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What to Tell Kids About Santa When You Don't Celebrate Christmas

As Jews, we don't celebrate Christmas, and while my kids are still little (probably too little to know or care that Santa will visit their friends on December 25th), I'm interested to know how other moms have handled talking to their kids about Santa and why he doesn't visit their house. If you tell your kids that Santa's not real, how do you prevent your kids from telling their Christmas-celebrating friends? What else have your experienced about the holidays and how have you handled it?

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My parents raised me without doing Christmas. They always told me that Santa didn't exist, but they emphasized that it was something that I kept as a secret and I didn't share with my friends. I didn't want to share it with my friends because they all did believe in Santa Claus, and who wants to be an outsider as a child? Also, I think there was a part of me that was always hopeful that maybe I would see a reindeer in the middle of the night Christmas Eve, even though my parents told me otherwise.

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Personally I have explained that Santa visits non-Jews since I wouldn't want my daughter to ruin it for anyone else. I also stress how much better Chanukah is. It lasts 8 days and Christmas is only 1.

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I would definitely not tell them that Santa is a lie. Yes that may not be your belief but, as you know, kids talk and it's really not polite to ruin that for others. I would explain to them that Santa is a christian thing, and that means that "those" kids only get gifts on one night. Being that you are jewish we celebrate (you know, I'm not even going to try and spell it cuz I'll just slaughter it) and we get gifts for 8 days. I'd kind of try and play up the jewish holiday and the history of why you celebrate as you do. Also, I don't really think that there is anything wrong with your kids believing in Santa. He is just the spirit of the holiday season, and it's truly what he represents that matters. Good will towards man and peace and joy of the holiday season. So it's more of what he represents then what he is. Think of him more like the tooth fairy. It represents the magic of the season, to kids he's more then just about x-mas. And there is nothing wrong with your kids believing in magic. That's part of what childhood is all about.

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My parents raised me without doing Christmas. They always told me that Santa didn't exist, but they emphasized that it was something that I kept as a secret and I didn't share with my friends. I didn't want to share it with my friends because they all did believe in Santa Claus, and who wants to be an outsider as a child? Also, I think there was a part of me that was always hopeful that maybe I would see a reindeer in the middle of the night Christmas Eve, even though my parents told me otherwise.

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Dear L.,

Mazel tov on being a wonderful Jewish mom :).

I think the language we use is important. On the one hand, you don't want to say "Santa is a lie." That puts other families down, and it gives kids a "truth" that they're just bursting to tell. On the other hand, you don't want to tell kids that Santa comes to other kids' house but not to theirs. Young children are so sensitive to exclusion and to the idea of being skipped over as it is, and Jewish children always experience some measure of holiday alienation: just picture the typical shop window, festooned with Christmas decorations, and with maybe one tiny menorah in the corner as an afterthought.

My plan (my son's only 2, so I haven't tried it yet), is to say "Santa is part of a different holiday. Some people have Santa and Christmas trees, some people have Kwanzaa, some people have Ramadaan, some people have Diwali, and we have Hanukkah, with the menorah, and dreidel, and presents for 8 nights, etc."

I don't know about explicitly asking a young child not to tell other kids the "truth" about Santa, though. That seems like an impossibly big responsibility, one that's sort of doomed to fail...

Best of luck. If you like, check in with me after the holidays. We can compare notes on what works!

Mira

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HI L.,

I agree with Allison H. Santa Claus is St. Nick and saints are celebrated by Christians. Therefore Santa brings gifts to Christians who believe. And make sure your kids don't feel left out of the gift thing by reminding them that they too receive gifts durig special Jewish celebrations but their gifts come from family.

There is no need to say "Santa is a lie." If non-Santa people respect santa believer's and their traditions they will receive the same respect in return.

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When they are older tell them that Christians get gifts from Santa Claus, and we - as Jewish people get the same type of gifts.. but from each other. don't tell them that Santa is the parents - please?? My son was in kindergarten..and came home one day devasted.. a jewish child told him that Santa was a lie.. that it's really your mom and dad.. I was devasted too.. I told my son that was because he didnt' believe... it's like one lie to fix another ... It's ok to tell them later on.. like 2nd grade about Santa.. and it's just a myth I told my son when he was in 3rd grade about Santa and really about us.. but told him not to tell others so not to ruin Christmas for little kids.. good luck

Both my husband and I are Jewish and have this problem every year with our 3 girls, ages 10, 6 and 3. And it does not help that we live in an area where Jews are the minority. I tell my kids every year that we do not celebrate because we are Jewish and xmas is a religious holiday we don't celebrate. I make a HUGE deal out of CHanukah, found lots of decorations online to decorate the whole house with, have a big family dinner with relatives and open lots of presents, and I got each of my kids their own menorah to light and just let them know that our holiday is just as special as xmas. My oldest did discover last year that Santa was not real and was disappointed (which lead to her next question...what about the toothfairy? but that's a whole other story.) Anyway, she knows she is not allowed to share this huge secret with all her friends that they need to learn the truth from their parents, just as she did.

With all that said, all you can do is just try to make the jewish holidays as special as you can so your kids know being jewish and celebrating jewish holidays can be just as much fun as other religions. It will be hard, espically when they're young and see Santa all over the place, but we survived growing up with Santa and so will your kids. Good luck.

I really thinks it's all in the approach...if you make it a big deal then it becomes just that a BIG deal...decide how you want to handle it and go from there...My MIL is Jewish, my FIL is not and their children(my husband and sibs) are not , but they/we do celebrate with/for my MIL...we've told our kids everyone is different and we've taught them our beliefs and a respect for others. I explain that Santa is for Christmas(and those who are older 8&9 more in depth)and so on and so forth...and they sit and listen and watch the candle prayers with my MIL...there are also a ton of kid books out there...

We, too, are Jewish, and we haven't really had an issue with this. My daughter (5 years old) and twin boys (3) know about Christmas because of course they talk about it in school and do all sorts of holiday things relating to both Christmas and Hannukah. If my daughter ever asks about it or complains about it, I just say that we are Jewish and we celebrate Hannukah. But, like most Jewish people, I love all the Christmas decorations and we always drive around during Christmas vacation week and look at all the houses. Truthfully, as long as our daughter is getting presents, I don't think she cares whether they come from me, Santa, or an elf!!!

hi, i do celebrate christmas but found this topic very interesting. i just want to say i would def not say specifically santa isnt real or not, rather just focus that he isnt part of your holiday. then focus on everything involved in your holiday.

i believe it is very unhealthy to tell children they must keep secrets. it is alot of responsibility on a child to not tell. by giving a child a huge piece of information like that, you are putting them in a difficult position of wanting to tell other children, but at the same time remembering they were told not too. its just alot, kwim.

also, to encourage the keeping of secrets as an "ok" thing to do, you are saying its ok not to tell. since children cant differentiate between good and bad secrets, its just something you may not want to encourage.

as someone suggested on here, we no longer say secrets, and instead say surprise, like "dont tell jenny her present we bought, its a surprise." good luck

Hi L., Is it not wonderful that so many cultures have a holiday to celebrate in the winter? If you want to tell them something it is that Santa is part of Folklore that stems from religious roots. He started as Saint Nicholas who gave gifts and the story began with the Birth of Jesus and the Wise Men from the East bringing Him gifts. Yes, please don't spoil it for the children who do believe in Santa. Happy Holidays, Grandma Mary

Hi L.,

I am Catholic, I know you have a different way of celebrating your holidays. I would just explain it that way. People have different beliefs and show them the different ways if you can on how people celebrate them. We like our children to believe in Santa but you don't have to say he is not real just say this is how we celebrate our holiday. (You may want to research a little to give a few examples of how others celebrate there beliefs during the holidays). I hope this helped a little. Good Luck! :)

Hi L.
You probably have hundreds of answers, I have not looked. I was busy yesterday and did not get on to talk. Anyway as a Christian we too do not celebrate Santa Christmas. However, he is everywhere at Christmas time. He is supposed to be a symbol of love and caring, but today it seems to be more of a symbol of commercialism.
We raised our children that Santa was fantasy, and as soon as they knew what fantasy meant there was not a problem. No different than Cinderella, or Snow White, or whatever. When they knew what fantasy was it was not major news and they were not busy telling others, but I did tell them that just like some kids think monsters are real some kids think that Santa is real and it is up to their mom to tell them it is fantasy.
Of course we read the Christ story, but you would read the story of Hanukkah, and celebrate it.
When they believed in fantasy-- they got unmarked, unwrapped presents that they assumed were from Santa once they told me that fantasy means not real right? They didn't get unwrapped gifts because it was easier for me to wrap them for them to be hidden. None of mine to my knowledge ever searched for their gifts.
God bless you for asking early.
Trust me at 3 they are noticing, and probably the 2 year old as well.
K. SAHM married 38 years --- adult children 37 entrepreneur, 32 lawyer, and twins 18 in college after homeschooling. one is an art major, and the other journalism

We have Jewish friends that told their kids that Santa was real but he only went to Christian houses. The mom said she didn't want her kids to be the ones to tell the other kids that Santa wasn't real.
We told our kids that Santa wasn't real and that the parents just bought extra presents for their kids. Then we made sure that they knew and we remind them often that they can not tell other kids that Santa isn't real because they would be very sad.

I am Christian and celebrate christmas to the nines, but when I was in college I babysat for a jewish family who kept kosher observed the sabbath etc.

When Christmas time came around, they would help me decorate my tree and I would by them a Christmas present and they would by me a Hanukkah present. We would talk about santa as a part of the gift giving experience but they learned that is was part of Christmas, but they didnt feel so left out b/c they had me to partake in that with.

Is it ok for your children to help celebrate Christmas with a friend perhaps and vice versa? That way they learn about another religion and will probably learn more about their own when they are charing theirs with a friend??

I have a few friends who are Jewish and we are planning on getting all the kids together for a holiday party (more for us now) and when they are older talking about both holidays.

Hi,
I'm catholic and have many diverse friends. I WANT my daughters to believe in magic and fantasies and fairies...

I also want to instill in them the enjoyment and respect for how other people celebrate holidays.

So, yes, I tell them that there IS a Santa Claus. I do admit that Santa's not real in a sense...but the spirit of the holidays, giving and yes, perhaps there might be a Santa...like we believe in ghosts or maybe there are fairies.

I'm not a crazy person, but very spiritual. :)

I do want to advocate for how others celebrate and plan to encourage their school to explain as well as me talking about it with them.
Right now, they're only 3 1/2 and 1. :)

A friend of mine suggested finding a kids' book that might explain a bit better? Perhaps you could go to their school and work with the teacher to explain about Hanukkah?

Personally I have explained that Santa visits non-Jews since I wouldn't want my daughter to ruin it for anyone else. I also stress how much better Chanukah is. It lasts 8 days and Christmas is only 1.

Hi L.,
I am a Christian and we do celebrate Christmas, mainly "Christ's Birth" but as our twins were little we did Santa and the whole thing even though I think Santa has been blown way out of proportion. However, when they turned 8 we brought in Santa as his real name "St. Nicholas". St. Nicholas was a real person and he did some amazing generous things for kids and others who had nothing and he did it without taking credit for it. So we told them that since he went to heaven a long time ago, his giving nature lives on through dad and me. We read true stories about him and it turned from a fantasy into a real person and then a fun little treat that we do for them. They are now 11 and Santa still comes around on Christmas Eve to hang a stocking on their bedroom doorknob. Maybe take the part of santa who was a real person. You can find stories on the web about him.

Good Morning L.,
I am just as uncertain as you are. But after thinking about it, I'm sure that if you be completely honest with your children, there will be no disappointment. Assure them that we all all diverse in our beliefs and we celebrate in different ways. Explain to them that gifts come in all sizes and forms and at different times of the year. It sounds like you're worried about them wanting 'it' a different way then what your religion's traditioin is. But rest asure that if you do your part in instilling your family's beliefs and traditions into your children, they will be happy to be part of it and they will learn to accept that people celebrate different holidays in different ways. Good luck and keep your head up.

Hi L.,

This is a tough topic, isn't it? The modern day Santa was at one time a real man...Saint Nicholas...I don't remember the exact story but if you google it I'm sure you'll find it easy enough. If you explain to kids that story, and that it centers around Christmas, which I'm sure they understand that you don't celebrate because it is not your religion, then it will make sense and they won't have to tell their friends there is no Santa. Santa is/was real...just not the way kids hear of it today!

Let us know how it turns out.

D.

Hi, L.,

I remember as kids, we were always told that Santa visits our Christian friends' houses and Hanukah Harry visits ours (and he does it on 8 different nights!). I don't know how you feel about saying something like that but it helped keep the holiday as a happy, kid-believing time without us feeling like we were left out. At some point in time, all kids realize that there's no Santa, and no Hanukah Harry and by that time I think they're old enough to start another conversation about religion and tolerance. Good luck! - S.

When our oldest child was younger I didn't want him believing in Santa, Easter Bunny, tooth fairy and such. But my husband, would have a fit if I told our son that they wheren't real. So I wouldn't tell our child one way or the other. Either way, our kids still have to make the decision on their own, if such things are real or not. So I focused on telling the truth. He would hear about Santa and such from other people anyway. So instead I would focus on telling him about the real reason we celebrate. And if he asked who Santa, Easter Bunny or such was I'd tell him, but not act like he was real. Even in schools, the teacher said she gets asked about if Santa is real. She says that yes the spirit of Santa is real (about the giving). I tell our kids about the history of Santa.

Personally, I wouldn't worry about kids telling other kids that Santa's not real. That's something they will learn someday. I think the truth is more important to be concerned about.

I think it's wonderful of you to be concerned about this. =)

We tell our children that we are Jewish and that Santa does not go to Jewish houses. We let them know that instead of Santa we have Hanukkah which is celebrated for eight nights and you get a present each night. My older son is 3 and he has been more than happy with the 8-day concept--my one year old was only a few months old last year, but I think that most kids are happy about the multiple nights of gifts! To be honest, what they really like the best is the lighting of candles. Good luck!

Hi L.,

You've received a lot of wonderfully thoughtful responses - thank goodness for this on-line network! I do want to add a few thoughts of my own (based on some of what I read, not anything you said!):

Please don't tell your children that we have Hannukah INSTEAD of Christmas. The two holidays celebrate two entirely different things. The fact that they both happen in December does not make them similar. Instead, simply stress the beauty of the Hannukah story: a small group of citizens fighting back against religious oppression, and winning! That, and the miracle of the oil, is what our holiday is truly about. Tell your children about Christmas and how it too is a beautiful holiday. Explain that people have different beliefs about God and that is what makes our world so interesting. Christians celebrate Christmas; Jews don't.

Also, please don't try to "compete" with Christmas by emphasizing the 8 nights of gifts and encouraging your children to think of Hannukah as "better" than Christmas because it means more presents. That does nothing to instill in them a sense of Jewish identity and only serves to commercialize our holiday in the sad way that Christmas has been by marketing giants.

I think that taking your children to a friend's house to see their tree and enjoy some of the Christmas traditions with someone they know is a terrific idea. Growing up, we always spent Christmas with my Granny (my mom is a convert to Judaism). I knew that it was not "my" holiday, but we joined in my Granny's celebrations because it was a family day. I enjoyed making ornaments for her tree when I was old enough to do so.

Finally, thank you for being another Jewish mommy out there. Sometimes I feel very alone in that...

Best wishes,

T.

Jewish children need to learn that they don't celebrate Chrismas or Santa that instead they celebrate Channukah.

What all children need to learn is respect for everyones religion.

If you don't tell your children that Santa isn't real, you wont have to prevent them from telling their Christmas- celebrating friends.

I tend to think one can answer childrens questions and teach children the differences in religion and how the different holidays are celebrated without one getting into what they think is real or not.

As a Jew I also do not celebrate Christmas. We explained to our kids that every religion has there way of celebrating their own holidays & that is how Christmas is celebrated by non-Jews. We have Chanukah & we light candles, etc. It is always very important to highlight all the positive & fun ways in which we celebrate our own holidays so your children don't feel left out of all the fun.

Hi L.,
Were you raised Jewish? How did you parents handle it? I was raised in a Jewish family. There was really no explaining. I wasn't taught that we didn't celebrate Christmas. I grew up knowing what holidays we celebrated and what we did for them. Santa was part of Christmas and that was not part of our home. I didn't feel jealous or left out. As a kid, Hanukah with 8 days of gifts seems like a pretty good deal :) I wasn't told that Santa wasn't real, it simply wasn't a part of any of our holidays. I wouldn't mention it to your kids at all. If they ask, I'd let them know that Christmas is a Christian holiday and remind them of the holidays of your faith.
Good luck

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