Family Life

Santa Gift Swap: Who Gives the Gifts?

Christmas is full of rituals for parents, whether it’s preparing the traditional Christmas Eve feast, arduously keeping track of Elf on the Shelf, or covertly finding the best hiding spot for those pre-wrapped presents. The most popular tradition of all is part of a heated debate. Are expensive presents supposed to be from the parents or Santa?

Gifts from Santa

While children are enjoying the magic of Santa, parents struggle with whether or not big-ticket presents should come from Santa. Let’s talk about the benefits of letting Santa get the credit for the more expensive items.

A lot of letting Santa deliver the trampolines, bicycles, and massive dollhouses is letting your child have fun with the mystery of it all. While you will have the joy of giving them much-appreciated birthday gifts for years to come, your child won’t believe in Santa forever. Letting them believe for as many Christmasses as possible is magical–take joy in it.

Another good option for letting Santa give the expensive gifts is having someone else to take the fall if something goes wrong. My parents were clever with Santa. When certain gifts were late or unavailable, I would receive letters from Santa telling me he couldn’t find the present I asked for or that he would deliver it after Christmas. It threw me for a loop, but why be mad at Mom and Dad when Santa was the one to apologize?

Gifts from Parents
What about letting the parents get the credit? Maybe Santa doesn’t need to do the heavy lifting. Having a much-wanted gift come from you is personal and shows how much you care.

Josie-Grace Bridges, a licensed master social worker at Daybreak Therapy Solutions discusses how gifts being from the parents is a considerate practice for children who will get less expensive gifts from Santa.

“If Santa brings the expensive things, then other kids whose families can’t afford those kinds of gifts sometimes start to internalize that something must be wrong with them in order to explain to themselves why Santa didn’t bring them better or more exciting gifts,” explains Bridges. “If anything, ‘big-ticket’ presents that are from parents can be a good way to start conversations about money, how jobs work, and saving money for desired items.”

With this in mind, say you still want the Santa experience in a smaller dose. How about letting him fill the stockings? Stocking stuffers can still have a “wow” factor. Your child’s favorite candies, some simple toys, clothes, or smell-goods can all be great options.

In the spirit of giving, local parents share their thoughts on Santa and their households’ gift-giving traditions.

Jamie Ingrassia, a mother of four, says, “Growing up, Santa has always brought one big gift along with other small stocking stuffers. Our parents would then give a few gifts from them. We have continued this for our kids. Santa brings one big gift for each of them, and we give each of our kids three gifts, just as the three wisemen brought Jesus three gifts. Usually the kids ask for one thing they want, one thing they need, and one thing they read, like a spiritual item like a devotional book or any other type of religious item.”

Mom to three Shanna Bryant notes, “In our family, the kids get one thing from Santa. We usually remind our kids that Santa has a lot of kids to take care of and we shouldn’t take advantage of that. Everything else comes from mom and dad. The first year we did it, the kids asked Santa for a doll, a football, and a hula hoop!”

Becky Fehr introduced a different perspective on when it comes to being “out-gifted” by Santa. She comments, “My husband didn’t allow Santa to out-give us as parents. My husband works hard for the money to purchase the gifts, so he should get credit for them before Santa.”

Sometimes the simplest option is best. Amy Mattson-Dykes says, “In my house, the stuff that was difficult to wrap was from Santa.” Really, who hasn’t had that moment? Once, my parents just draped a sheet of wrapping paper over a present that was too tall to wrap.’

Whether you decide to have Santa give out the big-ticket presents on Christmas morning while you remain more “in the background” with who really gifted what present this year, it shouldn’t detract from your child’s experience or excitement of the whole moment. 

The most important part of the holiday season is having fun as a family, enjoying the holiday and making memories together.

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