Why Our Family is Choosing Not to Participate in the Christmas Santa Tradition

I was 12 when I discovered that Santa Claus wasn’t real. Up until that point, I had had my suspicions, which are what drove me to make the discovery.

It was December of 1995. My parents had already put presents under the Christmas tree, and like any curious child, I picked up each box and shook it to see if I could figure out what was inside.

No luck.

I began to poke around the house since my parents were’t home. I lifted up the flap on the bottom left side of our sofa to see if any additional gifts were hidden underneath, and to my surprise, there were quite a few! On each of the labels affixed to the boxes, the words “To Selwa, From Santa” were penned in my mother’s distinct handwriting, confirming my suspicions all along. I couldn’t believe my mom had hidden them in a place that made them so easy to find. Part of me wondered if she had done it on purpose—if she was tired of keeping up this white lie and wanted me to find out the truth.

But I didn’t let on that I knew. For 2 more years, I played along with the game they had started when I was a young child. Why wouldn’t I? As long as Santa still comes to the house, I get twice the number of gifts I would have gotten otherwise! I wasn’t about to spoil their little secret.

Was I traumatized? No.

Did I cry? Quite the opposite—I laughed.

Was I angry at my parents for telling a lie and convincing me that Santa was real all these years? Of course not. Actually, I was pretty happy that a jolly fat man from the North Pole delivered extra presents to my house every year. So happy, in fact, that when I found out he was a sham, I kept up the facade for my own personal gain.

For all of those reasons, and more, we have decided not to participate in the Santa tradition with our own kids.

People think we’re boring, and that it’s mean of us to deprive our kids of the “imagination” that the Santa story offers. They say it’s “fun” to watch their kids open all of their gifts on Christmas morning. Oh, how their eyes light up as they realize they’ve been a “good girl” or  “good boy” all year, which is why Santa delivered all those presents.

People say that when our kids get older, they’ll ruin it for other kids at school. And I’m sure that we, as their parents, will be blamed and criticized for our choice.

But it’s a risk I’m willing to take, especially since I don’t even really see it as a risk at all. My children will have plenty of opportunities to exercise their imaginations through everyday play. They will be exceedingly creative and well-behaved, and it won’t be for a fake, fat jolly man in a red suit or for extra gifts on Christmas morning.

I want to teach my children the value of honesty by being open and transparent with them from the beginning. I want to teach them the real reason why we celebrate Christmas—that even in the midst of the recent arguments over its origins as a pagan holiday—this day, and every day of the year, we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.

He isn’t just the reason for the season. He is the reason that I live.