My kids have never really believed in Santa and we have never put any gifts under the tree that were from Santa. As a natural and adoption blended family, we took Santa off the table when Daniel and Caroline came to live with us over seven years ago. Daniel was just about at the age when he might have heard at school that Santa was not real and so we didn't want to lose his trust over a fake guy in a red suit. In order to prepare for this, we sat Liam (who was three at the time) down and told him that Santa was just like Buzz Lightyear from his favourite movie Toy Story. We said, Santa was a fictional character that someone made up. Liam was devastated. Not about Santa, he actually could not have cared about him but he was shattered from the news about Buzz. My husband Jason posted about this experience a couple of years ago on his blog in a post called Santa Claus.
Has it been difficult over the years to not make Santa a part of the festivities? Not really. We love the Christmas season. We love decorating our house and tree together, we love seeing family and friends, we love our church's Christmas pageant in which anything can happen and we love reading the Christmas story while we put out our nativity scene. It has been difficult at times to explain to our kids why other adults tell this little white lie every year and why they can't tell their friends the truth about Santa. It has been frustrating when some adults have not realized the absolute terror that Santa brings about in our daughter. In particular, telling her it is okay that we don't have a chimney, that Santa can still get in our house because now you can buy a special key at the store and leave it under you mat so he can get in. As you can imagine this was not good news to small child who has nightmares about the bearded man in the red suit. It has sometimes led to some awkward moments in public, as my not so quiet angels share their feelings about the whole subject. It is has been enlightening over the years to hear their views on this weird custom of making crying children sit on the knee of a total stranger for a picture and how we tell kids with a smile on our face that Santa is going to break into our house while they are sleeping. It has not impacted the heart of our Christmas festivities in the least because Santa really doesn't have anything to do with the heart of Christmas.
Santa wasn't there in the manger when God broke into our world and sent Jesus to dwell among us. He wasn't there when for thirty-three years when Jesus lived on this earth and He wasn't there when Jesus laid down His life to save us. For us that is and always will be the heart of Christmas.