For some unfathomable reason children are encouraged to write letters to Santa and Christmas wishlists.
Are Letters to Santa a Good Idea?
The idea of children writing letters to Santa and posting them off to the “North Pole” is rarely questioned. It's supposed to be part of the magic of Christmas, but if anything it undermines the pretense by making it too literal.
I've done some searches on “how to write a letter to santa” and, as you'd expect, there are plenty of results ranging from instructions for letter-writing to paid services that send a personalised letter back.
So, how do you write a letter to Santa? This is the general advice…
- First tell him who you are
- Then tell him how good you've been
- Then tell him what you want
Should you encourage children to do this?
It sounds like good training for the people who seek donations later on in life. There's also that connection between being “good” and getting presents. But I don't see much Christmas spirit there.
If the child gets what they request in their letter – where's the surprise on Christmas Day?
If the child doesn't get what they request – why not? Was the letter not good enough? Have they not been good enough?
“But how else do you find out what they want?” you ask.
An alternative is the Christmas wishlist that can be put on the fridge, noticeboard or child's bedside table. Because Santa is magic, he doesn't need a posted letter, he'll know what's on those lists.
Christmas wishlists have a lot of advantages over the letter.
- Lists can be a shared experience – let everyone in the family, including adults, have a list.
- Items can be added and crossed out as Christmas approaches.
- The lists can lead to discussions with other people in the family – why do you want that? what colours do you like? I wonder if we'll get what we want.
- They are just wishlists – something that Santa can take into account but not be obliged to follow.
- On Christmas Day, you can set an example by accepting that you didn't get that new car that you put on your wishlist, but you're delighted with what you did get.
The openness of a wishlist also makes it easier to manage expectations in the lead up to Christmas. “These are the things I'd like and maybe I'll get some.” is much better than “Gimme because I've been good.”
And finally, while it might be good that the child receives something but not everything on the list (Santa listens but you can't demand), I think Christmas is best if you get surprises as well.