As much as I love a good imaginary being to get my kids to behave, the Santa Claus issue is tricky. We wanted our kids to understand that their gifts at Yule, or Christmas, whatever you want to call it, are from people who loved them, but at the same time don’t want to deprive them the magic and wonder that is the Santa Claus mythos—plus he’s watching, coal, excuse for cookies, all that jazz. In the end, we didn’t tell our kids about Santa, our preschool did. My son came home telling me we didn’t have to get him the DS he’d been begging for because Santa would bring him one. (Spoiler, he still isn’t getting one.)
The problem with Santa
Classically, the story has always been that elves someplace (actually not too far from me being that I live in Alaska) spend the entire year making toys for good little children and then Saint Nick brings them on Christmas eve. Now my biggest peeve with that is it misses the true meaning of the holiday. Yule is about celebrating the joy our loved ones bring us, and hopefully, a coming prosperous spring. The idea of Santa removes the idea that gifts are tokens of love from those that love us. Unfortunately, thanks to public school, most parents have little choice in the Santa situation and are left trying to merge their own traditions and beliefs with those of the more popular traditions of the majority of modern holidays.
Rewriting Santa’s job description
So, how can you still score guilt-free midnight cookies while instilling a sense of gratitude to boot? The answer is to have Santa become a glorified delivery boy. Rather than delivering presents he and his elves made, our Santa picks up gifts from family and friends and delivers them on Christmas. He also carries messages containing desired gifts and tails of naughty or nice to loved ones. In this way we are able to preserve the idea that gifts are from those that love us, bypass the inevitability of our kids noticing all the packages are in our wrapping paper in mom or dad’s handwriting and still preserve the magic that is Santa. Brilliant! We can even leave cookies and milk as a delivery fee. The Yuletide feast fire also makes a lovely light to guide Santa to our house. One tiny story tweak and traditions of old and new can mingle in harmony. The trick is finding the right tweak.