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!