How to Be Santa Claus (For Your Kids)

by Brett & Kate McKay on December 19, 2012 · 71 comments

in Fatherhood, Relationships & Family

If your family celebrates Christmas, and you’re of the opinion that belief in Santa Claus constitutes one of the most magical parts of childhood rather than the Big Lie, you’ll annually have the privilege of taking on the role of old Kris Kringle. This is a big responsibility. For eight or so years of your kid’s life, you’ll be playing the jolly old fat man who makes dreams come true. If you do it well, your kids’ imaginations will have plenty of magical moments to feast on. If you blow it, your kids may become prematurely jaded about Christmas.

Being Santa is no easy task; kids today are a savvy bunch, and the truth about Mr. Claus is only a Google search away. The following are ways to preserve the Christmas magic and keep your kids believing in St. Nick for as long as possible.

How to Be Santa Claus for Your Kids

Hide the gifts. The most common Santa slayer for kids is finding their gifts, the same gifts supposedly being made in Santa’s workshop, sitting in their parents’ closet. Around age 6 or 7 kids start getting suspicious about the Santa story and will commence a thorough search of the house to find their Christmas booty. And these are professional hide-n-seekers, so don’t fool yourself; they know every nook and cranny in the house. If you don’t have a super-secret spot available in-residence, your safest bet is to stash the presents at an offsite location. If you have space at your office, keep the presents there. If that’s not an option, see if you can stash the gifts at a good friend’s house who 1) has no kids, 2) has infants, or 3) has older kids who are in on the Santa jig.

Track Santa on radar. Even little tykes are pretty technologically savvy these days, and look to modern gadgets for affirmation of what is real. Every year NORAD radar realistically “tracks” Santa’s journey around the globe on Christmas Eve. You can show this to your kids as proof that Santa is indeed on the move.

Get the kids to bed. Read the kiddos A Night Before Christmas and/or The Polar Express and then tuck them into bed. But they’re going to have a tough time getting to sleep; kids are wired on Christmas Eve night, excitedly thinking about all the cool stuff that they’re going to get in the morning. To make sure they actually doze off so you and your wife can get to work, tell them that Santa Claus has a sleep detector and will only come to homes that have sleeping children. If that doesn’t work, give them a sippy cup filled with eggnog and a bit of rum.

Finish assembling toys. Some presents, like bikes, will need some assembly. If possible, do any assembly offsite in order to reduce the ruckus of you going through your toolbox. If that’s not an option, get the tools you need ready during the day. Read the instructions over so you have an idea of what you’re doing. You have limited time, so the less time you spend scratching your head figuring out how to put the darn thing together the better.

Place the presents under the tree and fill the stockings. If possible, wrap all the presents before Christmas Eve so all you have to do that night is put them under the tree. While you’re bringing out the gifts, have your wife stuff the stockings with goodies. Pro tip: In the run up to Christmas, remember to hide the stocking goodies as well as you hide the big presents. My family of five always got oranges in the bottom of our stockings growing up. One year I counted the number of oranges in the fridge the night before Christmas. There were seven. The next morning I did a recount. Only two oranges were left. With a heavy, heavy heart, I put two and two together.

As you put out the presents, be on watch for rogue children. Kids will invariably climb out of bed to either try to sneak a peek at Santa Claus himself or to see if he’s left their booty under the tree yet. If at all possible, try to catch your kids before they make it near the living area where the tree and gifts are waiting. Threaten them with a lump of coal if they don’t get back to bed. If you can’t stop your kid in time and he catches you in the act, you can lie and maintain their faith in Santa or tell them the sad truth that Santa isn’t real. If you go with the more fun option, i.e., lying, tell your kid that you and your wife were just putting out Mommy’s and Daddy’s gifts for each other and that Santa had already come. Swiftly get them back to bed so you can finish the job.

Leave evidence. Unlike most men who sneak into houses late at night, you want to make sure Santa leaves plenty of evidence behind. Leave some soot boot prints on the carpet near the fireplace. Eat the milk and cookies, leaving some half-eaten cookies on the plate. If the kids set out carrots for the reindeer, put some gnawed-on carrot stubs in the fireplace. Maybe place a cool gold button near the Christmas tree too, and tell your kids that it must have fallen off Santa’s suit.

Get to bed. You won’t get much sleep tonight, but try to get as much shuteye as you can. You’re going to need all the energy you can get on Christmas Day.

What do you do to play Santa in your house? Share with us in the comments!

Illustrations by Ted Slampyak

{ 71 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ryan Collins December 19, 2012 at 9:15 pm

My parents left behind torn red cloth that was from Santa’s coat. I’m doing that now for my kids.

2 Wescott Pusey December 19, 2012 at 9:25 pm

Your description above describes very well my Christmas eve trek for many years. We always read the Night before Christmas and then the book of Luke from the Bible… never forgetting the real reason for Christmas. I’ve always told my kids that Santa is real, because he was… St. Nicolas you know. But adding a little that the reason St. Nick gives gifts is because he Loves Jesus… and he did! This year is extra special for us because we have a six year old in our home that has never experienced Christmas before. Her and her brother were just adopted from China last April, and she spent the first 6 years of her life in an orphanage where they never celebrated such holidays. Just last week she got to meet Santa for the very first time.. she said it was her best day ever!!! It’s been a great season this year full of all kinds of firsts for her, and the best is yet to come! Be blessed… and have a Merry Christmas everyone!

3 John December 19, 2012 at 9:30 pm

This year, I’m actually playing Santa for my mom. We haven’t done stockings in years, so I’m going to dig them out of storage and fill them up with goodies and presents, especially since the main presents I’m giving my mom this year are an Amazon gift card and a card for a local tea place, so her overall present is curling up with hot tea and a good book.

4 Michelle December 19, 2012 at 9:42 pm

For some family friends, Santa leaves Silly String in the toes of the stockings for their traditional Christmas day Silly String fight.

5 Colville December 19, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Could you do an article on whether or not to tell your kids santa is real or fake? My wife and I had this conversation about our first born. I see both sides, why lie? But also, does it take away from their imagination?

6 Kristofer December 19, 2012 at 10:36 pm

We always have a Christmas Eve dinner at my uncle’s house. When my cousins, brother and I were kids, my dad would sneak onto the roof and use bells, stomping feet, his (disguised) voice and some ornaments and a flashlight (to make shadows on the house next door, my grandma’s house) to make it seem that Santa was getting close, thereby getting us kids excited to run home (my house, my grandma’s house (where two cousins lived) and my uncle’s house (where more cousins lived) were all next to each other)) and get to bed.

The great thing is that, since my brother and cousins have had babies, we have little kids in the family again, and I’ve taken up the mantle of Santa on Christmas Eve. It’s the best part of the night. Well, that and the roast pig…

(Note for the curious: It seems to me that most Americans (in the born-and-raised-here-for-generations sense) tend to do a Christmas dinner. It’s more common for Latinos to have the big family get-together the night before. Why? I have no idea :D )

7 King December 19, 2012 at 10:55 pm

This sounds fun!
I’ll definitely do this to my future children when I have a chance, as my younger days doesn’t really have a Santa, since Malaysia isn’t much of a Christmas country :|

8 J.T. December 19, 2012 at 11:02 pm

When I was starting to figure out that Santa might not be real, I thought he was probably my dad. Imagine my surprise when on Christmas Eve, he was reading me a bedtime story and we heard a THUMP from the fireplace downstairs! We went down and the cookies & milk were gone and the presents were under the tree! It really never occurred to me that my parents might be in on this thing together.

How to be Santa — be a decoy while your wife does the heavy lifting.

9 Nicholas Ward December 19, 2012 at 11:34 pm

Brett, laughing my butt off at the crossed out rum line. Growing up we always got a toddy of Jack’s no.7 mixed with melted peppermints whenever the winter sniffles came on. Always worked wonders to help the sinuses and get us to bed…until we got a bit older and searched out the supply! All of a sudden mom was wondering where all the cough medicine went to. Merry Christmas.

10 Caleb December 20, 2012 at 12:38 am

The saddest day of my childhood was the day my parents told me Santa wasn’t real…

11 Jacob Bain December 20, 2012 at 3:12 am

When I was little my parents put flour in the shape of a foot print on the floor and they said it was snow off Santa’s shoes from the north pole! Sometimes it even led out outside haha!! (I’d never seen snow before) :)

12 Hi Der December 20, 2012 at 5:28 am

@colville We’ve gone the “reality” route with our kids, December holiday is celebrated by giving gifts to loved ones; no lying about non-existant figures such as Santa Claus/Jesus etc. It’s just a traditional time extending back centuries for friends and family to get together, and we celebrate it from Dec 21 up to New Years day (12 days). It’s not the biggest event, but we do have a tree and some lights and decorations. Everyone is typically more involved and interested in the Lunar New Year holiday weeks in Jan/Feb than during Xmas time.

13 Jason Yohman December 20, 2012 at 6:50 am

My wife and I decided not to tell “The Big Lie” to our kids, but also not to destroy their imaginations. If they want to believe, we let them until they come to their own relizations. We don’t tell them Mickey Mouse or Sponge Bob isn’t real, so why tell them Santa isn’t real? But I want my kids to be able to trust me implicitly. I never want them to be able to say I misled them, whether it was out of inocent fun, or malace. My seven year old still can’t wait for “Santa” to come. I get both the joy of watching my kids innocence, and the comfort of knowing I didn’t do anything to mislead them.

14 Jack December 20, 2012 at 7:19 am

Wait, theres no Santa?

15 Robin December 20, 2012 at 7:30 am

I was never a “I believe in Santa Claus” child. I always took it as a game and played along. I never mocked other children’s belief though, because it is sort of like mocking a religion. I see no harm in playing this game with children. A lie? No, just a game and children have plenty of imagination and more savvy than some people give them credit for.

16 JonathanL December 20, 2012 at 8:16 am

Colville, I think the “realness” of Santa Claus is a bit difficult I am doing Santa Claus for my four year-old this year, and I’m as excited as he is (if not more), but the tack I’ve taken is to go easy on it. Santa won’t punish him for being naughty; rewards and punishment are part of daily life and do not need an extra authority figure. If he asks me if Santa is real, I will tell him how I think of it – that he is the real “spirit” of Christmas, of family, friends, love, and goodwill. Yeah, he’s a magical elf that brings consumer goods, but Christmas as a child is the greatest day of the year, and Christmas as a parent is much the same. I’m not going to force my child into belief, but part of that is because there is a realness to the jolly old fat man that I appreciate as an adult.

Kristofer, my in-laws do an Eve get-together, and I’m more about breakfast on Christmas morning – cinnamon rolls, or French toast, with coffee, hot chocolate, etc. Having dinner 10-12 hours after The Main Event, so to speak, is kind of anti-climactic.

17 Jason December 20, 2012 at 9:09 am

My parents used to circle our attic with sleigh bells that we could hear throughout the house. One year I investigated and found my parents around our kitchen table chatting while the bells circled house. I still to this date have no idea who was in the attic with the sleigh bells! Creepy or cool, not sure anymore!

18 Santa Claus December 20, 2012 at 9:24 am

Who said I’m not real?

19 cam December 20, 2012 at 9:29 am

Daddy, who is Santa?
Santa is a person who wants to be like Jesus. We celebrate Jesus’ birthday at Christmas time. Jesus gave us the best gift by making it so we can live with God. Santa gives us gifts because he wants to be like Jesus too. Do you want to be Jesus? What can you do/give to mommy and your siblings?
When my kids find out that I am Santa, I will not have told them a lie. I want to be like Jesus I give them gifts.

20 Santa Dave t December 20, 2012 at 9:41 am

Better yet have a home visit from those of us who live the Christmas Spirit year round as real bearded Santa’s. We work hard to hone the craft of being that “Real” Santa for old and young alike. Santa does live and is real when it comes to believing and unconditional love for children…

21 Andrew December 20, 2012 at 9:42 am

One year I took a pair of my boots and put them in the soot from the fireplace. I then made a few tracks around the room. My kids noticed these prints like a laser beam when they came downstairs and were in awe….fun stuff to watch their faces.

22 Dave December 20, 2012 at 9:48 am

When I have kids, I plan to pass down a tradition that my mom brought from her family: once you catch on to the reality of Santa, you’re told that yes, Santa is really the unconditional love of your parents. The next Christmas you get to help be Santa with your parents. After your siblings are asleep, you are woken back up and brought out to participate in laying out your siblings’ gifts and stuffing everyone’s stockings but your own.

23 Adam D December 20, 2012 at 10:10 am

I also fall into the camp of having a “No-Santa” childhood. They never flat out told me explicitly that he wasn’t real. They just didn’t play the Santa game. Not being able to compare, I can’t say if my brothers and I had a more or less fun/magical Christmas than kids who believed in Santa. But it certainly wasn’t bad by any measure. The anticipation of opening presents, hot cocoa, breakfast with family, Christmas music, and any number of other famliy traditions made for a wonderful experience year after year. I never had to go through any heart ache learning that Santa’s not real, and my parents didn’t have to be heart broken that the magic was over.

Now that I’ve got two small children (oldest is two years old), I’m not telling them about Santa. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not going to be a grinch always telling them “SANTA’S NOT REAL! IT’S ALL A LIE!” But if they do ask me I intend to tell them the truth. I like what Jason said about his kids being able to trust him implicitly. I want that to be true of my children with me.

24 ELLIOTT December 20, 2012 at 10:19 am

PERSONALY I HAVE A FEW YEARS AS SANTA, NOT JUST FOR MY BOYS BUT ALSO FOR A GROUP HOME FOR THE MENTALY ANDICAPED. HAVING SAID THIS I WOULD LIKE TO TELL THE STORY OF LAST YEARS CHRISTMAS, IT ALWAYS GETS A GOOD LAUGH AT THE BARBER’S.

I HAVE TWO BOYS NATE (11) AND CAM (9). NATE IS GREATLY INTO SCIENCE AND MYSTERIES. SO HE SET OUT TO “TRAP” AND SOLVE THE MYSORY OF SANTA ONCE AND FOR ALL. CHRISTMAS COMES AND NO TRAP IS SET SO HE THOUGHT HOW COULD THIS BE. SO HE ASKED ME, AND THEN A LIGHT WENT ON UPSTAIRS AND HE SAID “I HAVE PROOF!” HOW DOES A FAT MAN AND RIENDEER GET AROUND THE WORLD AND DELIVER PRESENTS TO ALL THE CHILDREN IN THE WORLD?? “OH CRAP!” I THOUGHT, THE NORMAL LIES WONT WORK WITH HIM NOW SO I STARTED WITH THE ONLYTHING I KNEW BETTER THAN MY 11 YEAR OLD….. HISTORY.

SIMPLE I SAID, LIGHT SPEED. HE SAID “YOU ARE JOKING, ONLY LIGHT CAN MOVE THE SPEED OF LIGHT!” I ADDED “IN 1944 GENERAL IKE AND PROFESSOR EINSTIEN AND DR OPENHIMER BEGED SANTA TO REVEAL HIS SECRET TO LIGHT SPEED, BUT SANTA DID NOT WANT THE AXIS POWERS TO GET THEIR HAND ON THE TECHNOLOGY SO HE TOLD THEM NO.” SO AS ANY GOOD HOMESCHOOLED CHILD SHOULD DO HE LOOKED THIS UP ON THE INTERNET.

MEANWHILE MY YOUNGEST SON CAM LOOKING FOR A SNACK SPOTS SOMETHING OVER THE FRIDGE, SANTA’S PAPER! LORD HAVE MERCY YOU’D HAVE THOUGHT WE HAD KILLED HIS PUPPY! HE CAME OUT OF THE KITCHEN WITH TEARS STREAMING DOWN HIS FACE AND CRIED (AND I QUOTE) “WHAT IS THIS…. I SAID WHAT IS THIS?? IT IS SANTA’S PAPER!!!!” THEN HE GROWLED “YOU LIED TO ME…” HE DID NOT SPEAK FOR THE REST OF THE DAY. SO THAT IS HOW THE STORY GOES, OF THE SINKING OF THE MIGHTY SHIP THE USS BULLCRAP.

25 Nick December 20, 2012 at 10:28 am

When I was a kid, my dad did all kinds of things to make Santa real. He always left a letter from Santa telling us how proud he was. My dad took an “investigative” approach to making it real for us. He would help us put tape around the house hoping to snag a bit of Santa fluffy white hat, and he would help us find the sleigh tracks in the yard. He also would call Santa if we were being bad and talk to him (actually just called a random recording that told the time). Then in the morning, we werent allowed to go downstairs to see if Santa had come until my parents led us to the tree with our eyes closed and with a candlestick. They would have lit all of the candles, plugged in all the Christmas lights, stuffed all the stockings, and left presents that were both wrapped and unwrapped. Im sure I was upset when I found out all the magic was fake, but I don’t really remember that at all. All I remember are the memories I have of it being real. I cant wait to do this with my kids as soon as they are old enough. I just hope nobody ruins it for them now that there are so many
“realists” out there.

26 Mark December 20, 2012 at 10:35 am

@Kristopfer, to answer your question as to why most Latinos celebrate on Christmas Eve, I am assuming it is because they are Catholic. My own family is Catholic of European ancestory and Christmas Eve is HUGE.. We get together on Eve night, wait for the North Star to appear, have dinner and usually head off to midnight [shepherd's]mass.[the Bible implies Christ was born at night] By the time we get home most kids are too exhausted to stay up waiting for Santa. Gives Santa time to do his thing too.

27 Todd December 20, 2012 at 10:54 am

two things we do. We use unique paper for gifts from Santa, and they always have images of Santa. I also make ice cream for Santa.

Tolkien used to leave letters for his children, I tradition I want to start with mine.

28 Sam December 20, 2012 at 11:09 am

Whhaaaaaatt???
Santa’a not REAL??? ;-)

My fondest memory of the Santa Hoax was when my folks left not only soot (mixed in with a little magic Santa Glitter) on the hearth, but left a torn piece of red fabric where the “Jolly Old Elf” caught his britches on the chimney flue. This was evidence enough to keep me believing for another two years!

29 reinkefj December 20, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Sorry, disagree.

A parent, especially a Father, should never ever under any circumstances lie to their child. Best say nothing at all. But, just like you should welcome the child’s every non-trivial question, you are the one person in the world they can count on to give them the straight scoop. (From the man with no children of his own, and who’s relatives carefully monitor conversations with their children when questions about imaginary characters or real world events. My answers you start out with: “You know I love you and would never lie. … …” If I don’t know, I say I don’t know. Recently, I used: “Well I’ve never seen Santa, but I see a lot of good people doing good deeds in his name, so you draw your own conclusions.” Relief over the parents face. Then, the killer reply from the child with a big smile: “I know but I was just testing you. Thanks.” Never ever lie. For any reason. Ever. Once your credibility is blown, you can never recover it. Besides aren’t you smarter than some little tyke?

30 Justin December 20, 2012 at 1:35 pm

This woman I work with, she told me about what her brother did last year. He got his best friends who had no kids to come over dressed as Santa. The guy also had a big thing of Jingle Bells. With some promting from Dad, his kids heard some comotion outside before bedtime. They pull the curtain back and see Santa running across the yard yelling “Dasher!!! Get back here!!!” The kids then spent all Christmas Day telling family and friends what they saw. She is trying to talk me into doing it for her kids soon.

31 Justin December 20, 2012 at 1:40 pm

I also remember when I was younger I had a friend who found a tattered green Gideon Bible on the floor by the fireplace. Inside was written “Belongs to Santa Claus. If found, please keep in hopes you find the most special gift of all.”

32 Vision_From_Afar December 20, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Living in Minnesota, we always figured we were “early” on Santa’s “workday”, being so far north, so we left out cereal and OJ for his breakfast.

Imagine my surprise when my parents told me they just let the dog have the cereal. In hindsight, it makes sense if you knew the dog. Happy memories all around.

It’s going to be tough for my kids, since we celebrate Yule instead of Xmas. I think in a couple years we can work them into the whole, “Odin and Sinterklaas kind of merged into Santa Claus.” Only time will tell!

33 Ryan Dunphy December 20, 2012 at 2:13 pm

All excellent ideas. The gold button is perfect. Never thought of that. I hope many dads will participate in this ritual this year, and to all…I wish you a very Merry Christmas and bless New Year.

34 James Sawatsky December 20, 2012 at 2:48 pm

I intend to keep my kids believing in Santa Claus and the magic of Christmas for as long as I can. My oldest is 5,youngest is 8 months. My 5-year-old loves Santa and Christmas. We do very basic things: eat the cookies, drink the Coke (that’s right!), gnaw on some carrots. This year we adopted an Elf on a Shelf and the kids LOVE him. We don’t have a chimbley so my wife sprinkles sparkles outside the front door and a little on the floor. We also have someone other than each other write the gift tags from Santa. That’s what got me: Santa and my mom had the same hand-writing.

35 Kane December 20, 2012 at 3:53 pm

We sometimes leave reindeer poo on the lawn. My wifes family started this tradition. When she first received her extra present from the reindeers, she carried it around in a bucket for the entire holiday season until her parents could not stand the smell any longer. Now it goes straight into the garden and we have christmas vegetables all year round.

36 Tyler T. December 20, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Santa’s not real?

37 Kris Kringle December 20, 2012 at 5:53 pm

To all my little elves here who still believe and keep the spirit alive in their children, thank you. It’s a tough job every Christmas Eve and without your help I couldn’t do mine.

Now, for all those who no longer believe in me… that’s okay. You see, Christmas isn’t about me. It’s about the spirit of love and the spirit of giving of yourself to those you love and those in need of some love.

It’s about a blanket to the cold, a meal to the hungry, a place to sleep to the homeless. I’ll tell you a little secret – I always hoped that once you did this for just one night, you might want to re-experience that feeling of love more often throughout the year.

Then you’ll truly believe in Santa, because I am you.

38 Jason Yohman December 20, 2012 at 7:21 pm

On a side note, instead of telling our kids Santa is real, we let them know they are Santa. Every time they anonymously help someone less fortunate them them, they’re Santa Claus to that person. My seven year old gets excited every time he gets to help someone out. Ask him if Santa is real, he’ll tell you with great pride yes, that he is Santa Claus.

39 kirk December 20, 2012 at 8:00 pm

I’m not for telling my kids about Santa. They’ve still have a number of great Christmases. I’m for being honest to my kids. Let them know they can trust what I say.

I prefer to focus on Jesus’ birth. (And if they think Santa was a lie I wouldn’t want them to think Jesus is as well) Besides if the kids think Santa gives present the kids won’t make present for you right?

Im not going to ruin other kids Santa Christmas though. Thats between them and their parents or grandparents.

40 Max December 21, 2012 at 5:07 am

I can’t prove it, but I have a (totally unscientific) feeling that – for me – finding out the truth about Santa paved the way for the development of my skeptical thought and, eventually, atheism.

The whole thing might be a ritual way of teaching children to think critically rather than believe everything they’re told. And a practical application of a rule they must never, ever forget in their life: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”.

41 James December 21, 2012 at 7:48 am

Before our youngest outgrew Santa, we maintained the magic by leaving carrots and celery in the yard for Rudolph and his pals. I had the great responsibility to chew the treats in such a manner to make it appear that Rudolph had a great snack…not easy to do without leaving human teethmarks. We also left raisenettes in the yard as droppings.

42 KT December 21, 2012 at 9:12 am

My wife and I told our girls, 10/8, last year. They were crushed. It was getting more and more difficult to hide things from them and the stress of it was getting to us.

The thing is, we never told them that there actually was a jolly fat man in a red suit that fell down chimneys. We let them believe the hype and we had fun going along with it. Then I came to last year and through the tears I told them that all we had ever said is that “if you believe he is real then he is real”. I mad sure to point this out to them and then went on explaining that the “Spirit of Christmas” is real and “Santa” was it’s figurehead.

They didn’t get it until we told them that they could be “Santa” now too. All they had to do was make someone else happy by giving.

We now yearly donate many things to “Toys for Tots” and my girls love it.

43 Stan December 21, 2012 at 10:20 am

First off, I want to acknowledge that we’re all going to have different ideas of if/how much ‘Santa’ will be part of our Christmas celebration – and that’s fine. Here’s my take on it: As one with lots of happy memories about Santa, and now as a dad to two small kids, who is a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, it’s been tough for me. I want more than anything for Christ to be glorified in our lives and home all year, and especially at Christmas. Since the tradition of St. Nicholas began the modern ‘Santa’ tradition, we decided that, when our children are older, we will integrate the story of how Nicholas sought to bless others anonymously, which is Biblical in principle and practice. That there really was a ‘St. Nick’, and we give gifts to those we love and to those in need, because God the Father gave us the Greatest Gift to us in His Son, Christ Jesus.
We don’t exclude the modern Santa tradition from Christmas, just try to downplay it. They will receive a few ‘surprises’ on Christmas morning, and we all exchange one gift to each other.
I struggle some with this each year, between wanting Jesus to be our focus and being honest and having our kids trust us. But I have looked back into my childhood and realized that once I understood, there was no lack of trust towards my folks – they were doing it out of love and fun, and I trust my kids will feel the same.
For all you dads and future dads, I want to end with this reminder: what Jesus taught us, recorded in Matthew, “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets”
God bless you all, and have a wonderful Christmas!

44 Pancho December 21, 2012 at 12:57 pm

If anyone needs help explaining who St. Nicholas was to their kids, the St. Nicholas Center is a good place to start: http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/home/

45 Will T December 21, 2012 at 1:39 pm

One great way to convince children is what my father and mother did to me when I was young. Around bedtime my mother would come tuck me in but my old man would head outside and while my mother talked to me he would throw rocks on the roof. To an excited little seven year old, these sound eerily like reindeer hooves. All my mother had to do was explain that “Santa can’t bring you presents if you aren’t asleep!” and I was very well behaved after that. If you don’t have a partner in crime, for whatever reason, you can get a neighbor to help you out. I know my dad would walk down the street and do it for my friend’s mother too. Plus, once the eldest siblings get in on the big secret, they can participate as well. Nothing is more satisfying than fooling their younger siblings (this is what my oldest sister tells me at least)

46 Nate December 21, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Christmas is a pagan celebration, don’t get it twisted.

47 Nick December 21, 2012 at 3:52 pm

For years while my brother and I were little my folks held a neighbourhood kid’s Xmas party and my uncle (who had the right build) would generally come and be Santa. Part of the act involved the naughty/nice list, where my folks would call up each kid’s parents ahead of time and get a short list of the kids’ good and less-good deeds. Admittedly, I narced on a pal once when he was cussing more than a 6 year old ought to, and sure enough, a couple months later, Santa busted him on it. You can imagine the expression on the kid’s face when Santa said “mostly good this year, well done cleaning your room and making your bed (an improvement from my last visit), but watch your language on the schoolfield.”

I also recall a year when another rotund grown-up played Santa (we kids had figured my uncle was Santa) and then my uncle strolled in the front door. If you’re here, in regular clothes and no beard… then… who is….? Pandemonium.

48 Zeke December 21, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Evidence is great! I believe in it absolutely, and it’s half the fun in doing xmas eve right. A couple of pointers, though…for the parents of kids way to smart for their years. Use different wrapping paper for the gifts from Santa than from yourselves (you do give your kids socks and underwear, etc…right?) A clever kid will wonder how you got the same stuff Santa has. Our old trick—gives from Santa always came wrapped with Santas on the paper, stuff from us might be a bit more mundane. Also, love the carrots for the reindeer trick…but one year my kid wondered why the chewed-on carrot tops were BACK IN THE HOUSE(!) if Santa took them with him to the roof to give to the reindeer–shouldn’t they be out in the yard, maybe? Sometimes you really have to think all the logic out, kids are MUCH smarter than we give them credit!

49 Zeke December 21, 2012 at 5:10 pm

…also, the handwriting, definitely got to disguise the handwriting….what kid doesn’t know his parents handwriting?

50 James December 21, 2012 at 5:14 pm

Pros and cons for telling your kids that Santa is real.

Pros: Creating magical memories and an experience that kids love.

Cons: None

Seriously, parents who don’t want to lie to their kids about Santa are narcissists. They say they do it for the kids, and they don’t want their kids not to trust them, but have you ever met a kid who didn’t trust their parents because they “lied” about Santa? Have you ever met a kid who was negatively affected by their parents telling them Santa was real? I sure the heck haven’t. Which is why it’s actually really all about how the PARENTS feel, not the about the kids. The kids love it! No kid wishes their parents hadn’t done it! Not “lying” about Santa makes the PARENTS feel good and full of integrity and superior. If you want to pretend it’s about protecting your kids trust, then you have to have evidence that it hurts their trust later, and there is none. It’s simply all about narcissist parents and their need to feel good about themselves.

Long live Santa and Merry Christmas.

51 Michael Gonsalves December 21, 2012 at 8:30 pm

The Santa story was always (and still is, at 23) my favorite part of the season. There’s just something so magical in the belief and, almost, an inherent desire to make that magic something real (blame the Tim Allen “Santa Clause” movie if you want, it was a huge part of my childhood).

Anyways, we’ve always gone to my grandmother’s house on Christmas Eve, where Santa had always already visited and left presents for all the grandchildren (even now when the youngest is in their teens), then it was off to my aunt’s house where we would all regroup and have a large dinner. While the adults would drink and talk, us kids would sneak off to watch for Rudolph (in retrospect, it was a radio tower in the distance with a blinking red light) and then:

My uncle’s brother (my father’s sister’s husband’s brother) would come in dressed as Santa. It didn’t take too long to put 2 and 2 together on this one, but even so it was much more fun to believe. He would come in and sit us down to read The Night Before Christmas and hand out presents to each child. Eventually we all got too old for this part, but the memory of it is so wonderful to me. I can’t wait to play Santa for my own children and keep the spirit alive.

The way I see it, Santa isn’t a lie unless you’re using the Santa image to bribe children into good behavior for presents. I think Santa is just the personification of the magic of the season, and I (personally) still choose to believe.

52 Nick December 23, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Thank you, James.

I grew up with Santa, and I’m not at all jaded by my parents over it. Disprove me, please.

53 Rich December 23, 2012 at 10:35 pm

One year, my kids got some reindeer “seed” from a relative. They sprinkled it in the front yard on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. We went out to celebrate and when we came home Christmas Eve night, there were a bunch of deer in our front yard. I believe there were 8 deer. That was special.

54 Andrew Martin December 24, 2012 at 2:04 am

Tonight is Christmas eve in Australia; And I wanted to share this little anecdote with you. When my daughter was about 8, my son was 2.

That year she discovered that Santa was not who she thought he was. In fact it was a whole lot of people. The folks at the toy store, her mum and me, grandparents, and others.

My wife and I sat her down that Christmas eve and I told her that she was now a member of a solemn club who keep the secret and the magic of Santa alive.
That is was now her solemn duty to keep the magic of Santa alive for her brother and others who had not been inducted into the secret knowledge of the legend of Santa.

I am a horrible father, but of this particular idea I am very proud. I kept the magic of Christmas by including her in the joyous deception. My words to her were exactle this: Before you believed in Santa; now that you know the truth YOU are Santa, along with me and Mum and everyone else in the world who knows the secret.

Never let it loose, keep it in your heart always, be Santa in the quietest moments of your life, always know that your small deception brings the greatest joys. And pay it forward one day when I am gone and you have children of your own. It will then be up to you and your brother to be the Santa in each other’s lives.
All the best to you at AOM.
Merry Christmas

55 anthony December 24, 2012 at 8:28 am

Don’t make the same mistake my dad did. Presents from Santa and presents from mum and dad…..SAME wrapping paper. Took me about 2 seconds to figure it out.

56 MBV December 24, 2012 at 11:51 am

When my husband and I had our first of 4 kids we talked about it and remembered how much fun it had been to wait and hope for Santa. In fact, my sister and I pretended to believe for several years after we knew because we didn’t want to spoil our parents’ fun (we suspect our 12yo of doing the same because he only this year admitted that he knew — and that only when asked).

As each child grew to the suspicious age and asked we gave them the answer we’d agreed on — that Santa is a game that adults play to help them be more loving and more giving. And then we told them that they were now official members of the Jr. Elf Club and would get to help out with the Christmas preparations.

Santa always has his own paper — per my husband’s family. In my family Santa’s presents weren’t wrapped. And there’s plenty of evidence in cookie crumbs, missing carrots, and an empty glass of milk or eggnog.

But Santa comes in the door because we need to keep the woodstove lit or the house would be too cold.

57 Lance B December 27, 2012 at 12:20 pm

When I was a kid besides the soot on the floor dad would place is work boots in the ash pile in the fireplace and “walk” to and around the tree and back to the fireplace. Making it look like the fat man had really came.

I am 38 now with teenage kids of my own and Santa still visits us, the wife and I included (Our presents to each other) because even. Even though the kids are well past the Santa stage it still gives Christmas the magic that seams to be lost.

58 ed December 27, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Or here’s an idea: we could stop lying to our kids, and focus on the true meaning of Christmas, and make clear that gifts are given by loved ones to loved ones as an expression of love.
My family always completely ignored Santa Claus, yet I always loved Christmas as a child and still do today. I never had that moment that a lot of my friends had, when all of a sudden Christmas was meaningless because the whole thing was made up.

59 AA December 28, 2012 at 11:11 am

I never believed in santa or any other magical being or whatever you want to call it, and I bet that most of the kids don’t either, and just play along.

60 heatherskib December 30, 2012 at 6:33 pm

There’s a documentary on Netflix called “Becoming Santa.” It’s a great thing to watch for some inspiration.

61 Transubstantiation January 11, 2013 at 4:17 pm

My family is roman catholic so the feast of Christ birth has always been huge for us. My mother cleared up whither or not santa was real for us a little before our first holy communion. She figured telling us santa wasn’t real but that God was present in communion was solid trade. Its what i plan to do.

62 Tim Miller January 13, 2013 at 7:18 am

The funny thing about my life is that my dad and my mom used to give us presents on Christmas day, but my father never wanted to bother himself to be Santa Claus. So we always got the presents but were never told the story about Santa Claus.

I hope one day, when i had kids, i can actually be a Santa Claus with a complete costume so my children can have a great imagination or belief that Santa Claus does exist. LOL!!.

Anyway, thanks for your great tips Brett and Kate.

63 Porcelina January 16, 2013 at 4:28 am

My husband would love to dress up like santa for the kids… but there’s one issue. He’s black. Santa is always depicted as white. So. That kinda puts a damper on this for us :[

64 brian January 16, 2013 at 1:39 pm

My father gave me the most memorable christmas santa expirience of my life. I highly reccomend it.

He went intot he garage and set up a tape player waitied for about 10 minutes and then began doing the ho, ho, ho routine and even used some bells and shoe stomps to really sell the whole bit. He then came up to bed ( as a child on christmas eve I always wanted both my parents to sleep in my bed – obviously they hated that). So after awhile he woke me up saying he heard something and the reccording did the rest. As a family we still laugh and reminise about it today.

65 Ted January 30, 2013 at 6:46 pm

Pocelina – Santa Claus or St Nicholas (look up for more info) was born in Asia Minor in 270 AD in what is now the country of Turkey. Something tells me that he was not white!! :)

66 Ian October 3, 2013 at 4:16 pm

If your childrens home is broken, and you need to explain why Santa is coming on the 24th or the 26th, I recommend the one-two punch of a handwritten letter and a product my own daughter introduced me to called Reindeer Bait. Spread it around the yard together to make sure Santa finds your house.

67 Øivind October 29, 2013 at 10:18 am

When I was a kid we had Santa come in to greet us on Christmas Eve! then again that is a common tradition in Norway. One of our granddads or uncles snuck quietly away to put on the Santa suit and a sack of presents for the the kids from Santa himself.
We still had presents from family members, but we did get some present from Santa himself. That was the most fun part of it.

68 Mike Kimmerlein December 16, 2013 at 10:04 pm

My parents always had us spend a lot of time outside during the day on Christmas eve, that way we were good and tired by bedtime. That being said I’m almost 20 now and being restless on Christmas eve is but a distant memory.

69 Ian December 19, 2013 at 1:24 pm

We do the cookies & eggnog for Santa and reindeer food(glitter, popcorn, trailmix) for the reindeer. Always a great time.

70 Frances Yun December 22, 2013 at 10:17 am

I used to be Santa for my brother (he’s 10 years younger than me) and all was going swell for twelve years. I’d even give myself coal and pretend-cry for authentic effect. Til one day when he found out. I later discovered that he had posted a debate online saying you should never trick your kids about Santa. A hilarious excerpt..”one day they will become disillusioned and maybe psychologically scarred for life by the experience.”

71 Erik December 24, 2013 at 7:07 pm

Another great idea is to learn calligraphy, if you don’t already know how, and respond to your children’s letters. The calligraphy will disguise your own penmanship and add to the magic of Santa Claus. I’m not a father yet, but this is one of the many reasons I’m excited to be one day.

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