santa hat

We’re All Done With Santa Claus, and I Have Big Feelings About It

Last week, the final Santa Claus believer in our house hung up his red hat trimmed in white. Our 11-year-old son and his father had a man-to-man talk on their way to the grocery store. My husband opened up by saying, “I think it’s time we had a chat about Santa.”

After they came home and we unloaded groceries, our son went up to get a shower. That’s when my husband had his Santa chat with me about his Santa chat with our boy. I don’t know the entire conversation, but knew it was time, even though I didn’t want it to happen. 

Once my husband told him, my son replied:

“The modern world has ruined me. I’ve known since fourth grade.”

Really? (sniff) I suspected he might have had an inkling, but what in the world? Spoken like a sage and well-traveled fellow, it made me laugh. And cry a bit. 

See, my family is unique. Over the course of 19 years, I had three wonderful, well-spread-out children. The Santa streak was long around here. 

Our explanation to each of our children has been that Santa’s generosity and goodwill are very much real. The spirit of giving and celebrating are things we should carry with us long after we move beyond putting out milk and cookies. The love and magic never really go away.

However, this last one stung a bit more. A lot goes into 31 years of playing Santa:

  • Clandestine shopping trips (before Amazon)
  • Clandestine deliveries to my parents’ house (after Amazon)
  • Wrapping presents in a locked bedroom
  • Hiding wrapped gifts under bathrobes and blankets and sometimes in the attic
  • Milk and cookie rituals — plus carrots for the reindeer
  • Sneaking around our creaky staircase to deposit candy and toys in hand-knit Christmas stockings from my grandmother
  • Hauling gifts downstairs like ninjas and arranging them just-so under the tree
  • Experiencing the wonder of Christmas through the eyes of my three children — always with a few tears in my own eyes

So many feelings have been wrestling in this mama’s heart. Our eldest just turned 31. Our middle child is 16. The baby is 11. We’ve made the magic happen for a long, long time. Joyfully exhausting stuff. And now it’s over. 

Here’s what’s been swirling around inside me this past week: 


Thinking about my children carries me back to my own days of being little and full of wonder. Now that I am a parent, it’s all the more impressive what my parents did for us. 

Santa’s magic was big when I was a child. A naked tree strung with lights transformed to fully festooned and glittering by the time we came down the stairs. (WOW!) Presents appeared out of nowhere, each item carefully chosen to suit our interests and tastes. It amazed us.

My mother took a photo of my sisters and me on the staircase every Christmas morning until we eventually moved out and started our adult lives. I began and still carry on this tradition with my own children. You’re never too big for a Christmas morning photo.


There’s a sort of mourning when childhood things give way to big kid and grownup things. I’m going to miss all those secret holiday doings. Knowing something the kids did not and seeing their excitement on Christmas has been one of the many treasures of parenthood.

1999 — The Nintendo Gameboy Color my eldest NEVER thought she would get? Check.

2011-The bicycle with training wheels, streamers, and a bell my middle daughter wanted so desperately? Check.

2018-The Nintendo Switch my youngest longed for and DEFINITELY didn’t think Santa would bring? Check.

Watching childlike wonder unfold is a glorious thing. And really, it isn’t about the stuff. It’s about the joy of Christmas morning. The memories. Family time and photos and the quiet of a moment’s peace in a busy world mean everything.

Santa didn’t always have much over the years and sometimes really had to scrimp and hustle to make it happen. But somehow, we managed. And it was worth all the trouble. 


Now we can speak freely and do things ahead of time. I’m also thankful I have the younger two to help now. It’s nice for them to enjoy the process and take pride in preparations. 

My 16-year-old has played Santa’s Helper for about six years. Wrapping gifts, stuffing stockings, and being stealthy are now part of her resume. She’s become a pro at tiptoeing around to keep Santa’s magic going for her brother. I loved having Christmas secrets with her.

Today my son will help with wrapping her gifts for the first time. I think we’ll put on Christmas music and have cocoa. New memories in the making.

It will be unfamiliar and a little sad. But that’s part of parenting—change.

Thankfully, some things won’t change. We will still place baby Jesus in the manger and pray together before opening gifts. We’ll drink coffee and cocoa by the tree with bedhead. Grandma will come over and have brunch with us. We’ll go to my sister’s farm for Christmas dinner and laugh and eat like crazy. 

Like everything else with parenthood, there are seasons. Seasons of innocence and seasons of knowledge. Seasons of little and seasons of plenty. They’re all part of the story. This year there’s a new chapter. 

Merry Christmas!

With Love and Gratitude,

Tracy is a New Jersey writer who loves Earl Grey tea, spending time outside, and painting. She lives with her husband and children in a home where birdsong and rainstorms provide the soundtrack for her creative life.


  • Crystal Hayduk

    A few weeks ago, my middle daughter (22) told us she stopped believing in Santa when she was 10, but she didn’t let on to keep the magic going for our youngest daughter, who was six at that time.
    What was her tipping point? Our dog, Brandy, died on Thanksgiving weekend in 2010. She asked Santa for a puppy for Christmas. The youngest was appalled, because she felt we weren’t done being sad about Brandy. Needless to say, no puppy was under the tree on Christmas morning. She said if Santa was real, he would know how much she wanted a puppy…how much she felt our family NEEDED a puppy…how empty a house without a dog is, no matter how many people inhabit it.

  • Dorothea Taylor

    Beautifully written – you have touched the hearts of all us mommas who hang on to the traditions as long as we can. I just can’t figure out how Lillie and Wes got to be 16 and 11…last I saw them Lillie was 11…As always, thank you for sharing your heart!

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