Minnesota Mamaleh: Sweetie, Can We Talk About Santa?


Yes, indeed you are still reading a Jewish blog, But let’s just face it people, Santa is a part of our world. He’s magical, friendly, brings presents and is absolutely everywhere during the holiday season.

For years, Jason and I have danced around “the Santa talk.” You know, the one to ensure that our kids don’t blow the cover for their friends. We didn’t want to be THAT family that brought the rest of the kids to tears. Now that Kayli is in public school, we just couldn’t ignore the big guy anymore.

So we sat down with the girls for “the talk.” Thankfully, this was just the Santa talk and so it was cozy and comfortable. We started with how much we love Chanukah and who we know that celebrates it. This is a winner of a conversation starter because our kids are super curious about this question. In fact it comes up all year long. When we’re going to a play date, they want to know. When we’re driving down the street, they want to know. And even when we wrap birthday presents, they want to know. Not because we give out birthday presents wrapped in Christmas or Chanukah paper, people, it’s just another fun time for the girls to bring it up. So they do.

Feeling pretty good about how “the talk” started, we asked the girls what they know about Christmas. Pretty basic—trees with pretties (lights), presents and cha-ching “Santa comes.” The obvious follow-up question was what they know about Santa. Again, not much. We ventured, “People who celebrate Christmas believe that Santa brings them presents. Isn’t that nice?” A definite yes.

We paused for questions and after a moment realized that we were all just staring at each other and as the grown-ups in the situation we needed to make the next move so we asked, “Do you guys think he’s real?” Kayli’s true-to-five-year-old-form response was, “I’m not sure, what do you guys think?” Hmm…so many possible directions to go in here. But since our main goal was to make sure that other peoples’ kids don’t cry, we went with, “It’s one of those magical things that some people believe in and some people don’t. Because we don’t celebrate Christmas, we don’t believe in Santa but some of your friends might. What will you say if they talk about Santa with you?” They both caught on quickly and answered with good old fashioned Minnesota niceties such as, “That’s great!” and “how fun.”

I could tell that Kayli had a question of her own as she was doing the “I’m waiting dance” which is similar to, but not to be confused with, the “I need to go to the bathroom dance.” Sure enough as soon as we took a breath she blurted out, “What about the tooth fairy? Is she real?” Sigh. Holding onto that one for another time, we repeated the “some people believe in magic” bit. Since both girls seemed satisfied with their newly garnered knowledge,  I was just about ready to pat myself on the back for a job well done and sent the girls on their merry way.

Jason, however, who’s much more of a big picture kind of guy, stopped me mid-pat and pointed out something important. By leaving things a bit ambiguous with the girls, what happens when they catch onto the naughty or nice thing? Would they think that they were naughty if Santa didn’t come to our house? This immediately brought back a slightly painful but mostly embarrassing memory from my youth.

My parents and I never had the Santa conversation (it’s not much of an issue in Israel) and I was older than I care to admit when I first learned about him. I remember sitting in our living room in the States, peering at the fire place and reasoning with myself, “I’m a pretty good kid. What if Santa comes HERE? My mom would be seriously TICKED because we’re not supposed to do anything Christmassy.”


Girls! He’s not real, okay?” I might have gone a bit overboard here. Also, I might have screeched as I called them. But really, only a little. I mentioned (repeatedly) that the naughty or nice gig is a super-smart and fun way for mommies and daddies to get their kids to behave during the holiday season. Rest assured, people, my kids are in the KNOW.

Our game plan was to give as little information as possible. Well, I might have veered us just a teeny tiny bit away from this goal. But except for the screeching, I don’t really regret this. While we certainly didn’t want anyone’s bubbles bursting on our (or our kids’) accounts. we also wanted to make sure that our kids feel good about the world and how it works and that ended up being the refocus of “the talk” and the reason behind the over-explaining that we (I) might have done.

We want our kids to be appreciative and interested in everyone’s celebrations. Kids believing in magic is priceless. Not having your kids be the ones to ruin anyone else’s magic; also priceless. But more than anything I wish to take care of my own kids’ hearts and I know that you feel that way about your kids, too. You are their best advocate. Have “talks”  and have them in a timely manner. And perhaps, equally importantly, don’t err- screech as you have them!