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« Q&A: Is there any way to prevent an influx of gifts you don't want? | Main | Excellent »



For a large group daycare run by a national chain in NC, we have given $15 Target gift cards to the two main teachers in the classroom, and nothing to the "floaters" who rotate around. We usually make a card (with child's handprint or artwork) as well. This is for Christmas bonus and again at 'teacher appreciation month' which is usually April.

For my daughter's public pre-K teacher I am planning a $50 Target gift card as I know that she buys a lot of supplies for the classroom out of her own money. So she can choose to use some of it for school and some of it for herself.

In the past we had a shared in-home nanny and gave her about 1 week's pay at Christmas.


We're struggling with the Santa thing this year now that my oldest is 3. I have major issues with lying to kids, even if it's something magical, and remember feeling very deceived and silly as a kid when I found out the truth at age 6. My husband is Jewish and we don't do Christmas at our house, but we do celebrate with my parents every year who are hugely, hugely into a materialistic, Santa-infested Christmas. So my son is already hearing about Santa. I've decided in this case to let my parents do their thing, and then if he asks me questions, I'll answer them honestly (or talk around it in a way, like with the game thing -- I like that). I'm guessing the questions won't come this year since he doesn't really get real/pretend, so I'm just gritting my teeth and letting my parents have the Christmas they want. (Once, when I suggested that we all give to charity for Christmas, my mother said that my Christmas gift to her should be that I just shut up about it and pretend to enjoy the whole thing. I've given up trying to persuade them.)


We have a similar situation at our son's daycare. Last year I filled tin buckets with homemade treats (chocolate covered graham crackers, candied pecans and sugar cookies) and stuffed in a gift certificate for two movie passes and $10 at the concession stand (all for $26). Link here, scroll down to Ultimate Premiere Movie Pack: http://www.regalcinemas.com/cgi-bin/shop/shop.pl?view=gift


Our son goes to a family daycare - we usually get her about a $60 gift - last year it was assorted bottles of wine (she has a lot of family over for the holidays; and we knew she would like it) and some chocolate.
This year I am thinking something similar or maybe a $100 gift certificate for a restaurant - our son will be "graduating" soon from there and our daughter starting, so we want to let her know how much we appreciate her care!


Before having kids I swore I'd never lie about the Santa thing, but never really thought how to implement it as really there is no avoiding santa wherever you are in the world.

Quite frankly, I am really enjoying the build up to Christmas and talking about Santa with my (nearly) 3 year old, who is now extremely fascinated by this bearded man he sees hanging off balconies and in toy shop windows. Will tackle him first and then other Christmas concepts a little later on.

I have really gotten into the lie I confess, but my boy is just so captivated by the old guy that I just can't resist egging him on. Am I being a wicked parent?? I have even told him I have santa's personal number and will call him if my little boy is naughty and doesn't deserve a gift ( but I also tell him I can call him to let him know if there is something special he would like)


I don't remember when i found out Santa wasn't "real" so I know it didn't upset me too much - but I still truly believe that there is something about "the spirit of Santa" out there at Christmas, so i don't really believe feeding the info to the kids is a lie, per se.

As far as daycare - in a situation like that, I'd probably give a big basket of goodies that they could all share - I love ordering from those catalogs where they make the pretty packages and fill it with an assortment of snacks and candies, I must confess. (I've been addicted to The Popcorn Factory of late - seems a little better than all the sugary stuff, somehow, and it tastes SO good).

For my home daycare provider (one woman who also happens to be a good friend) I feel funny about doing the straight money thing - I'll likely do a gift certificate to either Target or a restaurant (so she and her husband can have a nice meal out). For a potential regular (like weekly, not the "on occasion" type) babysitter, I'd do a Target gift card and a home made card from my child. (This is all looking forward, as my only child thus far is still in utero this Christmas)


We go the historical route, and tell our boys about Saint Nicholas, the Bishop who gave a poor family presents. Santa is a game (we say "pretend" but I like game better) we play at Christmas time to honor the spirit of Jolly Old Saint Nick. So, while my parents do presents from Santa, we don't. I may do stocking stuffers from Santa (since in the original story, his gifts landed in their stockings). Although, my favorite memory from childhood Christmases is leaving carrots out for Santa's reindeer (I think my parents got tired of stuffing themselves with cookies for Santa.)

My husband is rather religious, so we emphasize the nativity story rather than the gift extravaganza. We try to keep Christmas as family-oriented and low key as possible at home, but then we go to both sets of grandparents' houses, where the boys are deluged with gifts.

preschool mom

Our children attend a child care center in the midwest that's part of a national chain. The kids get to know a lot of the staffers, although of course they spend more time with certain teachers.

The center has a system that I love for holiday gifts (something that one of the parents started years ago). A parent volunteers to set up a box in the director's office containing a card for all the staffers (including the cook, assistant directors, etc.). Parents can go in and sign cards and put in however much money they choose into each envelope. So I might put in, say $25 for primary caregivers, $10-15 for secondary ones, $5 or $10 for the cook etc. All the money in each person's envelope is lumped together and used to buy a gift card for our mall.

This way parents can show appreciation for lots of caregivers without laying out a ton of cash, and also parents never have to be shy about how much they can/can't give -- nobody knows.

We also do homemade/kid-drawn cards for the primary teachers.


For the daycare teachers at my son's school, we are planning on buying the small hand lotions from Bath & Body Works for all the teachers and then something a little more special for his two main teachers (probably will be handmade necklaces from Etsy).


I'm in the midwest and DS attends a group church-run daycare. I plan on giving the primary care givers (2) plus the director (since she works in the baby room A LOT) gift cards to Target and then make a tray of goodies for everyone else to share.

Moxie, I like your idea of making Santa more of a game. I enjoy the spirit of Santa but I don't really want all of the Santa guilt (naughty v. nice) and logistic problems (how does he visit all of the homes?). I'm not sure how this is going to shake out in a practical form. Luckily, since my baby is just one, we have some time to work on it.


On the gifts for child care providers...we're about to leave our (fabulous!) family daycare for a logistically less challenging child care situation, and I'd like to get her a thank you gift. Any suggestions?

pnuts mama

regarding the santa thing. can you believe this has been on my mind since we discussed it last year? seriously! although i've been looking at it from a religious/sociological perspective.

first, i wonder if those of us who don't believe in christianity (but still celebrate christmas, which i don't really understand fully) are less apt to sign on to the santa story as well? or does it break out even further into different denominations being more/less friendly to santa?

i've wondered if some of us are more comfortable with santa since we come from backgrounds of religious faiths that use a lot of imagery and symbolism- for example, i'm catholic, and we have a long and rich history of saints and symbolism and sacraments and recognizing that through action people bring the gospel to the rest of the world- for us, santa is just a great symbol of God's love in the world for us, when *not* linked with or tainted by consumeristic and materialistic motives. is this the time when i mention how i feel about how the secular world has hijacked a religious holiday to suit their purposes? hmm. perhaps not.

our focus at christmas (and during the season of advent) is *always* on the baby jesus and the nativity- for us, the story of christ's birth is just as symbolic- we know that it probably didn't happen that way, yet we use it to teach important lessons of our faith, as appropriate age and developmental level dictates. maybe that's why the idea of santa is no non-threatening to me.

we're trying to teach "why does santa come?" "because of the baby jesus" just so jesus doesn't get lost in the consumeristic glut this season has turned in to. so we have no problem with santa, as long as he is used as a messenger of God's will for all peoples- to bring them the gift of God's unconditional love. for our kids, this is done through one special gift (wrapped in santa's own paper), and what's in their stocking.

like any other bible story/metaphorical tale/ fable for kids, this gives them a simple yet real and tangible way to understand the lesson of god's love. the gift of the baby jesus is god's greatest gift of love- on christmas we try to honor that by giving gifts from santa and to each other to celebrate his birth, and incorporate the saint nicholas story with some catholic social teaching about preferential option for the poor (i.e., we help santa bring gifts to kids who are less fortunate than we are.)

in our home, we teach that santa is universal- he brings gifts to all children who believe in him regardless of socioeconomic status, race, etc- as well as *without regard* to behavior- for us, *THAT* would be the lie- that god/santa would withhold love based on behavior. in this way santa truly reflects God's *unconditional* love for all peoples- he doesn't discriminate based on "naughty" and "nice" (or religious beliefs), just like God doesn't, either.

as anyone who is a younger sibling will attest, it was probably your big sister/brother who ruined santa for you. even after that, my mom explained the metaphor of santa to me as a gift of our faith. i imagine as our children get older, we'll do the same- explain that santa isn't a lie- that like most of the metaphors and stories we tell our children to explain the world to them, the idea of santa is real, and we are all santa in some way.

phew. i've been thinking about that almost all year!


I wanted to mention Miss Manners' take on holiday gifts. She writes that in a business situation, the appropriate gift is money. It's also the case that we tend to regard work done by men as business and by women as a hobby (regardless of how much we pay for child care!), so we give holiday bonuses to men and gift baskets to women.

Money may not be the appropriate gift in every situation, but I'd urge those of you who feel uncomfortable about it to think twice.


We're Jewish, so I'm always hesitant to buy holiday gifts. But I want to show our appreciation for our son's daycare teachers (it's a group setting so multiple teachers). Last year on Hanukkah we brought in bagels with cream cheese and gave them a gift card to Starbucks (enough for everyone to have a yummy drink).
They seemed to be loaded down with sweet treats - lots of parents bringing baskets of muffins, cookies, etc. so bagels were a nice change of pace.
And when our son "graduated" to the next room, we gave the teachers a gift certificate for a yummy gourmet local pizza place that delivers. They were thrilled - and were able to have a little staff appreciation lunch together (they don't get to do this very often).
For our occasional babysitter and housecleaner, we've given gift cards to a local bookstore.


This is great timing! I am also totally thrown about what to get the daycare. Any sort of food is basically out because the facility is strictly nut and peanut free. I think we are going to do Target giftcards, but how much and for which teachers, I'm not sure.

Sanna has her primary teacher, and there is the other teacher in her room, then several (3? 5?) other teachers she is with a lot, especially during pick-up. Plus the directors. Ugh. I really, really, really appreciate how great the facility is and how happy she is there. But it's pricey and the thought of spending anywhere near one week's amount ($270) even on all those people makes me choke. We aren't spending that much on each other, and probably wouldn't spend that on the kid except we are buying her a piece of furniture.

Please tell me the expectation is different for group care.

For what it's worth, we are in the midwest and the daycare is a large facility run by a national chain. And it's at my work.


Ahh, Santa. Moxie, I really like your comprimise. I think I'll try to adopt that - I've already tried telling the truth and my daughter will NOT believe me (grandma got to her first). That seems like a good comprimise.

My kids aren't in daycare (if only we could afford that, then I could go back to school!) but we are giving gifts to my daughter's preschool teachers. They get the standard gift of the year, which this year is homemade soap, lotion, and lip balm, along with something made by my daughter (either a cookie or a drawing). A gift card would be a good idea, too, since they buy a lot of supplies themselves. Hmmmm.

For the person confused about non-Christians celebrating Christmas - it's confusing for us, too. Mainly it's out of family tradition. I grew up Catholic, but am no longer a believer, and my husband has never had any religion other than science (he's one of those ivory-tower academics). I actually have less of a problem with Christmas than Easter. At Christmas, we can talk about how Jesus was a good man who told people that they should love each other and be generous and forgiving, and that we honor that by showing extra love during this time, and giving gifts. At Easter, well, that's a whole other story. How do you explain a bunny bringing chocolate eggs to celebrate someone coming back from the dead when a. you're a little fuzzy on your own beliefs, and b. the child is 3 and doesn't understand dead (and so what it means to come back from it). And i our neck of the woods there's still snow t easter, so we can't discuss the whole spring/rebirth thing.

Anyhoo - we just make Christmas about family and giving. I think ,even if you're not living according to a particular doctrine, to take time out to emphasize these things, and Christmas is an awfully convenient way to do it. (plus, a lot of us nonbelievers are ex-catholics, and it's *really* difficult to eradicate 12 years of religious schooling. sometimes we do things out of habit, like genuflecting when entering a church)

Incidentally, I remember finding out about Santa when i was about 6 and realized that Santa had my dad's handwriting. I remember being pretty proud of my sleuthiness, and then enjoyed helping pick out Santa gifts for my younger siblings with my mom so that they could keep believing.


Thanks for the suggestions for the daycare provider gifts. When my son moved from one classroom to another I brought in a few dozen bagels for the entire day care staff to enjoy (this is a larger chain day care)as thanks to everyone there - because everyone in that situation takes care of all the children. I think I'm going to go with gift cards to Starbucks or Target for his room teachers and maybe bring some other food item in for the rest of the staff to share.


Our daycare is non-denominationally Christian, so we give Christmas presents to the staff. Last year, our first, a note went out to parents suggesting that if we were thinking about giving a Christimas gift to the teachers, we contribute to the Christmas fund. Give a check and the school sees that it is divided between the room's teachers and aides, and even the floaters get a cut. We also sent a x-mas card/note of appreciation to the staff of her room. As I remember, the teachers were told the amount of contribution. I've heard of a few daycares doing it this way in our large midwestern city, but several don't.

This year, I plan to contribute a week's tuition to the fund, or as close as I can, plus cards/thank you notes to the two rooms my daughter has been in this year. This is par with the few other parents I consulted, although on the high end.

I like this plan, and this is why:

I don't know if this is a problem with anyone else, but I've got to admit, I felt odd giving a cash present. I grew up in a small midwestern city where hand-made cards, tree ornaments, and homemade baked goods were what teachers received for x-mas. But, that was still the age of the stay-at-home mom. As well, I've been raised to think of teachers as professionals, and you wouldn't tip a professional-- would you tip your doctor? This contrasts with personal service providers, who I routinely tip, i.e. babysitters, housecleaners. A nanny would fall there.

However, a quick surevey of friends and relatives who are/were nursery and elementary school teachers, as well as some comments made on this blog, and really, everyone I know who uses childcare, have convinced me the appropriate thing to do is to give a gift. They get paid poorly and work hard to take care of our children.

As to what to give, my cousin, a former nursery school teacher, explained it thus: if you get paid peanuts, do you really want a pile of CPC (I'm paraphrasing) and chocolate, or heaven forbid, homebaked goodies, from people you don't know or something you can use? None of her students' parents knew she was allergic to chocolate AND peanuts-- that meant half the treats were pitched. As well, she was sqeamish about eating food from the kitchens of people she didn't know-- peanut issues are serious, as well, who knows what these stranger's kitchens are like?--so the the other half was pitched too. Plus, what do you do with 30+ mugs?

So, the best gift is cash on the barrel, closely followed by gift cards to retailers so large and ubiquitous that they are cash equivalents. So cash it is for daycare providers. I don't know what we'll do for teachers once we hit elementary school. Gift certificates to places school supplies are found, plus other stuff, sound great.

When DD is old enough, I plan to tell her Santa is a symbol about generosity and the cookies are an expression of thanks, etc., and hope that meshes well with my MIL's adoration of the man, and persistance in labeling every gift as from him. So I've decided that whatever I do with my kids, I'm trying to do something that respects both my DD's intelligence and maturity AND my MIL's views. Same goes for my family's enjoyment of the traditions of the visits from St. Nicholas and the Three Kings.


We did Santa growing up, with no real particular faith aspect to it. He kind of slotted into the world of faerie for us: nicer than the trolls, perhaps a little more stern than the fairy godmothers. We didn't really ask for specific gifts and there was no naughty or nice or lumps of coal.

I remember being most concerned about why Santa didn't just bring the poor kids a year's supply of Chef Boyardee.

To be honest, I still wonder that (albeit in a much different way), although I believe much more in faeries than Santa at this point.

I went off on a rant yesterday about gifts so now I feel mouthy but I just don't get the /literalism/ going around about Santa. (Note that I am among other things a fiction writer, so I do have a Thing about Story.)

It's fine with me if people don't have Santa but the "because it's a LIE" thing gets to me.

For me there is a real rite of passage in many if not most human cultures - to go from the believing child to the skeptical young adult (seeker) to the teller of tales. Alistair Macleod has a marvellous story out in Canada about a boy's first Christmas sitting up with the adults, totally brought into the fold about the Santa deal, and it's a true delight.

Sometimes it makes me sad that our rites of passage to adulthood are increasingly focused on the strictly sexual or financial/consumeristic (first car, first apartment).

So for that reason I'm going to be /totally/ spinning that Santa yarn (our non-lumps of coal version) to my son.


Moxie, great timing as always! Just over the weekend, I asked my husband what he thought about Santa. He wants to pretend Santa exists. Even though I loved it as a kid, I found out young that he wasn't real and it didn't diminish my enjoyment of the holidays or of my 1 "Santa" gift (which I still get from my parents every Christmas). But I don't know that I feel right about pretending this to my kids. Of course, we have time to work it out, but I'm very conflicted and I want my hubby and I to be on the same page with whatever we decide. Hmmm.

BTW, when I brought this up to my husband, he said, "Why? What does Moxie say?" hehe. At the time, I hadn't read any Moxie posts about it, but I really like what you said you do. Now I can bring him what Moxie says about it. Cause apparently I quote Moxie and her readers to him often. ;-)


@Nick -- As a former public school teacher, I can tell you we appreciated gift certificates to those ubiquitous big-box stores so we could use the $$ to buy supplies for the classroom. Accepting cash is often against school district policy. Parent-chosen school supplies (unless the teacher has already specified which things and how many are needed) are often off the mark or in a small quantity so as to be nearly useless. Remember -- you need 30-40 of any one item to satisfy a class of 25 kids. I was always a little leery of homemade food gifts for the same reasons your allergic cousin was. Gift certificates to places that carry school supplies are the way to go for school teachers.


I have always been told that cash is the most appropriate in this situation but I am glad to see miss manners (who cracks me up) confirm it. It never crossed my mind that cash could be inappropriate; folks can you say why you prefer giftcard? My boss' boss gave me a starbucks giftcard and I was irritated: one, I hate coffee, and two, I hate starbucks. i'd rather have the money, or a better health plan ha ha ha.

I will give cash, and something to everyone who cares for my son, but I am not sure how much to give to each or if it will create hard feelings if I give less to the floaters than the main lady; or hell, maybe it would create hard feelings if I give the SAME. That's where I'm lost.

Kathy B.

Ah -- I just posted on the Santa subject to my blog. Since it's rather long, here is a link http://myemptynest.blogspot.com/2007/11/to-believe-or-not-to-believe-santa.html


I personally like cash better than gift cards. Yes, it seems informal.... but honestly so is a Target ( or any lame chain restaurant) gift card. (I don't shop/eat there)!! I've received far too many "things" that can collect dust over the years... and that I can't return.... or gift cards that are hard to redeem....but I've never been disappointed in cash!


We just got a note about gifts from my son's preschool, and they said that the best gift is a home-made card from the child. If the parent wants to give more, they are encouraged to make a donation to the neighbourhood food bank in the name of the teachers or nursery school. Last year, we also received a gift of a donation to World Vision or one of those agencies that was made on our behalf with an explanation that the amount of the gift enabled X amount of classroom supplies in a third-world country. I loved this gift and plan to do the same thing for my older son's teacher this year.


I'm a nanny now, and have been a daycare provider at a big chain and a classroom teacher before. Personally, getting money/checks always made me a little uncomfortable - not enough to be offended or not be very, very grateful, don't get me wrong. But there was something a little cold about it to me, when I felt my work was a distinctly "warm" thing, if that makes any sense.

I'm on board with receiving straight money from a non-personal entity, like the company I work for, but parents felt more like a client than an employer to me.

Anyways, when working with a large group, gift cards were common and I personally loved that because I like shopping, even if it was to a store I didn't normally go to. Gift cards can be re-gifted easily, as well, or used to buy presents for others. Things like photo albums, seeded with pictures of their kids, or other personal-yet-reusable items were neat, too. I have food allergies and could never eat any edibles, but I got the appreciation message nonetheless, and then I could pass the yummies on to someone else.

Now, as a 1-on-1 nanny, I do kinda expect a present rather than money (even though I might conceivably get "more" money than would be spent on a gift), because the nature of what I do is more intimate. I'm in these folks' home nearly every day, we talk often and know a lot about one another's lives and interests. I _would_ feel mildly offended if they got me cash instead of something they had put thought into. I usually get the families presents myself, as well.

I'm very close in age to my clients, so I'm not sure if that plays a part in our relationship. I also charge a hefty hourly rate, which I know isn't trivial for either of my current families, so I'd hate the idea that they'd feel obligated to shell out more cash when they could make something or get an inexpensive gift. Other jobs where I was definitely underpaid, this didn't really factor in.

It occurs to me that my sharing may have no application whatsoever to the discussion, but there it is...*sigh*


As a teacher, student made gifts are the best. My favorite ever was a small shell found on the beach with "#1 Teacher" written on a small piece of paper taped inside. It said more to me than anything and I still have it.

Please avoid all types of smelly soaps and candles. Anything scented actually. Scent is a personal decision and you will most likely get it wrong. It also has the words "re-gift" written all over it - as do knick-knacks such as candy dishes, etc.

Also enjoyed the gift certificates for massages, bookstores, and of course cash was great too. One parent actually said to me "You taught my daughter to love reading.....I'm not buying you f-ing soap." and she handed me a wad of money totalling $100. Won't forget that one either.


We give a gift card or cash, either before Xmas, or at New Year's (as an 'annual bonus', which also usually defrays the cost of their own Xmas giving).

In centers, if you ask kind of 'at the desk' they may know if there's a group gift being collected for the classes, or what gift cards are appreciated - either 'cash' type (amex, etc.), or store-specific (but larger stores better - Target, etc.). Put it in a card with a handprint and/or photo of your child, and you're golden, IMHO.

When we've really wanted to do something specific, we've given a gift card to a spa. But the cash is usually more appropriate, and we knew the spa-recipient very well. When the relationship is personal, as well as professional, something that's more personal seems more appropriate.

We also have donated something to the classroom that will last past the time our kids are there, such as a quality wooden puzzle. A large center might not appreciate/need that as much as a small center would, I suppose.

As for Santa, G at 2 was clear that Santa was just pretend, but he loved to play that pretend. But that's gone from pretend to full-out belief the older he's gotten, and at 10 he's still into Santa. But then, he's also into dragons, and is sure he's seen fairies, too. He was known by the teachers at school as 'the Imagination King' so I'm not sure that he'll ever REALLY stop believing in Santa (or stop pretending to, REALLY WELL, anyway!).

I do like the 'frame' of it being a 'game' though. That's so much friendlier than the idea that it is a trick or a lie. It isn't, it's a game of pretend, and as G said to me oh so many years ago, 'Santa is petend, but he's GOOD petend.'


julie, you made me cry. (We had three parent-teacher conferences this morning, and yeah... not buying them f-ing soap.)


My parents handled Santa by saying, in a tone of great wonder, "well, we don't know, but there's this wonderful STORY about Santa, and..." as they launched into it. That way, no betrayal when we found out the truth.

As for daycare providers -- this is a hard one for me, as there are so many caretakers at my daughter's daycare -- a $15 gift certificate for each of them would quickly ring up to major $$$. Still not sure what I'm going to do about it.

Katie B.

This is an interesting discussion, one thats actually prompting me to comment. DH and I haven't talked about this yet, as our first child is still in utero. DH is Christian and religious, I'm Pagan and religious, and I think Santa means a lot more to me than it does to him. I liked what the poster above said about Santa sort of being like a fairy - magical and on a different plane of the everyday world. Christmas has always been a special time for both our families, and even though I don't technically celebrate it ("my" holiday is Yule, or the winter solstice, a few days before), I'm very happy to merge my observances with family customs. On top of our mishmash, my SIL is Dutch and has some very strong Dutch and family customs around the holidays, such as Sinterklaas, which I think are just lovely and want to learn more about and adopt as I see fit for my own family. To me, the holiday is about family and giving and the birth of the Son/Sun, and I don't mind too much going along with DH's family's strongly Christian bent, at least while at the big family gatherings.

The discussions the last few days about vast amounts of presents leave me staggered - neither of our families had a lot of money growing up, and we won't have a lot, either, so I'll probably do what my family did: a stocking with exciting treats and trifling gifts, and a few meaningful presents that include books and clothes, as well as the occasional more "fluffy" item as budget permits. As for family-bestowed CPC, I figure to smile and nod and let it be known to those who will listen that I, like a colleague, want nothing with plastic or batteries.

As for Santa being a lie or game or what have you, I think my little brother said it best, at about 5 years old: "Of course I believe in Santa - I believe in my parents, don't I?"


I find it interesting that in general we don't value daycare providers/nanies, etc. as professionals, yet we ask them to provide a most essential service. Why don't we value this work as much as "professional", mostly male, occupations? It's because we don't value the act of caregiving in our society, even though we say that parenting is the most important job in the world. These service providers are stand in parents and in some cases, trained well educated professionals. It's sad. I believe that the service a daycare worker provides is more essential and important than the work of a dentist, for instance, but we value the work of the dentist more. And by value, I mean economically and in terms of respect.

I am not a child care provider. But I am a SAHM and I see that in society's eyes (and individuals' eyes as well) my work isn't that valued either.

As for Santa: Our son is only 15 months, but we plan on explaining that Santa is make believe. Santa is the ideal of generosity and love that the winter holiday season is supposed to be all about. We aren't religious, although we will explain why we and many other people celebrate winter holidays.

pnuts mama

for those of you conflicted between cash vs. gift card to a store, may i suggest a pre paid v*sa or m*sterc*rd for a set amount? they usually have kiosks at the mall this time of year.

we have been giving those as gifts to the pre-teens/teens in our lives the past few years, as we thought it would be more fun than a check and less limiting than one specific store. so far it's been a hit!

@sue- thanks for admitting it's confusing for a non-believer to celebrate a religious holiday. i'm fascinated with the concept of changing a religious holiday into a secular one- with everyone putting their own spin on it. mostly because i can't think of an example of any other religious holiday being celebrated in that way- i just can't wrap my mind around it yet.

for those of you who celebrate christmas but don't believe in christianity, how do you reconcile it?


My son's preschool has the parents' association collect money en masse and then they use a formula containing things like years worked overall and hours worked per week to determine how much each teacher gets.


Well, when I was a full-time nanny in other people's homes, I guess I would have been a little upset about being given cash (not to mention feeling terrible about people, who I knew could only just afford me, trying to get together an entire weeks pay -- but that is beside the point). It's just that money is also given to people we feel need help, like hairdressers and paperboys, but not to people whose jobs and education we really respect, like accountants or doctors. Somehow, gift cards would be fine...and, now that I think of it, I think I would have been okay with money as a gift provided the person giving it made a point of explaining that it was being given as a way of showing respect for my work as a profession rather than as a way of denigrating my work or of distancing me from their family.

G's momma

As a former preschool and then grade school teacher, I agree that the Visa or Mastercard gift cards are the best.

Both schools I worked at had policies about accepting checks/cash. Some places require you to claim it as a bonus, which means it is then taxed. However, you never have to claim a giftcard and the Visa/MC ones are the most versatile.

You should also check to see if your child's teacher is registered on DonorsChoose (http://www.donorschoose.org/homepage/main.html). Your child's teacher may have already requested funding for a particular project that would benefit your child. I am sure that teachers would be grateful to have these requests fulfilled for the holiday.

If you are going the knick knack route, please have your child make the item - at least then it is personal. I have to admit that I threw away all my "number one teacher" mugs that were bought at the store, however, I have a file of all the hand written notes from children and parents.

Much More Than A Mom

As a teacher, I say go with cash or gift cards. A gift certificate for a massage/pedicure type thing would be a close third. No food, no ornaments and PLEASE NO MUGS! ;-)


pnut's mama, I'm agnostic UU with a deep love of ritual and praxis. I consider Christmas as much a CULTURAL holiday as a religious one. Much the way Halloween is. It used to be a religious holiday, it still is in some minor ways (All Souls, All Saints Days), but mainly, it's cultural.

I really enjoy Christmas. I also really enjoy high holy days services at either Catholic or High Episcopal churches. Smells and bells, processions and hymns. Ahh, wonder and joy! I also love Yule with my circle of pagan friends, Sukkat at another friend's house, and anything anyone else has to offer. Belief in the specifics is not required, IMHO, but joy, respect, willingness to honor the traditions of others, that's a no-brainer (especially as a UU minister's child).

Growing up, we explored Christmas and winter holidays from every tradition my mom could get her hands on (even way pre-Ministry). We have wooden shoes by the door, and my mother knows the prayers for Channukah, we played with dreidels, talked about the death of the Year, fed the Ghosts (I think that one's Buddhist?), made Lucikatter and brought them to the neighbors (Santa Lucia), learned about Nordic Shamanism, and yes, about five different 'flavors' of the Christian Christmas, from the Krist Kindle to Father Christmas on his horse, to the 'traditional American' versions.

I'm a mongrel American mixed-breed. I'm not what anyone would call a 'believer' and yet I'm a person of Faith. In all these celebrations, there are so many common themes, so much to celebrate, I cannot fathom NOT doing so. I am not a Christian in most people's description, but that doesn't mean I have any trouble with Christianity itself, the ideals, the major teachings. I also love the rituals, music, and celebratory foods of a wide variety of traditions.

If I lived in India, I'd probably still do Christmas, because it is part of my *family* culture to do so, but I'd also incorporate Dewali, or whatever was prominant locally.

Strangely, this ties in to my Master's thesis, which reflected something that is noted in Cultural Geography - that culture is passed down in practice, aesthetics, music, and rituals regardless of meaning currently ascribed. So we have Halloween, even if we don't follow the old pagan belief that this is the turning of the year when the veil between the worlds is thinnest and the lost souls can find their way to their proper side, guided by candles placed outside and fed with baked treats left on doorsteps, and warded off by dressing as death or the dead if one needed to travel on that day. Belief? Seriously not needed. Practice, definitely. Likewise, Santa in red and white, though the magic (red and white, hallucinogenic) mushrooms that the nordic shaman used to 'make the reindeer fly' sure aren't part of any Christian tradition I know of. Ginger bread, and peppermint candy (red and white again), and pumpkin pie, not part of the Christian tradition. Some of our carols are old pagan tunes revisited. Etc. As people married in, converted to new beliefs, and melded across cultures, new practices were added, and old images and myths adapted into new form, combined in different ways regionally, and then were passed down and down and down. This is no different than the aesthetics of assymetry being passed down in families of Latvian descent, or the cooking styles of West Africa ending up in Southern (US) Traditional foods.

I'm respectful of the traditions whose trappings are included in my family's traditions. We don't light a menorah, for example, though my mother knows the prayers. I attend services as a visitor, and would never dream of asking more than a blessing from the priest or minister. And I tell the stories of other religions as ways of showing the troubles and joys people of every faith face, and the ways in which Wonder and the Divine can make our individual and collective burdens easier to bear, and the loads easier to share across many shoulders.

Does that compute a little? I know how hard it was to explain that to my Catholic SIL... I don't think I even hit all the points, but that's most of them.


for pnuts mama - I am an atheist who considers myself a "cultural Christian." My family of origin has traditions about Christmas that I both enjoy and have adapted for my own family, despite the fact that I do not personally believe in god or the divinity of Jesus. I do view the Christmas story as a seasonal metaphor (hope in the darkness) and hope to present it to my children that way. I also celebrate Easter in a secular way, as a celebration of springtime and rebirth.


dear pnuts mama,
three words: pie, eggnog, ham.

an atheist.

pnuts mama

that is awesome, you guys, and makes a lot of sense to me. i wonder if most of this comes from my own disappointment with some of my family members who go so crazy with the commercial and secular side of christmas but are in no way practicing or believers- i would bet that they couldn't come up with the thoughtfulness that you have, flea. i imagine it would be more of a "huh?"

i appreciate the reverence of your approach to those holidays, and i totally am on board with "respecting the religious aspect of the holiday without being a believer of the religion." growing up and attending public school in metro nyc, we learned about most of the major world religions and the holidays celebrated, and i've been to plenty of non-christian religious celebrations. but i don't celebrate those holidays personally, ykwim? that to me is the difference. i definitely *don't* ascribe to the "one truth for salvation" model, either, as i think it's ridiculous, but i also don't appropriate some other religions holiday as my own and re-define it for myself. and i say that with enormous respect, just trying to understand this.

hedra, i'm not quite sure i can be ok with the idea that since the US is primarily a christian country, that we can say it's now our culture to celebrate christmas in a reinterpreted secular-based way. for example, i can't think of any other country where that has happened to the major religion of the region- it's almost offensive. i wonder how much of the consumer-based part of our culture is dictating this, even subversely.

i do know that nearly everything related to christmas (tree, wreaths, even the shape and colors of the candy cane) can be explained with christian symbolism, long before the explanation got lost in a sea of secularism, although it's interesting to consider that perhaps this is just the next phase of christianity? as you mentioned, so many of our holidays were re-appropriated from pagan or local ones and re-interpreted through the lens of christianity. so there's that to chew on. maybe our future is that we go full-circle?

in any event i really appreciate your views on this. i know this can be a hairy subject and i am of course always humbled by the level of respect and grace we all have for each others point of view. thanks.

pnuts mama

shirky- you've made me laugh two days in a row now.

and yes to the eggnog!


Great comments, everyone -

I have to laugh though when Santa/trees/etc. are brought into the subject of Christmas being a Christian holiday, as I was always taught that they were the secular world's distortion of the holiday, etc. I think pnuts mama has a point that there is symbolism in each of these things that traces back to older aspects of Christianity, etc., however, those commercialized pieces of December 25th and it's preceeding days are not what "the church" would consider relgious in any way.


Just had to plug how awesome the Silk brand soymilk nog is this time of year! I eagerly await its arrival!

I was brought up Jewish, married someone who believes Christmas is a family holiday & has wonderful memories for him. We do observe it in the spirit of the pagan holiday it originally came from, not as a religious one. Yes, we say, "Merry Christmas," and of course the origin of those greetings are not an observance of Solstice or anything. We decorate with beautiful white lights and pine boughs and it helps with the winter blahs of the cold months here in the northeast.

As for daycare, my son goes to a center and we donate to a group fund. The center head helps the parent volunteers (one per room) who collect all the funds with what percentage of the collected funds should go to each teacher in the room depending on how many hrs, on avg, teacher is in that room. Its much easier than it sounds. Then the parent volunteer buys the v*sa-type gift cards that can be used for any purchase the bearer wants. (The parent volunteer sends home a letter with a suggested donation of a small amount but most parents send in more; however, completely voluntary.)

Also - as a teacher, I have to 2nd the thought about mugs. Yes, a nice thought, but, no, really not needed. A thoughtful note in the child's handwriting is most appreciated, second a gcert to coffee place, (because those can be in small increments of $5 or under), third would be to get together with other families, (if possible), to get a semi-larger gcert to book store, Amaz*on, or even a splurge-type item. Wow, I would be Delighted with a capital D to get a manicure gcert. But not sure if that is universal.


oh, pnuts mama, I think Christmas is so secular here not *because* we are primarily Christian in historical origin, but because we historically have cast a wintry eye at RELIGION in many ways. It's the very multiplicity of religion, combined with a resistance to following the rules, and a passion for capitalism, plus the tendency of the overt/dominant culture to be 'extroverted' (displaying wealth being fine, social process and gift-exchange and networking being priorities, etc.), plus many other factors that make this country unique in good and sometimes grossly foul ways - THAT's what has created this secularized holiday process, for this particular holiday.

In other areas, it isn't holidays, but rites of passage that have gone hyper-consumerist. Look at weddings in India and China. Look at Bar/Bat Mitzvahs... These are things that have deep and profound RELIGIOUS rituals, that have strong cultural components, that have become GASTLY extravagences of consumerism. We're not the only ones. We've just done it to a 'generalize church event' instead of a 'family/personal religious event'. Okay, so we've done it to the lot, really. But we're really not the only ones. It takes a different spin with us, because we have different cultural issues, concerns, history, different blends of different populations over time, different cultural agendas, etc.

For me, it isn't right/wrong. It just IS, and it is human, and it goes on in cycles, and either the religions co-opt the secular and bring it back into the fold, or they reject it and hope it falls away from the practice (usually in vain - how many people in the UK *really* believe in the Green Man, or Beltane, and yet they celebrate those in plenty of places still!).

And I agree with shirky, again, too - why do people celebrate these things? Because they're FUN, they taste good, and they're an excuse to eat things and quantities we don't indulge in the rest of the year.

anon nanny

Just commenting to add an anecdote related to the difference between traditionally male vs. female careers when it comes to bonuses. I'm a nanny, and last year the mother of the kids I take care of passed away, so I now work for a single father who is a CEO. My bonus from him last year was two weeks salary, substantially more than I've ever received in the past. I know there were other factors involved, but part of me thinks he based the amount on his knowledge of corporate bonuses instead of household bonuses, which is interesting. Trust me, I appreciated it!


We focus on St. Nicholas and not Santa at our house. Our daughter believes but we don't do anything to perpetuate the belief--she just picked it up from friends, relatives and Hallmark I guess. When she asks questions, which I am sure will happen sooner than later, I am planning on explaining that St. Nicholas/Santa is part of the Holy Spirit, with a little of Moxie's game idea thrown in if that doesn't fly. The baby doesn't get it yet, although M did teach him to say "Ho, Ho, Ho" in response to St. Nicholas' picture the other day.

As for care providers, we give our nanny a paid week off (normally we don't pay for days that she doesn't work) and usually an Amex gift check for $100 because that is the only way she will shop for fun things for herself. This year we may get her an inexpensive TV instead of the gift check because she wants/needs one. I bought bags of fair trade chocolate candies from agreatergift.com for my daughter's "special" teachers at preschool and her ballet and CCD teachers, which will be presented with a home-made card. Her two classroom teachers are getting agreatergift.com gift bags with coffee and chocolate and cards. (Thanks for the shopping suggestion Moxie!) Her class mom also collects a nominal amount of money for group gifts ($30 per kid to be split between two main and four special teachers) but everyone supplements with a little personal gift too. My mom the elementary teacher always advises that the best gift is a personalized thank you note, but that gift cards and chocolates are also always appreciated.


Oh, and those early-christian explanations of the tree, candy cane, etc., those were borrowed from the pagans before that, and the celtic/nordic/germanic pagans probably coopted them from their predecessors, as well. The pine seems to come from Druid tradition, before Celtic or Briton Wicca, the red and white from tribal/nomadic shamanism, mistletoe from Druid as well (though very strong in Wicca), the timing of the birth of Christ was 'moved' by the church from August (shepherds in their fields watching flocks, NOT in December!) to overlay a Roman celebration that was popular throughout Europe, etc. Church history is full of 'how to take the local celebration/images/rituals and incorporate them as ours'. And not just Christians, either!

So yeah, there are explanations from early Christianity for all those. And the Wiccans also had their own explanations, and the Druids for all we know coopted and re-wrote the traditions of earlier people as well.

And I'm sorry for the disappointment over those who just carry on with the cultural overlay without a thought. I'm sure they're the majority in most of the world. When I was young and considered myself more purely Pagan, I was a little annoyed that Halloween was treated so casually, when it was important to ME. That, along with long talks with my Catholic SIL, along with my mother's regard for religion and faith and practice, combined to bring me to respect the holiday with an eye to the religions present in our cultural expressions of it - and that includes the Pagans. ;)


(sorry, got the Preacher's Kid talking about religion... I can go on on MOST topics, but that one is so much FUN... Sigh.)


First of all, on gifts for teachers, daycare, etc., something child-made is always appreciated, though that is primarily for the little ones. If you are getting gifts for your older kids teachers (I taught in a private school, and most families gave teacher gifts all the way through middle school), the best gifts are bookstore gift cards, followed by restaurant gift cards, unless you know for sure that the teacher likes a particular food, drink, scent, etc. I got some horrible smelling things during my teaching years, most of were obviously regifts or last minute trips to the dollar store.

Not that I'm knocking the dollar store - I've gotten a few cute things over the years that came from there, too. And I appreciated them because they came from families that weren't well off, but obviously spent some time looking for something that wasn't just a piece of junk.

On the Santa thing, it didn't traumatize me when I discovered he wasn't real - and I believed longer than most kids. I had my suspicions when I was 8, and all doubt was eliminated when I was 9 and found my parents' hiding place. My parents did emphasize Jesus over Santa, though (I grew up Catholic), and they explained all the Santas around town as Santa's "helpers" who were collecting money to help buy gifts for kids whose mummies and daddies couldn't afford to give Santa money for presents. That made an impact on me, and I can remember always asking Santa for just one or two things for myself, and make sure he would give the same thing to a poor child, too. It also got me started into a habit of giving that I could understand.

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  • My expertise is in helping people be who they want to be, with a specialty in how being a parent fits into everything else. I like people. I like parents. I think you're doing a fantastic job. The nitty-gritty of what you do with your kids is up to you, although I'm happy to post questions here to get data points of how you could try approaching different stages, because, let's face it, this shit is hard. As for me, I have two kids who sleep through the night and can tie their own shoes. I've been a married SAHM, a married freelance WAHM, a divorcing WOHM, a divorced WOHM, and now a WAHM again. I'm not buying the Mommy Wars and I'll come sit next to you no matter how you're feeding your kid. When in doubt, follow the money trail. And don't believe the hype.
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