I have always been firmly entrenched in the “Santa is real” camp. I love the mystery and the excitement that comes with believing in Santa and love sharing that with others. I feel that the best way to continue that belief, as we get older, is to strive to become more Santa-like in our approach to the holiday season in general and to our fellow man in particular. That being said, the question of how to create that “Santa is real” feeling in our kids can be a daunting task. Here’s how we chose to represent Santa in our family.
When my boys were young, I found it increasingly difficult to figure out how I was going to adequately respond to their analytical questions as they got older. M is a fact-and-numbers kind of guy while I am more of a touchy-feely person, so I needed to come up with a plan that worked for both of us. We also lived far from family who wanted to give things to our boys, so I needed to make sure those gifts were properly thanked and appreciated. On our first Christmas as parents, I realized just how difficult this could become, given that we used money from relatives to purchase items that our boys wanted to find “from Santa” under the tree. Why did someone else get credit for the gifts that my child/ren would receive?!? Enter our “Santa Plan”.
At our house, Santa only leaves one present. That Santa present is usually the big/bulky gift that’s hard to wrap… and sometimes darn near impossible… remember this “must-have” gift? This was the “Santa gift” for D when he was 5 years old and we got a similar one for E when he was old enough. We lived in military housing (and a third floor apartment) at that time, so these cars ended up being indoor toys. As the boys got older, the Santa gift adjusted and became something that both boys could use and enjoy, but it was always something big. We explained it to them by saying that we’d “told” Santa that we’d rather have him focus on giving gifts to those kids who needed him more so we asked him to just bring one present and leave it unwrapped.
One of my favorite Santa gifts was one of the last gifts the boys got from Santa (before we dropped all the pretense and simply gave our kids their gifts from us)… a 7-in-one game table. I bought it at a Black Friday sale and M/I put it together in our bathroom a few nights before we left for PA that year. To heighten the surprise, we sent a letter to my mom’s house “from Santa” explaining that Santa knew we were spending the holiday with family, instead of at our house, and that he wanted them to know that he had left their Santa Gift in our living room for them to have when we got back home. M/I loaded the van and were ready to leave for PA when M said he needed to do one last task before we left and asked for my help… so we left the boys in van and quickly moved the game table from our bathroom and into the Living Room before heading out for a PA holiday. The boys read their Santa letter on Christmas morning and were really excited to come home to see if he’d actually come to our house while we were gone. The look on their faces when we let them race in before us was worth all the hiding we’d done… “Santa really DID come”… they were so excited!
One thing that I wish we’d incorporated into our Santa Plan was the concept of a “Santa Key”. We have lived in a few places without chimneys (apartments or houses without a fireplace), so this idea would have worked well. The plan is to use a special old key that you leave on the outside door to your home for Santa to use on Christmas Eve – those skeleton keys are perfect and you can spray paint them gold to make them look even more festive. Santa enters your house, using his special Santa Key, leaves his gift(s), and then places the key on the tree for the kids to find on Christmas morning. Since we didn’t do the traditional cookies-and-milk-left-out-for-Santa thing, this is a fun way for the kids to search for proof that Santa had indeed stopped by their house.
However you teach your children about Santa, may this coming holiday season be one of childlike wonder and wide-eyed joy at all that can be good about Santa’s presence in our lives. Wishing you a Happy Ho-Ho-Holiday, however you celebrate!