I received this comment, and I think it has a lot of good points and good questions. I'm going to repost it here, and respond. I know that many of my friends have gotten rid of Santa and just have St. Nicholas visit their home during the holiday season. I would love for you too to respond and share how you make Catholic culture jive with the rest of culture - I think it's important that we not ruin other kids' Christmases filled with Santa, elves, and reindeer!
How do you deal with the culture, the friends, the strangers, preschool, asking your child what they want from Santa? have you been a good girl for Santa? is Santa coming to your house?
When they are in school are you going to tell them that there is not a Santa from the North Pole? Is it okay that they tell their friends that? I have not told my 3 year old anything about Santa, but she knows from others. We talk about Jesus' birthday, but it almost confuses me how to fit in the birth of Christ, St. Nicholas, and Santa?? How am I suppose to explain it all to a 3 year old.
I hate the idea of making a big deal of Santa, but I also feel like I can't escape it??
What are your recommendations?
What we do is explain that other people call St. Nicholas "Santa Claus". When L sees pictures of Santa she calls him St. Nicholas. Also, we tell her that he lives in Heaven with Jesus. That hasn't been challenged yet, but I guess we'll just tell her that some people think the North Pole is Heaven, but we call it Heaven.
I don't have a problem correcting L's understanding of St. Nicholas. Ex: "Some people think St. Nicholas lives with elves, but really he lives with angels, Mary and Jesus." My hope is that when my children talk with Santa-believing kids they will say the same types of things. "At our house, we call Santa St. Nicholas." It will take training, of course, but I think it's important not to mess up the traditions other families are doing, while teaching my children to be little apologists. Then if little Sally goes home and asks her mommy about Santa's real name it's up to that mom to do whatever damage control she wants - just like I have to do damage control. But when kids still believe in Santa/St. Nick (just different variations) there is little damage control to do.
If a grandma tells L that Santa left some gifts at grandma's house for her, I instantly say something like, "Oh L, wasnt' that nice of St. Nicholas?!" I don't want to "ruin" everyone else's fun - because Santa IS fun - but I do want to slightly edit it so it can fit into what is important to our family. And usually, grandma will then refer to Santa as St. Nick when around my kids.
For people who don't know my family (store clerks, nurses, etc) I say things like, "We celebrate Advent before we celebrate Christmas." or "St. Nicholas fills our stockings for his feast day on December 6th." A nurse recently told my kids that the vent was a camera that Santa watches to make sure kids are good. I said St. Nicholas watches us from Heaven so he knows how he should pray for us.
About this comment: "We talk about Jesus' birthday, but it almost confuses me how to fit in the birth of Christ, St. Nicholas, and Santa." This is the very reason I took Santa/St. Nick away from Christmas completely. I didn't know how to do it, either! And by consolidating Santa and St. Nick - well that made things a lot easier. Now, I'm slowly easing my way into all this, but I do hope that through the years we can spend equal amounts of time talking about St. Nick, the Immaculate Conception, Juan Diego, Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Lucy - all saints with feast days during Advent. My hope is that will make St. Nick just one of many saints who help us get ready for celebrating Christmas, minimizing his role in our household even more. I mean, as great as St. Nicholas was and is, his rightful place is waaaaay behind Jesus - and I think St. Nick would be the first to agree to that.
All of this can be hard, and I know I don't do it perfectly. In fact, we have a loooong way to go.
I would love to hear how other people work with St. Nicholas to keep Christ the center of Christmas. How do you address the issues the commenter mentioned?