What is the difference? Santa was a figure in my home growing up. My Christmas gifts came (and still come) signed "From Santa", but my parents were very upfront from the beginning that we were just pretending. Santa is not real, but we have fun telling the stories and watching the movies.
|I visited Santa's postoffice in Rovaniemi Finland|
Now that I am older, I have seen more benefits to being raised this way. I'm going to share these ideas with you, but please know that I am not here to judge. Everyone struggles to raise their children the best they can. I am simply hoping to share my perspective and give you some food for thought.
Benefits to being raised without BELIEF in Santa:
1) There was never confusion between a Santa I can't see and a God I can't see. From the time children are little their brains are stuffed full of people and characters to remember, only to realized at age 7 or so that half of those characters aren't real. My parents never wanted us to confuse the very real presence of God who is invisible and the very unreal presence of Santa who is invisible.
2) It inspires children to be creative and use their imaginations. I knew that there was no tooth fairy or Santa, but I also knew that it was something we pretended as a family. So we will played with it, and we actually still do. Last Christmas we were all up late talking on Christmas Eve and finally my mom said "alright everyone, Santa just called and said he's tired. He says you need to go to bed now if you want him to come put the presents under the tree." We, of course, knew this was my mom saying she is tired, but this is typical of something she would say when we were kids, too: "Oops, the tooth fairy forgot? I'm going to have to call her. You go back to bed and don't hurt her feelings by waking up when she comes in late." I'd always lay there pretending to sleep with a huge smile on my face as I heard my mom come in as "the tooth fairy".
3) It keeps the holidays Holy. Santa was never a big part of my childhood. He was always firmly in the "just for fun" category. Christmas was Jesus's day and a day of such great celebration. But these days, how can you blame a kid for letting Santa overshadow the birth of Jesus? They get presents from a man flying through the sky on a sleigh OR they remember the birth of a baby 2000 years ago.... little kids don't really get that one is relevant and important and the other is not. This also meant that Easter was Jesus's holiday too. Sure our "Easter Bunny" came, but he always came a day early, on Saturday, because our Easter bunny was a Christian who didn't want to take away from Jesus's day. All my Christmas memories center around Jesus, and I think that's how it should be. When people feel bad for me because I "didn't have Santa" as a child, I usually feel worse for them because they never got to experience an awesome Holy Christmas.
4) It fosters generosity and gratefulness in kids. I knew where all my Christmas gifts came from. Rather than being freebees from some guy I don't know, they were loving gifts from my parents. Gifts and treats were few and far between in my childhood, so I remember being intensely grateful to my parents for my Christmas gifts. Our Christmas's were simple as far as gifts went, but I remember making little gifts for everyone in my family starting before kindergarten. I loved Christmas growing up because I loved giving, and by taking Santa out of the equation, my parents gave me and my siblings the will to take part in the giving at a very young age. Christmas becomes about the joy of giving, not just of receiving.
5) It takes out the lies. This is a touchy one, but lets all be honest here.... telling children there is a Santa is a lie. We may dress it up with ideas that we are contributing to our children's memories, but I also think it lays a foundation of distrust. My mom told me that she was crushed when she found out there was no Santa, and she said the worst part about it for her was that her mom and dad had lied to her. By telling her to be good because Santa is watching, by telling her over and over again that believing in Santa is key (as all holiday movies also point out), she realized that for years her parents had lied to her. I knew at a very young age that my parents would never lie to me. Our adult minds might be able to justify gray areas, but in kids' minds, where everything is black and white, a lie is a lie.
My nephew is nearly 8 and he was just told this last week that Santa is not real by his dad. They did Santa with him because it is what my sister's husband was raised with. But the biggest thing I noticed is that my nephew didn't really truly understand the Santa thing until he was nearly 5. This made for 2 years of Santa.... that's it! All the time and energy for just 2 years, and I think he's lucky he didn't find out before now, as most kids find out in Kindergarten or 1st grade.
If we spent as much time teaching our children about the REAL meaning of Christmas as we do teaching and propagating Santa, we would have some really amazing children, don't you think?