A couple discusses a possible alternative to the Santa tradition

K.Ullrich-Hodges is joining me for our post on Santa Claus. Chris H. talked about some of the reasons he embraces the Santa Claus tradition, so this post talks about why K and I anticipate trying something different for Christmas with our yet-to-be-born child(ren). There are a few reasons we may be parting with the typical Santa Claus tradition, but there are a few reservations to consider (particularly on the part of B more than K).

K- For starters, there’s the classic “Christmas is too commercial” angle. For me, this ties into childrens expectations for receiving a lot of presents, and receiving exactly what they want. Maybe this is odd, but as a child I remember friends writing extensive lists of everything they wanted, but I didn’t want to write a list. I can’t remember giving a list of “wants” to my mom for Christmas. (K grew up in a single-parent household.) The expectation of getting a bunch of stuff seems to make Christmas itself more focused on receiving.

B- I am the middle child of five siblings and we always had a fine Christmas growing up in terms of presents. We weren’t wealthy by any means but my parents found ways to make money stretch. For me, I personally felt that my family was able to maintain a pretty strong Christian focus despite the presents. Granted, expecting presents from Santa was a really exciting part of the holiday for me. Also, I learned pretty quick not to ask for things I knew I wasn’t likely to get, even when I still “believed.” (Granted, I’m still a bit bitter about not receiving a TalkBoy, although I did get a tape recorder and microphone instead.)

K- I should add that my criticism of Santa Claus isn’t a reflection on my own mom making Christmas all about Santa Claus or anything. And I think there are plenty of families out there who have found ways to maintain a Christ-centered focus even with the Santa Claus tradition. But personally I’d rather separate the celebration of a holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus from the receiving of toys and other goods.

B- That’s one way we could turn the Santa tradition on its head, getting our kids involved in picking out gifts for Secret Santa for other families. I think there are ways to include the Santa tradition while integrating volunteering, giving, etc. At the same time, like I said, receiving some presents from Santa is a great memory even now.

K- I think it’s possible to maintain that sort of excitement of receiving gifts, but moving it to a different day so gift-receiving doesn’t compete directly with my view of what Christmas is supposed to be. The Russian New Year is a great alternative tradition. In Russia, all of the traditions of gift-giving, tree decorating, etc. are shifted to New Years. Father Frost (their equivalent of Santa Claus) would deliver the toys on New Years Eve. Granted, this is due to the influence of Soviet atheism, but all the same I really like the separation.

B- So you’re all for the separation of Church and State and Christmas and Santa.

K- Haha right. The Russian Orthodox Church does celebrate the birth of Christ in early January. But that holiday is focused on Jesus, not Father Frost. So the separation works out.

B- That would seem to be a way of having your cake and eating it on a different day, but I still see potential problems I see. First, it will still be difficult to make this alternative make sense when our kids are immersed in a Santa culture. When does a child hit the point where they are going to be smart enough not to blab to the neighbor kids that Santa Claus doesn’t visit us?

K- Kids only believe in Santa until about 2nd grade, I think, right? To me, that’s not too many years to be battling with the neighbor problem. Plus I think our kids would think it was cool that they have a different sort of tradition. Also, it’s likely that there will be other kids who don’t have a Santa tradition, depending on the demographics of their school.

B- Well, they’re already going to be Mormon, so depending on where we live that may not be the only difference they have, for good or ill. Oh, and then there’s the “lying” problem. People who say it’s not cool to lie to kids about this made-up character. With Father Frost we’d still be doing that anyway.

K- I’m not married to the Father Frost idea, I’m just in alignment with the gifts on New Years idea. I’m undecided about Frost. Either way, we’ll still give them presents from us anyway.

B- But Father Frost could be a convenient stop-gap so that they don’t blow “Santa’s” cover for other kids. They would have an alibi for why Santa isn’t visitng the Hodges home. Sounds like we have more to hammer out in terms of the details. I thought writing this would be a lot more straight-forward and simple.

K- Pretty simple to me!

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