Friday, December 03, 2010

A December Question

How do you do Santa at your house?

Does he bring all the gifts?  Just a few?  One?

Do his elves wrap everything and put it under the tree, or do they assemble it all, unwrapped, so it's ready to go on Christmas morning?

Does he fill the stockings?

Are your kids allowed to go open/see Santa gifts without you?  Or do you make them wait until Mom and Dad are ready?

Do you even do Santa?

When I was a kid, Santa always brought the most expensive/most wanted gift, unwrapped and all ready to go.  We could get up at 4 or 5 in the morning and go down to see what Santa brought and what was in our stockings.  My brother Dave was always the first one up to go check things out (he's such a morning person) and would then come up to wake the rest of us up.  Then, when my parents finally got up, we would eat Christmas breakfast and then open the gifts under the tree, which were from my parents, each other, grandparents, etc.

Joel and I do things a bit differently, but almost like that.  Santa only brings one gift, and he doesn't even usually get to lay claim to what's in the stocking.  The kids know that most of the stocking stuffers are from Mom and Dad.  However, my kids have to wait until we are awake and ready to go down and see what Santa brought.  Joel makes a huge deal of it (we even sleep upstairs with the kids, because they'd have to pass by the tree if they were to come wake us up in our room) and always video-tapes their reactions as they come into the living room.  Santa makes sure everything is put together and ready to go, and then leaves the gifts in various spots throughout the room.  The kids know which gift is theirs because their stocking is also left next to it.  They play with whatever they got from Santa and whatever is in the stocking while Joel makes an awesome Christmas breakfast, and then, after we eat, we open the rest of the gifts.

So, tell me.  How does it work in your family?
Lara Neves
Lara Neves

Lara is mom to three daughters—two teens and a tween. She loves to share her parenting and homemaking triumphs and failures here at Overstuffed! She was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2015 and has been fighting it ever since. When she isn't working on her mother of the year award, you can find her reading, singing, or taking photos.


  1. As far as gifts from Santa - it's sort-of evolved over the years. It used to be that all of the presents (except maybe 1) was from Santa. Now it's more of a mix, but the majority are probably still from Santa.

    So far, everything has been wrapped - except last year when Matthew's present was a huge baby toy that probably would've used an entire roll of wrapping paper all by itself. Plus he was only 8 months old, so it's not like he knew any different!

    We make the girls wait for us - but we still usually get up pretty early. I think we try to sleep in until 6 am, but I am pretty sure we have awoken at 5 am a couple of times.

    When I was a kid, Santa used to leave everything unwrapped and we had to wait for Mom & Dad. After a few years of me waking up at 2:00 in the morning and driving my parents batty, Santa started wrapping everything, and we were allowed to go explore our stockings. We weren't allowed to wake up Mom & Dad until 5 am. :)

  2. We do things very much like you do. We wait to go downstairs together. We also have one special gift from Santa, but he fills the stockings as well. When my kids were younger the special gift was unwrapped and ready to go, but as they have gotten older we wrap it in Santa printed wrapping paper. Some of the stocking stuffers are also wrapped--always in the Santa paper.

  3. We sort of leave Santa on his own. We play up St. Nichola's Day a lot (Dec. 6th) and have the book/ornament "A Place for Santa" in which Santa kneels by the manger with baby Jesus on it. We also have a birthday cake for Jesus as part of the Christmas Day celebrations.

    As a kid, we sent letters to Santa, but that was it. I think it is more of an issue now with the super-commercialization of Christmas. We also opened our presents at 12:01am on Christmas morning, which does not work at my house. Before this year, we'd open one present on Christmas morning, go to Mass, then open the rest (we stopped marking them altogether, except for the ones from out-of-town relatives). Now, the kids are in the pageant on Christmas Eve, so we will celebrate a little differently. The gifts stay, wrapped, in storage till night time, when mom & dad bring them under the tree. Kids are not allowed to open gifts without us. Hopefully they'll sleep in till 7.

    My concerns over Santa are threefold: 1) Once you start, the idea snowballs and gets bigger and bigger,mmaking for a bigger letdown eventually. 2) I can't get over the fact that it is a lie. We've had such struggles with Andrew lying. I want to be able to look him in the eye and tell him I have never lied to him. 3)As far as the idea that Santa is something to believe in, a miracle, magical, etc....Jesus trumps that all the way. I want them to focus on giving to others during the Christmas Season. How can there be a Santa, when part of our Christmas gift to our family is buying a water pump for a village in a 3rd world country or filling a box for Samartian's Purse (with the only gift a child is ever to receive)

    We do let the kids believe in Santa as they wish, but don't encourage it. Personally, I wish the schools wouldn't not have them write out lists or do "reindeer feed". One bad side effect of this approace: Andrew has been telling kids that Santa is dead, although he did live a long time ago in Asia Minor.

  4. I think you know how I feel about Santa. Salkeith is the fIrst person I remember who mentioned the lie of it. Still, we do it (not the lie, just the "Santa" ;)."Santa" fills the stockings. We all go downstairs in the morning (or Greg sleeps through the first part) and the check out their stockings that are on the coffee table while I put the breakfast in the oven (usually that caramely make-ahead French toast). Then we either eat first or first have a devotional and then exchange presents, none of which are from Santa.

  5. We've always done Santa stuff... and the last couple years I've been struggling with the whole LIE thing as well. My daughter just turned 10 and for the last 3 or 4 months, she keeps asking me if he's real. I haven't found the right time to tell her, I haven't known quite what to say. We've always been in the company of her 6 and 2 year old siblings when she's asked. My husband and I were just talking last night about how we can tell her.

    My almost 13 year old son asked if Santa was real one night when he was 9 and we sat down and talked with him. You know, I think he was relieved. He just couldn't quite grasp how Santa could do all that and why SOME kids get LOTS of stuff when he only gets a little. He's actually been so much more grateful and kind now that he knows who's paying for his gifts. That being said, he loves to help us play Santa and that is part of the fun when you know... to be part of the magic. I think it's okay to pretend. It really is magical... but this year, I'm afraid it's "snowballed" as another reader said. My 10 year old will be devastated. She really believes.

    It's rough because, now that we've started, where do we stop. My 6 year old is the one making reindeer food and tracking Santa on the NORAD site! But I do think with her and my 2 year old, I'm going to tone it down a bit as far as my side of the pretending... I'm afraid it's just too much of a letdown. I remember being devastated when I found out. But it did help when my Mom said, "Now you get to be Santa. Everyone is Santa because Santa Claus is the Spirit of giving." That is what we told Gabe and it's kind of like our special secret he gets to be part of.

    Anyway, we don't let the kids open anything without us and they have to wait until at least 6am. Before we open anything, we kneel together by the Christmas tree and have a special family prayer of gratitude for the things we have been given and for the birth of our Savior. We also sing a song, usually Silent Night or Away in a Manger.

    We have everything wrapped in special Santa paper and the stocking stuff is from Mom and Dad. We always make blueberry muffins for breakfast, along with eggs, bacon, fruit, etc. The blueberry muffin tradition comes from my Mom.

  6. We have followed what my parents did with their kids. All the santa presents are set by the stocking. We make the kids wait until we are awake.

    I do wish that I'd done it a little differently. I wish we'd given one present from santa with their stocking and then put the rest of the presents under the tree. That way you don't have to 'hid' so much through the holiday season..

  7. Ok, trying this computer crashed as I was writing this the first time.

    You know the concept of Santa was my crisis of faith last year. I really didn't want to lie, as has been mentioned up thread, but still want to have the "fun" of presents etc, w/o detracting from Christ.

    Joseph's family stopped doing Santa when Santa could provide huge presents for some of the cousins and not so huge for others. He didn't want to do Santa either with our family.

    So we struck a compromise, we do St. Nicholas's Day on Dec 6th, in the German tradition. Which is leaving your shoes out for a candy or a lump of coal and a small present that fits in a shoe. The other thing I'm going to do this year is add the Bulgarian (and Romanian) tradition of Nikolden into it. Sveti Nikolai is the patron saint of fishermen in Bulgaria. So they have a special dinner with fish and bread. I think we're going to do that and then have the story of the loaves and fishes from the New Testament and a reminder that Christ gives us the gift of life, bread of life etc.

    And last year, I got serious flack for this from some of my friends. They were mortifed that I was going to "rob my children of Santa". Whatever, Santa and God not the same, so we're just going to be honest about it.

  8. Santa brings one present, usually something that is for all of the kids collectively. As soon as the kids are old enough to question Santa, they generally learn the truth. I can't bring myself to lie to them. So if they ask point blank, I tell them. My kids are pretty logical... the nine year old has known for two years or so and the just turned seven year olds will most certainly ask the question this year.

  9. One Santa gift (ready to go) and three gifts from us. Stockings are from MUST wait. (or else.) :)

  10. At our house, Santa brings one or two gifts already wrapped to the kids. All the other gifts are from us. Believe it or not, we are usually up way before the kids, no we have not yet had to fight for a few more zzzz's. Stockings are also stocked with large apples and oranges, nuts, and coins from Santa. We also have carried on the tradition from my side of the family that each child has a tiny stocking that goes up the night of November 30th. If they were good the day before, the following morning starting December 1st, a small candy or treat is waiting for them. They can also put their lists in the stocking and sometimes Santa puts little reminders of his own such as "remember to share" or whatever we are currently working on behavior-wise with that child. Our 13 year old already knows the truth about Santa because she asked me one day and I replied with, "Are you sure you really want to know?" When she said yes, I explained the who and why and that now that she was older - while she would still get a gift from Santa - she was now old enough to be one of "Santa's helpers." She loves finding out what her little siblings want, reminding them that "Santa" is watching, and helping with assembling and wrapping. It was a smooth transition and she loves being in on the tradition.

  11. Santa did our stocking and a "main" gift. Last year he gave me uggs:) Everything else was from family.

    My parents tried to set up a blockade to keep us from going into the living room and ruining the surprise. The blockade is usually pretty worthless---but we all like surprised so we never messed it up:)

  12. @Atomic Mom: I know what you mean about the flack you got, you would not believe (actually you probably would) the negative responses I got on my facebook page last year when I said something about our Christmas traditions. Apparently I was ruining my kid's childhoods by not lying to them about Santa...

    We don't do Santa in the traditional sense. We put an end to it very early on for a few reasons. One was that we live on an extremely small income, we get by, but it doesn't leave room for magically appearing gifts from Santa. When the kids say that they aren't worried about not having much money because Santa will bring them stuff, you kind of have to explain how things work to them.

    We told them the true story of Saint Nicholas and we act on behalf of Saint Nicholas to bless another family who is struggling with a few gifts each year, rather than giving our kids Santa gifts (they have actually told us that they like doing this better than getting stuff).

    We try to keep our focus on Christ during the season. I have 13 (and growing) nativities placed around the main areas of the house. We don't have an Santa themed ornaments or decorations. We have also discussed with the kids that the reason we give gifts at Christmas is because the wise men brought gifts to honor the Christ child. it is not to see how much stuff we can get, it is to bless ourselves and others with the spirit of giving.

    We don't really have to worry about waking up too early since our kids tend to sleep until at least 7, and sometimes 8 or 9.

  13. I love all the different traditions people have! I actually posted about how we do Christmas yesterday. No Santa is involved. Just the magic of anticipation on Christmas morning, but Christmas Eve is what it is all about. A Jerusalem Supper (something Mary and Joseph may have eaten on that sacred night), Luke 2, Family sing a long, etc. But leading up to it we talk a lot about why we have Christmas. I don't want that to be lost in the "Gimme" spirit.

  14. for us, everyone gets to open a gift Christmas eve, it is always pajamas. Christmas morning, the kids get to have and play with everything in thier stockings, but they cannot wake anyone up. So, after the family is awake, we open gifts. We teach the kids that Santa Clause is the Spirit of Giving and he lives in the hearts of all men. If they want to believe that Santa wears a red suit and goes "Ho, ho, ho". That is fine with me. All my girls have figured out that Santa isn't that man sooner rather than later, but it has never been a problem because the spirit of giving is always with us. Therefore, I don't need to tell any little fibs and my children still get to believe. We always read he Nativity in Luke on Christmas eve and we do one story or thought each night in December that reminds us of what the season is really about. My favorite is the old story called; "Teach the Children". That is amazing for teaching the kids about how everything at Christmas reminds us of the Savior.

  15. Santa brings one gift and we get credit for the rest. That's how we do it. :)

  16. We're still figuring this out but I think we're going to the "Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read" thing this year, plus two Santa gifts each. Except for nothing for the baby because, um, she's the baby.

  17. We have never over indulged our two girls for Christmas. Their lists were always really simple. Quite early they figured out that Santa was fake. but before that I told them that we had to pay for the gifts that were 'brought' by Santa. I know lame...but anyway, but for you parents who are struggling with the lie...well if you have given them a Christ centered home then when they are old enough, they will transition well into the real meaning of giving during the Christmas season. I asked my girls this year if they were willing to forgo much of their list to help a family in need. They were so game for that. In fact my 17 year old daughter hates this time of year because of all the commercialism.

  18. Despite the fact that my oldest is now 7, I still haven't figured this one out. We don't go see Santa at the mall. 1. Because I kind of figured that my kids would freak out rather than enjoy it, and 2. Have you seen the lines? Seriously.

    We don't leave out cookies for Santa. We don't have a chimney, but no one has ever asked about that. The stuff in the stockings is kind of from Santa, but all of the presents are wrapped and labeled.

    I'm kind of weird about this. When my parents told me Santa wasn't real, I felt so betrayed. They had been the biggest supporters in my belief, it seemed, and the find out that they had been lying to me for years created trust issues. There were other reasons for the trust issues, but that just compounded them. I vowed to never do that to my kids. So, I don't do the whole "you better be good or Santa won't come!" "Let's write Santa a letter!" etc. But I also don't outright deny his existence either. So, to sum up my very long comment, I don't know.

  19. I struggle with the lie of Santa a little, but I also love the magic of childhood and the way they believe in things that aren't real...I loved it when I was little, and I didn't freak out when I figured it all out.

    My 10 year old asked me last year and I said, "I will never ever lie to you. If you want to know for real, just ask and I will tell you." She said, "I don't really want to ask." So I think we're good. My 13 year old enjoys helping with the surprises for the younger ones.

    We do pajamas on Christmas Eve. In the past we've let them open a small present, too, but we're reducing the number of presents this year, so we won't do that, I think. Then Christmas morning we all gather on our bed (not before 7) and say our prayer together, then out to the tree. One present and the stocking are the Santa present (wrapped in a different paper) and the rest are from us.

    I love Christmas. I'm really impressed with how many of you manage to keep it simple, though. I'm trying harder this year, but it's so easy to go overboard.

  20. We write letters to Santa, and thank you notes after Christmas, to encourage gratitude. We're still establishing our traditions, though, other than that. Santa definitely fills the stockings, though.

    We take a drive to see the temple together and make sure we remember who's holiday it really is.

  21. Santa brought unwrapped gifts by the truckload. I can't deny it; I loved being Santa.

    It's been a few years now since we had a 'believer' in the family, but Santa still fills stockings and adds (now wrapped) gifts to the tree.

    The gifts are smaller, and fewer, but until I'm an empty nester, Santa will always pay a visit here!

    (BTW, we 'outed' Santa in July. It seemed less cruel that way.)

  22. Having older kids means Christmas mornings are spent sleeping in. Last year we didn't open presents till after noon. It felt pretty weird to me.

    This year will be special having our little grandson here. He definitely will bring a spark to our Christmas morning. But also a sadness having Porter gone.

    I will forever enjoy reading your blog. I love your openness and honesty about everything.

  23. Santa brings one gift. Not always the best gift, but usually what my kids ask for in their letter. Always does the stockings, even for Mom and Dad, but he fills them with underwear, new tooth brushes and a few goodies.

    His gifts are wrapped in Santa paper unless they're too big to wrap.

    Mrs. Claus sends clothes

    Rudolph and the reindeer send books

    Our Elf on the Shelf leaves a game and DVD for the family to play with on Christmas.

    Then the kids each get a gift from Dustin & I (together) and the siblings who sometimes pool their money. I figure when you add in cousin gifts, Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles. . . that seems like enough.

  24. Even though we are empty nesters, If there is any kids here there is a Santa gift! Even Dad gets a Santa gift every year!! So I guess I will always have that fun part of Christmas in me!!!

  25. Santa wraps everything at our house except for the stuff in stockings. Stocking stuffers are usually boring things like lotions and toothbrushes and necessities with a matchbox car or something more exciting to spice it up. We probably overdo the gift thing where Santa is concerned and we're in "modification" mode on that score. Mostly, it's just a bunch of wrapped gifts with funny tags like "To Mommy, From Rudolph." ;P

  26. I'm chiming in a little late on this one. It's been quite the month!

    We've always told our kids that we have to pay Santa back for the gifts he brings. He doesn't bring the coolest/most expensive/most wanted gift at our house. We get the credit for that one. :)

    Santa fills the stockings and usually leaves a few small gifts - needed items mostly with some favorite things thrown in.

    This year my kids asked if they could "share" their Christmas and pick two angel tags off the angel tree and buy presents for those kids. Then they both said we could tell Santa what they had done so not to bring very much and to make sure that we didn't buy very much for them either!

    That being said, they also have VERY small lists this year for which I am grateful. They are starting to feel the Spirit of Christmas - sharing, loving, giving - and not focus as much on the GETTING part. Makes my heart happy!

    I think Kenton is starting to wonder and it makes me a little sad. I love the letter you wrote and wish to copy it nearly word for word for when he does come right out and ask.