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Results of Our Holiday Survey

The results of our holiday survey are in! Executive editor Elizabeth Shaw appeared on the TODAY Show this morning to share at what ages most parents think it’s ok for kids to learn the truth about Santa, stay up until midnight, have a sip of champagne, and more.


Be honest about Santa Claus?

  • Age 6               12%
  • Age 8               28%
  • Age 10             59%

School-aged kids are more likely to have the news broken to them by a classmate who is already in on the secret, so parents should have their strategy ready to go by second or third grade just in case. Let kids believe in the spirit and magic of the holidays for as long as possible, but when the time comes to be honest remind them what the spirit of Santa and Christmas is all about. My mom was a master at deflecting those “he’s not real” claims! She always said...”It’s so sad he/she doesn’t believe...”

Tone down the quantity of gifts exchanged – and expected – each year?

  • Age 8               19%
  • Age 10              28%
  • Age 13             51%

Once all of the kids in the family are in the know about Santa, parents can gauge their reactions to toning things down.  If money is tight or mom and dad simply want to tone things down and instead perhaps spend a chunk of Christmas morning volunteering as a family at a local soup kitchen, by age 10 kids will absolutely be able to handle the concept – and possibly even jump on board! Plus, by this age they start to want big ticket items, so you can say “If you get X, you need to understand there will just be a few other small things...”

Expect kids to buy gifts for family on their own?

  • Age 12              20%
  • Age 14              18%
  • Age 16              60%

If teens are working and have a steady income during the holidays and they want to get their brother or favorite aunt a little something there’s no reason to stop them.  But by age 16 – especially if they’re working a few days a week – they can probably handle their own gift responsibilities.  But as a parent, make it clear they shouldn’t charge up a storm just for this. If there’s a gift they have their hearts set on giving that’s a bit out of reach, maybe mom/dad can offer to help supplement.

Let kids light the candles (Mishumaa Saba, the seven candles) during Kwanzaa, or the Menorah candles at Hanukah?

  • Age 7               33%
  • Age 10              32%     
  • Age 12              23%

This is a major holiday milestone for kids, but real candles can equal a real fire hazard in too-young hands. By age 10, kids will be steady enough to handle the task as long as mom and dad are close behind.
Let the kids stay up to watch the ball drop at midnight?

  • Age 5               21%
  • Age 8               40%
  • Age 12              38%

New Years day is often one spent at home, but even if you have plans to go visit a relative for the day, it’s not school or work – so if the kids are tired, they’re tired! Have the whole family indulge in a nice long nap during the afternoon on the Eve, and if the kids can make it to 12 o’clock…more power to ‘em!

Let them toast with champagne at midnight?

  • Age 16              10%
  • Age 14              30%
  • Age 21              59%

We all know the “right” answer here – but chances are by their 21st New Year’s Eve kids won’t be spending it at home with mom and dad anyway.  Parents should feel free to make the call on a case by case basis based on their families own personal values.   
Stop sending holiday photo cards with the whole family?

  • Age 14                                                                          23%
  • Age 16                                                                          11%
  • Never! We want to show off our family at every age.       63%     

Let’s be honest – mom, dad, Fido, and their 3 teenagers isn’t nearly as cute as mom, dad, and babies. If sending holiday cards is a tradition that means a lot to you, by all means send those cards out forever – but once the kids hit high school, feel free to cut yourselves a break and skip the photos if you’d like.

Let kids go caroling alone after dark?

  • Age 10              1%
  • Age 8               2%
  • Age 12              81%  

This one largely depends on parents’ comfort level, and who the kids are going with.  If it’s a family event with a group of people, toddlers may even make the cut.  But if it’s with a school group, or even with a group of friends, older kids may be better suited for staying out after dark.

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