By Katie Moosbrugger

It’s been four years since I wrote the post “Please Don’t Make This the Last Year of Magic,” and believe it or not, the magic is still in our house. Well, somewhat.

My oldest is now 11, and I’ve been hard at work trying to debunk every myth she’s heard about Santa from her friends at school and on the bus. I know you are thinking, “Give it up already!” Of course she knows the truth; I’m just not ready to accept it yet.

It all started last summer with the Tooth Fairy. I finally admitted it was a silly prank. And now the Elf is out of the bag. She’s been helping me hide him all month long. This spring I’ll have to give up the Easter Bunny too. But when it comes to the big, jolly ol’ man in red…I just can’t let that one go.

She’s questioned Santa, and I tell her all the time I still believe in him. I say it’s a secret I keep in my heart because I know not everyone shares the same belief. I suggested she do the same and not talk to her friends about it. As much as I want to believe those words made an impact, I’m sure she pondered the idea for – oh – maybe a few hours. Who am I really kidding?

I’ve discovered it truly is a science to keep the magic alive, and I’m sure many of you can relate. For those of you with younger kids, I’m sharing some tried and true tricks of the trade. Many of these are things we’ve been using for years, while others I’ve discovered after talking to friends or from Facebook. Of course, I’m always looking for new ideas (no matter how old my kids are) so please share yours in the comments below.

Don’t talk about exchanging Santa’s presents!

If your home is like ours, Santa leaves gifts for everyone – not just the kids. However, make sure your spouse or significant other reads who the gift is from before they open it! I can’t tell you how many times my husband has opened a gift from Santa and then asked– in front of the kids – which store it came from in case he needs to exchange it. I always respond (while smiling and gritting my teeth), “Gosh, I have no idea. I think that sweater came from the North Pole!”

Use different wrapping paper

Under our tree, just about every gift is wrapped (click HERE to see a good debate on whether to wrap or not), and that includes gifts from Santa too. But Santa uses his own paper. This trick has helped add to the magic but it’s also put me precarious situations. Such as the time my son found Santa’s wrapping paper hidden behind our bedroom dresser. Or the time my daughter recognized Santa’s wrapping paper (from two years prior) on gifts wrapped from Mommy and Daddy. Unfortunately, you might have to throw out (or give away) a lot of wrap after Santa leaves.

Put out a few unwrapped gifts

Santa is in a big hurry so it makes sense if he doesn’t have the chance to wrap every single gift. Plus, kids assume Mom and Dad wrap everything, right?

Consider the quantity of gifts and dollar value from Santa

A teacher friend of mine brought this point to my attention. Every year when kids return to school, then inevitably talk about what presents they got from Santa. This usually turns to hurt feelings when some children discover what Santa brings. For instance, Johnny gets upset that Sally got twice as many gifts as he did. And Susie gets upset that she never got an iPhone but her classmate Billy got one. I never considered this dilemma in the past, but I plan to be more mindful this year!

Send letters to and from Santa

I’ve been doing this every year from a variety of places, and it’s a great way to reinforce that Santa is, in fact, “watching!” There are a million places that offer this service – some for free and some for a small fee – all you have to do is Google “Santa letters.” For the last couple of years, I’ve made a small donation to a neonatal intensive care unit HERE that prepares letters. They are accepting orders up until tomorrow and letters go out beginning December 16

Show proof of his visit

A great way to keep the magic real! If you want to get more hi-tech than sticking a black boot in the fireplace, or tracking boot prints across your carpet, consider capturing a photo or video of Santa inside your house! I recently learned of two sources that can help do this. Capture the Magic will deliver a photo of Santa, while the Kringl app creates a video. We are definitely trying one – or both – of these this year.

Track Santa

A tradition we do every Christmas Eve. Both Norad Santa and Google’s Santa Tracker allows kids to see Santa’s sleigh in real time at any place on the globe. My kids (whether they believe or not) love to watch his progress.

Reindeer food

Yet another tradition we used to follow when my kids were little. We would sometimes get reindeer food as a gift, or make it ourselves. Below is a simple recipe to follow, and it seems to attract the reindeer just fine! After you mix the ingredients below, have the kids sprinkle it on the front yard to help guide Santa’s sleigh to your yard.

2 cups regular oats
2 cups sunflower tropical birdseed mix
2 tablespoons red decorator sugar crystals
2 tablespoons green decorator sugar crystals
~ Combine all ingredients

Polar Express

This is a must for families in the Triad! Whether you make it an overnight excursion to Polar Express in Bryson City (about three hours from the Triad) or a day trip to Polar Express at the NC Transportation Museum in Salisbury (about an hour from the Triad), a train ride with Santa that mirrors the popular Polar Express movie (be sure to dress your kids in PJs), is a memory worth making. If you haven’t been, you need to add this to your list one year. (Picture at top is from our ride in Bryson City!)

The Elf on the Shelf

We all know this trick by now! No need for an explanation, but HERE is an interesting take from a TMoM blogger who opts out of this tradition every year.

Which of these have you tried at home, and what other tricks can you add to my list?