For a while, when we were new parents, “Santa” didn’t visit our daughter. A friend of mine had said that she didn’t do the “Santa” thing because she wanted her kid to know that the gifts came from her with love and not from some strange dude in a red suit. That made sense.
However, as my oldest grew, she asked why Santa didn’t come to visit her. So, we started a new tradition (she was still pretty little), of setting out cookies and coke (and celery for the reindeer) so that Santa would fill the stockings. It was a tradition from my father’s family. He came from a REALLY large family that had a ranch in the mountains of Virginia. They didn’t have tons of money, but the older kids would fill stockings for the younger ones with oranges and fresh fruit.
We go with candy, small toys, and that sort of thing instead of fruit. When my oldest found out about Santa–that no fat guy in a red suit came down the chimney–we sat her down. Another friend of mine described Santa as not a mine, but the spirit of Christmas and we can be the spirit of Christmas for others. We passed that wisdom down to my daughter. Now, her favorite part of Christmas is to sneak downstairs with me after the others are asleep and go through the stocking goodies to pick who gets what. And of course, after she goes upstairs I put a few surprises in the stockings as well.