We told our children there is no Santa #12DaysofThriftmas

we told our children there is no santa
Today I bring you my second interview and the 4th post in my 12 Days of Thriftmas series.
Bio: Amy and Steve live in Manchester with their three teenage children Peter, David and Ruth.
Steve is a telecoms engineer and Amy is a primary school teacher.

I join Amy and Steve at their home on the first cold morning of autumn, the fire is their sitting room in blazing and Steve serves up freshly brewed coffee. I start by asking them how they plan to celebrate Christmas this year.
“With Gin!” laughs Amy “No, you have known us for a long time now (she’s right, 12 years and counting) and as you know we don’t go in for big fancy Christmases, we prefer a bit of booze and good company over big presents and expensive decorations.” Steve pops the coffee pot on the table and joins in “We have always been that way. Both of our sets of parents were pretty enthusiastic Christians, so whilst Christmas was always A Big Thing in our childhood homes it was never a big commercial shindig. Some people have said we’re pretty cold or my least favourite ‘Scrooge-like’ but in reality we don’t give into frenzied spending at other times of the year and we’re not going to give in at Christmas. We have a simple tree, a few presents and a tasty family meal with a few drinks, which is what everyone seemed to have when I grew up but in the last 15 years or so ‘going all out’ has become the thing to do and Christmas isn’t a simple celebration anymore. Christmas seems to have turned into a competition to see who can spend the most money and brag about it in the office in the new year.”

I ask how they feel their Christmas differs from most people they know, Steve jumps into reply straight away “No turkey, no Santa and no shopping centres” Amy continues “Not that we consciously opted out of all of those things, at least to start with, but not partaking in them saves us a lot of money and they weren’t decisions we actively made, they just sort of happened. I’m not the biggest fan of turkey and I’m definitely not a fan of the price hike on the poor bird when we get to the month of December. We still have a big sit down meal but we usually have pork because we find it tastier and unless it’s ham the price tends to drop down a bit toward Christmas.”

And what of the no Santa and no shopping centre rules I ask “They’re not rules per say” replies Amy “No of course not,” continues Steve “we didn’t sit down and have a meeting about ways to save money over Christmas we just slipped into these habits. When the kids were small we took them to the Trafford Centre in December, I must have been about 35 but midway through I just wanted to cry. I’m not an anxious person but the amount of miserable people hurtling toward us at fast pace with bags and coats and desperate looks in their eyes totally overwhelmed me. I never in my life want to go back to a world of finding a parking space in a jam packed car park, to walk into a jam packed shopping centre with inane music blaring and frustrated people seemingly on the verge of tears.
Don’t get me wrong we still buy presents but we don’t venture into giant shops and shopping centres in December and I don’t think we are losing out by avoiding them. We still shop in chain shops but we actively chose to go to a more traditional high street setting where we can breathe fresh air between shops, seek out independent shops and the vibe is less pressured. We usually try to get everything done in October, it suits the way I’m paid and it also means we’re not confronted by jam packed shops, price hikes and ugly decorations.”

telling children no santa

With a further nudge they spill the beans on the “no Santa” rule. “Are we evil? We told our children there is no Santa!” sputters Amy, “Some people think it is terrible. I don’t. I don’t think any less of parents who keep the Santa role active in their Christmas but it isn’t for us. Again, to start with it wasn’t a conscious thing, neither of us grew up with Santa being a part of our Christmases so it never occurred to us to even mention Santa. Then when Peter went to nursery he came back with a few questions about Santa, we had to broach it quite sensitively because obviously Santa is associated with children being good or bad and also we didn’t want to make enemies with the nursery parents with our 3 year old trouncing into the room announcing there is no such thing as Santa a week before Christmas day. We told him Santa was a fairy tale and we could read books about him if he liked but that some children think he is real and we mustn’t laugh at their beliefs. David and Ruth were told the same as and when they asked questions and as far as we know they didn’t mention it at school or ruin Christmas for another child. They still did the drawings and Santa beards at school, it isn’t like we pulled them out of lessons relating to Santa or anything like that but he didn’t visit our house when the kids were small and they don’t seem scarred by it as teenagers.”
“We’re not horrible parents, I promise!” exclaims Steve, laughing “But it has saved us a wedge of cash each year, we don’t have to take them to a grotto and there is one less present under the Christmas tree. In our world of relative opulence compared to the rest of the world, one less present isn’t going to sting. Our average Christmas costs a total of £250 including presents for the kids, presents for relatives, a good meal for 12-15 people, donations to charity and a some booze. We’re quite happy with that.”

What do you think of Amy and Steve’s approach to Christmas?

Images: Darren Hester via Morgue file 


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  1. Steve’s description of why he wanted to cry in the shopping mall is exactly how I felt a few years ago. Since then I do not shop in the high street shops and I encourage charity shop gifts or home made and definitely a spending limit on each pressie. It wouldn’t have worked when the children were little and my mum will NOT lower her budget for each person, but I think I’ve managed to reign in the obscene commercialism. My one downfall? Décor. I follow so many blogs and Youtubers who decorate their homes so beautifully that I am inspired to create similar looks. I do try and find the things in Wikco’s or the Poundshop though, so I think I can be allowed this little indulgence. xx

  2. Steve’s description of how he feels in shopping centres at Christmas is exactly how I feel. It’s like normal people suddenly turn it zombified drones in a state of panic, pushing through crowds and grabbing items in desperation. I can’t stand it. Their description of Christmas is exactly like ours- relaxed, low key, good food and good company.
    I can’t decide how I feel about their approach to Father Christmas. Normally I’m not the type to conform for the sake of it but I loved believing in Father Christmas. It made Christmas magical. When I worked the truth out at the age of 7 I was disappointed. I don’t, however, think parents should feel they have to visit a grotto – I knew those Santas were fake from an early age so they didn’t do anything for me and they cost a stupid amount of money. I think every parent has the right to follow the Father Christmas tradition, or not , if they prefer. No one should feel forced to conform. Everyone has their reasons and it’s up to parent to choose
    Miss Tulip x
    The Thrifty Magpies Nest

  3. I think their Christmas sounds bloody perfect if you ask me!

  4. I really love this! At the moment, we’re kind of stuck in a limbo for Christmas – it never feels very intentional or organised but when we have kids I really want to implement a bit more structure (in a fun way!) and I never want it to be extravagant or over-spendy. I read on another blog somewhere about a formula for Christmas presents – something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read – and I loved the simplicity of it! There’s no reason things have to go over-the-top, and I’m sure a stress-free Christmas and a bottle of gin would be a better present for most people! Thanks for sharing this story :)

  5. Great post! I have a daughter who is far too young to know about Santa but I don’t plan on pushing the agenda. I am already dreading the acres of plastic crap she is likely to receive at Christmas from relatives. I would also prefer for her to understand that her dad and I work hard to buy her a select few presents and pop them under the tree – they don’t just magically appear.

  6. From the outset I thought this was going to be a depressing post about ‘going without’ over Christmas, but in reality their Christmas sounds very similar to ours (except we don’t have children!) We’re not into all the hype and overspending either. We set a modest budget for gifts and our Christmas dinner is just a slightly bigger version of a Sunday roast. To be honest, as long as I’ve spent some quality time with my partner, family and friends, had a bit of a lazy week, watch a few Christmas films and had my Christmas dinner I’m happy! I think too much emphasis is placed on this ‘spend spend spend’ mentality and ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’ these days and it’s just not needed. You really don’t need to put yourself in debt for the sake of one day!

  7. I’m agreeing with all of it – including the no santa rule- sort of.
    My SIL has always told her kids that Santa brings every present they receive, which means the kids don’t appreciate where the gifts have come from as they’re not from a specific person. My husband and I have decided (when we have kids) that only one present comes from Santa, that way they appreciate what other people have spent time and money on. I don’t know if we will go for the all out No Santa rule, but there’s time to decide that.
    We currently run a three box system for our presents, one large, one medium and one small. The boxes are reused each year so we don’t waste money on wrapping paper and the challenge is to fill them within budget. One year my husbands large box was filled with sweets – very inexpensive!

  8. As Christians too, I know of lots of folk from church who tell their children there is no santa. My sons are 3 1/2 and 9 months and we are letting him believe in Santa as it makes Christmas fun and magical for us parents too. We are having a go at doing Elf on the Shelf this December (with a cheap elf and no extra costs with his mischief). I don’t think this detracts from the real meaning, as Jesus had the first Christmas presents and we emphasise the nativity and how the day is all about Jesus too.
    I have shopped throughout the year when I’ve seen a bargain and both my children have three presents from us. They will both have a small stocking from Father Christmas with a few small toys in. All my son wants is a Thomas Tank Engine umbrella from Santa! When he’s old enough we will follow the Christmas list that goes ‘Something I want, something I need, something to wear and something to read’ principle!
    We hosted Christmas last year for both sets of parents and had a Christmas dinner but all contributed to the meal, my parents provided the turkey (Lidl!! and very tasty too), homemade mackerel pate to start and a pudding. We set the food out throughout the day so didn’t need a tea as well, as we just grazed! This year they are hosting us, Christmas Eve at my parents and Christmas Day at the inlaws so yay!
    I don’t really know how Christmas can cost so much money for some folk! What does it go on?! I can’t bear the big shopping centres at this time of year, I hate that I can’t get a parking space at supermarkets because of panic buyers and I wish that people could all feel the peace and joy that this time of year brings to us :)

  9. I think lots of people are fed up with the commercialism of Christmas. It can be overwhelming.
    We choose to buy the 4 gifts my son will receive from us online. We adopt the want, wear, need, read philosophy. It works really well.
    Our 7 year old son isn’t too sure if Santa is real. He’s hedging his bets this year by writing a note! Santa doesn’t get to give the biggest or best present. He gives a small “want”.
    Previous years we’ve tried to accommodate everyone else’s needs at Christmas which left us frazzled and spending too much. Last year, and it will be the same again this year we plan the 2 week break. Knowing where we will be and what we’re doing everyday saves money on food, enables us to budget for a cinema trip etc. wasting food at Christmas is my biggest irritation!

  10. Bit mixed feelings about the santa’s not real thing. My niece has only just turned 5 and believed up until another child blurted it out and ruined it for her.(Even if parents do tell their children sensitively)

    Kids grow up too quick as it is, it’s nice to still retain that bit of innocence. Doesn’t mean you have to go out and spend a fortune on presents.

    I only say that as Christmas wasn’t quite so magical to me after I found out the truth…although to be honest I’m not sure why I believed for so long anyway, we never even had a chimney!! :)

  11. I believe in Santa. And so of course my daughter does too. We have never paid to visit a grotto or meet Santa because from an early age DD realised these ‘Santas were fake’ – “Why do they need money mummy? Real Santa would give presents for free” so that solved that Dilemma.

    And Santa in my house as a child, and now as an adult only brings tiny gifts that fit in a stocking, some chocolate, some pens, a rubber ball, a puzzle, a satsuma, all cheap and easy for him to source. We have debated recently why rich children get more from Santa than poor children, and of course by now at 15 DD knows about Santa…or does she? She cutely asked me recently “please tell me when I leave home, and have kids of my own, if you are Santa, because I don’t want to mess it up if I’m supposed to do his work”

    I think we should all have the Christmas we want and yours sounds like it suits your family, have a very Merry one. xxx

    • I just wanted to say that this was always my parent’s approach to Santa and both my brother and I loved it! I can name a few times when Santa bought bigger presents but mostly when he, Mum and Dad got together to buy me a really big present together 😉

      Christmas is supposed to be a lovely time of year and I’ve found subjecting myself to the commercialism and expectations of others (who do go full throttle on all things Christmas) just makes me stressed, miserable and skint. If the whole glittering plastic shindig is their thing, all power to them but like you say we should all be allowed to have the one we want (including not having one at all!) without the Scrooge insults…

      Have a great Christmas! xxx

  12. Jo Reynolds says:

    I love Christmas – but not the commercialism that goes with it. I save each month so that I have money for my children’s presents. We don’t go over the top and my children do believe in Santa. However, both know that although Santa may deliver the presents – Mummy and Daddy have to pay for them. My Christmas tree and decorations were inherited from my husbands parents 16 years ago and they are still going strong. I make my Christmas cards and purchase all my wrapping paper and tags in the January sales when they are priced at 70% off. I always plan to have all purchases bought and wrapped and all my cards written by November 30th – so that I can sit back and enjoy the festive season. We focus on cheap family fun – watching Christmas movies together, touring the neighbourhood in search of the best lights, and attending the local church carols on the green. Our Christmas dinner is a slightly upgraded Sunday roast and we spend time visiting family and friends. For us, Christmas is a magical time of year, because we plan so that we can keep the costs down and stress free and would never dream of going into debt. Also I think having low expectations helps – there’s a lot of hype out there and pressure on families for everything to be perfect, but in reality this is unrealistic. Spending time with my family and friends is the most important part for me and that can easily be achieved without without a price tag.

  13. I love this, the description of the Trafford Centre is perfect, it’s the same reason I don’t shop in major supermarkets in December.

  14. I think the way of telling your children about Santa is brilliant. As a kid I never really believed in Santa, putting out the brandy and mince pie was always a bit like following a tradition, because everyone else did, rather than a real gift for Santa. I believe in honesty, so telling them that he exists would just cause far too many headaches in my book!
    I have managed to get all of my Christmas shopping done before December this year, and I feel so much more relaxed and organised now, and I can wrap everything slowly over the next few weeks instead of having a crazy time the week before Christmas!

    Rachel x
    The Inelegant Wench

  15. I have been thinking a lot about this recently. Dave and I would like children and I love Christmas (it was my mum’s favourite time of year) but for us it’s mostly about family (and food and drinks). Of course I like presents but the commercialisation really worries me.
    We are also atheist humanists, and I’ve been wondering about the whole Santa thing. I think Amy and Steve have approached it beautifully and if I do have kids it gives me a way to deal with it!

  16. Frugal Queen says:

    Their Christmas sounds perfect, peaceful family time and it means a lot to them. I felt bed for years that we didn’t really ‘do’ Christmas, we eat a nice meal but it’s not a flashy day. Looking back, we had good times.

  17. I love this post! My daughter was never interested in Santa, she never suffered for it and didn’t ruin it for the others at school either. We also do the 4 gift thing (want, need, wear and read) which is so much easier for us to plan for too. We emphasise the nativity, being Christians, and so make lots of time and effort to share time as a family.
    Steve’s description of Christmas shopping couldn’t be more on point! I hate the mad rush and like to be done by November normally. My family and I all agreed on a £5 per child budget too, there’s 13 of them in total so it makes sense! It also eliminates the big present battle between the grandparents. We also look for second hand not just new. A couple of years ago my daughter had a new to her iPod and has cherished it ever since! She doesn’t care I got it off eBay second hand, she just appreciated the surprise of opening her very own pink iPod! Lol! I do think it has been over commercialised, and I think it is to the detriment of our kids, especially as the size of the pile of gifts on Christmas morning alongside the latest must have according to faceless fat cats is creating an entire generation of greedy children with no concept of value for anything. Well not in my house any way 😉

  18. I love Christmas and I dont

  19. We have three children who are 9 and twins of 7. For us Christmas is a time of magic and love and sharing. We don’t have a lot of (if any) money to spare but we want our children to remember their childhood Christmases as a time of magic and what my partner calls ‘The willful suspension of disbelief’. We buy a lot of our kids presents second hand from charity shops and we spread the cost through the year. They only get gifts at Christmas and Birthdays so we feel happy at going a bit extra at Christmas. However all that being said, I actually found this post really quite sad. Every child has a lifetime for realism and the cold hard experience that life can throw at them; why a parent would choose to start that during childhood, a time which should be full of magic and sugarplums I am utterly baffled. Our 3 children happily believe in Santa to the point where we hide the wrapping paper (because Santa does that) At Christmas we wander around our village with our homemade hot chocolate and ooooh and ahh at the lights, which costs almost nothing; our children write to Santa and we write replies and it comes in ‘magic mail’ and arrives on their bed one night. Rudolph brings new slippers on Christmas eve (which they would NEED anyway) and we bake Christmas Cookies and make decorations to put on our tree. We buy a Lidl Turkey and have loads of veg and it is always sprinkled with a dusting of the ghost of Christmas Present’s magic dust. As parents we get as much pleasure as our children do with zero commercialism. I would love to see how amazing the three children in this article make their own children’s Christmases and how much of that will making up for what they missed out on.

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