Raising Richmond: Does your family “do” Santa?

We bet you never thought it would happen, but alas! The dudes FINALLY weigh in on something! Read on to find out their thoughts on The Man in Red (and be sure to share yours, too).

Editor’s note: Today’s feature is the newest installment of our parenting column written by two sets of Richmonders: Jorge and Patience Salgado (veteran parents of four gorgeous children), and Ross and Valerie Catrow (parenting rookies who have only been doing this “raising a child thing” for a little while). Check back fortnightly to watch them discuss/agree/disagree/throw down over all kinds of parenting issues, Richmond-related and beyond.

We bet you never thought it would happen, but alas! The dudes FINALLY weigh in on something!

Today’s question: Does your family “do” Santa?

The Salgados

“You sit on a throne of lies.”
— Buddy the Elf

Santa hasn’t really been an issue for our family these last couple of years. We never have pushed Santa, and the kids each have made their own decisions about the red-suited man. Even as we visit Legendary Santa at the Children’s Museum, the kids have zero reaction to him. They don’t really want to go visit him, have never written letters to him, and have never received any gifts from jolly Ol’ Nick. Santa has been more of a non-speaking extra in our magical holiday movie more than a leading role kind of guy.

Now before I get labeled as The Grinch, I have never actively discouraged the belief in Santa. It has just felt weird to tell my kids to believe in him.

What is strange is that my own childhood was filled with Santa belief. Santa brought the gifts. We had to be good for Santa. Santa was always watching. You know what I remember and associate Santa with from my childhood? Being told to be good and that someone was always watching. How’s that for creepy and manipulative?

Is it my own cynicism that has hardened my heart towards the big guy? Is it today’s commercial society that has ruined it for me? Does anyone know the true meaning of Christmas???

And has my non belief taken the joy out of our holidays? I would say it’s the opposite. We aren’t tied to some belief that you only get gifts and love if you are good. We behave properly whether someone is watching or not; we act kind out of love and respect for each other, not to earn points. We still hold on to the Christmas spirit and love the family traditions that have been handed down to us by our parents.

So what does that mean for your family? Will Santa belief cause irreparable damage to your kids? Am I myself scarred for the rest of my life? I think its all in how it’s navigated with your kids. We let them know about Saint Nicholas and how he has become the modern day parable of Santa. We leave space for the little believers in our family and let them know that Santa is a part of the bigger tradition and reason that drives the season. And really, there might just be enough Christmas magic for it all.

The Catrows

Before our son JR was born I had two issues I felt pretty strongly about: circumcision and Santa. But, I guess since circumcision has to do with penises people are less inclined to give you their unsolicited opinions on the matter? Not so with Santa; I think I’ve had my fill of people telling me I’m a bad parent for stealing the Magic of Christmas from JR. But, I’ve got reasons!

First, Jesus is the reason for the season, people. Cliche/Serious!

Note: before you send me links to wikipedias about Saturnalia, winter solstice, or anything like that, let me assure you I understand and believe that early Christians did not celebrate the birth of Jesus. The historical Christian traditions around Christmas aren’t all that important to me.

The Christmas season is so steeped in symbols, and we want those symbols to jibe with what we do and believe the rest of the year. It’s all about being internally consistent. When presented with the choice of celebrating Jesus or celebrating a man who brings presents, I want to make sure we choose what best fits our beliefs. Similarly, I don’t want JR to learn that the amount of love he gets from us depends on his annual level of naughty/nice — we want him to learn that we’ll love him unconditionally even if he sucks. That’s not to say that you can’t do both, Jesus and Santa, successfully. We’ve just decided not to.

Second, I hate the idea of lying to my kid. Guys, I’ve been a parent for what? Thirteen months? Most times I literally have no idea what I am talking about, but right now, to me, it seems like a bad idea. Also, I am a terrible liar. I can’t imagine having to keep up a complex pretense like Santa and his accoutrement for months. But what about The Magic, you say? I don’t think we need to lie to our children for them to experience wonderful and magical things. Like, do you know how big the solar system is? That’s pretty dang magical.

Third, if I get JR a really banging gift, I want him to know it’s from me. The best part of Christmas is getting people you love gifts that show how much you love them. I don’t want to reroute my love through a third party — I want those love points for myself, yo.

Fourth, Santa is an anagram for “A! Ants!” Coincidence?


One of the most popular reason for “doing Santa” seems to be so you don’t screw it up for other families. It’s like Santa is a vaccine and by opting out you are putting your entire elementary school at risk. Again, I know nothing about children, but I promise to work very hard with JR so he won’t spoil it for his friends. Will it work? No clue! But I’ll try.

  • error

    Report an error

Jorge Salgado

There are 24 reader comments. Read them.