We didn't tell our daughter that Santa Claus is comin' to town. We didn't tell her that he knows if she's been bad or good, and that she better not pout, or cry, because he's checking his list. We don't leave milk and cookies, or take the requisite screaming baby/Santa photo each year either.
It wasn't a no-brainer - parts of me were worried. Would she still have an imagination? (Yes.) Would she still think Christmas is magical? (Resounding yes.) It's funny how the "magic" of a secular Christmas gets eclipsed by the wonder and awe of the greatest miracle that ever was, is or will be: the birth of GOD, Emmanuel, God WITH US, in a stable, laid in a manger, to a virgin girl. If we can't woo our children's imaginations and creativity with The Creator, how can we expect them to be captured by The Greatest Love Story Ever? God loving us. God watching us, seeing if we are naughty or nice, and then sending His Son - REGARDLESS of our status on "the list." No one gets coal in that story. No one is left out because of behavior. Behavior, in fact, is a non-issue. Instead, Because God so loved the world. Instead, He gave His only Son. Instead, HE is our present, our gift, our eternal prize. That's magic.
We read the Polar Express. We watch Elf and Rudolph and Prancer. Santa is a character, one actor in a cast that completes The American Christmas Story. And since we are American, we talk about him. We read stories about him. We sing songs about him. But he's not Christmas himself. No, that would be Christ. And I want to make no mistake that He is the reason we celebrate. And so we set up our nativity, and read about his birth. We sing Christmas carols about that Silent Night, we bake cookies to give away and bring gifts to friends and neighbors, and send cards to those we love. Our Christmas is creative, inspiring, fun, and very similar to yours - except we don't hype up what's coming down the chimney.
This is a choice our family made. Many people choose to instead include Jesus and Santa, and every family has the freedom to choose what resounds in their hearts. I am working with my daughter to not "ruin it" for your family. But I hope even when kids who believe do find out, Christmas isn't ruined. I hope they can find the deeper, truer "magic" that Christmas is really all about.