Santa is real!!

So what about Santa Claus, huh? Alex Gabriel has been saying on Twitter that adults shouldn’t tell children lies and Santa Claus is a lie so what about it eh? And people are unagreeing with him.

I agree with him though. I agree with him because I resented being lied to about it when I was a kid. I thought it was a dirty trick, since adults have that advantage that children tend to believe them, because they’re supposed to know better and tell the truth and all like that. You know what? I still think that.

I don’t see the point of it, in the case of people who value the truth. It seems strange not to want to begin as you mean to go on. Why not just treat Santa Claus as a fun story and ritual?

What do you think, Linda?

Comments

  1. stewart says

    I can’t imagine ever having a reason to want to tell a child anything I didn’t believe was true myself.

  2. sylva says

    My parents never pretended Santa was real, because our older sister was livid when she found out they had lied to her.

    My mom liked to tell a story from long and long ago, when I was very young, and we were filing out of the Christmas Eve service (/shudder). A lady in line near us asked what Santa would be bringing, and I said “Nothing!” She asked, taken aback, if it was I had been a bad girl, and replied (in a most cheerful tone), “No. He’s dead!” Apparently the lady gave my mom a dirty look over that response.

    Yes, the irony is something that amuses me now.

  3. says

    I remember as a pre-schooler, an attempt being made to bribe me into participating in some children’s Christmas event, by a Santa on a motorized float, who was brandishing lollies during a break at the horse races. Even the guy on the PA system tried talking me into getting a present from Father Christmas.

    I wasn’t having a bar of it. The fact that I was being bribed with lollies, when we were poor, made it all the more obscene. I dug my little 3 year old heels in.

    It probably helped that I never believed in Santa, The Easter Bunny, or God, nor was I ever told by my family that they were real.

  4. Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts says

    I work with 4th and 5th grade kids, and the other week a few of them asked me if Santa was real. I paused, because I wasn’t sure if it was my place to tell them he is not real. Fuck it, I decided I couldn’t, in good conscience, tell a flat out lie to my kids.

  5. says

    Yeeessss….. and no. We didn’t tell out kids about Santa, but they picked up Santa belief at pre-school and school. So we put a few small presents at the end of their beds (a book, an activity of some sort, some sweets) for when they first woke up, and then gave them presents from us when the whole household was awake. It was a little bit magical and fun for them.

    When they grew older and started to ask questions about Santa, we asked them, “What do you think?” As it turned out, none of them really beleived, but they thought it was fun to pretend to believe. And that turned out to be quite a useful distinction for them to understand. So for a few years now (since they were 7 or 8 so), they’ve been able to talk about whether something is true, or a helpful thinking aid, or merely something they would like to believe because it’s comforting / makes life easier / whatever. And they can apply that classification of “belief” to other people’s beliefs too.

    So yes, lying to children is harmful, but working with them to understand how and what they, and other people believe, is very good indeed.

  6. anathema2 says

    I don’t know. For some kids, figuring out that Santa does not exist on their own can be a valuable experience. It can teach them that they can be fooled by other people, no matter how smart they are. It can teach them that not everything that their parents (or any other authority figure) tells them is necessarily true.

    That being said, I don’t think that parents who decide not to lie to their kids are somehow worse parents because of it. Refusing to lie to your kids is admirable. And different children are different. While figuring out that Santa does’t exist on their own might be worthwhile for some kids, it might not be for others.

    I don’t think either approach is necessarily wrong.

  7. carlie says

    We did Santa.
    It was a conscious decision – I wanted them to be able to have the experience of figuring out that something big, something they believed in, was wrong, and not wrong because an adult told them it was wrong, but because they had the critical thinking skills to see through the unreality of it. So as soon as they started asking about whether Santa was really real, I asked them what they thought, and asked them to explain how he could do all of that given x y and z that they knew about the world, etc., and let them work with that. I specifically wanted them to make the connection in their heads that this was the same thing as belief in God. I just heard Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s most recent StarTalk podcast where he talks about this as well, and if I could do it over again I’d make one adjustment – he did something very similar, but instead of outright telling his daughter Santa/ToothFairy/etc. existed, he’d say “I’ve been told that…” I do like that way of not explicitly lying directly.

    Plus, mental experiment aside, as they were figuring it out I also stressed that the idea of Santa is a nice way to do something good for another person without trying to get any credit for yourself. You can give things to people, see them be happy about it, and do it solely for the joy of seeing them happy, not for expecting any payback for yourself, if you give it to them under the guise of Santa.

  8. Ken says

    My parents lied to me on a regular basis, though never about anything of importance. My mother, in particular, got a kick out of how gullible us kids were and often made up stories which became ever more unbelievable as they went on.

    One time I asked her about the person the local high school was named after. The story ended up about the architect who noticed no bathrooms had been planned and saved the school at the last minute by making an entire wing (which was actually the swimming pool extension) of nothing but bathrooms.

    I credit her with making me a better skeptic and giving me the courage to question other authority figures.

    As for Santa, my parents used to push that myth to extremes that even I, as a little gullible kid, realized were beyond reason. So I knew Santa was a myth at a very young age. My parents, however, paid a price with that one since their story at one point involved a trap door underneath wall-to-wall carpet…

  9. Nepenthe says

    The “they’ll figure it out” theory can backfire though. When I was young, I didn’t remember falling asleep one night and when I found my tooth had been exchanged I thought this was definitive proof of the Tooth Fairy. I ended up believing in similar woo for a long time. (I got better.)

  10. wytchy says

    I think my experience is more along the line of Deborah’s. It was the idea of santa/tooth fairy/whatever that was fun, and we didn’t exactly believe it was real ever. But at the same time, instead of asking me what I thought about santa, my mom would tell me that he was real if I believed in him, which I think is pretty harmful.

    I think for my future children, I would either ask them to figure it out for themselves by asking what they think and what their evidence is for such a belief, or just not even hold the belief at all, tell them santa is a lie, and just have a tradition of gift giving among family.

  11. Lofty says

    Much as telling lies is naughty, letting kids work out for themselves that myths aren’t true is valuable in developing critical thinking skills. Losing absolute trust in the words of adults is probably not a bad thing either, at any age.

  12. Nathair says

    Much as telling lies is naughty, letting kids work out for themselves that myths aren’t true is valuable in developing critical thinking skills.

    So people keep saying but, really, citation needed here. We’re not just talking about “myths” we’re talking about a very specific and utterly pointless lie that people tell to their children. So please, if you’ve got some kind of citation showing that letting kids work out for themselves that their parents have been lying to them about Santa is necessary to develop critical thinking skills, please share, otherwise I think there are plenty of opportunities to learn critical thinking without inventing yet another lie specifically for that purpose.

  13. Rain says

    I like pretending about Santa. I like pretending about reindeers. I like the word reindeers. I like putting the “s” at the end of reindeers. I bleepin love it. I like pretending and I like knowing it’s all pretend. You can pretend and tell them it’s all pretend. Kinda like SpongeBob. It’s all pretend and it’s fun. Merry Christmas everybody.

  14. says

    Rain – exactly. I too love pretending! It was my chief form of play as a kid. Not games or sports, but endless pretending. Pretending isn’t damaged by being called pretending.

  15. bad Jim says

    I agree that it’s good for kids to learn their parents are not always to be believed, perhaps because that was my family’s tradition. This subject always reminds me of this image.

  16. says

    I guess Santa is for practicing gullibility: This seems a propos.

    Our three year old knows that presents come from parents. I guess playing Santa if they picked up the belief elsewhere is one thing, whatever heats your burrito, but we would never lie to her if she asks us a direct question.

  17. Nathair says

    I agree that it’s good for kids to learn their parents are not always to be believed

    So we should intentionally lie lest they suffer (somehow) for finding out that their parents can be believed? Hopefully someone can explain how that works, how always being honest with our kids is A Bad Thing(tm).

  18. yahweh says

    My boys both believe in Santa (just about still, in the case of the eldest). If in later life they really resent being ‘lied’ to I will know that I was getting far more important stuff wrong – the day to day respecting, taking seriously, understanding.

    Readling these comments makes me wonder how many contributors’ parents worked the “it’s wicked to lie” parental power trip. Real resentment springs from the everyday.

    Merry Xmas to all.

  19. anathema2 says

    @ Nathair (14):

    I think that letting kids work out for themselves that Santa does not exist can be helpful in developing critical thinking skills, but I don’t by any means think that it is necessary.

    One of the main reasons that I think that figuring out that Santa isn’t real on their own can help kids develop critical thinking skills is that it helped me do so. I thought that I was a really smart kid. In figuring out that Santa wasn’t real, I learned that, however smart I thought I was, I could still be easily fooled into believing something ridiculous. There are other ways to teach kids critical thinking skills, sure. But I think that it’s hard to understand just how easily you can be fooled until you’ve actually been fooled.

    I know that my experience does not reflect everyone else’s, so I’m not going to say that it is always a good thing for parents to pretend that Santa exists. I just don’t think that it’s always a bad thing either.

  20. says

    yahweh – well where I had the thought (at least where I remember having it, and the memory long precedes my noticing the connection) was the science classroom…so I’m surmising it was triggered by a discussion of how we know things – perhaps even of skepticism. What I resented was being told it was true in reply to my questions. In other words I was incredulous (I had become incredulous) and I was told not to be.

    Yes, I resent that. I don’t think adults (or even older children) should tell children that.

    Then again memory is unreliable, and maybe I’m confabulating the science classroom. But I’ve always remembered it that way, I think.

  21. carlie says

    So we should intentionally lie lest they suffer (somehow) for finding out that their parents can be believed?

    Well, sort of? I think how important you think that is depends on your own background. I grew up in a very authoritarian church. The idea of being able to challenge those views, that it was ok to question, that it wasn’t a horrible sin to even think that an adult might be lying or wrong to me about things I was supposed to believe, was simply nowhere in my upbringing. It was honestly a really big deal to me when I finally realized that there weren’t any sacred ideas that couldn’t be questioned, and that believing authority wasn’t always the right thing to do. I wanted to make sure that my children understood that there was no such thing as a sacred cow, and that even parents can be questioned, and even parents can be wrong, and that they won’t get in trouble for questioning us.

    Also, my younger child has social skills issues, so I wanted to make very sure that he understood the facial cues and tonal inflections that come along with people lying to him, so…yeah, we practiced lying and understanding lying. I’d tell him things with exaggerated lying signs, and if he believed me, I’d repeat and repeat it, exaggerating the cues more until he got it. With regard to Santa, he did not want to let go of that even when he knew better, so I kept letting the clues get bigger and bigger – obviously leaving the santa gift wrapping paper out, quizzing him harder on how santa could do all that stuff, telling him stories of other cultures and their not-santa myths, etc.

  22. Nathair says

    Many nonreligious parents, in the admirable name of high integrity, set themselves up as infallible authorities.

    That’s quite a strawman your authority, Dale McGowan, is arguing against. There is a vast and important distinction between not intentionally lying to our children and setting ourselves up as infallible authorities. I have no problem with saying “I don’t know” and/or “Here’s what I think”. What’s more, I am not so foolish as to think that because nobody else will lie to or mislead my kids therefore I have to take up all the slack myself.

  23. ChasCPeterson says

    I’ve got just the one daughter. I’ve never lied to her. Did use the “some folks say…” gambit a few times though. She figured it all out by 4, and her mother wasn’t about to argue wth her. *shrug* It was all improvised in the moment.
    I respect carlie’s conscious approach as @ #8 though.

  24. says

    Ex is doing the Santa spiel with my 5yo. I try to be subtely subversive whenever I can. Queued 2 hours yesterday to have him have his photo taken with Santa in the shopping center, and we spoke about how other Santas are now in the other shopping centers as well posing for photos with other kids. Also, got him to ask Santa why he is wearing glasses. I do what I can…

  25. ajb47 says

    My thoughts were to encourage my kids’ imaginations for several years. Plus I just liked getting to eat the cookies we left for the jolly old elf.

    My daughter is now 10, and several months ago (while still 9) she lost a tooth and I decided she was too old to out and out lie to, and she was already half-skeptical about it so tooth fairly gone. One question later, and Santa, as his own entity, gone. At some point, she (and/or classmates) told my 8 year old son. And they don’t seem to care.

    My wife and I have tried to explain about the shortening and lengthening of days and (without using the actual words) axial tilt being the “reason for the season”

    I think there is a fine line (in this case) between encouraging imagination and outright lying to your kids. But as my dad says — “We (parents) are Santa.”

    AJ

  26. Rodney Nelson says

    If Santa Claus doesn’t exist then who got me the book my daughter noticed me looking at in the book store last month? And who got me the new bathrobe to replace the one I told my wife was getting threadbare? Answer that, aSantaists! ;-P

  27. mildlymagnificent says

    It probably helped that I never believed in Santa, The Easter Bunny, or God, nor was I ever told by my family that they were real.

    Well, I suppose that’s right about the not ‘real’. We always felt it was good that our children’s imaginative play and pretend characters were good things. If you like, Father Xmas was the ideal, imaginary parent. Never blamed you for anything bad, never got fed up, or tired, or nagged. Just one night a year a magical thing happened. Of course small children’s lives are full of inexplicable magic – electricity, cars that ‘go’, cartoon ‘people’ that fly.

    I think my children were far, far more distressed by the news that they wouldn’t be able to fly like Astroboy when they grew up. We’d never told them they would, they just made up this desirable magical notion for themselves. (One of them also had a cartoon character as an imaginary friend. They were both inclined to make up stories and plays with their toys and book characters doing as they directed.) Not being able to fly was a much bigger let down than the Father Xmas thing.

  28. hm says

    The Santa myth is one that pissed me off because it was teachers and classmates perpetuating it. My parents are south Asian immigrants and not Christian so had no idea about him. Every post Christmas school day sucked because they didn’t do any of the it. And the kids at school made sure to rub it in.
    I won’t tell my kids there’s a Santa but I will do the family get togethers and small presents.

  29. latsot says

    My nephew’s first nightmare was about being chased by a robot with a washing machine for a belly (sounds pretty awesome when I put it like that, but he was terrified). He thought it was real. His mother explained that it wasn’t *really* real. She pointed out that when he pretended to be Batman he wasn’t *really* Batman and that dreams are a bit like that. It seemed like a good explanation and I was impressed.

    However, this year they went distressingly over the top instructing him and his younger sister about Father Christmas. They acted entirely seriously about Father Christmas being really real. The kids seem to believe it for the understandable reason that their parents went astonishingly far out of their way to tell them they should.

    As their uncle, I want to tell them that Father Christmas is not *really* real, but it’s something we pretend is real because it’s fun. I resent their being told lies when pretending can be just as much fun. Do my nephew’s parents think it’s more fun for him to *pretend* to be Batman or to actually *be* Batman? But it’s not up to me.

    Let’s not lie to our kids. Let’s pretend and make it clear that we’re pretending. Let them make the magic themselves. Let them make up stories about what Father Christmas might be doing. Don’t compel them to stick to the canon. Show them that they can make up stories that are exactly as real as the party line.

    Fan fiction.

  30. latsot says

    anathema2:

    Agreed. Teaching our children to think critically and having fun with them about things they can identify as not really real seems rather better than lying to them and pretending we did it to teach them critical thinking.

  31. Gordon Willis says

    Don’t understand a word of this. My parents insisted that Father Christmas was real, and we children were perfectly convinced that he wasn’t: proof: dad and mum at the end of the bed at an ungodly hour of the night bickering about being in one another’s light. And naturally they denied any of it and naturally (because kids are like that) we insisted, ‘cos we just knew. End of story. Of course they weren’t lying, they were just parents doing their job, and which they continued to do in subsequent years. If they hadn’t pretended, and insisted on pretending, that would have been really boring. (You see, there is a difference between pretending and lying, and if you don’t know the difference, you ought not to have children). If Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy hadn’t made their scheduled appearances, guess whom we would have blamed. Never had a problem with it.
    .
    Ditto with our daughter, who is a good atheist and so far from having traumas about our “dishonesty” clearly thought it was all good fun and a necessary part of being a beloved child. No idea when she lost her faith in Santa or the Tooth Fairy (who wrote special messages in special handwriting in special silver ink — inspired by JRR Tolkien, if you must know — and even Santa had to apologise once for delivering the WRONG TOY). We carried on regardless, because we had to, you see? A thing that some parents do not seem to understand is that young children actually know the difference between fantasy and reality — it’s something they learn over the course of time and natural development, and it happens very early, even when (utterly and unutterably stupid) parents can’t seem to beat the fantasy out of them. Proof that fantasy is vital to the growth of healthy minds. In fact, pretending and fantasy are essential activities in children, and they clearly need it.
    .
    On a similar note: my daughter and I used to play a game of mixing up the syllables and consonants of words. I started this when she was 2, and barely able to speak. Nonetheless, she thought that this was hilarious, and it wasn’t long before she was inventing her own giggly gobbledegook. After she could read, we had fun with the spelling. Seeing that her mastery of the English language is now considerable, I doubt whether I did her any harm. In fact, my intention was to encourage her grasp of language by turning it into a game. The gobbledegook was the fantasy element, you see. Or perhaps you don’t. Some people I have told this too are horrified. On the other hand, I don’t think they are the sort of people who should have daughters. Or sons.
    .
    The point is, parents have to understand the game. Any parent who thinks that he or she must take their little child aside one day and say, seriously and in all honesty, that actually Santa you know isn’t really real is an idiot, setting up feelings of betrayal that simply don’t have to happen and are in no way relevant to anything at all. I remain convinced that the people who create the fabled problems of childhood and adolescence are parents with oh-so-sensible knees.

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