next faze …..teaching my children more about giving.

    • Kathleen Caron

      Lovely Kath. Your daughter is a wise old soul indeed! I treasure the innocent time too, the magical thinking of children. It is really precious and not to be dismissed. Even Joe, at 16, wanted to have the pretty lights and decorations and the magical skating pond put out. It means something to him. In the end, it’s all about giving and it truly is more blessed to give than receive.