Santa Claus and age-appropriate truths

Guest post by Jessica
Wanted: Santa Claus

My husband and I have always agreed that we don’t want to lie to our children about anything. We always want to offer our children age appropriate truths.

By this I mean when our four year old asks where babies come from, we will not tell them stories about cabbage patches and storks, nor will we get out a biology book and explain about ovaries and erections. We will simply tell them that babies come from mummies’ bellies. Not a lie, not information overload — an age appropriate truth.

We feel confident that we can adapt this style of communication to almost any topic without crossing boundaries or stepping on toes. That is, until we get to the most socially acceptable and widely perpetuated lie: Santa Claus.

This is where we lose some our confidence in “honesty is best” policy. We both agree that encouraging belief in something known to be false is akin to lying, but reactions we have received so far is that not doing so would be detrimental to our child’s mental wellbeing.

Both our families for example (and most of our friends for that matter) strongly feel that kids need to believe in Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny to enjoy a happy and fulfilling childhood. When we express our discomfort with untruths, we hear the classic “it never did you any harm” defense.

We are told we will be robbing our children of a magical time in life and that they will lack imagination or any sense of wonder. But I ask; why do children need to believe in mythical figures to be excited and inspired in their formative years?

This quote I found really resonated with me. “I like to believe that while other children are living in wonderment over all of these fictional characters, that my children are living in wonderment over how big our galaxy is, and how much is out there that we really do not know about. About how life is formed, and how life ends. My children have plenty of magical experiences, and the best part about theirs is that they are real!”

We know that this what we want for our children. To be excited by the real wonders of our world, to be inquisitive, to question everything, to appreciate every day miracles.

But how do we actually do this in practicality? How do you explain that Santa is cultural myth symbolizing hope and goodwill, not a real person, to a young child? How do you ensure that your 5 year old doesn’t ruin it for the other kids? And more importantly, how do you still keep the magic feeling of Christmas alive for children without Santa?

Every year my husband and I give each other a gift “from Santa” and “from” our two dogs. We derive joy from this make believe and pretend. We want our kids to have that feeling too … that pretending is fun!

I would love to hear how other offbeat mamas are dealing with this issue.

Comments on Santa Claus and age-appropriate truths

  1. What my parents did for us when we where small was tell us that many years ago that was a kind man named Nicholas. He gave presents to kids that had nothing at all, even when nobody else would. Then they reminded us about the “telephone game” and said the same thing happened to his story. As more people told it to their kids, the STORY got bigger and bigger. But that doesn’t mean the MEANING got any smaller.

  2. This is really interesting! The other day my husband mentioned how excited he was to be able to play Santa once we have children, and we too “recieve” gifts from our dogs and Santa. And I did love that part of Christmas when I was younger. Of course, I had much younger siblings so it was extra enjoyable to go along with Santa for their sake. To this day, my mom waits until we are all asleep (my husband and I stay the night on Christmas Eve) to stuff our stockings, and that is my favorite part fo the gift exchange!

    On the other hand, my younger sister was devasted when she found out Santa was not real. I mean earth-shatteringly devestated. And to this day she tells my mom that she felt like she was lied to, so I guess I can see both sides of the issue. I can’t wait to hear more about how others handle this!

    • I still spend the night at my mom’s house Christmas Eve so “Santa” still knows where to find me. My mom never told me that Santa wasn’t real…we continued the tradition even though I had reached the age that I knew she was the one behind Santa; we both just chose not to mention to the other what we both knew…she enjoys leaving presents under the tree, and I enjoy waking up on Christmas morning with a feeling of wonder and excitement even though I’m 30, and I can’t wait to have kids and do the same for them 🙂

    • My dutch mama still tells the story of her mom putting coal in her shoe, and instantly KNOWING Sinterklaas wasn’t real. She apparently walked up to her mother and asked “how old will I be when you tell me god isn’t real?” We were never told one way or another, when we asked about realities my mom would smile mischeviously and say “we’ll see..” or “what do YOU think?” 😉

  3. we’ve chosen to go with the tradition of St. Nicholas, which also happens to fit with our religious tradition. That story is different than Santa in that, as Jennifer B. mentioned above, there is no pretense that he is alive. Of course there is some “mystery” in that what is told to small children is that somehow after Nicholas died the gifts kept coming. I like the “somehow” because it leaves it open to their intepretation.

    The other thing I love about the St. Nicholas tradition is that the gift giving isn’t conditional. Nicholas, according to one telling, gave gifts to children to honor the Christ Child in all children. So, the intrinsic goodness in every child regardless of his or her behavior. No chance of coal.

    And there are lots of more mature legends about St. Nicholas for kids to grow into.

    • My parents did something similar to this. My mom was all about putting the “Christ” back in “Christmas”, so on Christmas, we got three presents from Baby Jesus, and had a birthday cake and sang happy birthday to Jesus as well. We opened our stockings on December 6th, the feast of St. Nicholas. There was still kind of a “Santa Claus” belief going on, but I figured it out when I was seven and was not at all upset.

      Even now that my brother and I are adults, my parents still don’t put the presents or the stockings out until the day of. This keeps the childhood magic alive even though we know Santa isn’t real – we’re left in suspense and we still act like little kids on Christmas, running downstairs to open the presents that just appeared under the tree.

      • The only problem I have with the putting the Christ back into Christmas is that the bible doesn’t say that he was born on that date and aludes (but never specificly mentions) to a day in spetember. The early Roman catholic church chose Dec. 25 to commemerate Jesus’s Birthday because it was already a celebrated holiday in Pagan religions, soon after the winter solstice dec 25th is one of the first days long enough to recognize that the days are getting longer again. The Roman Catholic church simply adopted the holiday (something they did many times)I love Christmas and not for arbitrary dates but I love the mythology surrounding it I vote for telling all the stories that surround Christmas, they are fantastic and magical (and alot of our american traditions are adopted from the early dutch settlers) all on their own with out imaginary Santa, or putting the christ back in Christmas

        • I guess I don’t understand why this is a “problem”…Christians celebrate the holiday season because of Christ. Regardless of whether or not it’s historically accurate, it is the reason for the Christmas season in the eyes of Christian, so why would it be a “problem” for them to celebrate Christ?

          I agree that it’s great idea to teach your kids many different Christmas stories/traditions, and even other cultural holidays, but it shouldn’t be a “problem” to celebrate Christ if that’s what you choose as a family…

          Sorry if that came off as rude (really don’t mean it to be!), just wondering what you meant by that.

          • I think you are right, there is nothing wrong with celebrating the birth of Jesus if that is what you believe. What does get under my skin is all of the hoopla about the “War on Christmas”. Mostly because historically speaking, what we are celebrating is a pagan ritual, which has been co-opted by Christianity and other religions/cultures. The great thing about Christmas is it can be both spiritual and secular. Huzzah for X-Mas!

          • Mistie, I agree with you…I am a Christian, and while I certainly appreciate what the “Christmas Season” means to me personally, I also appreciate the fun, secular aspect of it and understand that the holiday season doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. Which is why I don’t go around reminding people that Christmas only exists because of Christ…because it doesn’t.

            I agree about the “war on Christmas”. I go to a small church and everyone is fairly liberal (I know, non-judgemental Christians who don’t want to shove their beliefs down your throat…amazing!). At an activity last night, some of the women’s moms were SHOCKED when I told them that we celebrated a “Krampus” party at work as a joke for a holiday party. Even more shocking to them was the fact that I was not offended that I was being “forced” to celebrate other people’s holidays. While it can sometimes feel like people attack Christmas/Christians more than say, Jewish people celebrating their beliefs, I think it’s related to the fact that often Christians are the ones complaining the loudest if they don’t get what they want.

  4. “I like to believe that while other children are living in wonderment over all of these fictional characters, that my children are living in wonderment over how big our galaxy is, and how much is out there that we really do not know about. About how life is formed, and how life ends. My children have plenty of magical experiences, and the best part about theirs is that they are real!”

    This is a good quote, but I’m willing to bet you can accomplish both. My children believe in Santa. I have no issue with this. We also sit outside on starry nights and talk about the galaxy, we watch the ocean crash on the shore and talk about the power of the sea. In other words, magic for children can stem from both the real and the imaginary and I think both have their role in helping them grow, learn and find wonder in the world around them.

  5. Whilst I like to keep the magick alive for my children at the moment ( they are 4 weeks & 8 years )I plan to share this poem with them as they get older…

    The Childs’ Wonder

    “Daddy”, she said, her eyes full of tears,
    “will you talk to me and quiet my fears?
    Those bad boys at school are spreading a lie
    ’bout the impossibilty of reindeer that fly.
    There’s no Santa Claus, they say with a grin
    there’s not one now and there has never been.
    How can one man take all of those toys
    to thousands of girls and boys?
    But I told them Daddy, that they were not right,
    that I would come home and find out tonight.
    Mama said wait until you come home.
    Please tell me now that I was not wrong.”
    Her Daddy looked at her questioning face
    and puffed his pipe while his fratic mind raced.
    He had put this off as long as he could,
    he had to think fast and it better be good.
    Whispering a prayer, he began with a smile,
    “Remember at circle how we learned to pray,
    asking the Goddess to take care of us each day?
    And you know how we say a prayer before each meal?
    To this same Goddess whom we know to be real.
    Though we never see her, we know she is there
    watching her children with such loving care.”
    “The Goddess started Yule a long time ago
    when she gave us herself to love and to know.
    A spirit of giving came with that gift,
    and her generosity filled the whole earth.
    Man had to name this spirit of giving
    just as he names all things that are living.”
    “The name Santa Claus came to someone’s mind
    problably the best name of any to find.
    There is, you can see, and I think quite clear
    Truly a Santa who visits each year.
    A spirit like the Goddess, whom we never see,
    She enters the hearts of your mother and me.”
    “Each year at Yule for one special night
    we become him and make everything right.
    But the REAL spirit of Yule is in you and in me
    and I hope that you are old enough now to see
    that as we believe and continue to give,
    our friend Santa Claus will continue to live.”
    ~Author Unknown~

    • I love this poem. We were told about Santa, and I’ll tell my kids about him the same way. That Santa is the Spirit of Chirstmas, of giving and generosity. As an analytical child, it was a fun mystery to solve, and as an adult, my favorite kind of giving is the anonymous “Santa” style giving. It’s more fun to give just for the sake of seeing their joy, not for credit for the year’s “best present.” I never felt lied to, and neither did my brother. We all have so many parts to us, why not a Santa part?

    • This poem has definitely inspired me. I don’t have a child yet, but this is how I’ll be handling the Santa issue. Thank you so much for posting it!

  6. I have four children ages 11, 8, 5 and 4….from as early as I could remember I made a choice not to lie to my children about anything …and this included Santa Claus , Tooth Fairy ,etc….we celebrate the holidays and they also know they can trade their teeth for a gold dollar after it falls out and Mummy and Dad will save the tooth in a special tooth box.
    Santa was a hard on only in the fact in making sure that they did not spoil othe rchildren’s Christmas with piping up at the ripe old age of three ” Look its Santa…but he isn’t real” giggle, giggle ” It is just a man in a costume ” Ouch imagine the dirty looks I received at the mall that day. So we tell them the story of “St. Nicholas” and then we tell them that some people tell their children that Santa Claus is real etc…Our children are happy , have exceptionally great holidays and the two oldest are adamant that they will never lie to their children about anything either one day.

    • This is pretty much exactly what my parents did. They never lied and were honest about the fact that there is no Santa and that the presents at Christmas came from people that loved us. I vividly remember the discussion of “Grandma really likes the idea of Santa, so just play along with it because it makes her really happy.”

      My dad has a good sense of humor, so he handled “who gives us presents besides Santa” differently. For as long as I can remember, our presents came from popular culture icons, authors, actors, occasional serial killers and other headline-grabbers. Everyone from Elvis to Cartman has sent us presents!

  7. My parents were in the same mind-set of not lying to their children. And I don’t have any kids but can give you the perspective of a child who never believed in Santa Claus. I think we knew that other kids believe in some mythical Santa, but Santa was really Mom and Dad. I remember my little brother still leaving out that oats and glitter whatever it was concoction that his preschool sent home with him for Santa’s reindeer. Beleive me, kids will be creative and have imagination and wonder whether you fuel it with imaginary figures or not.

    I’m not sure if my parents told us not to ruin it for other kids .. but I do remember telling someone in my third grade class that Santa wasn’t real. (But isn’t that a little old to be believing in Santa anyway?) Yeah my vote would be don’t lie to your kids … they will appreciate your honesty later in life.

    • This is very close to what I was going to say. My parents also felt strongly that lies – even Santa lies – were unacceptable. I am so grateful to them for that! I loved Christmas growing up (still do!) and never needed Santa to enjoy it.

      I have always wondered how Santa families deal with the question of like charity toy drives etc. Wouldn’t the children conclude that Santa doesn’t care about poor children? And what about Jewish children?

      I will say that it irritated me to no end as an older kid to see my friends bamboozled by the lies. I tried so hard to convince them of the truth (“seriously? Flying REINDEER?! And a fat man comes down your CHIMNEY?”) I remember being actually upset and distraught that my friends were being lied to, and I couldn’t believe that they actually believes these patently absurd things. For what it’s worth, though, no one ever seemed to come ’round to my point of view, heh. (later I had the exact same experience as a teenager arguing for atheism against fundie teens on the Internet, before I realized how much of a waste of time that was.)

      Aaaaanyway, obviously I don’t plan on lying to my children either, but I WILL try to give him more tact!!

      • Haha, I hated being lied to about Santa and even now hate it. But I wanted to comment to say that I had the same kind of experience, expect I was a “fundie teen” arguing against atheism, “before I realized how much of a waste of time that was.”

        😉

    • Same in our house! We got gifts “from Santa”, but they were under the tree well before Christmas eve, and we also got presents from our kitty cats. We left out cookies and milk, but we knew it was “just play” like when we built a couch fort or a fairy house. Kids have a wonderful ability to live in two worlds at once, and I don’t think we have to lie to them and tell them that their fantasy world is really real to foster their creativity and imagination.

    • Another non-believer here – my mother felt very strongly about not lying to us, so we always knew that Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy were all good ol’ Mom and Dad.

      My mother told us that Santa was a game that people play, but different families play it differently. I think that was to quell me going around and telling everyone THE TRUTH ABOUT SANTA DUN DUN DUN

      We celebrated St. Nicholas too (a throwback to my Dutch ancestral roots) and we would leave a carrot out for his horse. When we awoke to a chewed on carrot, I remember trying to figure out how it got chewed – did they give it to the dog, or did Dad actually nibble on it? 😉

      I plan on doing the same with my kids.

  8. I never told my daughter that there was a Santa. And all of her presents came from Santa Mom. And the wonder of Santa was just as real to her as any other kid. I also told her that other kids thought he was real and to just go along and let them believe.

  9. We strongly believe in fairies, leprechauns and all things super-natural in my house, so it’s only natural to incorporate Santa Claus and The ToothFairy. I’ve never been one for the Easter Bunny so that never became an issue.

    She recently came to me with what kids are telling her at school (that it’s really your parents) and even though I wanted to make the fairytale stay alive – I asked her what she WANTED to believe. This thought completely overwhelmed her to the point of tears and after telling her that once you open Pandora’s box you can never go back, she decided she really wanted to know.

    I explained to her that although it is the parents that I believe there was a man and his spirit lives on through the parents.

    • I remember the Christmas where I listened to my parents walking up and down the stairs. And I cried knowing with absolute certainty that he wasn’t real and I couldn’t deny it any longer. And then I thought, well, why not? Why couldn’t I believe anyway? So once my parents went to sleep I snuck out and put tinsel on all the trees so that, for a brief moment, my parents might wonder if Santa had really come after all.

      Of course, I grew up with “Yes Virginia” (http://www.newseum.org/yesvirginia/) memorized. When I was little I took it as affirmation that Santa was real. As I grew up I realized it actually meant that he was real as long as I made him real. It’s a great piece.

  10. I am loving these comments – my daughter is 2 so now at the age where she can actually realize Christmas is taking place. I know this year she will just have a blast tearing paper and getting new toys, but it’s time to start deciding HOW to handle Santa Claus. My husband and I have already decided to not lie and say Santa exists, but I want to know how to handle it in a way where she still enjoys the spirit and magic of the season.

    Growing up, my parents never pushed the whole Santa thing, they would mention it, but obviously wink and nudge each other so we knew they didn’t believe, but it gave us the opportunity to think *maybe* it could be true. Gifts showed up wrapped under the tree as soon as they were bought and would come from Santa, the dog, the ghost of our dead cat, the car, the kitchen table. Got really creative with them. We all laughed when my dad who was a terrible speller had a gift come from “Sanka” and we still use that on gifts to this day.

    I HAVE to share a family tradition that was awesome growing up – my mom would fill our stockings and put them at the foot of our bed once we were asleep. Then if we woke at the crack of dawn we could open those little presents, run to each other’s rooms to play and share and let my parents sleep in a while longer. TOTALLY continuing this tradition with my daughter – great way to get some Zzzzs and still have children excited about the day!

    • I am really interested to know what sort of gift the ghost of a dead cat gives!! hahaha
      My dad always signed his gift tags DAD in huge big letters… now we all write his gift tags out to him as “to DAD love so-and-so”. And those are the things you REALLY remember, right??

    • that is so funny and so perfectly perfect! i love that idea… we do that now with the family as grown ups… i look forward to joking around with my brothers and sister at christmas like that. sometimes we wrap up random things around the house like a fork or caulk and give it to each other. it is fun and always brings lots of laughs. sounds like a great way to grow up… with a sense of humor. maybe when my kids are older and the belief in santa is gone (be awhile yet, my youngest is 1!), we will do that!

    • We had the same rule at our house. We could open our stocking and play with whatever was in it but had to wait for our dad to wake up. Of course they rethought what they put in our stocking after the year they gave us slinkies (there bedroom door was right at the stop of the stairs.)

      I have a 5 year-old step-daughter and pregnant with my first child. I would definitely love to not lie about Santa but I just don’t know if it would be something my step-daughters mother would like but also I don’t know if it would work to have the soon to be child know the truth but not their sister…very confusing.

    • We did that too!! We were allowed to wake our parents up until 6am, so usually for about 2 hours before all 5 of us kids were on each others beds swapping things from our stockings, eating lollies and trying to guess what presents we would have.

      It was always one of my favourite memories of chrismas days.

  11. I completely agree with not filling our child’s brain with myths that will only disappoint them once they find out the truth. We have never had our 3-year-old believe in Santa. This year he’s been extra curious, so we let him talk to Santa at the mall, but explained to him that Santa is a metaphor for (like you said) goodwill. We’re also not religious, so we’ve explained to him that Christmas isn’t about material things (unlike what the TV tells us), but it IS about gifts – the extra special, meaningful kind, not the ones that cost hundreds of dollars. He doesn’t quite get all of it just yet, but I think he gets the gist of it. Santa, in our house, is akin to a cartoon character. Fun to watch, but not real.

    Kudos to you being mindful of both NOT lying to your child from the start, while also teaching them that real magic is everywhere in our world!

    • We felt great about not lying early in our kids lives, then I fell apart. I watched them WANT to believe because all the kids at school believed. But it was kind of late to backpedal. I know it sounds silly but I have huge amounts of guilt for not making it magic… partly because I know I would have been great at it. My youngest will be 7.5 next year and I still feel an air of anxiety during the holidays over it all. I would go back in a second and tell them as toddlers it was real.

  12. I love the wonder of Santa, and I think it’s great fun. I think the joy and fun we will have as a family will outweigh the final discovery. My daughter is very bright and probably doesn’t believe in him anyway, but like I did, she plays along very nicely.

  13. I grew up believing in Santa and once I found out that the commercialized version of Santa did not exist, my parents sat me down with the St. Nicholas story that I was very familiar with. They explained to me that those children had children and wanted them to feel the same love and excitement that St. Nicholas gave them. So they continued the tradition. In other words, Santa lives with in the parents. And by believing in “Santa” you receive the joy of gifts and magic. Going to bed with a Christmas tree bare underneath and wake up with presents and a full stocking. They also explained to me how “Santa” gives the parents the best present of all, the gift of seeing your children glow with excitement of all what “Santa” brought them.

    This scenario made me feel like I wasn’t being lied to but was being a part of something, a tradition. My brother is 14 years younger than me and we continue with him once he discovered there was no Santa. Last year when he saw my son (3 at the time) be excited about his gift and how “Santa” made him feel, my brother said he believed. The belief is in the tradition and what it brings and not in the Man.

  14. I love this topic. My parents actually never had me believe in Santa Clause. I knew that they were the ones who gave us presents because in my family we opened presents on Christmas Eve, and never celebrated Christmas Day (we’re latin american).

    But when I was in elementary school and learned that other kids actually believed in him, I got jealous. I wanted to beleive in him too. So my mom played along and started pretending that Santa Clause existed and made a big deal about opening presents on Christmas Day. My little sister grew up believing in him. And then I started to get jealous that she had the expereince that I didn’t and that my mom was going out of her way to make it special for her. So one year, I spilled the beans to my sister that there was never a Santa Clause. To this day she says how cruel that was, and I still feel pretty bad that I did that.

    I like the idea of Santa Clause being a metaphor or a cartoon carachter, kind of like Frosty the Snowman.

  15. I was raised that Santa was a fun game people play. That it is a symbol of giving for the Holidays. I was also told that some parents and children like to pretend the game is real for a while. I don’t remember ever ruining it for any kids and I really respect my Mom for telling me the truth.

    My family is Pagan now, so we don’t celebrate Christmas, but rather celebrate Yule. We still give gifts for Yule and we have each gift come from a different god or goddess or even fun character. The name of the gift giver is a clue to the gift (one year, there was a Backyardigans Pirate ship tub toy and it was from “A scurvy pirate). Gift certificates to go out and do fun things are often from Baccheus (the good old party god). We talk about who the person is and the myth of that person before the gift is opened. As far as I can tell, the kids love it. They know that the stories of the gods and goddesses are myths just like Jesus and Santa are myths. I LOVE doing it this way.

  16. I have four children and never told them the Santa lies. They have still always had vivid imaginations. I don’t think that excluding the Santa myths diminishes the Chrismas experience. I think it just makes it different.

  17. I plan on telling my hypothetical children that Christmas is a time when even grown-ups get to have an imaginary friend, and that that imaginary friend is Santa Claus. That way they’ll be in on the fun, but they’ll know it’s make-believe.

  18. i don’t get it. we have no idea what is beyond our galaxy. some people believe that there are other planets out there and aliens. we have no proof that god and the bible existed. there are a million different religions out there will different beliefs. we have no proof that what is said in history actually happened. we have no idea what tomorrow will bring. people believe in things every day that we have no idea if they are real or solid or not. how do you draw the line? how do you not lie to your children about those things? do we really know why stars are there? do we really know how we were created? or why? really, how do you draw the line when information is constantly changing, developing, and redirecting? if you say something to your child one day and the next day someone finds it wrong, were you lying?? i don’t really get it. i think the whole point in santa is to convey that magic can exist and that there is the gift of giving. maybe tell them that they can be santa and give them chances to give to other people. tell them santa is the magic of bringing other people miracles and it is up to us to bring them… have them cook a meal for homeless people, have them donate mittens to kids that need warmth… i understand what they are saying, don’t get me wrong. but there is wonder in make believe too. if we didn’t have make believe there would be so many things lost and uncreated. telephones were the product of imagination and believing in things that didn’t exist.

    • I think you are right. We need imagination. But I also think that science is a process, as is invention. Bell invented the telephone because he was trying to find a fix for his partially deaf daughter. He was a scientist. He used facts to guide him, and when his experiments did not lead to a hearing aid, he had an imagination that allowed him to take it in a different direction. However, I don’t think important discoveries are made because people did/did not believe in Santa Claus. I think there has to be a way to foster imagination while satisfying parents’ individual sense of what is lying and what is imagination and make believe.

    • I personally draw the line at what you believe and what you don’t believe.

      If you believe something today and it turns out to be incorrect, I don’t think you lied. But if you tell someone something that you know or believe to be untrue, I consider that to be lying, regardless of the subject matter.

      If you know/believe that Santa Claus is not real but then tell or encourage your children to think that he is, how can that be anything other than a lie?

      I like Santa as a symbol of good and giving, I just don’t see why children have to believe he is a *real person* with *real magical powers* to benefit from the character.

      I think the wonder in make believe is *knowing* that it is make believe. Imagination is such a wonderful thing but I don’t think teaching them about fictional characters as reality is necessary to have an amazing imagination. Children can play princesses and dragons without believing that they are in fact those things.

      • I’m with you here. It’s fun to pretend. It’s magical to pretend. That we know we’re pretending doesn’t make it less so.

        ‘Course, I grew up in Florida where there was no chimney much less snow, so maybe it was harder for me to believe it than other kids.

        • Ha! I grew up in FL, too, and remember the same thing: our parents had to come up with so many alterations to the Santa story to make it fit in a the swamp that it became pretty obvious pretty early. But I also remember that I was happy to live in that middle space for a long time, where I knew that the commercialized Santa didn’t exist, but the idea of him and the whole North Pole universe was still magical.

  19. I think that believing or not does not make or break a childhood. But i know that i loved believing in Santa and figured out on my own he wasnt real before my mom said anything to me. But i had a younger brother and played along for his sake. i wasnt upset or traumitized and neither was my brother when he found out. We believe in our house, but i will also tell my children about Jesus and St. Nicholas, that way they know the true meaning, while still believing in some magic. I still love, to this day, to watch Christmas movies, like The Polar Express, and pretend for a little while its all real. its soooo magical and fun!!

  20. I am having a hard time with this very issue. I have two sons and I have always told them “age-appropriate truths” such as where babies come from etc. The Santa thing was something that just sort of happened. It was fun. When our oldest was around 3 we started to notice that he took things way too seriously…he would cry uncontrollably about his grandfather who died before he was born, he would flip out if we mentioned a time when he would be older and move away from us. This grew until he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Now he is 7 years old and believes in Santa SO strongly that I am seriously worried about what will happen when he finds out the truth. When he found out dragons weren’t real he was so upset. My husband and I have decided that we will tell him the truth after Christmas this year….but I still worry.

    • my son has autism. this year he over heard me talking on the phone about how i could not afford to get a certain gift for one of the kids. he asked me if there really was santa. i said there wasn’t. he is 11. there will come a time when your son accepts it in his own time on his own. it will come. i would not try to convince him otherwise, you will just upset him. he will figure it out on his own when he is ready. i have learned that with kids with autism, things come at their own pace and it maybe slower than other people, but it does come.

  21. I’m struggling with the Santa thing big time. Like waking up in the middle of the night panic (I’m pregnant and a little crazy right now). I never believed in Santa and feel that my parents holding so fast to the lie made me mistrust them and ultimately school and all authority. But even though I never believed, I was still really loved our “Santa walks” where on Christmas Eve my dad would take us for a walk and he’d point out airplanes in the sky and say they were Santa.

    I’m thinking I’ll probably read a lot to my kid and present Santa as just another story. They can tell the difference between real people and characters in stories, and still enjoy the stories. The problem is going to be dealing with all the in-laws who are going to want to push Santa as real.

    • It’s not worth it! Trying to be truthful when even the weather man and songs on radio proclaim magic to be real is too stressful. I came to hate Christmas after I gave into the internal pressure that I couldn’t tell a lie. My youngest is about to be 7 and I still feel depressed at Christmas because I have tried to backtrack and BELIEVE but he was already on edge about not wanting to be fooled. Also it’s noticable to him that his brother isn’t into it. So whereas I stayed up at night I’ll over lying when they were toddlers, the regret of not just giving in and having fun is way worse

  22. There’s a difference between instilling a sense of wonder and magic in your children and lying to them. My daughter is nearly three, and this year, when she saw something on t.v. about Santa, she started telling me his story. I looked her in the eye, and told her, “isn’t that a nice story? But it’s not real. It’s just something that we, as a culture, like to pretend about.” Although I don’t want her to ruin things for others, I believe it’s important for her to voice her own beliefs–she shouldn’t be rude to children about their beliefs in Santa or Jesus, but she shouldn’t have to hide her decision to not believe in either. I want my daughter to understand that believing in facts and science, doesn’t have to detract from wonder.

    The other problem I have with Santa is all of the children who don’t receive tidings of good cheer and lots of presents on Christmas Day. What does that do for their sense of wonderment and magic?

  23. I grew up believing in Santa Claus. I don’t actually remember at what point I stopped believing in him, because I have a ton of younger siblings so I always played along for them. I know by 5th grade I was helping my parents set out the presents after Midnight Mass. It wasn’t something I ever talked about with my parents and siblings, but then, we’re Irish Catholic and never talked about anything. Which worked out much better for Santa Claus than it did for say, sex.

    Anyway, I’m 30 years old, and to this day Santa Claus brings the presents on Christmas Day.

    • “Which worked out much better for Santa Claus than it did for say, sex.”

      This made me laugh riotously. Thank you.

  24. we don’t do santa. we don’t ban him either. we watch movies and read books that have santa in them. my kids just know that he doesn’t actually come to our house and leave gifts. for the first few years it was easy, we just didn’t mention it. to them, it was just another holiday decoration. but as family members and friends started mentioning it, they asked me about it.

    i told them that it was just a nice story, and that some parents liked to pretend to be santa and give gifts. just like they liked to pretend to be a princess or a ninja. i said that i although i didn’t pretend to be santa, they would get just as many gifts either way. we also talked about our other tradtions and how it’s a time to spend with loved ones.

    when they got to school age, i reminded them how some parents pretend and so there would be kids who think it is real and they should just let them be cuz they would figure it out on their own.

  25. oh and i just wanted to mention that i had several reason for doing this. i just didn’t feel comfortable forcing them to believe something that wasn’t real. i’m all about imagination, but this seemed different. also, it’s already so commercialized, i didn’t think there needed to be any more focus gifts. we limit the number of gifts each year and they always get clothes and books as two gifts. besides we are on the poor end and work hard for the things we get them, i wanted them to know that.

    • Thank you for mentioning this. I always feel slightly guilty for saying that I want my kids to know that I picked thegifts out, or that I paid for them, that I work hard for that money, and I chose to buy them gifts with it… It makes me feel like I’m being selfish for wanting the credit. But in reality, I want them to know that I know them well, that I listen when they mention things they want and love. And more importantly, I want them to learn how to be appropriately grateful and gracious when they receive things. I think I’m the only kids I ever knew who wrote thank you notes to Santa in January.

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