It doesn’t matter what side of the North Pole you’re camped out on, I’d be willing to bet my jingle bells that you’ve been made to feel guilty for the way you handle Santa Claus this year.

If you opt for telling your child the truth, and teach him/her that Santa isn’t real, you’re called out for depriving your child of the magic and wonder of Christmas.

If you embrace Santa, and have fun with things like the Elf on the Shelf, letters sent to the North Pole, and visits to your local Santa, you are crucified for lying to your child and perpetuating commercialism.

You just can’t win.

I’ve seen a handful of articles in the last few weeks touting the “correct” way to handle Santa Claus, and what the “right” thing to tell your children is. Here’s the thing – what you say to your child is no one’s decision but YOURS. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to handle Santa, because every family has the freedom to do what works with their unique ideals, beliefs, and values.

Families who choose to tell their child that Santa is simply a story, a feeling, or a representation of the spirit of giving, do NOT lose out on the wonder and magic of Christmas. Their children will not be forever scarred for never having sat on Santa’s lap. Christmas is magical with or without a man in a red suit.

Families who enjoy and celebrate all of the fun and traditions that come with Santa are not dirt-bags who enjoy lies and deceit. Children who grow up listening for reindeer, or eagerly look to see where Santa’s little elf helper is hiding each morning are not enjoying a less meaningful Christmas. A bit of whimsy and magic does not cancel out the spirit of goodness and love.

Still some will claim that Santa destroys the true meaning of Christmas – putting focus on materialism, false beliefs, and “stuff.” Others will tell you (with a snarl no less) that celebrating Santa takes away from celebrating the birth of Jesus. Still others will tell you that you must preach only the message of St. Nicholas, and focus in on the message of giving to others.

It’s not an either or. There isn’t a good or a bad. This isn’t a choice between materialism and morality or religion and commercialism. It’s possible to celebrate the birth of your Savior with a plate of cookies for Santa on your counter. It’s possible for children to experience joy and laughter during the holidays knowing that it was their parents who supplied their gifts.

The presence or absence of Santa will not (and cannot) make or break Christmas. Christmas is Christmas with or without Santa. It doesn’t matter how or what you choose to tell your children about the man in red. It doesn’t matter if he is a symbol of good, a myth, Rudolph’s care-taker, or an unwelcome word in your home. It is YOUR choice – and the choice you make is the right one. Only you know what is right for your family. And honestly, embracing your family’s beliefs, ideals, and values has so much more to do with Christmas than whether or not the presents under the tree say they’re from Santa or Mom.

Until next time, have a very merry Christmas, and remember – you have my permission.

Check out the “I Give You Permission” archives