As kids who believe in Santa grow up, their parents face a couple of difficult questions: Will this be the year they stop believing? And how do I explain Mr. Claus to them without taking away the “magic” of the holiday season?
We asked the HuffPost Parents community if they’ve tackled the “Santa talk” with their children. While some moms and dads who celebrate Christmas said they never told their kids that a man came down the chimney to leave them presents (and encouraged their little ones to not spoil the spirit of giving for others), some parents offered lovely explanations of how they talked to their kids about jolly old St. Nick.
Here are 11 ways parents have explained Santa to their kids (and a few funny reactions to boot).
He lives in the thoughts and the hearts of everyone who does something selfless for another person.
“I told my children Santa is real, but not in the way that we think of as real. He lives in the thoughts and the hearts of everyone who does something selfless for another person. With that act, they become the essence of what we know to be Santa. My kids are in their 20s now and if you ask them, they will proudly say they believe in Santa.”
― Angela Robbins
Well, it’s a fun magic to add to Christmas.
“My oldest was 8 and got curious so he started to press for information. After telling him it was a choice to believe or not to believe, and asking him, ‘What do you think and feel about it?’ he responded that he thought it was pretend. He said he felt that his dad and I were Santa. My reply was, ‘Well, it’s a fun magic to add to Christmas. And Dad and I love to surprise you on Christmas morning. And your sisters still think Santa’s coming, so help us keep the magic going.’ With that he has been awesome. He still plays along to keep the surprise and magic of Christmas morning.”
― Teresa Ingram
He seemed relieved and wanted confirmation of his thoughts.
“My 9-year-old asked, ‘Is Santa real? It’s OK if the answer is no.’ I told him no, that it was Mom and Dad filling the stockings and buying the presents, but he is real in the sense that he is a symbol of Christmas, a symbol of giving. We also tackled the Elf on the Shelf, Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. He seemed relieved and wanted confirmation of his thoughts, but told me that we can still hide the elf and I can still mark some presents from Santa!”
― Jessica Waagner
We do Santa’s job in order to continue to spread his message of hope, spirit and love.
“My then 10-year-old asked during his younger brother’s karate class. At first, I answered as I had before, ‘What do you think?’ And he said, ‘I don’t know.’
“After his brother went to bed, my husband and I talked to him one-on-one. I told him, ‘Yes, we put your gifts in your stocking.’ He started crying. I said, ‘But that does not make Daddy or me Santa. We do Santa’s job in order to continue to spread his message of hope, spirit and love. So yes, we put the presents in your stockings, but we are not Santa.’ We also talked about the history of Santa (he’s my history buff) and he handled it all really well.”
― Meaghan Greenleaf Wildes
I was honest with him and his brother, but also made them promise not to ruin it for anyone else.
“My 8-year-old son was having doubts last year so to test his theory, he hid Santa’s cookies. He said if they weren’t eaten, then he would know Santa wasn’t real. I spent an hour searching in the middle of the night for those darn cookies, but never could find them. I told him that maybe Santa just didn’t want to look for them or thought he didn’t make any.
Finally about six months later, he asked me flat-out and I was honest with him and his brother, but also made them promise not to ruin it for anyone else. Then it occurred to them a few weeks ago ― how in the world did Mom and Dad get all those presents set up and keep all those secrets and pick out such cool presents? I think I impressed them.”
― Teri Davis
It’s something they can say to a friend who might try and spoil Santa for them.
“I’m a parent of four kids, but also a fourth-grade teacher. Every year there are questions at school about Santa. My standard response for these 9- and 10-year-olds is, ‘If you believe in Santa, he believes in you.’ It seems to work. And it’s something they can say to a friend who might try and spoil Santa for them.”
― Vicki Thompson Paris
She’s now Santa and the Tooth Fairy for her sister.
“I had the talk with my daughter about the spirit of giving and becoming a Santa herself. She was about to be 8, and she was already saying he’s not real and that she knew it already. I figured she heard it from classmates. She had me so convinced telling every member of our family that she knew, that one night, I decided to show her how other countries and cultures view Santa and his origin, before asking her to become a Santa for someone else.
In the end, I asked her if she enjoyed it while it lasted and if she felt we should continue the tales for her little sister who’s 2. She thought about it for a moment and replied that even though she didn’t like that we lied to her about the Tooth Fairy and Santa, she did like staying up and trying to catch them in their magic, so she’s now Santa and the Tooth Fairy for her sister, as she feels I am not convincing enough. She believes that she can conceal her magical identity better than I did for her.”
― Jenn Aguilar
He wrapped it up with a very gentle, “Thank you for telling me the truth about Santa, Mommy.”
“One night, as I was tucking in my sweet little one, he asked, ‘Is Santa real?’ I stopped for a second, then asked what he believed. ‘Some people say he’s not, but I’ve seen him. But I think you, me, Buela (my mom), and my cousins are the only ones left who believe.’
I then started telling him that a long time ago, there was a man who would give gifts to children, and his spirit lives on in each of us to this day (slight paraphrase). After a few blinks, he just started crying. ‘You mean Santa is dead?!’ he said.
Ugh. I had one chance, and I blew it. We talked for a bit, and he calmed down. He wrapped it up with a very gentle, ‘Thank you for telling me the truth about Santa, Mommy. I love you.’ Whew.”
― Selma Altas
This makes them a part of the magic and fun because what is better than getting to be Santa?
“We transition from belief in Santa to becoming an elf, helping to instill the spirit of giving, love, and Christmas by becoming part of the magic. Once one of our children had expressed they were no longer a believer in Santa, they were let in on the secret in order to help keep the magic alive for the next sibling. We emphasize how important it is to not deflate the younger sibling’s belief, and allow the older child to participate in hiding the mischievous elf or filling stockings. This makes them a part of the magic and fun because what is better than getting to be Santa? It has worked well so far. I’ve got one kiddo to go!”
― Kendra Votava
It’s up to you to believe in magic and in the spirit of giving, no matter what that looks like on the TV screen or in the stores.
“When my daughter was very young, she asked me to confirm if some of her friends were right about Santa not being real. I asked her back, ‘Should we stop giving and being kind to people if we find out Santa’s just a marketing trick?’ She said, ‘No.’ Well, that’s your answer right there. It’s up to you to believe in magic and in the spirit of giving, no matter what that looks like on the TV screen or in the stores.
Now she is almost 11 and the other day said to me, ‘Mom, how could I believe you’d allow an old man to watch me when I am sleeping and let a stranger come into our house at night?’ And I said, ‘Of course I would not do that, Sonia, because Santa couldn’t possibly be just an ordinary guy. He is the spirit of giving, remember?’ She went ahead and wrote her letter to Santa, but it may be for the last time ever, so I’d better go look for that virtual reality thingy she asked for.”
― Ana Nita
They know he doesn’t exist as a person.
“We’ve told them that we are all Santa when we give our time, money or gifts to others. They know he doesn’t exist as a person, but that he is the spirit of Christmas.”
― Mirna Sierra-Duchemin
These answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.