Why We Don’t Believe in Santa

Why We Don’t Believe in Santa

Those who know me know that I take no delight in stirring up trouble.

But since everything we do and don’t do as parents teaches our children, and I’m pretty passionate about intentional parenting, I feel compelled to express a few thoughts on the matter of presenting the Santa Claus fantasy as fact to our children.  This I do with the single aim of encouraging new moms, who have not yet chosen how they will handle the prevailing Western Christmas tradition, to approach the decision intentionally and strategically instead of merely defaulting to the majority opinion.  If you don’t fall within this target audience, you are hereby absolved of any duty to continue reading!

Please understand:

I am NOT addressing my Christian friends who have promoted the reality of Santa to their children.  The grace we have received from Christ enables us to extend much grace to each other in areas where we may disagree.  And since you’ve already headed in that direction, my preemptive encouragements won’t be of much value to you.  If you choose to read on anyway, please don’t send me nasty letters because as much as I love you, I’m not writing this for you.

I am NOT addressing my non-Christian friends or encouraging you to adopt practices meant to honour and celebrate a God you do not worship.  Though I’d be most happy to introduce you to Him at any time, you can stop reading here as well.  If you are curious, you are welcome to keep reading, but don’t launch any snowballs in my direction in the grocery store parking lot because, though I adore you too, I’m not writing for you either.

With that established, let us begin.


In our home, we are lovers of things whimsical, joyful, and imaginative.  If you were privy to the worlds, songs, contraptions, plays, nicknames and art created within our walls, you would be convinced that creativity and childlike fantasy are alive and well in our household.  And we certainly don’t hate Santa.  We understand the fictional character’s creation as rooted in the self-sacrificing benevolence of the legendary St. Nicholas.  We watch the vintage Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer special and hum along in the mall to Santa Claus is Coming to Town, creepy as it is.

But in a culture that indiscriminately and fanatically elevates the North Pole-living, elf-employing, omniscient Santa from fantasy to fact, allow me to explain why we don’t.

  1. It lacks historical foundation and moral benefit.

The Western Santa Claus “tradition” is a historically recent phenomenon concocted within the last few centuries from a smattering of legend, a pinch of history and a plethora of imaginations.  It is not a tradition with rich historical or moral heritage, thereby rendering it void of instructive remembrance and societal benefit.   Throughout history, holidays had reasons and were anchored on momentous occasions as memorials to something we dare not forget.  I wonder what our forefathers would think of our divorcing arguably the largest holiday of the year, from anything of historical or moral significance and instead affixing it to an ever-developing character of our own imaginations?  A character that requires billions of entertainment and consumer dollars, as well as a myriad of deceptions, to keep afloat.  I suggest they would question our rationality.

  1. It sets children up for certain but unnecessary disappointment.

This broken world will disappoint our children enough during their time in it.  It seems illogical to us that we would manufacture our own premeditated disappointment and voluntarily serve it to them.  I have heard story after story of the heart wrenching disillusionment and tears at the moment a child learns that Santa is not who he was presented to be.  And once that first childhood demi-god falls from glory, the Easter Bunny & Tooth Fairy come tumbling after in a cascade of confusing disappointment.

Let’s also address the matter of embarrassment if a child has bought the charade for longer than the rest.  All of our girls on separate occasions have expressed gratitude over our not misleading them about Santa, for many reasons.  One being their dignity.  One daughter thanked us profusely in her later elementary school years because she felt great compassion for her friend who still believed Santa was real, and defended him publicly to her future embarrassment.

And let’s consider the implication for underprivileged children throughout North America and the world:  If taught the reality of Santa when there is no church or charity close by to bail him out, the only logical outcome is despondency.  Like my dad for example, who grew up in a poor family on Canada’s East Coast.  Try as he might, year after year, he couldn’t make the “nice” list.  Santa hadn’t come.  Again.  Christmas reinforced for him what he felt to be true:  He was unworthy.  Unlike many children, my dad’s disappointment wasn’t merely the temporary wound at the point of revelation.  Sadly, his disappointment had spanned an entire decade.  How much more tolerable a reality it would have been for him that his parents were financially unable to provide gifts, than to wrongly conclude, as he did, that he wasn’t good enough.

None of these are experiences we want to sign our children up for.  Not when this breed of disappointment, embarrassment and demoralization are within our power to prevent.

  1. It caters to the convenience of parents, not the character of children.

The concepts of Santa Claus and related shelf-dwelling personalities can be wielded by parents as candy-coated tools of manipulation to produce 4-6 weeks of temporary behavior relief.  Though cute and creative on the surface, this methodology is subtly self-serving and does not positively shape our children’s character.  We aren’t creating children of strong character who act in kindness, honour and self-sacrificing love like Jesus-come-to-earth would model and enable.  We are breeding smart sinners who learn to behave when it’s convenient and play the part of the “nice list” kid when the return is good enough.

  1. It is an unsettling mark against a parent’s integrity.

We desire that our relationships with our children are steady and enduring, built on the bedrock of unwavering trust.  We pray that there will never be a time in our children’s recollection that we told them something they would discover to be false.  There are so many essential and preserving truths of this life that we are desperate for our children to embrace that we will not jeopardize their confidence in our integrity for anything, especially something as insignificant as society’s approval.   There have been times in their lives when we needed to cash in some chips from the trust bank.  When we posed the question, “Have we ever lied to you before?”, our girls could answer with a solid “No”.  However, if our children are aware that, even in fun, we deceived them – that has the potential of casting doubt on the more significant matters we have taught them to be true.

If we, as the lovers and guardians of their precious spirits are going to invest the effort to have our children believe something, we choose to invest that effort in having them believe something that only proves more true as it is tried and more trustworthy as years pass.  Something that has the power to transform their lives and lift them above the pain, mess and futility of this beautiful but broken world.  My parents guarded their integrity for this purpose and I am eternally grateful for the unshakable confidence that gave me in their word.  I have been forever and beautifully altered by the truths I was therefore, so easily able to trust.

  1. Honest children who inadvertently tell another child the truth are viewed as criminals.

I feel like my family has been taken hostage and forced to play a part in the grand hoax.  For some reason, every person, regardless of what they believe is expected to play along with the charade or face public criticism.  Anyone who would dare tell a child that Santa is not real is labeled as an unimaginative dream crusher.  The ironic and confusing thing is that it is the innocent child who speaks truth that is vilified – not the adults who have perpetuated a false belief whereby perfectly positioning their children for the inevitable let-down.

I’m in no way suggesting that we encourage our family to intentionally unveil the truth to unsuspecting children.  That would be ungracious.  I am just pointing out that the expectation that all of society skirt the truth on the issue is both socially inconsiderate and morally duplicitous –“Always tell the truth, children.  Except at Christmas time.”  It’s just another reason we’re not fond of the charade.

  1. It diminishes the splendor of the biblical Christmas celebration by insinuating that it requires supplementation.

Though we don’t articulate it, we act in practice as if we need some imaginary component to make the season special, as if it cannot hold its own in stirring wonder, excitement and delight.

We believe that the Creator of this earth, and the author of its grand narrative, entering into creation himself to enact the greatest rescue mission in human history is an infinitely grander reason to celebrate than an imaginary character’s fictitious mass delivery of toys one night a year.

Is there really not enough awe in Christ’s coming or joy in the celebration of that event that we have to perpetuate a fabricated story for our children to find wonder in this season?  We think not.

As we set aside time to celebrate Christ’s coming, we enjoy cozy nights by fireside and candlelight.  Stirring songs of hope, love and divine rescue.  The unboxing of whimsical ornaments that carry precious memories of God’s faithfulness through the years.  Sensational accounts of the socially excluded, now gloriously included, or the geographically and religiously far away, being drawn near.  God’s creativity manifested in winter wonderlands soaked blue with moonlight.  The fragrances of the oven’s abundance and nature’s wealth brought indoors.  Watching at windows, waiting for beloved people to arrive. Or perhaps waiting awkwardly for people we know little, but who we are pleased to offer belonging to, around our table.  Decorations that delight the senses, stir the heart and direct the intellect.  Candlelit church services with kiddie choirs, promising words of truth, sturdy joy, and at least one nose-picker.

And of course there’s the delicious anticipation of receiving gifts, not from a stranger or merited by virtue of “goodness”, but given by adoring family in love.  Perhaps lavishly.  Perhaps sacrificially.  But always unconditionally.  Then the even sweeter awakening of growing children to the pleasures of giving. Generosity to mark a savior’s coming, like the wise men. Annually remembering a great deliverance, like Esther-era Jews. And even giving gifts to Jesus in the way he prescribed – giving to the least of these among us. Perhaps a needed provision for someone in our church or community, or chicks and a piglet for a child across the world to ease his suffering.  All this to celebrate Jesus, whose birth brought the gift of redeeming grace to the world.

So we revel in hope – not for a solitary night for the relative few in the world who have means.  But hope for all days.  Hope for all situations. Hope for all people. That’s wonder enough for this family.  Nothing more needed, thank you very much.

So, what have our children missed by not believing in Santa?  With the exceptions of naughty-list threats, harrowing photo-shoots, crafty manipulation, unbridled greed, shaken trust, and the inevitable sadness following the grand let-down…

They haven’t missed a thing.

Instead, our children have enjoyed rich Christmas traditions anchored in something grand, historic, enduring and chock full of hope.  Jesus Christ.  A central Christmas figure who never disappoints.   Instead of giving our children a fantasy that they would grow out of in a matter of years, we chose to give them a truth so big they are still growing into it.


  1. Glen

    Great job Jan. I think this is my favorite post to date.

    • Janet

      Thanks Baby. Don’t know what I’d do without my proof-reader!

  2. Amy

    My husband and I carefully chose not to “do” Santa with our children about 5 years ago. It felt like such a tough decision at the time, but your words here beautifully express so many of our hearts doubts and concerns in perpetuating this fantasy. Thank you for using your gift to articulate so clearly what many of us agree to, but can’t figure out how to explain!

    • Janet

      Hi Amy – oh, it brings me so much delight when I hear that I’ve been able to help articulate what others feel but haven’t expressed! My favourite author is someone who does that for me. 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement.

  3. Jenny

    What Glen said!

    • Janet

      Thanks precious friend!

      • Britt Rumble

        Beautifully said ?

  4. Mary Beth

    Love it and wholeheartedly agree. Thanks for putting your Spirit-led thoughts out there for us.

    • Janet

      Thank you for the encouragement Mary Beth – it is a pleasure. (A lot of work too, but a pleasure nonetheless!)

  5. Eric Hart

    Thanks for honoring my pain as a poor kid.

    • Janet

      And thanks for sparing the details of you laying weekly beatings on wealthy Leo up the street?! 🙂 You make a great subject and a great inspiration.

  6. Hannah Hall

    Wonderful, Janet. So very well said.

    • Janet

      Thank you Hannah. Toughie to put out there – I might as well put a big target on my back, but I thought it was worth considering. 🙂

  7. Simon

    A piece that cuts to the chase gracefully with incisive truths. Even if they tried, seculars could not possibly offer any form of logical arguments against the precious fundamental values presented here. This piece is a must must read! Well done! Thank you!

    • Janet

      Thank you Simon!

  8. Chris

    Janet…I grew up in a Christian home but my parents did the Easter Bunny, Santa, etc. and my wife and I have carried on the same traditions with our children. They are however very familiar with the real story of Christmas through bible readings and children’s books. In the past few years I have encountered Christian friends who don’t “do Santa” and didn’t quite understand. In fact, I felt they were a little “over the top”. Thank you for writing this, I now get it….it puts it all into perspective. Had I had this information 7+ years ago I would definitely consider not “doing Santa” and being a father of 3 of Gods miracles I can appreciate your teaching me how this tradition can negatively shape my children and set up myself for failure. Thank you! Now, do you have a blog on Hallowe’en or perhaps some thoughts? Again, another holiday/event I’m torn on between tradition/childhood memories/childhood experiences and my Christian values.
    God bless you and your family!

  9. Dayna

    Thank you for this.
    We are facing criticism from family and friends for telling our daughter the truth. You’ve beautifully encompassed our thoughts and feelings.

  10. Marilyn Laite

    Well written Janet. Wish I had this information when my children were young. Hoping many new parents read this and weigh its value.


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