The Day I Almost Vetoed Santa: 24 Days of Christmas

This post contains age-sensitive content that some parents would prefer to read when little ones are not present.


I vetoed Santa Clause the second I found out I was pregnant with our first child. I didn’t want to “do Santa.” I went back and forth for months, in my head discussing the pros and cons of LYING to our children about Santa Claus. Pro: Use it to keep your kids in line (He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice!). Con: It only works between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Pro: You can blame Santa Clause when your kid doesn’t like his/her gift. Con: Your kid will blame you for not ensuring you got their letter to the North Pole. The list goes on… and on…

Quite honestly, I think I was 100% (okay, 99% convinced) that we wouldn’t cave and teach such a mainstream way just because society told us to do it. When our son understood that there was no such thing as Santa, we would very calmly explain how he couldn’t tell anyone else because we didn’t want him to be that kid (I was so naive, I know), but even if he did spill the beans, other parents couldn’t really be mad at us since we were NOT the ones lying to our kids. 

As an early childhood professional, I often overbearingly guide our parental approach. Even so, I am very thankful that, although the hubs probably would never have allowed me to veto Santa entirely, he let me come around on my own.

And it was with one single letter I came across that I found the perfect combination of magic and make-believe mixed with truth and honesty. It was a letter written by a mom, like me, to her daughter about how she isn’t Santa, but Santa is real.

Santa is bigger than any person, and his work has gone on longer than any of us have lived. What he does is simple, but it is powerful. He teaches children how to have belief in something they can’t see or touch. (You can find The New York Times article regarding this letter here). 

If I vetoed Santa, than I might as well veto everything else that we can’t see or touch. Like my love. And my faith. And more importantly, the love and faith I want to instill in my children.

So in the end, we decided to Do Santa.

We chose to include him in our Christmas celebrations for the reasons that made sense to us and the values we wanted to instill in our kids. We kept it turned down a notch and kept the threats of “being good” at bay.  We carefully answered the 1000’s of questions with rhetorical questions (Is the North Pole a real place? Well, what do you think?). And we focused on building our Christmas traditions around our faith with lots of authentic quality family time. 

In our family, this quality time has resulted in what we call “The 24 Days of Christmas.” It is partly an advent calendar and partly a family outing schedule also known as our Advent Action Calendar. The 24 Days of Christmas is embedded with things we do every year (like the Grand Illumination at the James Center followed by breakfast for dinner at Denny’s) and new activities that keep the kids guessing, all tied up in a pretty little bow to keep it exciting. 

2015 Advent Action Calendar
2015 Advent Action Calendar

To view our family’s advent actions for 2016, you can find them here: 2016 Rice Advent Actions (free printable, including blank ones to make your own!).

As far as gifts go, the magic of having much anticipated items “appear” was part of the magic for us as kids, and we wanted to give our kids that same experience, with a limit. Neither my husband nor I remember HOW MANY gifts we received, but always the impact of the really important ones. We choose to follow a 4 gift rule with: Something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read. It is short and sweet and helps the kids to focus on 4 items they truly want and need, learning the difference between those two very important words, and (hopefully) not allowing consumerism to take away our holiday.

They also do a sibling gift exchange within our advent actions which helps to ensure they are not only receiving the magic, but they are also GIVING. I honestly think watching each other open gifts is their very favorite advent action. Don’t get me wrong, it can be a challenge when some of their peers are getting tons of stuff each year, but so far we have been very successful at redirection here and I calmly remind myself that they won’t remember that part when they are older. It also helps me to limit myself, because I frankly want to give them the world. 

For other ideas to celebrate the holidays in Richmond, check out the Richmond Moms Blog 2016 Holiday Guide.