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Do Your Children Believe in Santa Claus?

As the fifth of six children, I cannot recall ever believing in Santa Claus.

My parents put out cookies, and spoke of Santa, even signing his name on gift tags, but I never believed in Santa.

As a parent, I just avoid Santa talk. I might read “A Visit from St. Nicholas” — but I don’t tell my children about Santa or try to convince them that he is the one giving gifts, filling stockings, or eating the cookies after Midnight Mass. And yet, they’ve heard about Santa from enough relatives and we…

  1. Percival

    It is sufficient for children to be raised to believe that Santa Claus is not, has never been, and never shall be a government employee.  Past that,  it’s up to the parents.

  2. Crow

    I figured it out at age 5.

    The dead give away: Santa’s hand-writing looked just like Mom’s. J’accuse!

    …I kept it secret for four years for other siblings who had yet to make this discovery….

  3. Brian Watt

    Wait a minute…what are you saying? He’s not…he’s not…real? 

    But Barack Obama is real, right? We can still get gifts from him, can’t we?

  4. Amy Schley

    I’ve often thought that it’s foolish that when children are so curious about how the world works, one of the first things they are taught by parents is a lie.  In fact, many atheists I have talked to have said that finding out there was no Santa Claus started their first doubts about God — if a fat man who gives out presents isn’t real, then why should a voice in the sky be real either?  

    As for the notion that it creates a bit of magic — this world is full of so many amazing things that we don’t have to make them up for our children to experience wonder.

  5. Mollie Hemingway
    C

    I was not taught to believe Santa Claus was real. My mother had plenty of German traditions she kidded around about. But we always knew they were just silly stories (anyone else learn about Rubells?).

    Now, this in no way negatively affected me. Far from it. I’m thankful my parents never taught us that story as real. It sounds like a real bummer and oddity to learn it’s fake. Also, Dell DeChant’s Sacred Santa firmed up that belief for me as an adult. He writes that the Santa myth is so compelling because it even survives being exposed.

    I’ll only add that I have told my girls that Santa is just a funny story we tell (we do mark St. Nicholas Day this week, fwiw). But the bottom line is that they don’t believe me. They assure me he’s real. This cracks me up.

  6. katievs

    When my children were at the key age, we lived in The Netherlands, where presents are exchanged on the feast of St. Nicholas.  This made things easier, since he was real person and we could focus on teaching about him, his holiness, and his love for children.

    When we moved back to America, we explained to our kids that Santa Claus was the American version of St. Nicolas, and that since Americans are mostly Protestants, who don’t understand about saints, they smushed it up with Christmas, which is really about the birth of Jesus.  That seemed to satisfy them.  

    Like you Mama T, we try to focus on Advent with a wreath, daily readings and candle lightings, and a Jesse Tree.  It’s such a beautiful, richly meaningful season.  I wish it were more “present” in the wider culture.  

    We too refrain from Christmas decorating until Guadete Sunday.  I wish we could do like they used to do in Austria, and not decorate till Christmas Eve! I wish we could recover the practice of the 12 Days of Christmas.  

    And we stay away from malls.

    Thank God for amazon.com!

  7. skipsul
    Amy Schley: I’ve often thought that it’s foolish that when children are so curious about how the world works, one of the first things they are taught by parents is a lie.  In fact, many atheists I have talked to have said that finding out there was no Santa Claus started their first doubts about God — if a fat man who gives out presents isn’t real, then why should a voice in the sky be real either?  

    As for the notion that it creates a bit of magic — this world is full of so many amazing things that we don’t have to make them up for our children to experience wonder. · 24 minutes ago

    For this reason my wife and I have always told the kids that there is no Santa.  Makes Christmas mornings much easier, and no awkward conversations later.

  8. skipsul

    Anyone here seen that “Elf on the Shelf” gimmick now running?  My kids, not believing in Santa, bought such a thing as a toy.  They love bringing it out with them and spooking other children, even taking it out after Christmas and telling other kids that this “elf” is doing extened surveilance on other children.

  9. Mama Toad
    Brian Watt: Wait a minute…what are you saying? He’s not…he’s not…real? 

    But Barack Obama is real, right? We can still get gifts from him, can’t we? · 32 minutes ago

    santobama.jpgOf course he’s real. Pay no attention to those mean Republicans who tell you he’s not.

  10. Mama Toad

    Amy, skipsul, others — I never want to lie to my children. I don’t think I ever have lied to them, although I don’t always tell them the full truth, but I absolutely agree that lying to your children is a bad plan. 

    I have never been one of those parents who takes a child in for a shot and says, “No one will hurt you! It won’t hurt!” Instead, I say, “Yes, it will sting and bite, but it will be over soon and we are going to do it no matter what you want, so let’s get it done as quickly as possible.” Nurses and children appreciate the honesty, I have found…

  11. Mama Toad

    Also, if Santa is real, why does he bring so much stuff to rich kids when they have parents who can already afford it? Poor kids get socks from Santa, and rich kids get stereo systems (back in the day, I know…)?

  12. Mama Toad
    Mollie Hemingway, Ed.: I was not taught to believe Santa Claus was real. My mother had plenty of German traditions she kidded around about. But we always knew they were just silly stories (anyone else learn about Rubells?).

    Now, this in no way negatively affected me. Far from it. I’m thankful my parents never taught us that story as real. It sounds like a real bummer and oddity to learn it’s fake. Also, Dell DeChant’s Sacred Santa firmed up that belief for me as an adult. He writes that the Santa myth is so compelling because it even survives being exposed.

    I’ll only add that I have told my girls that Santa is just a funny story we tell (we do mark St. Nicholas Day this week, fwiw). But the bottom line is that they don’t believe me. They assure me he’s real. This cracks me up. · 22 minutes ago

    Are you sure your husband is not telling them secretly that he’s real? That’s the kind of thing my dad would do…

  13. DrewInWisconsin

    When they were very young, my wife tried explaining to our children that Santa Claus wasn’t real, but they didn’t believe her. Later, when they asked how anyone could live at the north pole, I invited them to think through it logically. How, indeed? Yet, they persisted in their belief.

    I don’t think we ever said to them “Yes, there is a Santa Claus,” but except for one attempt, we’ve never really said there isn’t. We usually just fall back on “people say . . .” or “there’s a story that . . .”

    (Though I guess we’re a bit guilty since we do leave “From Santa” presents.)

    But they’re growing up, and the truth will out. But I kind of want them to discover the truth on their own. I want them to think it through, puzzle it out, discover the similarities of handwriting as we did.

  14. Amy Schley

    Mama, have you ever read Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather?  It’s one of my Christmas favorites.  

    It’s a fantasy novel, wherein an assassin is wanting to kill the Hogfather, essentially Santa.  As the Hogfather is effectively a god, and gods in this world need believers to survive, he can be killed by eliminating people’s belief in him.  There’s also a finite amount of things that people can believe in, so as they lose faith in the Hogfather, they start believing in other mythical creatures, such as an elephant-shaped Eater of Socks.

    It’s a great send-up of so many Christmas traditions and stories, but there are a couple lines and ideas that always stand out for me.  One, of course, is the notion of Santa as god and the notion of finite belief.  Is there really room in our hearts — as kids or adults — for not only God and Christ and trans/consubstantiation and divine grace but also for Santa Clause and Tooth Fairies and Easter Bunnies?  Pratchett defends Santa belief by saying we have to believe little myths like Santa to practice believing in big myths like justice.

  15. DrewInWisconsin

    (Cont.)

    When I was young, Santa was a great exercise in imagination. There was a mystery and a wonder in Christmas, and the Santa Claus mythos added to that. It didn’t matter that there were so many contradictory stories. I knew they were stories, just as I knew that the real story was far more mysterious.

    I never wanted to deprive my children of that. I never want to kill off  the ability to “embrace the mystery.” I don’t really think of it as lying to them (proabably because I never felt that my own parents were lying to me). I think of it as sharing in a story, encouraging imagination. Bringing some wonder to it all. They know what Christmas is all about. From the time when they were very young, they knew that Christmas was really about Jesus. But as the old Rankin-Bass holiday special tells us, why wouldn’t Santa Claus pick such a holy day for his annual delivery? Made sense, right?

    This year should be interesting, given that we’re Christmasing (it’s a verb!) with very Baptist grandparents in snow-less Texas. This will probably be the year the doubts begin.

  16. DrewInWisconsin
    Amy Schley:

    Is there really room in our hearts — as kids or adults — for not only God and Christ and trans/consubstantiation and divine grace but also for Santa Clause and Tooth Fairies and Easter Bunnies?  Pratchett defends Santa belief by saying we have to believe little myths like Santa to practice believing in big myths like justice.

    Along those lines, I’d say that all these childhood myths — Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, et al — are in a sense “training wheels for faith.”

    I don’t want to raise my children thinking that the material world is all there is. I want my children open to belief in the supernatural. The Santa Claus myth invites them to accept that there are things beyond their comprehension. And though this childhood myth won’t last, the seeds of faith in something bigger than themselves are planted.

    Is that crazy talk? Am I trying to justify being an awful parent? All I know is that childhood belief in Santa Claus did not affect me negatively, and did not cause me to think that Jesus might just be a fable, too.

  17. Mama Toad
    Crow’s Nest: I figured it out at age 5.

    The dead give away: Santa’s hand-writing looked just like Mom’s.J’accuse!

    …I kept it secret for four years for other siblings who had yet to make this discovery…. · 2 hours ago

    It was my older siblings who schooled me in the hard truths… too bad they were not as nice as you…

  18. Gus Marvinson

    No, but my president does.

  19. Joan of Ark La Tex
    katievs: When my children were at the key age, we lived in The Netherlands, where presents are exchanged on the feast of St. Nicholas.  This made things easier, since he was real person and we could focus on teaching about him, his holiness, and his love for children.

    When we moved back to America, we explained to our kids that Santa Claus was the American version of St. Nicolas, and that since Americans are mostly Protestants, who don’t understand about saints, they smushed it up with Christmas, which is really about the birth of Jesus.  That seemed to satisfy them.  

    Like you Mama T, we try to focus on Advent with a wreath, daily readings and candle lightings, and a Jesse Tree.  It’s such a beautiful, richly meaningful season.  I wish it were more “present” in the wider culture.  

    We too refrain from Christmas decorating until Guadete Sunday.  I wish we could do like they used to do in Austria, and not decorate till Christmas Eve! I wish we could recover the practice of the 12 Days of Christmas.  

    Oh Katievs, sounds so great. Please post details so we can adopt the tradition as well. 

  20. Casey

    Imagine a man so good he devotes his entire life to giving toys to children without asking for a thing in return.

    Imagine a man so magical he can deliver those toys to all the children in all the world in one evening on a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer.

    Imagine a man so mysterious he only delivers those toys in the dark of night and lives in a land where nobody on earth can reach him.

    On Christmas eve night, I will imagine such a man.  I will let my adult mind believe, if only for a few moments, in that magic, that mystery, and that pure good in the heart of man.

    Let yourself believe.

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