Talking with Children about Santa Claus

We are frequently asked about talking with children about Santa. Some what to know if it is "okay" to have Santa. Others are concerned and want their children to always be able to trust them to tell the truth. And some are just exploring how to structure their own particular family life in this season. Here are several ideas for talking about Santa Claus.

Our family experience
by Carol Myers, St. Nicholas Center
How to Talk to Your Child About Santa Claus
from an experienced teacher
The Flint Journal's response to such a question
A book: The True History of Santa Claus
Become a Santa  
one family's special way
St. Nicholas, Protector of Innocence
Vintage cut-out
St. Nicholas Center Collection

Our family's experience

It makes a big difference what a family chooses to emphasize during the holiday season. We always talked about how many days until Christmas—how many days until we celebrate Jesus' birth—not how many days until Santa comes. Most Christmas gifts were from family and friends—the people who love us, rather than Santa. Santa did fill stockings, of course. There might also be some small presents under the tree whose tags said, "from Santa."

Our tree usually went up about a week before Christmas and presents would appear over the next days, making time to shake and speculate. Gifts did not "magically appear" on Christmas morning, having been left by Santa during the night. Santa did, however, come and fill the stockings.

Children developmentally come to an age where they try to work out what is real and what is fantasy (or pretend). With my own children I responded to such questions by asking, "What do you think?" or "How do you think it happens?" This would usually deflect the question and the children would then do their own wondering and thinking and come out in a place that was right for them at that time.

If most of the seasonal emphasis and talk isn't about Santa, then Santa Claus doesn't become such a big issue. If a child believes "everything" comes from Santa it must be very threatening to think that maybe Santa isn't "real" and if you don't "believe" there won't be any gifts.

Children and parents both love the magical feeling of both St. Nicholas and Santa. Celebrating St. Nicholas Day, we did say that St. Nicholas was the real person of faith behind Santa Claus; the idea of Santa came from St. Nicholas—the real and original Santa. St. Nicholas helps move focus to giving and caring for others, rather than on what we will be getting.

We had the fun of both St. Nicholas, early in December, and Santa Claus, at Christmas, without losing the center of Christmas, the birth of the Christ Child.

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How to Talk to Your Child About Santa Claus

by Sonia Leal
Book cover

Experienced teacher Sonia Leal recounts the dialogue she had with her nine-year-old daughter. The question came as her daughter's school friends were challenging "belief" in Santa Claus. This is frequently the catalyst to such a discussion. The author believes that the way this question is handled sets a tone and pattern for other difficult questions that will emerge as a child grows into adolescence.

The first two sections of the book, "The Dreaded Question" and "The Historical Explanation" are very useful in helping a parent work through how to respond to the Santa question. She nicely shows how to weave the story of St. Nicholas into today's Santa. The book underscores the importance of honesty and generosity. The later sections are a pleasant memoir, but less directly useful for answering the question.


Do you believe in Santa Claus?
some thoughts on talking to children about Santa
The Truth About Santa, New York Times Room for Debate
suggestions for families from a variety of perspectives
3-Minute St. Nicholas Retreat  
from Loyola Press
5 Widely Different Ways to Handle the Santa Issue with Questioning Children
from Jesus Without Baggage
Catholic parents: It's O.K. to let your kids believe in Santa
from America, The Jesuit Review

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Book cover

The True History of Santa Claus by Nury Vittachi, illustrated by Eamonn O'Boyle. PPP Company Limited, Hong Kong, copyright © 2003.

Purchase from P3 E-Shop.

How to Talk to Your Child About Santa Claus by Sonia Leal, CreativeSpace Independent Publishing Platform, copyright © 2014 Sonia Leal.

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The Secret Society of Saint Nicholas by Katherine North, Declare Dominion Publishing, copyright © 2020.

Here is a positive way to transition understanding of St. Nicholas and the deep magic of giving.
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The Santa Club by Kelly Moss, Palmary Press, Henderson, Nevada, copyright © 2011.

Here is a fresh way to answer the question, "Is Santa Real?" while preserving both facts and magic. The approach may be adapted from what is presented.

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Maybe the Truth About Santa by Amy Powell Zalewski, Shiny Red Ball Publishing, copyright © 2005.

A simple guide with open-ended questions to help children make up their own minds about Santa being real as the spirit of giving.

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The (Wonderful) Truth About Santa by B. K. Gendran, Illus. Tess Jansen, Tea & Cookies Press, copyright © 2015.

A simple story beginning with St. Nicholas, who gave in secret, telling how others then gave in secret, like Nicholas. Then parents did, too. The child is invited to become a "Santa" too.

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Ssshh . . . Santa's Secret Society: Where Secrets are Unlocked, and the Magic of Santa Lives on Forever! by Julie Atkinson, Magical Transitions, Middletown, Delaware, copyright © 2015.

A story to be personalized showing all the people that are "Santa" for a child. The child is invited to become part of the "Santa's Secret Society" and to keep the "Santa Secret." A magical key ornament is suggested to commemorate the child's new status.

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Santa: The Whole Story by Robert Weston Gilliard, copyright © 2013.

Simple book linking Santa, the Nativity, and St. Nicholas, ending by inviting the reader to join in the fun of giving. Self-published book has some unfortunate typos.

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The Secret of the Santa Box by Christopher Fenoglio, copyright © 2017.

Picture book for parents only, showing a way to invite children into the joy of giving by joining secret givers that create the magic of Santa.

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