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A Christmas PSA: Please be mindful about what gifts Santa brings your kids

A mom is asking people to consider the bigger picture when deciding what Santa will deliver to your house.

Mary Katherine Backstrom talking to camera and a gift that says "Made in Santa's Workshop"
Mary Katherine Backstrom/Facebook, Photo by Samuel Holt on Unsplash

Mary Katherine Backstrom makes a strong argument for keeping Santa gifts simple.

Every family has its own traditions and ways of doing things around the holidays, from cooking specific foods to engaging in specific cultural rituals to how the myth of Santa gets handled. In general, it's wise to live and let live when it comes to such things, but one mom is making a strong case for rethinking what gifts Santa brings kids for Christmas in the larger context of community.

Mary Katherine Backstrom has been posting a public service announcement of sorts every year for the past decade, asking people to be mindful about other families' economic realities and how a family's Santa gifts can impact other people's children. Her message makes perfect sense, but it's something people who have never struggled financially might never consider.

"My annual PSA from a child who grew up poor," Backstrom captioned her video plea. She began by sharing that her parents separated when she was little, and she lived with her mom, who didn't always have the means to give her kids a lot for Christmas.

"Every Christmas, I would split my time between my mom and my dad," she said, explaining that her dad's side of the family had a lot of money. She would see her cousins getting thousands of dollars in gifts from Santa, while her gifts from Santa at home were far more modest. So she would go from being happy with what she'd received to questioning why Santa didn't think she'd been good enough to receive the expensive gifts he brought her cousins.

"There is seriously nothing wrong with what you can give your child for Christmas. It doesn't matter. That's not the point," she said. "But when we tell children that Santa Claus brings all of our gifts, what happens is kids like me and other children who don't have as many things will see other children getting all of these expensive toys and they'll wonder what they did wrong."

As Backstrom points out, children are naturally going to compare; that's developmentally appropriate. Kids are also very aware of what's fair and what's not, so when Santa lavishes some children with expensive presents and gives other kids a lot less, the kids whose parents don't have as much end up questioning their goodness through no fault of their own.

Watch Backstrom share her story (starting at the 2:00 minute mark):

Many people in the comments expressed gratitude for the message, saying that they, too, were the kid who thought Santa didn't like them.

"I was that child too," shared one commenter. "I hated when school started back after Christmas and the teacher would go around the room and ask everyone to tell what they got for Christmas. It was painful and humiliating. I thought I was the only one who hated how Christmas was such a stressful time."

"I remember very clearly my friend that lived next door getting everything on her letter to santa and I didnt understand why santa hated me! I agree 100%!!" offered another.

"100% CORRECT! I was also that child and yes, I wondered if I wasn't a good enough girl to deserve the same things Santa was bringing the other children," wrote another.

Other people shared that they had simply never thought of this aspect of Christmas giving and they were thankful for the widened perspective.

"Thank you for opening my eyes. I wish I had thought about this when I was Santa!!" wrote one commenter.

"I never thought of it like this. It really has opened my eyes and heart... You are so insightful and wise. Thank you," shared another.

"I love your honesty. I never thought about this when my son believed in Santa. I wish I had," wrote another.

Unfortunately, not everyone received the kind and gentle plea with grace and understanding. Some doubled down on their "right" to have Santa bring whatever gifts they darn well please. Backstrom posted a blunt follow-up video pointing out that she was speaking from her own lived experience, not sharing some hypothetical what-if with no basis in reality.

"This PSA is telling you that you are hurting children when you associate Santa Claus with expensive gifts," she said. "I'm not gonna be delicate about this anymore, because I've been doing this PSA for 10 years now and I still get people arguing with me about it. There is nothing to argue here. We are talking about children's feelings."

Backstrom pointed to the number of people in the comments who shared that they were hurt by expensive Santa gifts as a child to illustrate that this is, actually, a real issue. And the solution is simple: Keep Santa simple and let the expensive gifts come from parents or other family members. It's really not a lot to ask to preserve a little holiday magic for kids who don't have much instead of making them question why Santa doesn't think they're good enough. Santa is a tradition millions of people share—let's keep that collective reality in mind and keep the fun in it for everyone.

You can follow Mary Katherine Backstrom for more on Facebook.

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