The Christmas Promise: Saving Your Sanity Next Year

The Christmas Promise is something that I do with my own children from time to time and I’ve never told anyone else about it – until now. After sharing this “tradition” with several customers at work they encouraged me to share it with the world so that other parents out there aren’t killing themselves trying to do the impossible every year. So here goes!

Santa's Christmas Promise by Life in a House

Every year parents around the world are thrown into a panic when the holidays roll around. If money is tight we worry about how we are going to buy presents for our children to open Christmas morning. We worry that they won’t have anything to show off to their friends. It makes life as a parent difficult.

In a perfect world you could put aside money out of your check each pay period. You could take that child support check and use it for presents. 

We do not live in a perfect world.

The electric bill that you’ve barely been able to keep your head above all year-long comes due and they won’t allow any further extensions. The rent is due. You don’t get that large Christmas bonus you were expecting. You lose your job. There’s no food in the house. Any one of these scenarios can happen to totally screw up even the best plans.

All of the above has happened to us over the years. I cannot begin to tell you how many Christmases have been spent in tears. Where I have literally been running through stores on Christmas Eve with only 2 hours left before the store closed trying to find the gifts on their lists that had been sold out for months.

One year while I was still a stay-at-home mom and the money was tight, I only had a few very small items for the boys for Christmas – nothing of which was on either of their lists. I felt horrible, literally cried myself to sleep every night for almost a month trying to figure out how to get them what they wanted. I applied to a variety of charities and signed up for our local Christmas Mother program – but it still left me feeling small and inadequate that I couldn’t give my children a few things that they wanted from Santa.

I sat and budgeted and planned – and I knew that we would be able to afford the items AFTER Christmas, but there was just no way in hell that they were getting purchased before then. It was just impossible.

That is when the Christmas Promise was born.

When the boys were younger and still semi-believers in Santa … I came up with the idea of a Christmas Promise. Even if they could not open the actual present that they wanted that year – they would have a Christmas Promise note from Santa explaining when their gift WOULD arrive.

A typical Christmas Promise note read something like this:


Dear (Insert Child’s Name):

I received your letter asking for (gift) at the North Pole and I wanted you to know that I have had the elves working double time to try to get things ready in time for Christmas for all the good boys and girls around the world.

I am sorry to say though that my best workers caught the flu from Rudolph, and they have been sick, sick, sick. Have you ever seen an elf with reindeer flu? It is NOT a pretty sight!  Mrs. Claus and the house elves have been taking care of the sick elves day and night for the past four weeks. We had to finally send Rudolph to the Island of Misfit Toys until he’s not contagious anymore so he quits infecting all the elves!!

Unfortunately, with all our elves sick – that means that a lot of toys have not been finished and won’t be delivered in time for Christmas I’m afraid. I wanted to let you know that your (gift) was one of them and send you this Christmas Promise. While it may not be there Christmas morning, you rest assured that as soon as the elves are back hard at work, you’ll find your present on your nightstand one morning delivered straight from the North Pole.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas my special friend and I will see you soon!

Love, Santa


I would print them up on pretty Christmas stationery that I downloaded off the Internet or purchased at the local stationery store and then print the letter out in a handwriting font and place it in a colorful red envelope and seal it with a Santa sticker. We would then either place it on a tree branch or underneath the tree for our sons to find Christmas morning. Usually they were so excited to receive a letter from Santa that they didn’t mind (as much) that their gift was not there – and it gave mom and dad another few weeks to work out the money situation and get the gift that they wanted.

When the gift is finally purchased, wrap it in Christmas paper with huge bows and ribbons – as it is a special delivery after all – and place it in your child’s room in the wee hours of the morning when they are fast asleep. When they wake – they will see the present left by Santa and know that Santa has kept his Christmas Promise to them.

Be creative with your letters – you know what your children will and will not accept and believe. Regardless of how long it might take (a week, two, a month) be sure to always follow through with your Christmas Promise though. Not only will your children hopefully believe in the magic of Santa just a little longer as a result, but when they do finally come to realize the whole story – you will have instilled in them by your actions the importance of following through on a promise made.

My boys are older now, and know all about Santa. However, it still breaks my heart when they cannot receive a few items that they have asked for Christmas morning, so I continue the Christmas Promise tradition. This year, I made postcards with a picture of the item they wanted set on a snowy background and placed them in an envelope. The unexpected move this year and the amount of money it cost to do so, left us completely tapped out and there was nothing left over for presents, unfortunately.

So they have received their Christmas Promises and will be awaiting the morning when they wake up to find their presents wrapped in larger than life paper and bows, sitting on their nightstand or in the middle of their room.

And that’s how we save our sanity during the Christmas season.

2020 Kimberly Signature

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