15 Parents Share Their Worst Santa-Related Disasters

If you choose to tell your kids about Santa Claus, like I did, you pretty much have to expect that eventually they'll figure out the truth. Someone will let the cat out of the proverbial bag, or worse, you'll accidentally ruin the illusion. I've had so many near misses, embarrassing moments, and parenting fails involving Santa, that I almost regret telling my kids about him in the first place. I asked other parents to share their worst Santa-related disasters and, well, it turns out I'm not alone.

Honestly, I'm comforted by the numerous stories of children coming across evidence of Santa being a lie, like in the Christmas classic I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. In a way, it reminds me that I really don't have to feel all that horrible about accidentally leaving stocking stuffers visible in the trunk of my car. My daughter asked, "Who are those toys for?" and I could only tell her, "Well, for you." Then I had to return to the store on Christmas Eve to get more presents so my secret would be safe. I've gotten caught eating Christmas cookies from the plate clearly marked for Santa, too, and was forced to apologize to my then 4-year-old, distraught child.

Then there are the stories of scary Santa encounters and mall meltdowns that every parent regrets. My worst Santa moment was when my son asked the Santa at a community event why he didn't have a nice long beard or big belly, like the Santa at the Mall. I was mortified. And it seems a lot of us parents have experienced Santa-related disasters. Parenting is hard, especially when you try (and often fail) to meet your kids' holiday expectations. It's a good thing most of us have a sense of humor when things go wrong, and are willing to share our cautionary tales and epic fails so you can avoid making the same mistakes.


"My oldest went to see Santa one year, I think he was about 5. He sat on his lap, and while Santa was asking about presents, my son grabbed his beard and and tried pulling it off. It wasn’t a fake beard, though, and Santa screamed."


"Santa was taking a break and, while we waited, my 3-year-old son was looking at the chest full of candy canes. Meanwhile Santa snuck up behind him and whispered, 'Are you stealing my candy canes?' and my son started bawling. That was it. He would not sit with him, and he was terrified of Santa coming to our house. We haven't visited Santa since."


"When I was a child my dad was trying to put Santa up on the roof. He slipped and Santa went flying off the roof and banged against my window with a rope around his (the stuffed Santa’s) neck. It was something out of a horror movie. It took weeks for them to convince 5-year-old me that Santa was flying past to make sure I was being nice. I have very vivid memories of Santa dangling outside my window."


"My daughter was 3, I think, and we went to see Santa in the mall, and she lost her mind. We stood outside for like 15 minutes so she could watch him with other kids. He checked in with her between every family to see if she wanted her picture. After about two hours in the mall wandering back and forth, we finally gave up. About two weeks later, she asked to see Santa again. We went to a different place, and she had another meltdown. She just did not want to go near him. Santa was so awesome, though. He laid down on the floor and played with her, so that's the picture we got."


Courtesy of Amanda Andres

"Mine just very clearly didn’t want to sit on Santa’s lap. He’s very minimally verbal, and was quite interested in Santa, but clearly vocalized 'nuh uh' when Santa patted his lap, then glared for the picture. He did blow a kiss and wave goodbye to Santa, which is more than most relatives get."


"We've always been honest with our kids about how Santa isn't the bringer of gifts, and we try to put emphasis on being thankful for family and friends, etc. One year we were at the store, and there was a line of kids waiting to see Santa. My oldest said, as loud as she possibly could, 'That's just some guy in a suit. Santa doesn't exist, right mom?' Cue crying children and dirty looks from each and every parent in line."


"Our daughter was maybe 2. She didn't like the store Santa so we asked her grandpa if he would be willing to break out his suit out for a picture. He showed up in his suit with no hat or beard and she was fine. But when he put his beard on and she started screaming. He quickly took it off and tried to apologize, but she refused to let him get anywhere near her.


"When my daughter was 2, we were so excited that she would actually understand the concept of Santa that we made all of her gifts from him. The big guy brought her like 25 gifts. She opened gifts from him and other family that day. Then that night, when we tucked her in she seemed sad. We asked her why, and she said, 'You and Daddy are the only ones that didn’t get me a Christmas present.' Oops. Fail."


"I took my oldest to a mall Santa when he was almost 1 and he started to cry and the mall Santa said, 'Get this crying thing off my lap.' I was already coming to do just that."


"We took my son to Santa when he was nearly 2-years-old. He had a complete meltdown and was inconsolable. He was diagnosed as autistic six months later, but we had no idea at the time what kind of sensory overload that Santa can cause for children. We never took him back, and I still feel guilty for putting him through that."


Courtesy of Erica Hutton

"My son loves the idea of Santa, and begged me, repeatedly, to see him. He told me that he didn’t want to sit on his lap, and I told him he could get as close or as far as he wanted. When the time came, he wanted me to be next to Santa, so I agreed. He desperately wanted to tell Santa what he wanted for Christmas, but refused while we were with Santa and wouldn’t even let me tell Santa. I told Santa, 'He doesn’t feeling like talking, thanks for the picture.'

As I got up, though, my son had this total 'Red Rider B.B. gun' moment where he started screaming and clawing to get back to talk to Santa, but the second he got his chance, nothing. We repeated this three times and then I finally dragged him off, screaming the whole way."


"Last year, we attended an event that had Santa in a separate room and time for each family to go in to speak with Mr. and Mrs. Claus. When it was our turn, my son started to walk into the room, then bolted. My daughter would only sit with Mrs. Claus.

This year we won a 'cut the line' pass for a carriage ride with Santa — a one-night-only event. I’m not sure why we expected a different result, but for the days prior our son was super excited. Still excited leaving the car. Even excited lining up. My husband kept reminding him that he didn’t have to sit on Santa’s lap and could sit on Dad’s lap near Santa, Then when the carriage was in sight, he ran. My husband went with him, while I rode with his twin sister and our 1-year-old to keep the line moving. After the ride and for the next day or two we experienced random bursts of tears about how he wanted to try again and didn’t want to miss his chance. It was so sad."


"We went to see a Santa at a local restaurant when my son was 4. He was not scared, and he volunteered to sit on his lap. I vaguely knew the person playing Santa, but not very well. He was later found guilty of sexual misconduct against a minor. I have never felt more horrible as a parent than knowing I exposed my son to a sexual predator. Now, I refuse to take my child to a random Santa I don't know."


"When my daughter was about 3 or 4, I thought it'd be cute to do the 'Santa in your house' app. You take a picture of your living room/tree and the app places a video clip of Santa there to look like he's placing presents under your tree. I showed my daughter the next day and she absolutely lost her mind, but not in a good way. 'How dare you spy on Santa. You didn't ask for permission to record him.' She was so upset. She's 7 now and is still mad about that."


"We stood in line for an hour to see Santa. It was pure terror for my poor 2-year-old. This of course set off a chain reaction and the 3-week-old lost it too. And then a bunch of kids behind us in line freaked out. It’s contagious, I guess. We looked like the Griswolds trying to gather the diaper bag, stroller, and usher out two crying kids with a trail of chaos behind us."