The Downside of Santa

I have a confession to make about Santa. At the risk of sounding like Scrooge: I don’t really like the jolly fellow from the North Pole. Gasp, I know! While I am all about the festivity and magic of the season, including generous gift giving, I do not particularly like the role that Santa plays in all of that. Here’s why.

The Downside of Santa

Some Families Don’t Get Santa

This week, my kids’ school decided to adopt four local families through a local charity, Interfaith Hospitality Network. For these children, Santa doesn’t magically appear on Christmas morning. Their parents, who are struggling to provide even the most basic necessities like food and shelter and warm winter coats, don’t have money to spare on piles of toys. I know this is true not just in our small town, but all over our world.

The children in my son and daughter’s classes helped buy warm coats and fun toys for each member of these families. They helped to wrap each gift, and delivered them on the last day of school. 

Why Do We Have to Do This?

As the gifts were being wrapped, I overheard one of the children say, “But won’t Santa be bringing them gifts?” What an incredibly logical question! If Santa is the bearer of Christmas presents (and you better be good if you want more!), why do we even need to bother helping other families at all? Why doesn’t he come to all families? Why do some kids get mountains, and others, nothing at all?

On the flip side, I read a thank-you note from a single mother who received gifts last year. In it she said that her son had already accepted the fact that there would be nothing under the tree that year. Nothing. Imagine his delight and surprise on December 25th when there was a pile of warm clothing and fun toys under the tree!

The Real Magic Is Us

Whether or not you “do” Santa in your family, there is no judgment here. I do want to highlight this problem with Santa, though, because the reality is that for many families who are struggling, there is no Santa coming from the North Pole. We need to help our kids understand the privileges they wake up to, every day. Like a warm place to call home, pantries full of food, and appropriate clothing for each season.

Christmas and Santa don’t have to be solely excuses for excessive giving among those who really need nothing.  They can be a chance for us to bring Santa to life for those who are not so privileged. We can demonstrate the power of community. We don’t need to rely on luck and good fortune, but the magic of human love and kindness.

gift giving

The kids at my children’s school helped provide gifts, including warm coats and toys, for four local families in need.

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