As far back as I can remember my parents told me that Santa Claus was a made up story, like a fairy tale. Consequently, I didn’t need to write Santa a letter or leave milk & cookies or sit on Santa’s lap because I knew that Santa was just a nice story and that the true meaning of Christmas was Christ.
You may wonder why my parents chose to not pretend about Santa with me. It was my understanding that they wanted to always be truthful with me so that I would always trust what they told me. They said that a lot of my friends and cousins believe that there is a Santa and that it was not my responsibility to tell them the truth that was their parents’ job. So, I never told my friends the truth about Santa. I remember being so relieved when my friends finally knew that Santa was pretend.
My parents weren’t fanatical about this truth-in-Santa lifestyle, I enjoyed all the Christmas shows with Santa, Rudolph and Frosty but knew they were just like all the other Saturday morning cartoons that I watched, they were made up. We also enjoyed our Christmas records with songs like Jingle Bells, Santa Claus is coming to Town, and Here Comes Santa Claus in addition to Silent Night, Away in a Manager, and We Three Kings.
My parents’ intent was two fold: to be honest with me and to ensure that I understood that Christmas is about Christ. With those intentions in mind, our decorations also didn’t depict Santa type symbols on them. Our wrapping paper as well as our decorations showed symbols of the true meaning of Christmas. Though, I do remember when I was 9 and we moved to Wichita Falls, Texas we acquired a 7″ Santa Claus as a gift and we did display it until it got too gross to display. I found two photos (1969 & 1983) that illustrate the lone Santa decoration and how he aged.
Last year when I discussed holiday memories with my mother she shared the following:
I’d forgotten about our truth-in-Santa lifestyle. That actually didn’t begin until we moved to Stillwater, Oklahoma (editorial note: ca 1964 and I was 4). One Christmas the pastor spoke about creating an atmosphere of trust and honesty with your children and suggested that if we begin by lying about Santa, we’ve not made a good start. Your Dad and I decided he had a point and, though I don’t think we were fanatical about it, we did opt for truth and honesty with you. I suppose you could say the photo with Santa on the TV indicates our lack of fanaticism about the subject (rather than being a visual representation of our hypocrisy). It was for us a matter of choosing to focus on “The reason for the season” and establishing a relationship based on trust and honesty.
I never thought of the lone Santa decoration as any form of discrepancy in the message my parents were teaching me. From my perspective as a child, that single item in my memory is due to its novelty in our home. I think it simply illustrates that the emphasis in my home was truly on Christ not a commercialization of Christmas with things like Santas.