How did your parents make Santa real for you?
November 21, 2011 10:24 AM   Subscribe

How did your parents make Santa Claus real for you?

As the parent of a four-going-on-five year old, I'd like to do a few extra things to make Santa seem "real" to him beyond having crumbs left on the cookie plate we leave out or the late-night sound of jingle bells ringing through the house. (We've also got "write him a letter" and "track Santa on NORAD" covered.)

One co-worker told me that her husband spray-painted red "landing strips" onto the snow on their front yard and she put sprinkles of "Santa powder" around their chimney for the kids to find on Christmas morning.

Someone else suggested that in addition to cookies, leaving a carrot for the reindeer that ends up with a few bites out of it is a good idea.

Any other tips for other things you do or have heard about to make Santa seem more real on the big day?
posted by Jaybo to Society & Culture (53 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: When I was four or five years old, in the USSR, my mom hired a dude dressed like Santa (Father Frost and his assistant the Snow Maiden) to come to our house for a few minutes, give me my presents and sing/dance with me. It was pretty fucking spectacular. I'm not sure how the mechanics of that worked -- I assume the fact that the neighborhood was nothing but apartment buildings helped -- and I've never heard any American friends relating anything similar, though.

Other than that, when we were already in the States, my only put a few presents under the tree. Then, at a certain point during the evening (Russian kids gets presents on New Year's Eve) the doorbell rang and they told me to go downstairs and there was a bigass bag of toys waiting for me. I'm pretty sure they had our landlord to ring the bell.
posted by griphus at 10:29 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: ...I just realized neither of those work because kids get presents on Christmas Day. So, uh, never mind!
posted by griphus at 10:30 AM on November 21, 2011

Best answer: I was first doubtful around that age, but my family guaranteed a few more years of staunch belief. (This would require an accomplice on your part.) My family's tradition is to spend Christmas Eve at my aunt's house, ending with midnight mass. Sometime during the evening, my older brothers slipped out and set up a small Christmas tree of my very own in my room, from Santa. Because the family's so big, I never noticed they were missing, so the Santa explanation was the only possible truth for me, because I was with my family all night.
posted by ferociouskitty at 10:31 AM on November 21, 2011

Best answer: Letters to santa are covered but letters from santa are good too. In our house, santa fills the stockings and brings one gift for each person (that's how it is in the stories too, one gift per kid) ... everything else comes from people (mostly me). That way when they write to santa they really have to think about what they want. The gift santa brings usually has a note attached too ("now be sure and wear your helmet when you ride this!")
posted by headnsouth at 10:34 AM on November 21, 2011

Best answer: I never believed in Santa, but oh lord did my parents try! And my sister believed until she was six or seven in spite of having a not-much-older unbeliever in the house, so they must have done something right.

One thing they did was they used different wrapping paper for "Santa" presents and "from mom and dad" presents. I was shocked to realize that not all parents do this! I mean, it still didn't fool me, but it seems like a bare minimum if you're dealing with any skepticism at all. I know some people don't wrap the Santa presents at all.
posted by mskyle at 10:37 AM on November 21, 2011 [8 favorites]

Best answer: You can "find" a black button on the floor next to the tree. It must have fallen off Santa's big red coat.

Santa can leave tracks from his boots near the chimney.

I always liked it when Santa left notes for me. Mom would write out a fancy letter and tape it to whatever my big present was.
posted by dchrssyr at 10:40 AM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My dad climbed up o the roof with bells and tromped around shortly after we'd gone to bed. Santa presents got wrapped in Santa print paper.
posted by mollymayhem at 10:45 AM on November 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Every year, Santa wrote me and my sister decently long notes in response to the letters we left him. And his handwriting was significantly different from my parents' (though it turns out my dad is the one who wrote them—he just made an effort to have it not look like his). I was a pretty credulous kid. They didn't have to do anything else.
posted by ocherdraco at 10:46 AM on November 21, 2011

Best answer: Not only did my parents use a different wrapping paper, my mom used a totally different handwriting style on the tags, different ink, etc.
posted by candyland at 10:46 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The last two years, we've arranged for a video message from Santa for our daughter. It doesn't look like the site is live yet for this year, but you can leave your email address to get a notification. It's terrific--you put in a bunch of details like kid's name, boy/girl, thing they're supposed to be working on (being nicer to little brother, etc.), present they really want, etc. Then, you receive an email with a link to the video. Then, you say to your kid, "look what I got in my email today, a message for you, what could it be?". Santa's beard and mustache cover his mouth, but the audio is quite good and it really does seem (especially for a kid) like Santa is talking just to them. Last year I even uploaded a picture of lil'bubbaclees and they showed it on Santa's "nice" list with a big green checkmark next to it. So cute!

I agree with others here, using different wrapping paper for Santa presents is good, as is disguising your handwriting (if you write on the gifts or leave notes). I distinctly remember noting that Santa and my mom had the same handwriting when I was a kid...
posted by msbubbaclees at 10:49 AM on November 21, 2011

Best answer: When I was four, my parents totally rigged a scene where Santa came on Christmas eve, while we were all at church. It had to do with distracting me so that one of them could run back in and throw all the presents under the tree, and I was young enough that I didn't figure it out for years and finally had to convince my mom to explain how they did it.

So yeah, even though I intellectually understood there was no Santa by the following Christmas, it was really hard for me to give up the last shreds of belief until much later. I probably stopped believing in God before I stopped believing in Santa entirely.

In our family now that I am a parent, Santa brings absolutely absurd and over the top presents that we as parents would clearly never buy, and in fact we are horrified by his excess and his inability to understand our family's values. My nine-year-old is absolutely convinced Santa couldn't possibly be us, for this reason, since we are so boring.

We are very, very careful to give fun-but-enriching gifts "from us" to provide even stronger contrast between our gifts and Santa's. I'm afraid we're edging into the point where we'll either have to accept that our kids will grow out of belief, or we'll have to go Full Puppy.
posted by padraigin at 10:51 AM on November 21, 2011 [42 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, and if you have an adult friend who would get a kick out of a video message from Santa, you can do that too (you can say if they've been naughty, for example)...
posted by msbubbaclees at 10:51 AM on November 21, 2011

Best answer: My parents both have terrible handwriting and it's very distinct. Santa had wonderful, elegant, compact script. Only last year was I able to get my dad to tell me that my Grandma wrote the tags.

Also, Santa always had different wrapping.
posted by radioamy at 10:55 AM on November 21, 2011

Best answer: Whatever you do, no matter how late at night it is, keep your voices way down when you're putting out the Santa presents. You never know if kids are pretending to sleep so Santa will come, and if they overhear "Did you get the stocking stuffers yet?" or "Don't forget to leave some cookie crumbs," they will be devastated. (says the girl who cried and cried after overhearing her parents trying to find places for the last few easter eggs)
posted by vytae at 11:02 AM on November 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Make sure that if food and/or drink is left out for Santa and/or the reindeer the items are at least partially consumed. My parents couldn't get it together enough to even eat one or two of the cookies I left for Santa, so don't be them!!
posted by crankylex at 11:04 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My childhood bedroom window looked out over the roof of the back porch. Every year on Christmas morning I would look out this window and see reindeer tracks in the snow on the roof. Years later I was told that my dad would wait for me to fall asleep, open my window, and create the tracks with a long pole with a hoof-shaped attachment.

My parents also did the cookie crumbs and the half-eaten carrot thing, but the track were always what impressed me.
posted by stungeye at 11:05 AM on November 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: The coolest thing my parents did was create a videotape that showed presents "magically" appearing under the tree (with the explanation here being that Santa was invisible when delivering presents). As a nerdy-yet-gullible elementary-schooler I remember being seriously impressed by that one.
posted by aecorwin at 11:07 AM on November 21, 2011

Best answer: Santa brings absolutely absurd and over the top presents that we as parents would clearly never buy, and in fact we are horrified by his excess and his inability to understand our family's values.

I love this so much.
posted by aabbbiee at 11:18 AM on November 21, 2011 [6 favorites]

Best answer: If you decide to have Santa leave the kids a thank-you note, as was the deal in my house growing up, be sure to alter your handwriting so your kids won't recognize it. I think I was about 5 when I totally busted my mom on this. She panicked and tried to explain it away, saying, "Well, um, Santa is MAGICAL!" I had a younger brother and a much-younger sister, and after my brother and I were post-Santa, it was pretty fun for us to get into the Santafication of the house after our sister went to bed.
posted by emelenjr at 11:25 AM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I believed in Santa until I was ten, when pretty much the same thing that happened to vytae happened to me. I heard my mom and older sister putting out the presents. And cried. In part because I felt dumb for believing for so long. Hum bug.

But anyway, key to my belief was Santa Claus: The Movie, which I was convinced was really the real history of Santa Claus. It's not great cinema, but even today, the beginning, and the animatronic reindeer, have something magical about them that many Christmas movies lack.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:39 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Before I was born, my dad used to dress up as Santa and visit family friends with children on Christmas Eve. In fact, one year the town drunk was stumbling home from the pub and saw my dad and could only get out a "S..S...S...Santa?" There's a photo of me as a baby in my dad's arms while he's dressed as Santa. Apparently, this photo never fooled me and I would look at it saying "Daddy." This broke his heart since he loved playing Santa.

The Christmas I was 5, my dad had the last tickets to a popular New Year's Eve dance in town. A man offered my dad an outrageous sum of money for the tickets, but instead my dad convinced this man (that I didn't know) to come to the farm, change in the milk house, and come to the house with presents for me. My dad stayed outside pretending to be out milking the cows. Large man comes bouncing through the door, with many merry ho ho hos, and a bag of presents. To this day, I swear the bag was leather like the one in my favourite book about Santa had, my mum thinks it was an orange rubbish bag! I got to pick 2 presents out of the bag, but was redirected to a particular one when I chose one of the empty boxes. It was the only year that Santa's presents were wrapped in my house. Santa didn't have time to wrap presents! Of course, I was much, much younger than my siblings who were too old to get presents from Santa so there was no need to identify which present went to which kid.

There's another kid from our community that rode on my dad's school bus and joyfully retells the tale of the last day of school when my dad radioed the North Pole and the kid heard Santa. My dad had turned up the static on the radio and had a short one-sided conversation where Santa only needed to say short answers.
posted by CdnMathTeacher at 11:39 AM on November 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Nthing much of above and...we used to leave carrots for Rudolph and the other reindeers, and in the morning they'd all be nibbled down to the ends, and there would be a hoof print "thank you" on Santa's note to us.
posted by kinetic at 11:53 AM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is the video message from Santa site that I found and just sent to my husband - I like the options!

At our house Santa leaves the presents unwrapped, so she can play with the right away - dolls all unwired and everything with batteries in them already. Presents from people are wrapped.

We, too, cannot believe how despite the price and the fact we could never, ever have afforded her heart's desire last year, Santa brought it, because Santa is real in that there just happened to be a giant "Aslan" that she could really ride on on Kijiji within our budget. Oh, the magic of Christmas. But we'd showed her with the Googles that there didn't seem to be any standing ones, just in case we couldn't find the right thing and she had to make do with the lying-down one that was in our budget. This year, it's a giant dolphin whose tail I'll have to amputate, because she wants to rescue a "Winter", and build a tail for it. That'll be fun. I've already shown her the ready made "Winter" stuffed animal, which is pretty lame, so when Santa brings her the awesome one, she'll be thrilled. So, TL;DR - bait and switch works for us. Or, call it managing expectations then blowing her mind.

We use a "Santa's Key", as we don't have a working chimney. Ours is gaudier than I'd like, but it was a gift - if I'd have thought of it myself, I'd have used a nice antique from the bunch I have around.

For the Tooth Fairy, we told her we caught a glimpse of her but could only capture an image of her shadow (just a paper silhouette, and she didn't pick up on the thread in the image, thank goodness!). This year she wants to sneak down with her camera to try to catch Santa. It might be creepy to do a shadow lurking over her bed. I think what we'll do is maybe to snap a blurry image through the front door window of a red hatted-gentleman with a sack going down the walkway.

We have a vintage toy phone kind of like this hanging in our kitchen that we call the "Santa Hotline" - it only works for parents. We call Santa directly to report on behaviour he might be missing and when something sucks or breaks, we call to ask to yell at Herbie about it, but Santa says he'll take care of it, that he's trying to respect his wish to become a dentist. And, every year, the dog steals Santa's cookies or the reindeer's carrots, and she gets a lump of coal and we get a phone call the next day from the North Pole Elves about our very bad dog. (Husband takes a walk and calls home, makes squeaky angry voices that you can hear well enough and I answer with shameful apologies, and then when mrgood comes home, he is always relieved to have missed the call).

A few years ago, Santa left a note saying thanks, but he got so full of milk and cookies from other people's houses that he'd love to sample something from our nice collection of bourbons instead next year; so since then he gets a nice pour in one of our best glasses.
posted by peagood at 11:53 AM on November 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: My parents did the cookie crumbs and disguised handwriting as discussed above, but my favorite part of the Christmas season was the Elf who came to stay with us. He'd arrive on the day after Thanksgiving, and he lived in a piece of pottery in our living room. My dad could see the Elf, but he moved too quickly for kids to spot him (although we TRIED to catch a glimpse, sneaking up on that pottery I don't know how many times). The Elf would observe our behavior until the morning of Christmas Eve, keeping a list of the good and bad things we did, in order to let Santa know whether he should stop by our place that year. He always went back to the North Pole in time to talk to Santa before his big sleigh trip that night. Somehow, we were always judged to be good children, and we found lots of wonderful things from Santa under the tree on Christmas morning!

The best part for my parents was that, if my siblings and I were being naughty, all they'd have to do was call out into the air something like "Elf, I hope you're writing this down!" -- and we'd of course stop misbehaving immediately and apologize.
posted by Boogiechild at 11:57 AM on November 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My parents used the different wrapping paper deal so I would have visibly different presents from Santa vs Mom & Dad.
The biggest thing though: they would actually get 2 of the same item for me. If I wanted Hungry Hungry Hippos they would buy 2: one from Santa and one from Mom & Dad.
My parents were the type that didn't have a direct line to the North Pole so they obviously wouldn't know what Santa was bringing me that year.
Of course, my mother would continue playing the role by pretending to frantically search for the receipt so she could "hopefully" return their gift to me, followed by ranting about how she hated waiting in line the day after Christmas to return gifts, and how Santa needed to send her a letter ahead of time so they could better organize next year.
Every time I started doubting Santa Claus my parents would pull this trick and I was sold.
posted by simplethings at 12:46 PM on November 21, 2011 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I love the Dad Saves Christmas story from this comment.
posted by etc. at 1:13 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My folks always did the different wrapping paper for Santa's gifts vs. the stuff from Mom & Dad --- just make sure Santa signs the gift tag with a different handwriting!

My father was another one who loved, Loved LOVED to dress up as Santa, and 'visit' our house. Like stungeye's dad, he also did the reindeer hoofprints and sleigh tracks in the snow. One year, when my oldest sister was beginning to doubt, he got a friend to do Santa for us, so when Sister loudly claimed it was really Dad, he walked into the room and 'proved' he wasn't Santa.

The very best year of all, though, was an accident, when we lived out in a very rural area. Apparently Dad was in all dressed in his Santa suit, ready to come inside and surprise us, when several REAL deer wandered into the front yard..... let me tell ya, looking out the window and seeing both Santa and a small herd of live deer all standing together right out there by your snow-fort will make a kid a true believer!
posted by easily confused at 1:16 PM on November 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, and when we were older and no longer believed in Santa? It was a family joke that instead of cookies & milk, Santa would appreciate a liverwurst snadwich on rye bread with a side of beer --- what a coincidence: that was DAD's favorite sandwich, too!
posted by easily confused at 1:19 PM on November 21, 2011

Best answer: get some sleigh bells and jingle them outdoors late at night. Or, get a copy of Polar Express, a wonderful book, and put a sleigh bell under the tree.
posted by theora55 at 1:24 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One year we stayed at my grandparents' relatively small house. My dad and I ended up sleeping on the pullout couch (in a different room from the tree). At some point, I woke up and heard big boots clomping around in the room with the tree. As I sat up to leave, my dad grabbed my arm, put his finger up to his lips, and whispered somewhat alarmedly, "shhhhh." I got the hint: "don't blow our chance with Santa, kid!"

In hindsight, it was the perfect con: I couldn't get out of bed to check because my dad was with me, and so my granddaddy could stomp about and ho-ho-ho without any worries.

It certainly added another year of believing.

Our daughter is just turning 1 soon, and I absolutely CANNOT WAIT for her to grok the idea of Santa.
posted by thomsplace at 1:34 PM on November 21, 2011

Best answer: Cotton wool wisps (Father Christmas' beard!!!) caught in and around the brick of the fireplace. Best memory I have is watching the wide eyed wonder of my cousin touching and picking out the clues for where Father Christmas had been on his visit to deliver presents.

(Aww, man, there's something in my eye. That's one of the few memories I have of my lil' cousin. He died very young.)
posted by jujulalia at 1:55 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I saw parents do this (I was a teenager at the time):

It was a foggy night. A neighbor walked up and down the street wearing all black (as not to be seen). He had a flashlight covered by red cloth and was shaking jingle bells. The kids dove - literally DOVE - into their beds so they could be asleep when Santa would arrive. Cutest thing I ever saw.
posted by 2oh1 at 2:08 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Friends of mine leave santa foot prints near the fireplace, they use cornstarch so it looks like snowy prints.
posted by sadtomato at 2:17 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: As well as the chewed up carrots and empty beer bottle (Santa is a grown man, he doesn't drink milk), my parents would leave a trail of sultanas outside and tell us it was reindeer poo. Sometimes my Dad would eat it and we'd all scream and pretend to vomit. Good times.
posted by Wantok at 2:25 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: There were a lot of ways that my mom kept the Santa illusion going.

We always put out various food for Santa and the reindeer (generally, cookies and a mug of eggnog for Santa, and a carrot for Rudolph). A number of people have mentioned making sure to leave the food with a bite taken out, but my mom also left sooty fingerprints on the mug, which I thought was a great touch.

Santa's gifts were different than the others I received—they were never wrapped (everything was in my stocking), never in packaging, and never branded. The lack of packaging and branding helped make those presents different, and made the "Santa's workshop" thing make sense.

There were also one really impressive feat. One year, I was visiting my grandparents at Christmas in upstate New York. The room I way staying in looked out over a lower roof and it had snowed heavily. Somehow somebody got up on that roof and made hoof prints and sleigh tracks. I was on the verge of not believing that year, and it definitely kept me going for a while.
posted by duien at 2:28 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Soot footprints. An autograph. Letters. A red sack left on the roof, discovered later Christmas Day - Santa must have dropped it.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 2:29 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My uncle used to dress up as Santa, every year. On Christmas Eve a bunch of us would go over to a relative's house (or they would come to ours), and we'd sit around and eat and talk. And then someone would gasp and point out a window - "I see Rudolph!" - and all us little kids would run to that window and look and look to see if we could see that famous red-nose-glow.
That gave my uncle (who had been socializing with all the rest of the adults) time to sneak off to the garage and get changed into his outfit. He even had a big sack and 'jingle bells', and as we were looking for Rudolph (any stray airplane became the subject of much hot debate), we would hear jingle jingle jingle from outside.
And then, in to the house would step Santa! In a blast of cold air, and sometimes snow, jingling and ho-ho-ho-ing, with his big sack of presents. He'd get a seat of honour, and everyone would line up for their present. He handed them out with great care, and you could sit on his lap and he would say something about a good or proud thing you did that year, and then he'd move on to the next one. He even sometimes had special presents for the grown ups. And then after the sack was empty and all the presents handed out, he would say something about having to go visit other houses and families, and take himself away.
It took me a long time to realize my uncle wasn't in the same room as Santa. Watching and waiting for your present and Santa-time (and then opening and playing with your present) pretty much put giant blinkers on in regards to the adults. :) Of course my uncle always showed up commenting on people's presents, like any of the other aunts or uncles or cousins around.
When I finally figured it out, it was like being let in to a family secret, a fun celebratory thing, and I got to be one of the ones to first spot "Rudolph" out a window, and cover for my uncle not being around on the off chance one of the littles realized he was missing. Being part of the whole thing completely took any sting out of realizing there was no Santa.
Because, after all, he *did* exist. He was my uncle. :)
posted by sandraregina at 3:51 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: How did your parents make Santa Claus real for you?
Not. But that didn't hinder me to try better with my children.

The most elaborate session began with my staged afternoon nap; I was really sneaking out of the front door instead. This was followed by the creation of some magnificent booty footprints in the snow all over the yard, my re-entry through the basement door to pile up the presents in the hallway there (Dutch tradition, so there's a substantial amount of loot as early as 5 December...). Then I had to go throw sweets past a half-opened door into the kitchen where everyone sat playing some game or other, without being actually seen, withdraw fast and with a racket, out of the basement door, and around the back of the house. While everyone stormed down to look what was happening, I now went up to bed, panting, only to be told two minutes later by two jumping and excited kids that I had managed to sleep through the entire event again.
posted by Namlit at 3:56 PM on November 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Dad always got a real lump of coal in his stocking, but he was always talking about catching Santa (grinch-style) and selling the presents. One year he went to the trouble of putting a net in the chimney and then left bootprints in from the front door to show how Santa had outwitted him.
posted by benzenedream at 4:10 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My parents generally ate the cookies and milk and sometimes left a letter (they did their best to disguise their handwriting). My uncle, though, oh year he took us out to a nearby park to "leave food for the reindeer" - I don't remember what exactly we left, I feel like it was Wheaties or something, which seems sort of silly but at the time I totally bought that reindeer would eat Wheaties. When we returned to the park later, the food was all gone and the grass was all tamped down in places, like reindeer had been lying on it. This incident kept my belief in Santa going much longer than was appropriate - I remember being in 3rd grade and responding to a classmate's comments about the ridiculousness of Santa with, "Look, I know Santa sounds kind of silly, but I swear, there was this time with the reindeer..."
posted by naoko at 4:12 PM on November 21, 2011

Best answer: When I was 8 I didn't believe any more but my 6 year old brother still did. My brother was also having difficulty at school because my dad was serving in Vietnam. That Christmas my mom had the next door neighbor put on his boots and walked around the living room leaving foot prints from the fireplace. He ate the cookies my brother had left out and even left him a letter telling him to be a good boy, listen to his mother and that my dad missed him but would be home next year. It was great and really helped my brother.
posted by govtdrone at 4:24 PM on November 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My mom's dad would wait until the middle of the night and fire his shotgun in the air in the front yard. When the kids came outside, he would be "yelling" at a "stranger" to get off his roof and away from his chimney. Now this was in rural Illinois in the 1950's, and I don't necessarily recommend recreating this today, but it certainly made for life-long Christmas memories for my mother.
posted by non sum qualis eram at 4:54 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: In addition to cookies and eggnog for Santa, we always left a bowl of oatmeal for Rudolph (which I'm pretty sure was given to the dog -- it sure looked like an animal had been at it).
posted by trip and a half at 5:24 PM on November 21, 2011

Best answer: My brother's girlfriend broke into our apartment with candy feigning santa claus, my mom flipped her shit and drew a gun on her, yelling and waking me up. I think I was 5 or 6? Anyhow, that busted my illusion bubble for sure. I hope that you can handle the transition more smoothly than did my mother.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:08 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My parents used the different wrapping paper/handwriting trick. Santa also left cookie crumbs, a little bit of leftover milk, and the end of a carrot. Our mom claims that she used to make our dad eat the carrot without peeling it so we wouldn't see carrot peels in the trash the next morning. Santa usually left a note thanking us for the snacks. Oh, and there was also the year that our dad called outside to show us the "reindeer poop" that had been left on the roof. Many years later we found out that it was just a bunch of old leaves.
posted by Nolechick11 at 7:20 PM on November 21, 2011

Best answer: Santa (and Christmas in general) was A Big Deal in my house growing up, partially because my birthday is also on Christmas. We would always do the traditional write a letter, leave out milk and cookies thing, but two things my parents did still stick out to me.

1) In addition to milk and cookies, we would leave out carrots for the reindeer, and a hot grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup for Santa. Because, you know, the reindeer must get tired flying around so much, and Santa's probably pretty cold flying through the stratosphere.

2) This was the best thing ever and I still am amazed at how well it went down. When I was around 6, I started questioning the whole "Santa" thing. I very much wanted to believe, but some stuff just didn't add up. It didn't occur to me that it was my parents, but I wanted to know what really went on after I was tucked in. Of course, I informed my parents of my skepticism, and they asked what I wanted to do. I decided on an elaborate plan where, with their help, I would gift wrap a video camera, cut a hole in the side of the box, and leave it running all night. I thought this was the absolute cleverest idea ever. So we set the gadget up, aimed it at the Christmas tree, hit record, and off I went to bed. The next day after all the morning Christmas hullabaloo I excitedly sat down with my parents to watch the tape from the night before. The video runs for a while showing a dim room, no Christmas lights on, no presents under the tree - just the way it was when I went to bed. Then in the distance you hear the sound of jingling bells. They get louder, and some thumps come from above. There's some shuffling sounds, and finally some big back Santa Claus-esque boots step into frame. Suddenly, as if by magic, the scene changes to a fully lit room, Christmas lights lit up on the tree, gift-wrapped presents covering the floor, and full stockings laid out on the sofa. The amount of effort my parents put in to this whole setup - from helping me figure out my clever plot, to the buildup of Santa's arrival, and then taking the time to carefully pause the tape, put the presents out, and seamlessly start recording again - still kinda amazes me.

Man, writing all this out reminded me how awesome my parents are. Think I'm going to call them and tell them that.
posted by DulcineaX at 7:50 PM on November 21, 2011 [13 favorites]

Best answer: My friend's dad left sooty footprints from the fireplace to the tree. When she woke up and saw it, she believed it fully because her dad seemed so mad at Santa for making a mess. He played it up and acted really annoyed and inconvenienced.

I'm not saying you need to make a mess or do this exact thing, but whatever you do, sell it.
posted by piratebowling at 8:05 PM on November 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Make sure you REALLY hide the present if your kids are snoopy like I was (am). Even better, SUPER hide the Santa presents but let them find some of the parents presents. Finding the presents a few weeks/ days early kind of killed the illusion, but I guess that was also my fault.
posted by raccoon409 at 9:05 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: This is just a small detail, but it was really great. My mom actually developed a different style of handwriting for the presents from Santa. That coupled with my general gullibility had me going for so long it's embarrassing to admit.
posted by number9dream at 9:11 PM on November 21, 2011

Best answer: Hah, my parents went kind of overboard -- sooty bootprints on the fireplace, a "letter from Santa" written longhand on colored construction paper, and even a handful of gifts left on the edge of the roof ("get the ladder!").

Also one year I guess the one thing I really wanted wasn't available by Christmas... so I got an all-Japanese music CD instead. The explanation being that there was an accidental mix-up with some kid in Tokyo! I can't even remember what the original toy was any more, but I still remember that CD.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:06 PM on November 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Make sure you leave a gift for yourself 'from Santa'. My father says he knows the exact day his heart broke because he knew he'd messed up when one Christmas morning when I said, "But daddy, weren't you good this year? Where's your present?"
posted by sephira at 7:17 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The only advice I have from my own experience is to be careful to get rid of the evidence. Last year, Santa left a bicycle under the tree, but somehow managed to leave the box in the back of our garage, where my kids found it a few months later. We're going to have to try a few of the tricks in here to restore the faith.

My great-grandparents, on the other hand, had a fantastic Santa routine. They had a closet in their house with doors in two different rooms, one of which was the (thirteen) kids' main play room. Two weeks before Christmas, they would lock the doors to the closet, explaining that only Santa could get into it until Christmas morning. Occasionally, when the kids were playing, one of the parents (or older kids eventually) would sneak in to the closet and rustle around. The younger kids always stopped what they were doing immediately so they could listen to Santa doing his work. On Christmas Eve, their poor poor father always had to go to a Holy Name Society meeting. While he was "gone," Santa would show up at their house! He would take each kid on his lap and ask if they'd been good - with the kind of specific information that only Santa (or their poor poor father) would know ("Now Helen, did you really study for your math test last week?"). Then he'd leave, their father would come home and they would rush to the door excitedly telling him about how Santa came and he'd missed him again! Somehow the younger kids never figured out that Santa was their father in costume, and somehow the older kids never let it slip. Then on Christmas morning, they would finally open up the closet, and there was the beautiful Christmas Tree Santa had brought them along with gifts for everyone. My grandmother is 84 now and teared up when she told me this story recently.
posted by Dojie at 7:10 PM on December 1, 2011 [8 favorites]

Best answer: My dad helped me continue to believe in Santa when all seemed lost. I wanted to type a letter to Santa to leave out with the cookies on Xmas Eve, since my efforts on the magic slate were illegible, but when I went to get the typewriter in Dad's closet.... I found all the presents. Dad found me standing there forlorn, and smoothly explained that nowadays (this was mid to late 70s), the world population is so big that Santa just can't do it all in one night, even with magic, so he has so send some of the presents ahead.

However, I always knew that the "Santa" who came around to visit during the evening of Xmas Eve was really Uncle Arthur, because of the smell of scotch.
posted by tomboko at 8:21 PM on December 12, 2011

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