Courtesy of Samantha Darby

Why Do We Let Kids Sit On Santa's Lap? The Tradition Dates Back To 1890

Ad failed to load

Going to see Santa at your local department store or mall is a childhood rite of passage. The tiny candy canes, telling Santa you've kept your room clean all year long, and taking a picture right after you explain, in implicit detail, which Polly Pocket set you want — it's a must for any kid. But, no matter how lovable of a guy Santa is, the whole tradition begs the question — why do we let kids sit on Santa's lap?

The tradition doesn't have exact origins. According to, in 1841, thousands of children headed to a Philadelphia store to see a life-size model of Santa Claus, leading stores to believe that if they could offer shoppers a "peek" at a real-life Santa Claus, they would get even more shopping traffic. The first person to dress as Santa, according to The Enterprise, was a man named James Edgar, who donned the infamous Santa Claus suit in 1890 in his own store to make the children shopping happy. He is considered the very first department store Santa Claus.

But the tradition of sitting on Santa's lap? There's not a lot of information about how this facet of the Christmas season began. Did one Santa suggest that a child sit on his lap to share his wishlist? Did a kid take it upon himself to climb up? Or was this an action egged on by parents?

Ad failed to load

Nobody's 100 percent sure, but the one thing that's come across many minds is why parents let their children sit on Santa's lap at all. Doesn't this perpetuate rape culture? Isn't it a way to force your child into physical contact with, for all intents and purposes, a stranger?


Apparently, a lot of people think so. According to Parenting, some countries have considered complete bans on sitting on Santa's lap and Baby Center has noted that some believe it is a violation of children's rights.

Ad failed to load

So why is it even a thing?

Because Santa is a beloved character for a lot of children. The difference between letting your child sit on Santa's lap and forcing them to is a big one — your child gets to decide. If your child is terrified of Santa, yet you still put them in their lap for a picture, I can see where this is a violation of your little one and that it could perpetuate rape culture. But if your child is stoked to see Santa, is super excited to tell him all about the Hatchimal they just know they're going to get (hold steady, parents), and wants to climb into their lap, then what's the harm?

Parents let their children sit in Santa's lap because they know their children love it. Christmas is a time of magic and warmth and innocence — you let your little one climb into Santa's lap because they are just way too excited about the toys Santa will bring them and about meeting the magical man.

Ad failed to load

According to Mental Floss, background checks are a big deal for a lot of Santa Claus employers, so if safety is a concern, it's OK to do some research. But really, the bottom line is that if your kid is super happy to see Santa and wants to climb into their lap, there's nothing wrong with it. If your kid just wants to stand next to Santa, no Santa Claus is going to deny them that right or a picture (if they do, go straight to management). Mental Floss also noted that Santas hate a crying kid photo, too — they are there to make your little one happy. And if your little one isn't happy, then is it even worth it?

We let our kids sit on Santa's lap because it's a sweet moment to capture between a little one who fully believes in Santa and the big jolly guy himself. But the magic word is "let" and not "force". There's a big difference and confusing the two is what perpetuates rape culture. But denying your kid the chance to sit on Santa's lap if they really want to? Well, that's on par with Ebeneezer Scrooge.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

The Entire Family Can Enjoy These Movies & Shows Coming To Netflix In June

It's just one of those sad facts of life: every month, shows and movies vanish from Netflix, their varied excitements no longer at your fingertips. But luckily the streaming service is always prepared to fill that content void with lots of new things…
By Megan Walsh

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills