believe in Santa
Celebrate | Connection

Why I Don’t Give My Children Presents at Christmas

December 24, 2017
This post went around last year and I recently saw it resurface. Basically it says that parents should give the least expensive gifts from Santa and the more expensive gifts from themselves so that those with less don’t feel unloved by Santa. It sounds good, maybe even great, in theory. 
But I cannot agree with it. At all.
First, I think the version of Santa that withholds gifts from ‘naughty’ children sucks. In our home we don’t use this version of the story. When we watch “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” with our children and we get to the part where Chris (Santa) tells the children to be good because he’s coming to town, our younger children inevitably ask us about it. “Would Santa really not give us a present if we weren’t good?” or at other times “Does Santa really leave coal?”

Sure, it may make certain parts of parenting seem easier as we approach Christmas. “Be good or Santa won’t bring you presents” it’s an easy line to say, but it’s lasting implications go much farther than making a child stop jumping on the couch. 

A child’s worth is not, should not be, dependant on their behaviour. Children have less developed brains. Their impulse control is almost non-existent. Emotions are physically painful and often bubble over during the upheaval of Christmas. To expect children to behave, think, and look like mini-adults at anytime is unrealistic, to expect it at Christmas, and also to wrap their intrinsic worth into the mix, is mean. 

It sets most children up to see themselves as failures and unworthy because they fall short of expectations. It doesn’t matter if it’s Christmas or any other time. Telling a child they aren’t good people because they make a mistake is mean. 
If a child’s sense of worth is hinged on whether they’re capable of behaving a certain way, plus they also don’t receive big/any Christmas presents, I can totally see how this becomes a problem for the child. But you or me giving our children socks for Christmas will not change the situation or the thoughts for that child.

In our home when our children ask about that passage of the song or that scene in the movie, we turn it around and ask our children if it’s possible for a child to be truly bad? We talk about the bad things a child may do, hitting, throwing things, calling names and then we talk about the reasons why a child may behave that way and we talk about the way the adults in those children’s lives behave. The smaller/younger the child, the less likely the child intends to be mean, the more likely the child has either made a mistake or is copying the words and actions of the adults in their life.

So if there really aren’t bad children, then what does Santa mean when he says to be good for goodness sake? We’ve taken it to mean that Santa wants us to believe. In the movie, the children live in a bleak world where fun and toys don’t exist. All of the adults in their lives uphold the laws in fear. They have no reason to believe in a stranger. In our home this is what being good means. Simply believe.

As long as you believe, Santa brings you presents. 
Second, if the Santa gifts need to be according to the amount the poorest receive, is that the poorest person we know, the poorest person in the city, or the poorest person who may see what our children receive? Does that mean that because so many children receive nothing, yours should receive nothing? What about the children who’d normally receive nothing, but Santa’s Child (or other charities) give them amazing gifts? Should our children receive nothing – or socks – while that child receives something great?
It’s really a ridiculous idea. The only way everyone would be equal is if Santa didn’t visit anyone – and I will not kill the magic for my child when it will not change anything for that other child.
Third, every home has a different take on Santa – some even allow Santa to bring live pets. Our Children have asked Santa for live pets a few times. But I’ve always told our children no.
“Santa’s magic can only bring and do things that we allow in our home. It’s okay for Santa to bring a puppy to your friend because that family allows that kind of magic. In our home a puppy is something that can only be adopted with a lot of thought and planning and never to be given as a gift. Santa’s magic is strong, but is never designed to hurt a family. If Santa brought a gift that would hurt our family, then Santa’s magic wouldn’t bring the love and joy that it’s supposed to bring.”
Santa’s magic is not infinite.

In our home we spend the weeks leading up to Christmas talking about Jesus Christ. We talk about light and love. We talk about history and how this time of year could be terrifying for people that didn’t have electricity or a grocery store. We talk about the kind of hope the return of light, and the birth of Jesus, had for people.
In our home we often do not give gifts to each other at Christmas, or they’re homemade gifts only. This started when we didn’t have enough money to give each other gifts. Magic is precious. I’d rather give my child nothing than to take away magic. 
However, Santa brings gifts.
Some years Santa brings amazing gifts. A couple years ago I was going through chemo – our gifts came from the church – Ryan and I got a couple small gift cards and a granola bar. The kiddos got a few cheap gifts. Santa brought Dollar store gifts – and a TV (we had a tiny one before that) that Santa managed to get an amazing deal on. There was still magic and lots of it. They knew their gifts were small because Santa’s magic is limited by what we allow.
We had so much fun seeing all the things our friends received. We did not think less of ourselves because someone received more. Our children were not jealous of the gifts others received because they knew their worth was not connected to material things. Santa’s love and Santa’s magic were not connected to their behaviour, but to their belief. 
You limiting your child will not help my child in anyway. My limiting my child will not help someone else in anyway. Instead of placing the power to make or break a child’s Christmas into the hands of every other person on the planet, give the power back to the parents and families in that situation. Help them find a magic story that works for them. If it is up to the rest of the world to take away Santa to protect some children, then those children will never find peace or magic during this time of year. I think that would be a horrible thing for all children.
Too many people will continue to believe in Santa and allow Santa into their homes. Too many people will give more than socks. Too many people will give more than Dollar Store toys. Too many people will give gifts that are more or better than too many others receive. There will always be someone with more than someone else. That can’t be changed.
The answer is not to take away from everyone else. The answer is to help those with less see their own magic and find their own story that protects them and their children. Give them power they can control instead of giving all the power to someone else.

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