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How We Do Santa

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One of the most wonderful things about raising a family is that there are so many different ways to do it.

Every family has their own way of doing things, from silly traditions, to how they celebrate holidays.

I love traditions. I love our family traditions, I love starting new traditions, and I really love hearing about the traditions of other families, both local, and around the world.

Recently, I feel like the biggest conversation among my mom friends has been about Santa (I am super hip and edgy, I know). Someone’s like well do you WRAP your Santa presents? And someone else asks if parents also receive Santa gifts, or just the children. And another mom wants to know how everyone explains all of the Amazon packages that arrive at your house.

I love hearing how other people do things! It sometimes gives me inspiration for how I want to handle things in our family (and sometimes makes it very clear on ways that I know would NOT work for us!).

So today I thought I’d write a blog post with allllllll of the details about how WE do Santa.

I know a lot of families that don’t celebrate Santa at all. I also know a lot of families who go alllllll in on Santa! There is no right or wrong way, just the way that is right for your family!


When they are ready for the truth, or they ask, I will explain to them that the spirit of Santa is spreading joy and cheer, and now they are ready to help us BE Santa. I think that involving them in being Santa will keep the magic alive for them.

I mean let’s be real, Christmas as a parent is JUST as exciting and magical, if not MORE than when I was a kid! So I’m hoping to get rid of those in-between years where they just have to pretend to believe in Santa for their siblings… and involve them in wrapping, shopping, etc.

We DO celebrate Santa in our house. It’s something that was never in question for me. I think my husband questioned in the beginning whether or not he wanted to tell our children that Santa was real, but in the end, we decided we could do it in a beautiful way for both of us.

1. In Our House, Santa Does Not Bring Every Single Present

Growing up, Santa brought us every single present. My mom even labeled lots of the gifts from “Dasher,” “The Elves,” or “Mrs. Clause.”

In our house, Santa fills the stockings, brings each child 3-4 presents, and brings a few sibling or whole family gifts (games, books, crafts, etc.).

We don’t have him bring the biggest and best presents, because I have read that when children talk amongst themselves and some get a few toy cars while others get fancy electronics, it makes them wonder why Santa didn’t bring them electronics.

So, for example, this year, our kids are getting a trampoline (you can read what we are getting our kids for Christmas this year in this post) and it is not coming from Santa.

So, Santa will usually bring one medium-large sized gift to each child, and 2-3 smaller gifts.

My husband and I usually get the kids probably 7-8 other gifts.

This might be one reason that my kids don’t ask questions about all of the packages that arrive at our house during the Christmas season. They KNOW that we are buying presents for them, AND for other people.

2. We Use Special Santa Wrapping Paper or Leave Santa Gifts Unwrapped

When the kids come downstairs in the morning, it is OBVIOUS what gifts are the Santa gifts, because they will be away from the tree a little bit.

Each child will have their own little pile of Santa gifts. Santa will usually wrap the smaller presents in Santa wrapping paper, while the larger gifts are often unwrapped.

It is obvious what pile is for what kid based on the unwrapped present and I usually put a big bow of their favorite color on top of the pile just so there’s no confusion whatsoever.

I have worried for the past few years that my kids might SEE the Santa wrapping paper because it is hidden in our basement but it’s not hidden super well.

This year, I think I’m going to have the kids put out the wrapping paper on Christmas Eve and tell them that some parents provide wrapping paper to help the elves out. This way, I don’t have to worry about keeping the Santa wrapping paper hidden.

3. We Put Out Presents from Moma and Dad as We Wrap Them

We start wrapping gifts in early December and leave most of them out in front of the tree as we wrap them. I do leave some back so we have that big “WOW” factor on Christmas morning. But for the most part, the majority of the presents are under the tree.

4. Santa Puts Candy Canes on the Christmas Tree

Santa always covers our Christmas tree in candy canes! One of my favorite parts of Christmas morning as a child was peeking down the stairs (which we weren’t allowed to do!) and seeing the candy canes hanging from the tree!

5. Santa Only Brings Presents for Kids

This is a question my husband and I asked ourselves one year. Is Santa supposed to bring US presents?

We decided no. He fills our stockings, and that’s it! The kids pick out a present together for my husband and one for me, and my husband and I sometimes get each other something… but nothing from Santa to us!

6. We Don’t Follow the Naughty or Nice List

I do not tell my children that they get presents for good behavior and no presents if they misbehave. That’s not a lesson that I want to teach, plus it’s simply NOT TRUE. We are going to give our kids presents no matter what, so telling them we aren’t going to is just a big lie.

My kids do think that Santa has a naughty and nice list, based on books and movies. I have told them that every child makes mistakes and poor choices and that does not make them naughty.

I’ve explained that kids that make naughty choices are not naughty kids and that I’ve never ever heard of a child making so many naughty choices that they don’t get presents on Christmas.

7. Santa Does Not Bring Them *Whatever* They Want

I tell my kids that Santa will absolutely not bring them something that mommy and daddy don’t want them to have. This works for big things like if they ask for a phone or a video game that we won’t want them to have.

It also works for smaller things, such as… LEGOS! We have SO MANY LEGOS that we are having a no-LEGO Christmas. We’ve told the kids not to ask for LEGOs because we have too many and no place to put more.
They won’t just say “Well, I’ll ask Santa for the things you won’t let me have” because they know that it won’t work like that.

*Editing this year to add: I have developed a check mark system and tell the kids that they should have me and their daddy check their lists to make sure everything on it is OK for them. It would be a shame for Santa (or another family member) to get them a video game or some other toy that’s not appropriate for them.

8. But How Do You Feel About Lying to Your Kids?

When my kids ask for specifics, I simply tell them that I don’t know.

How long can the reindeer fly? I don’t know.

How does Santa fit all of the presents in his sleigh? I don’t know.

Do you think Santa Clause is allergic to gluten like Daddy is? I don’t know, but to be safe, let’s leave him gluten-free cookies. And Almond milk in case dairy hurts his tummy….

When my kids ask me straight up if Santa is real, I will tell them the truth. So far, Theo is 8, and Josie and Margo are 6. I’m honestly surprised that Theo still believes because he is verrrrry analytical about things. When my kids ask me, I will tell them the truth.

I won’t be like “OF COURSE HE IS REAL!! I don’t buy all of those extra presents!” I’ll explain to them that Santa is a fun game that parents play because they love their children so much that they create some magic and joy to spread Christmas cheer. Now that they know the truth about Santa, they can help to spread the Christmas cheer!

*2023 edit: I am sad to say that this year, Theo, who is 9, doesn’t believe in Santa anymore. It actually happened ON EASTER!!! We were out hiding eggs at the crack of dawn and I saw his little head poking out of his window, watching me.

I IMMEDIATELY ran upstairs to his room. He just looked at me and said “You and daddy are hiding the eggs!”

The first thing that went through my mind was: OK. I can tell him that the Easter bunny was running behind so he just dropped the eggs off and asked us if we could hide them.

The second thing that went through my mind was: I’m not going to lie. This is going to be OK.

And so I told him, “Yes. Mommy and Daddy are the ones hiding the eggs and filling your Easter baskets!” Of course the next thing he said was “Does this mean there’s no Santa Clause as well?”

And of course I told him the truth.

The way we handled it could be an entire blog post on it’s own, so stay tuned!

I would love to know what your Santa traditions include! Let me know in the comments. And, have a Merry Christmas!

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