The concept of Santa Claus is a fantastic one. We can all appreciate the spirit of generosity Santa promotes. I too believe that it is better to give than receive. But I don’t believe the act of giving should leave people in debt long after the Christmas season ends.
The idea of Santa puts unrealistic expectations on parents. Children believe Santa can make anything in his workshop. They don’t understand if their toy is out of stock on amazon.com. The letters to dear Saint Nick send parents on a frantic holiday scavenger hunt. Yearly. My kids always seem to ask for the toy of the season. How do they know? We don’t even have cable.
I find the amount of money spent on Christmas, in general, and Santa presents, in particular, shocking. I know parents who spend thousands of dollars on Christmas. Dollars they don't have. Financed by credit cards. Or worse. HELOCs. And I see parents who can't even afford presents purchased on credit.
What message are we sending? We are fulfilling instantaneous wants. We are using presents as a benchmark for good behaviour. We are, in fact, lying to our children.
I didn't grow up with Santa... (or the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy... but those are tales for another day...) so we have adopted my husband's traditions for our kids... with a few updates.
1. Santa is magic.
2. Santa brings all the presents.
3. Santa doesn't bring electronics.
4. Santa wraps presents.
5. All presents are opened on Christmas morning.
How can we keep the magic present without sacrificing our financial futures?
We don't break the bank at Christmas. Do the kids get everything they ask for? No. Are they still spoiled? Probably.
I'd like to scale back Christmas. And, to some extent, we already have. We email our Christmas letter. We do most of our shopping online. We prepare for Christmas in advance. There is still room for improvement. And it could be worse... at least Santa doesn't put up the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve.
This year, look beyond the stuff. Think about presents money can't buy. Time. Memories. Experiences. Steer Christmas magic back to its origins... the spirit of generosity.