Is Santa Claus Naughty or Nice?

We’ve decided we are doing Santa.

And I’d like to say I have some wonderfully heady reason as to why I think it is a good practice. But I don’t. More, I just think it sounds fun and can’t do any harm.

I think about the way Zac and I play with our kids on a daily basis. We play “monster in the closet”. We pretend the bathtub is full of mermaids, and that the carrots on their plates come to life.  We go along with the story that Freyja is a cat named Kish, spending endless hours walking her around the house on a bathrobe tie, while she communicates only in meows.

Why couldn’t we pretend someone in a sleigh is bringing them all sorts of gifts with his pet reindeer? Frankly, it sounds like something Freyja could have come up with herself. Children imagine, and pretend, and act out games all the time, and parents often get pulled into their world, even if it is just eating some imaginary scrambled eggs they’ve prepared in their play kitchen. Why then, is it such a faux pas to go along with the story of Santa?

I have noticed a few negative effects of Santa, but I think those are entirely up to the parents to keep in check.

I wouldn’t want to put more emphasis on Santa than on Christ’s birth, Santa should always remain a sideshow, a small addition to the many traditions we have. Like cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Santa is about as important as cinnamon rolls. We could have Christmas without him, but is fun with him too.

I don’t think I’ll be threatening my children that Old St. Nick has some high moral standard that they had better live up to if they want any goodies. (I have heard this one used in the grocery store) That is where it does seem to get a bit mean-spirited of parents. So far, we seem to be getting fairly good results in the discipline department without Santa’s help. And besides, the threat seems to lose it’s weight and severity in, say, July.

And then there’s the issue of your kids “finding out”. Yes, they’ll realize it was all a hideous lie, and now they don’t think they can ever trust you again, and they’ll probably become wayward, wandering delinquents and end up in jail before they turn fifteen. Maybe some parents take the Santa myth too far. (From what my husband and others have said, they always knew Santa wasn’t real, but they still loved playing the game with their parents.) I think at the first sign of my children getting too old for the game, or when they simply come and ask if Santa is real, I’ll explain to them that it is just a fun game we play at Christmas time, so try to keep it a secret for your younger brothers and sisters so they can keep playing till they get older.

In the mean time, while they are little, we’re going to put out cookies and milk, tuck them into bed, and listen for Rudolph on the roof. But maybe you’ve come up with a better tradition than Santa, what are your Christmas rituals?

(I have to admit, I just have one reservation about the whole thing: I think I might be getting gypped if Santa gets to take the credit for Freyja’s new bike.)

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7 Responses to Is Santa Claus Naughty or Nice?

  1. Shari Keen says:

    Good for you and Zac!!! We did Santa….and so do our kids for their children. As you say, it must be kept in balance but I’ll come right out and say that I have little understanding for those who scorn the jolly old man. Little kids LOVE the idea of Santa… Grandkids didn’t want to get too close, however. Something else my daughter tried this year was “Elf on the Shelf”…….they have had lots of fun with this guy….and gotten lots of mileage…speaking of “naughty or nice”. Merry Christmas to your sweet family!!!

  2. Terri says:


    Did you have Santa in your childhood, Caitlin??
    Meghan and Erin did. I think Jarrett, Taite and Matthias did too. I guess just you and Aileen suffered through our stint of realism only.

    When I was a kid, we had the real Santa show up at our house white beard, black belt and boots, red outfit- (the real one!), with gifts for each of us. My parents gave him cookies and milk and we read The Night Before Christmas.

    What is elf on a shelf?

  3. Caitlin says:

    Santa was lacking in my tender years, mom, but somehow I don’t feel scarred. He was re-introduced when Jarrett was 3 or something, but even Jarrett was the wiser to the the whole idea.

  4. Becky Madsen says:

    I think I’m having more fun pretending the whole Santa thing now with my kids than I did believing in Santa as a child. I personally never suffered a crisis of faith when I learned Santa wasn’t real. By that time, I was beginning to catch on anyways and then I joined the fun with my parents for my little brothers.

  5. Jenna says:

    umm…are you saying Santa isn’t real?

  6. Yvette says:

    My sister likes to tell her little ones that she has Santa Claus’ number in her cell phone and will use it if she has to!

  7. The descriptions of “imagination” on this blog story are real. I know because I have been one of the caretaker’s of Kish, who at one point, had to be tied to the bathroom vanity drawer pull so I could apply some make up without hanging on to his leash!

    (And I don’t think Zac turned out too bad, despite his believing in Santa roots!)

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