Why I told my 3-year-old the truth about Santa

santa claus dress in red and white with a surprised expression on his face behind wire rim glasses text overlay why i told my kids the truth about santa

I made sure my kids knew the truth about Santa very young. Santa does not bring gifts to our house. He is a fun imaginary tradition and we can pretend, but he is not real. So this is why I told my kids the truth about Santa and what that means for our family.

Now, before you hit send on the hate mail, hear me out and know that I also told them that others believe and why and not to spoil the fun. (They are not allowed to tell all the kids “he’s not real!”)

I am not the Grinch or a Scrooge. I love Christmas – I mean, love! We love the magic, the movies, the lights, the music, the gifts, the giving, the togetherness, all of it. We spend a good solid two months in Christmas mode.

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Oh, how we celebrate!

I set up a tree about as early as is acceptable and take it down about as late as I can get away with. The Mr. has an astounding selection of Christmas music and plays it in our home almost exclusively for about 8 weeks each year.

We have a collection of Christmas-themed picture books that we store with our Christmas decorations. We read every night for at least the entire month of December. Christmas movies and Christmas-themed shows are our primary media from Thanksgiving to the New Year.

We also:
Drive around with hot cocoa and popcorn and look at lights
Sing carols
Attend the Christmas services at our church
Buy gifts and feast with family
Make Christmas cookies and gingerbread houses
Hang stockings
Wear Christmas PJs
We even set out a plate of cookies and milk “for Santa”.

It is all for fun and adds joy to the season.

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Why not Santa, then?

Yes, it is so much fun, but we were never motivated to make our children think Santa was real. We don’t do Santa at our house.

I didn’t grow up believing in Santa myself and could not make myself perform that illusion for many reasons.

Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with Santa. I am not against Kris Kringle, but neither The Mr. nor I wanted to “do Santa” in our family, so at the ripe old age of 3 years, 4 days, my first child knew the truth.

Child: “Mommy, Daddy! Santa is coming to our house to bring me presents!”
Us: “No, Santa won’t be coming here. He does not bring gifts”.
Child: “Oh, is he imaginary?”
Us: “Yes.”

It just happened like that. Gulp.

8 Reasons why I told my kids the truth about Santa

As I reflected on it later, I was able to articulate why we made this move in our parenting. These are the reasons we told our children Santa wasn’t real.

1. Fun is Fun

Santa is a fun tradition. He is imaginary and pretending is fun. There are many things that are entertaining that I do not lead my children to believe are real. Fun is fun and it doesn’t have to be “real” to be enjoyed.

2. Integrity

My children are so curious and inquisitive. It would take a major web of lies and stories to keep up the Santa Claus illusion. I don’t have the energy or the heart to keep up with performing this illusion.

My over-active conscience would wear down my energy levels, which I cannot afford. I have to be transparent with my children. That is a life goal of mine.

3. Respect

It is crucial for me to have an honest and respectful relationship with my kids. I want to be as truthful and open as is age-appropriate about everything. So one day, while my oldest was still too young to go to school, I told him the truth about Santa and there was no turning back.

It is just a fun game for so many families. I am not the Grinch, but I try to put myself in my kids’ place, to respect them as whole persons.

I would not like to be purposely led to believe something was real for years and it was not so. I don’t like to be duped, do you? My kids might not either.

4. Love for all

Santa is as different as each parent. Here’s what I mean. The truth is the child’s grown-up “provides Christmas”, not Santa. Each family has a different capacity and willingness to give gifts and “create magic”.

When children believe a fictitious character provides Christmas “to every child in the world, who is ‘nice'” it is difficult to understand how they were “not nice enough” for Santa to make their Christmas wishes come true as he does for other children.

For the parents that “do Santa”. Go for it, but perhaps Santa fills the stockings or brings a book and pajamas to your house. Please be the one who provides big, expensive gifts for your children.

We don’t tell our kids that Santa brings gifts because Santa cannot bring the same level of Christmas to everyone. If it is ever possible for all children to be loved and cherished unconditionally, nurtured, and cared for extravagantly, then we might consider it. I think this is foundational to the conversation about equity and equality.

5. Our home is a haven

In our home, our kids can fully be themselves. My kids are naturally more apprehensive with strangers. Some might say they are shy. They are happy, open, hilarious kids in their haven, home, but when people they don’t know are around, they are reserved and hesitant. I respect that.

The idea of telling my children that someone could enter our home while we sleep does not sit well with me. I cannot imagine that they would be comfortable with sitting on a man’s lap, a man they don’t know. It is all innocent fun, but I don’t see the need to push them past their personal boundaries or erode their feeling of security for an illusion. It is just not for us.

6. Gifts are an expression of love

We watch all the Christmas and Santa movies. My kids know the stories (which are not all consistent!), but they know that God provides the gifts through parents who work hard and love them.

I want them to be able to receive gifts as one of the expressions of our love for them. I want them to feel seen, known, and understood in our family. If I pay attention to them, truly listen to what is important to them (or sometimes directly ask), I can learn what they like and want and provide that as an outpouring of my love for them.

Santa won’t take the place of “getting” my kids and bring them the gift they deeply wanted. I want their parents to offer that intimacy and connection.

7. The feelings are what are magical

Santa does not need to be real for the feeling of magic to feel real. When my kids were toddlers, one of them would wake up hangry. This child was a complete bear until he had eaten something. So I started setting out a small snack and water cup on their toddler-size table for them to dig right in as soon as they woke up.

They would wake up, find it and be amazed “how did this get here?”

I would tell them. I put it there, but since they often woke up before me, they found it before I was awake, so they determined that I performed this snack trick by some form of magic.

“It is Mommy Magic!”

Even still, years later they believe in mommy magic. And though they know that I just do it with my hands like a regular ‘ole mommy, they like the idea that there is some kind of mystery to it.

The same for Santa. We do not need to convince them that he is real in order to enjoy the mystery and surprises of the season. We can trust them with the truth.

See, the feelings are what is magic, not the illusion that the extraordinary thing is real. We can feel that extraordinary spark and it can be a pretend thing and feel just as magical.

8. The Real Meaning

Before the Santa stories and Christmas magic legends, we want our children to know what Christmas is really about. Christmas is about coming together to give love. Christmas is literally the mass of Christ.

Though I am not Catholic, I know that a mass is a gathering together of people as one. I also know that the crux of what Jesus wanted to teach was that love was the most important thing.

I know that Christianity can be a little confusing, especially with how it plays out in our current society. But peel all that away and boil it down to its purest essence and Christ is the embodiment of love.

What is the Truth About Santa

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8 Reasons why I told my kids the truth about Santa

Fun is Fun
Love for all
Home is a haven
Gifts are an expression of love
The feelings are what is magical
The Real Meaning


See? I am not the Grinch or a Scrooge. We love Christmas and the magic, the movies, the lights, the music, the gifts, the giving, the togetherness, all of it.

We knew we could trust my kids with the truth about Santa. He does not bring gifts to our house. He is a fun imaginary tradition and we can pretend, but he is not real.

So this is why I told my kids the truth about Santa and what that means for our family.

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Jaime Ragsdale
Jaime Ragsdale, Founder of Altogether Mostly

About the author, Jaime

Here at Altogether Mostly, you will find grace, compassion, joy, and beauty. I use empathy and a little tough love to bring out the best in people. I live in the Midwest United States with my loving husband and awesome children. For more about me and Altogether Mostly, please visit my about page here.

Santa Claus dress in red and white with wired rim glasses with a shocked expression on his face text overlay why I told my kids the truth about Santa
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