As a mom of young children during the holiday season, I can’t help but be troubled by Santa. In fact, I just wish the emphasis on Santa would disappear and we’d stop perpetuating this giant lie about an old man who breaks into our homes in the middle of the night to leave presents for our kids if they’re “good.” Phew. It feels good to get that off my chest.
Okay, full disclosure: I eagerly awaited Santa’s arrival each Christmas Eve as a child. I’m mildly obsessed with Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. I know the lyrics to every song about Santa. I decorate our house with beautiful Santa Claus dolls. My daughter believes in Santa. And while I may sound like the Grinch, it devastated me when he stole Christmas from the Whos down in Whoville.
But gosh, as an adult, this whole Santa business leaves me feeling uneasy. Here’s why I’m not a huge fan of the big fat man in the red suit.
Sitting on a stranger’s lap is creepy
Two years ago, I attended a beautiful holiday event with my family. Santa Claus was there. My daughter, then only three years old, was intrigued but nervous. She is not one for forced affection and found the idea of sitting on a stranger’s lap unnerving.
The exchange (with some slight revisionist modifications):
Santa: “Want to tell me what you want for Christmas? You need to sit on my lap though. Otherwise you won’t get any presents.”
Mama Bear, swooping in for the attack: “Sweetie, you never need to sit on any person’s lap if you’re not comfortable. Santa needs to respect your body and your boundaries and is a total creepster if he tries to convince you otherwise. Don’t worry; if he keeps it up, I’ll report him to his supervisor.”
Santa’s mouth dropped. My daughter chose to sit next to him as she shared about her Christmas hopes and wishes. Crisis averted.
This encounter made me really think about the message that we send children about their bodies when Santa Claus comes to town. Why are we telling them that they have to sit on someone’s lap in order to get presents? What does this teach kids, especially young girls, about consent, boundaries, and having control over their bodies?
The serious shame of the “non-believers”
This most magical time of the year can bring out such ugliness. I will never forget the day in elementary school when my fellow classmates and I bullied a girl who told us Santa wasn’t real. She cried. We were smug in our victory. And we got away with it. As an adult, it breaks my heart to think of how awful this child must have felt because we were absolutely nasty to her, especially when she was right about the whole sham.
I have witnessed on several occasions mothers who attack and blame other moms and children for “ruining” Christmas for their children when they’ve said that there’s no such thing as Santa. Somehow, there’s this idea that Christmas and the holiday season is only magical, perfect, and special because of Santa. Year after year, I hear parents lament, “can’t we just let them be kids longer and keep believing in Santa???” I’ll never understand why childhood magic and happiness is tied to this one single lie. Can’t we let their childhoods be magical in other ways, like running barefoot through the fields or drinking hot chocolate under the stars? Can we make magic by learning about other faiths, providing for members in our community, and by giving and receiving gifts? Why does the month of December depend on Santa to be special? There are plenty of families who do not celebrate Santa. Can we find some ways to damper down the hype and teach our kids that it’s totally normal and okay for other kids not to believe in Santa Claus?
Each year, I’m blatantly lying to my kids
I’m not typically a fan of lying to my children. It makes me uneasy to keep up this giant facade, and the elaborateness of the Santa Claus myth is so involved that it makes my head spin. Not to mention, studies have shown that the Santa myth breaks trust between parents and children. I want no part of that.
So, I’m over Santa and the drama he brings. This year, my husband and I have made a pledge to take a step back from the Santa insanity and focus on the aspects of the holiday season that we truly value. And we’ve let our daughter know that it’s okay that not everyone believes in Santa. But you still might catch me humming “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” from time to time.