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November 25, 2009 at 4:02 pm #4065

Susan G

I am Jewish, my husband is not, we are raising our daughter Jewish at home and with the help of our synagogue.  My husband’s family is christian and we help them with their Christams and Easter celebrations by joining them.  This  year I’m struggling with Santa.  My daughter is 4 1/2 years old and a very articulate child.  One of my husband’s concerns is that if we tell her Santa is not real but it’s parents who bring the kids presents in the name of santa, that she’sll spill the beans to her cousins her age.  My husband has great memories of believeing in Santa and doesn’t want to deprive his nieces and nephews of that.  But, as a result, now Amy, our daughter, believes that Santa is real but only brings presents to Christian children. I’m not too thrilled with that.  I’m wondering what are some ways to talk to Jewish children about Santa in this type of situation.  

This morning I was talking to her about “belief” and said that people of different religions have different beliefs.  Christian people believe in  Santa and Jewish people…. she finished the sentence “believe that the birthday of the world is rosh hashana”.  But, then asked her “do you know what ‘believe’ means” and she said “no”.  Yikes, 4 1/2 is tough!  She has language but not necessarily understanding.


November 26, 2009 at 5:57 am #4066

Susan G

I see that lots of people have viewed this thread but nobody has commented.  In looking around elsewhere, I found an interesting discussion about this here that I though others might be interested in: … -christmas

I also had a good discussion about this with my husband tonight who suggested that if our daughter does one day express sadness or jealousy about not getting gifts from Santa (which she may or may not ever actually do!) then we respond with the same love and compassion we do to any other disappointment.  

Would be very interested to hear what some of you who have viewed my post are thinking!


November 26, 2009 at 9:53 am #4067

Ruth Abrams

Hi Susan! It’s my fault you got so many page views without a response–I put this on the front page of the site to send people here to respond, but I guess they were all hoping for advice!

When my son was 4, he went to preschool with a lot of children who believed in Santa, and we had a talk about it. He was too little for my comparison with Elijah’s cup to work (what, I expected him to remember all the way from Passover to the winter?) So I told him that Santa was a special pretend game that these kids’ parents and grandparents play with them, and that they really get presents from their relatives just like we do–and I encouraged him not to ruin the fun of the game for them. Kids at that age are working out pretend and real, so that was a familiar sort of discussion for him, and he’s good at pretend.

I asked him today, when I saw your post, whether there are children in his first grade class in public school who believe in Santa. He said there are some, and some who don’t, and then he haltingly expressed the idea that it was OK to believe or not to believe in it. Apparently some ex-Santa-believers are hard on the children who still believe in it–but since he’s not in that group, he can be more tolerant and kinder. That makes me really happy. (This is schoolmates, not cousins, so I’m hoping you’ll also get responses from parents in interfaith families who know about dealing with cousins.)

Several parents in interfaith marriage and children of interfaith marriage have written here on IFF about the Jewish children enjoying conspiring with adults to make their Christian cousins’ experience of Santa more fun. It sounds pleasurable to have that role.  Santa might be a good opportunity for all Jewish kids, even the ones in same-faith families, to demonstrate tolerance and generosity of other people’s practices. (And also to learn to thank the people who actually give them presents!)

November 29, 2009 at 4:21 am #4070

Debbie B.

Hi, Susan,

I’m sorry that I didn’t reply sooner, but at first I didn’t think I had much useful advice even though I was in your situation before. So here is my experience and perhaps it will at least give you the support of knowing that others have dealt with the situation before.

My daughter was my parent’s first grandchild, so the first issue concerning Santa was with them, not cousins (which came later). My family had celebrated Christmas as a mostly secular holiday. Even the one year that my mother took us kids to a Presbyterian church, I do not think we went to church for Christmas. I don’t remember how old I was when I figured out that Santa wasn’t real, but I do remember that I did not want to spoil it for my sisters who are 3 and 6 years younger than I am. I think the proof that my sisters and I understood the “true meaning of Christmas” was that when we learned the truth, we promptly started to play Santa for my parents: we made stockings for them and filled them candies and small gifts. I have continued to play Santa when I am visiting my parents during Christmas. I plan to play Santa again this year, and since it is the first Christmas after my own conversion to Judaism, I hope that it will reassure them that I can be Jewish while maintaining family ties. I hope it will offset the fact that I will no longer eat meat at their home because I keep kashrut more strictly now.

Anyway, although they understood and never tried to talk us out of our raising our children solely as Jews, they were in fact upset when they learned that my husband and I told our daughter the truth about “Santa”, thus depriving them of the chance to play the role in that myth with their grandchild. At the time, I think we did explain that many young children were told that “Santa” brought them gifts even though the gifts were from their relatives. As Ruth notes, this issue can come up in school as well. I really like the way Ruth describes the way she explained the situation to her child.

My daughter was 6 and my son was 3 when one of my sisters first had a child. When their cousin was no longer just an infant, we explained that it was important that they not tell their cousin that Santa wasn’t “real”. Since my kids are fond of creating special surprises for each other and for their parents (like treasure hunts for little gifts), I think they sort of like feeling like they are co-conspirators in maintaining a magical atmosphere for their younger cousins. They now have four cousins ranging in age from 9 down to newborn.

My children almost messed up with the Santa myth a few years ago when they were visiting their second cousins whose mother is Chinese (my first cousin) and whose father is a non-observant Jew, and who are not being brought up with any religion although they have celebrated Hanukkah and been to Passover seders with my family and attended my daughter’s bat mitzvah. I think they assumed (as I think I did) that since their cousin was already 6 or 7 and very smart and sophisticated that she already knew the truth, and I felt bad that my cousin was alarmed that the beans were almost spilled. I almost wonder if her daughter did know (such as through school friends), but played along for the sake of her parents and her younger brother.

I think that Ruth’s way of explaining Santa and the need to not tell other kids that Santa isn’t “real” is a good and understandable way to explain the issue to pre-school children. I hope it works for you, Susan.

January 29, 2010 at 7:00 pm #4285


If it is being questioned in your family I would tell the truth.  I would never lie to my girls. I think the game idea is a great idea, just help your children understand that others may believe in santa and that it is not something we want to tell them is untrue.

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