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Santa Claus Traditions and Belief
« on: December 11, 2012, 02:27:16 PM »
There have been a lot of threads lately that discuss various aspects of Santa Claus as a tradition and a belief. I've wanted to bring this up in basically all of them, but resisted so I wouldn't derail threads. :)

What I wanted to create a thread to talk about was what traditions people had surrounding Santa Claus as children, what they do now (either with or without children of their own), and what ultimately made you stop believing in Santa Claus.

For me, my parents always did Santa in what I would assume is a pretty traditional way (for the US, anyway). We had a mix of wrapped presents, some from family members (parents, siblings, grandparents, etc.) and some from Santa. We also had stockings that we hung up and that got filled with little toys or school supplies, and if we were lucky, some chocolate. :)

We also left out cookies and milk, and thought we were brilliant for leaving out celery and carrot sticks for the reindeer.

When I was relatively young, my brother and sister and I would try to stay up as late as we could to hear Santa's reindeer. I think the latest we ever made it was about midnight, and then we'd be up at some obnoxiously early hour of the morning wanting to open presents. My parents wouldn't let us wake them up before about 6 (so we'd basically vibrate with excitement in one of our bedrooms), and they never let us open presents until they had coffee. :)

What started to make me not believe was the fact that Santa always used our wrapping paper, and that he had my mom's handwriting. He also just wrote our names in Sharpie directly on the wrapping paper. But I'm pretty sure I glossed right over that until I was about 10. That year, we traveled to visit my dad's family for Christmas. My mom had a very distinctively wrapped box in her carry-on (back when you could still get wrapped gifts through security), and I remembered it. That box showed up under the tree Christmas morning -- it was a gift for my sister from Santa.

After that, I didn't really believe in Santa anymore, but I think I still wanted to (just in case he really was real). I definitely played along, since my sister was only 5. I don't know when I completely stopped believing even a little bit. It was kind of annoying at the time that my parents told me things like they were Santa's elves (when I got up to use the bathroom and saw them wrapping presents one year), but in hindsight, it's kind of nice that there was never one defining moment when I totally lost the illusion. It was pretty gradual, which I think allows me to continue to appreciate it as a family tradition.

Now that I and my siblings are all grown up, we don't really do Santa anymore. I find it awfully amusing that my mom still sometimes gives us presents from "Santa", though. :) I do have a niece and a nephew now, so I'm sure Santa will be visiting them soon if he hasn't already. I like it as a tradition, because I think it helps capture some of the wide-eyed wonder of childhood. Even if it's mostly nostalgia for me now, I like to remember how it felt when I still believed a guy with a sleigh delivered presents to millions of children in just one night. :)


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Re: Santa Claus Traditions and Belief
« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2012, 02:36:57 PM »
I grew up in an agnostic family with Christian roots.  So while we didn't have "Christmas" the religious holiday, we did have it as the secular holiday because, well because Christmas is fun and because our extended family were celebrating it as they still followed religion and we had school off, etc.  So for me, Santa was the big draw, the birthday of some guy who died almost 2,000 years ago really held no importance to me.

But because the lack of religion, and my natural inclination towards faith, I always loved the Santa-myth.  I don't remember when I found out Santa wasn't real in the sense of some guy sneaking in, but I do think it was transitioned well into "well Santa is really more about the spirit of giving and a little bit of Santa lives in all our hearts and every time you give a surprise gift, that's Santa's work".

I do remember though I was always a bit suspicious of my dad's insistence that Santa was a bit sick of cookies, as that's what all the kids gave him, and would probably much more prefer coffee and pumpkin pie be left out.


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Re: Santa Claus Traditions and Belief
« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2012, 02:49:13 PM »
I remember being at school and some of the kid's expressing disbelief in Santa because he couldn't deliver toys all around the world in one night.  I pointed out that he actually had over 24 hours to do it by traveling around the globe. 

My mother loves loves loves Santa.  Mom had a Christmas coffee table book that had a section on "Santa" from different countries.  I noticed that the common thread was delivering toys to children because they couldn't give gifts to Jesus.  That made a great deal of sense to me. 

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Re: Santa Claus Traditions and Belief
« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2012, 02:52:59 PM »
When we were little, the Santa gifts were put under the tree, unwrapped, to be found Christmas morning.  All the wrapped gifts were from Mom and Dad or other relatives.

There was (still is) a large orange in the toe of the stocking and a large apple in the heel.  This is a carry over from my parents' childhood, I think, where fresh fruit, especially citrus fruit, was a real treat in December.  There was always candy other little things, usually those Lifesaver Books with 10 different rolls of Lifesavers.  As I got older, there would be paperbacks, too.  And usually a jar of pickles or olives because we all love them.  Our tree was in our living room but we also had a family room so we weren't allowed in the living room until my parents were up and had their coffee.  There were many Christmas mornings where I kept my toes outside the living room but leaned forward on the door jam as far as I could to look under the tree.  We would go through our stockings while the coffee dripped, eat our chelsea bun breakfast and then we could head into the tree.  Depending on what time dinner was planned, we sometimes had to wait until the turkey was stuffed and in the oven before hitting the tree, too.

My brother is 5 years older and I was a naive child.  I think I was 8 or 9 before I stopped believing.  So my parents got a lot of years to play Santa.  I should have clued in that Santa's snack wasn't milk and cookies; it was mincemeat tarts and a can of Coke!

One year, when my brother was only 2 or 3, he decided he was going to go out on the front lawn the next morning and look for reindeer tracks.  My Dad had this pointer made out of a deer hoof so he was out on the front lawn at midnight, with 2X4's strapped to his feet for the sleigh tracks, making deer prints with this hoof.  And the next morning, my brother forgot all about going out to look for tracks.  You can bet my Dad reminded him.  Another year, when I was 5 or 6, my brother brought me outside to look up on the flat porch roof.  There were sleigh marks near the edge of the roof and foot prints all the way over to the chimney.  And it had snowed that night so they were all partially filled in.  I was thrilled!

My youngest nephew made reindeer food at daycare one year.  It was mainly oatmeal and glitter.  He sprinkled it on the lawn at my parents' rural property.  The next morning, there were deer tracks all over the place.  The local white tail population had made a visit but to my nephew, it looked like Santa's reindeer got a nice snack.  We found out a year later that my nephew's illusions were shattered when he saw my brother's coworker changing into the Santa costume in the washroom at the Christmas party at his work.  The little devient  :D  never said boo at the time.  I think he was afraid there would be less presents if he did.

We still do stockings.  We put each stocking in a different area of the room and then take turns going around the room and stuffing each other's stockings, while trying not to notice what everyone else is putting in.  If I have some particularly interesting stuff and the time to do it, I'll wrap some of my stocking stuffers with scraps of paper left from wrapping gifts.
After cleaning out my Dad's house, I have this advice:  If you haven't used it in a year, throw it out!!!!.


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Re: Santa Claus Traditions and Belief
« Reply #4 on: December 11, 2012, 03:04:10 PM »
I don't think that I had any strong belief in Santa, he wasn't a big deal at our Christmas. In Finland Christmas Eve is the big event and many people get a visit from Santa in the evening (you can hire a Santa or ask a neighbor or a family member) and he'll give out the presents. We didn't usually have Santa at our own home but some years we had one at our common house (I grew up in an intentional community), he would give each child one present and when we returned home the rest of the gifts had magically arrived (that was the biggest Christmas mystery to me, how did the gifts appear. The fact that my mother would remain to take care of dishes or something didn't really register). Our Santa was always the same guy, a friend of a neighbor who drove a Lada.

I enjoy going for a walk around six on Christmas Eve because there's always the chance of seeing a Santa or two.

We do a small celebration at my father's before Christmas and we always have "Santa", even though we're all adults. My father likes performing and will think of some strange costume (one year we had a Zorro Santa). It's a bit embarrassing but he seems to enjoy it.


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Re: Santa Claus Traditions and Belief
« Reply #5 on: December 11, 2012, 03:04:59 PM »
My parents never did Santa, but we did celebrate Christmas.

In the 3rd grade, I received a bad grade on a Santa drawing that I did. I gave him a purple suit. The teacher got mad at me, but how was I suppose to remember what color the mans suit was?

We don't do Santa with DS either. He still believed in Santa for a little bit, because my sister claims to have seen him when she was a kid.


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Re: Santa Claus Traditions and Belief
« Reply #6 on: December 11, 2012, 03:05:07 PM »
My brother broke the news when I was 3  or 4, so I don't remember 'believing' in Santa, neither in the 'little mice' (our tooth fairy) or Easter bells (our Easter bunny).

I'm still years away from having kids but right now I'm leaning on the 'don't have them believe in Santa' side. It's screwed up, how can we tell them they have to thank us or auntie or their grandparents if at the same time we tell them it's from a big old magical fellow.
There should be a way to explain that Santa represents Christmas but he doesn't exist more than say, the Trix cereal rabbit, and that it's more to do with the spirit of chrismass and so that even if they are young they can contribute to it (make a gift for grandma or help pick up a toy for a charitable organisation).
I don't know, I don't have kids yet to make that sort of decision and It's also something to be agreed on by both parents.


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Re: Santa Claus Traditions and Belief
« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2012, 03:09:52 PM »
My experience was very similar to yours, Dindrane, as at one point I noticed Santa used our paper, which mom explained by saying she left it out for him.  Then I noticed "Santa" also had her handwriting.  But because my brother was 8 years younger than me, I played along until he didn't believe either but even still, I had fun playing along and it even helped to keep the spirit alive. That and even after we didn't believe, Mom still labeled presents as being from Santa, just for fun.   Actually, there were some Christmas mornings I'd end up waking up my younger brother cause I didn't want to sit up until 7 by myself! LOL!

Our Christmas Eve traditions were to get pj's or something to wear/use in bed like slippers or a stuffed animal, hang our stockings and get pictures taken as we did so, then we'd read "Twas The Night Before Christmas" and leave cookies out for Santa and carrots for the reindeer.  Then we'd go to bed, being told not to wake up them up or go downstairs until 7 because they wanted to see our faces and excitement.  So my brother and I would sit at the top of the steps until 7, then we'd wake up our parents, wait for Dad to take a quick shower (but oh lordy they felt like 20 minutes!) and then we could go downstairs but we couldn't open the presents till the adults had their coffee. 

After presents were opened we'd get our stockings, which were hung in the family room where our fireplace was and then we'd play with our stuff while Mom fixed breakfast, then the next day we'd drive down to my grandparents, where more gifts from "Santa" were waiting. I remember asking why he delivered presents for us there and Mom said he knew we'd be there.  And Grandma always had a "Baby Jesus birthday cake" and the youngest of the family got to blow out the candle. 

When I was really little we'd have Christmas at my grandparent's house, and I remember one year being asked at Grandma's church if they could use my  baby doll as baby Jesus and I argued my doll was a girl so it wouldn't be right. 

With my boys we have continued the Christmas Eve traditions of pj's and hanging stockings and "Twas the Night Before Christmas" but I decided this year to start a new tradition of reading "The Polar Express" which is going to be one of their Christmas Eve presents, along with their pj's.  The change is partly cause I love the story and also cause the older two are at that doubting/stopped believing age. That and this year the 3 of them will be participating in the Christmas Pageant at our church, then the older two will be singing in the choir so I'm sure by the end of the night they'll be good and tired. :)

One thing I'd like to do is instead of carrots, mix oatmeal with glitter and leave a bit out for the reindeer to be their magic food to help them fly, an idea I got from my friend. 
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars.  You have a right to be here. Be cheerful, strive to be happy. -Desiderata


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Re: Santa Claus Traditions and Belief
« Reply #8 on: December 11, 2012, 03:12:26 PM »
Oh, I forgot to add.

We have our big party on Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day. So, we always waited till midnight to open our gifts so that it was technically Christmas. That was always a lot of fun.


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Re: Santa Claus Traditions and Belief
« Reply #9 on: December 11, 2012, 03:24:09 PM »
Cabbage and I believed in Santa for a long time, because one of our uncles always wrote the Santa letters (we'd write letters to Santa on Christmas Eve, and he would give us a thank you note on Christmas Day), plus Cabbage swore she saw him going across the sky one Christmas Eve. We left fudge and peanut butter blossoms for Santa, and carrots for the reindeer.

Santa gave all the presents until we were preteen - age, and then we got one Santa present a year. Halfway through the teenage years, we stopped getting any presents from Santa.
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Re: Santa Claus Traditions and Belief
« Reply #10 on: December 11, 2012, 03:30:02 PM »
We had Santa growing up.  He would bring one or two presents and the rest would be from my Mum or other family members.  We didnt have stockings.  I don't remember when I stopped believing so it can't have been a traumatic end.

My kids have been raised with Santa. He brings one thing off the list that they send.  They also have a stocking with little things in it since that was a tradition for my exDH.  My oldest is nearly 8 but she loves believing so even though she is now of an age where there are lots of kids trying to spoil it, she chooses to continue to believe.

My kids go to an international school so they get several different Christmas (and other December) celebrations.  They have no problem reconciling all of the different versions of "Santa" and have never asked me to explain how come he comes to some kids on a different day/doesnt come to some kids.


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Re: Santa Claus Traditions and Belief
« Reply #11 on: December 11, 2012, 03:58:58 PM »
I grew up believing in Santa, but I was told that Santa only brought what the parents could afford, because he sent them a bill after the holiday so he could pay his elves.   This was done because otherwise how do you explain Santa not bringing toys to the poor?  We always gave to toys for tots and other donation places.  Why wouldn't Santa give the poor children toys?  He had to cover his costs.

My husband and I taught our kids the same thing.  That way, they knew they could not ask for expensive items thinking that Santa would provide.

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Re: Santa Claus Traditions and Belief
« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2012, 04:32:05 PM »
My parents gave presents from "Santa." In fact, they still do.

We used to have a children's book that ended with the words

Old Santa Claus does the best that he can
This beautiful mission is his
So children be good to the little old man
When you find who the little man is

I can't remember the title, but I loved that book. Even before I understood what it meant.
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Re: Santa Claus Traditions and Belief
« Reply #13 on: December 11, 2012, 04:38:35 PM »
It's interesting that some of you only got one gift from Santa, and the rest from your parents. In our household, I'm pretty sure we got about the same number from Santa as we did from our parents (and if anything, Santa gave more presents). I actually think that led us to ultimately expect less of our parents, even when we knew that they were really getting us their gifts and Santa's gifts.

Then again, as we got older, we tended to both believe in Santa Claus less and have a desire for the quality of gifts over the quantity. It was not uncommon for one (or all) of us to ask for just one sort of expensive gift (like the year I asked for a pair of sapphire stud earrings), knowing that it would be the only one we had under the tree. So the number of presents from our parents didn't really change, but the number that were from "Santa" dropped off until they basically disappeared.


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Re: Santa Claus Traditions and Belief
« Reply #14 on: December 11, 2012, 05:00:16 PM »