Home > The 'Santa' myth, fantasy is fine, deception is not

The 'Santa' myth, fantasy is fine, deception is not

December 21st, 2007 at 04:21 pm

I find the 'Santa story' to be cute, I like watching old Christmas specials, I like hearing different stories of how 'Santa' got started. We read "the night before Christmas" every year with the kids. The kids have a Santa hat and regularly grab and old pillow throw it over their shoulder like a sac and 'play Santa'.

BUT at no point have I lied to them, I do not deceive them into thinking he is real, I do not suggest Santa brings the presents that I lovingly picked out, and carefully wrapped for them. Nor do I center my holiday traditions around him. At no point do I interfere with their imagination, nor do I try to alter reality. Imagination is a wonderful thing, but it is NOT reality. At an age where children are learning the difference between fact and fantasy, I do not hold back one fantasy as reality.

Which leaves me having two kids old enough to talk and understand others are convinced Santa is real, not understanding how they could be so ... dense. Which is putting my sons opinion of them mildly.

How on earth can anyone truly believe that Santa is real? The answer is deception by mom, dad and others, the only way an intelligent child would believe in Santa is due to deliberate and constant deception by trusted adults. Without nearly everyone a child encounters perpetuating the story, Children would fast discover he is just that, a nice fantasy story.

But many parents feel compelled not only to hide their own part in choosing gifts but also to find inventive ways to keep them believing. Leaving boot prints for a kid with baking soda might make for a cute face on a 2 or 4 year old, but is that cute face worth having a 12 year old that is afraid to admit he knows the truth, for fear you wont give him anything? Does our gift giving have to be tied to belief in a fantasy?

Now I know plenty of parents do drop the fantasy when the toddlers and very young grow out of it. But I also know many who fear visiting my house at Christmas time...with there 8, 10, 12, 14, or even 16 year olds! (BTW my children are under strict orders not to argue religion.. including the religion of Santa, so you can visit, we wont try to talk you out of it)

Why force a cute story about how being different can be an advantage, by trying to convince kids that one little red nose can light the way on a stormy night? Why twist the idea of a kind fellow with a giving heart, one worth emulating, by refusing to admit to the children who most look up to you to learn how to act in the world, that you yourself give freely?

What is so wrong about learning from stories without trying to make them real? Elmo is a puppet, controlled by more than one person, Dora is a drawing, who's words and actions are designed by a team. Santa is a story, retold and retold in many ways, with many lessons. Why can't we appreciate the lesson of freely giving without having to lie to children?

7 Responses to “The 'Santa' myth, fantasy is fine, deception is not”

  1. M E Says:

    Sorry, but in a nutshell, your post generally reads that you are more worried about Santa getting the credit for the gifts than you. Eventually your kids will figure out that you're Santa. @@ That seems really in the Christmas spirit to me. :-/ Uhhh . . . . NOT!

  2. Joan.of.the.Arch Says:

    We did not do the Santa fantasy with our kid. But I don't think there is anything bad about it. I think most parents handle it fairly well. (Even if I actually do think a lot of kids have too many possessions Xmas time or not.) I even think that most kids are delighted to find out that it has been their parents who were really Santa. They get satisfaction in their growing powers of discernment when they figure it out; it makes them feel smart, wise, one of the grown-ups, almost. And they get to see how much their parents wanted to show them see a world that is cheerfully hospitable and which loves them over-flowingly.

    I really disagree with the first response to your blog, though. You don't sound like you are concerned about getting the credit.

  3. debtfreeme Says:

    In our family we have a rule: if you don't believe you can't receive.
    It is hard because we don't want the deception but we want the "Spirit of Old Saint Nick" along with our religious pieces. We also adopt a series of families and give them items for their dinner, presents and such through a local charity. There were times when we had that growing up and it was the best/worst feeling in the world.
    My sister and her family also celebrate the Dutch Tradition (as she just moved back home after 20 years there). We do the December 5th gift giving thing and this year my nephew who is 10 was saying he no longer believes because there was no way they would get the traditional Dutch candy and Chocolate letter etc. Boy was he wrong. After dinner that night (Santa and the black piets visit at night) there was lots of excitement because there truly was traditional stuff from Holland. My BIL had not made the trip since October way before items were out in the store but he happened to find a Dutch store that had all of what they were missing for the kidsí shoes and stuff. It was magical and my nephew says, wow I guess there is something to this after all. Even my niece who knows the truth was TOTALLY surprised!

  4. baselle Says:

    I think that a fair number of parents equate believing in Santa as a marker for childhood innocence. When you tell your parents that you don't believe in Santa, it tells your parents that you are growing up.

    Its a shame that the 12 year old kid has to pay lip service to his parents that he believes in Santa literally; he's growing up and he needs adults to help him do so, not adults that want to keep him a child.

  5. boomeyers Says:

    My kids figured it out when they were about 4th grade. I never lied to them. Yes, there is a Santa - ME! And I try to encourage the "santa" spirit of GIVING (not receiving).

  6. princessperky Says:

    Joan, I wish all parents who do the fun surprise part were allowing their kids to grow up, but I know more than one 12 year old (and older) who has to pay lip service... Or worse.

    Now don't get me wrong, you want to call yourself Santa on Christmas day, fine, in fact I love sob stories like the Santa scout, and others about folks anonymously being givers...I just don't get doing it with your 14 year old. Some day when I get in a ranting mood again I will post my most hated Santa quotes from children.

  7. Joan.of.the.Arch Says:

    The older child believing just seems so incredibly unlikely. I think I have ever only known of one child who believed in Santa past the age of 8. It was a girl in my fifth grade class, so I guess she would have been about 11. My own puzzlement was how _could_ a kid my age still believe in Santa.

    Ooh, yes, please do share your hated Santa quotes! Demanding stuff, such as-- "Well, you should get me this ipod because, if you don't, Santa is going to HAVE to do it!"?

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