We do Santa. I now have 2 daughters that are old enough to know that Santa (along with the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy) are figments of tradition. When they figured it out, it was like they figured out a puzzle. They were not heartbroken and we invited them to the “game.” Once my older daughter knew that my husband and I were Santa, she became part of the grown up side of the game and helped continue the traditions of cookies and milk left for “Santa,” so that my younger daughter could still believe. Now they continue this tradition for our 6 year old boy.
I believed as well, so did my husband, and we were not disillusioned or confused when we found out that these people were in fact just characters, and they live in our traditions. I think that the key is to make a game out of it. Don’t try to con your kids. If they are too wise to believe in Santa, then so be it, don’t go out of your way to make them believe, because when they find out later, you will have set them up for that heartbreak and you have lost a lot of credibility.
We never put Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, or the Bible on par with any of the traditional characters of the Holidays, so the girls have not had any crisis of faith because we “lied” to them about Santa (they are now 15 and 12, they don’t believe in Santa but they worship Jesus regularly). When my children asked me if Santa was real, I responded with “What do you think?” Then I listened to them and could hear in their hearts whether or not they were ready to fit the last piece of the puzzle into place. Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy are very intermittent folks in the lives of children. But Jesus, God and the Spirit are daily relationships. Keeping relationships in perspective and truth in correct proportion to imagination is the key.
There are many areas like this in the Christian walk. Perhaps it is not right, because of your personal conviction, to bring Santa into your family traditions. For others, it’s a wonderful tradition of imagination that is passed down generationally. The bottom line is this it’s about your freedom in Christ and letting the Spirit lead your home and guide your family traditions. This could be a stumbling block for some, so it would not be right for them to violate their conscience. Others are not convicted about Santa in the same manner, and they have the freedom in Christ to participate in this cultural tradition as long as Santa is not on par with Jesus.
Belief in Santa does not have to lead to a crisis of faith for anyone. There are many times when I am not completely truthful with my children. I may overemphasis the benefit of a particular vegetable to get them to eat it. I am often too zealous in crayon art appreciation. I may not go into detail about character flaws that exist in people they love. And I may even let them believe something in their innocence, that will be outgrown as quickly as a pair of footie pajamas.