I don’t remember ever believing in Santa Claus. I am told that when I was quite young we attended a church service where the minister preached about the “myth of Santa“, bursting the bubble of any starry eyed children in the room. I obviously don’t recall that either, so I can’t say if the news was devastating or liberating …. it just “was”. Of course I still loved Christmas, but I felt like I was missing something.
My children believe in Santa. I want them to have that little bit of magic that comes with a man in a red suit who can deliver hand made toys to children all over the world in just one night. I want them to believe in something that they can’t see, and I am not beneath reminding them that Santa is watching when their behaviour is less than desirable.
The whole Santa thing gets complicated when it’s time to let the kids in on the secret. How do you let your child know that you have perpetrated a lie year after year without them losing all faith in you as a parent? When are they mature enough to accept your tales with the good intent that was behind them? I don’t think there is a simple answer that works for everyone.
My eldest son had his bubble burst when he was around eight years old. Our next door neighbour, who was also eight years old, told Eric that there is no Santa and that he was going to Hell because he believed that there was. My son came home devastated, not because there was no Santa, but because he believed he was going to Hell. After a little chat with the neighbour boy’s mother, we had some heartfelt discussions at home about Santa and God and it all ended up okay.
I have three more children who still believe and two of them are definitely at an age where they are probably suspecting something. I’m considering ways to break the news to them when the time is right. Here are some ideas I came up with and some I learned from others.
- Don’t ever tell them there is a Santa. This is obviously not an option for me because we already have. From my own experience as a child, I wanted my children to have Santa in their lives.
- Wait until they ask, and then just tell the truth. I may just be playing the semantics game, but I think how they ask is important. Are they asking if you believe in Santa, if there is a Santa or if Santa is a real person? I have inquisitive kids who asked most of these questions at a very young age, and I went along with the stories I had told all along. If my ten year old came to me now and asked if Santa is real, I would be honest.
- Let them figure it out on their own or through friends. I hope to avoid a friend breaking the news, based on our experience with my first child, but this has worked out for many parents.
- Read “Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” to your child.
In 1897, a little girl called Virginia wrote the following letter to the New York Sun:
“DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
“Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
“Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
“Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?
“115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.”
She received the following response:
VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
Written by Francis P. Church
- If you have a child who loves history or loves to learn (like my ten year old), share the history of Santa Claus and how the story began.
- Explain that Santa embodies the real spirit of Christmas and the entire holiday season.
- JC Little from The Animated Woman wrote a song called “I am Santa” and sang it to her three children, confirming what her two oldest children already suspected. Her youngest took a few more years to realize what she had told them in the song.
- If you have more than one child, you can reveal the truth to the oldest while asking him/her to become your (Santa’s) helper each year.
However you decide to tell them, I recommend the following:
- Tell them why you chose to make Santa a part of your Christmas traditions.
- Respect their feelings and reactions to the news.
- Apologize if they feel betrayed.
- Talk to them about what Santa has meant to them and how Christmas may have been if they didn’t believe.
- Discuss the different ways we can all be Santa to someone.
- Ask them to keep the secret from their friends and siblings, so that they can each learn the truth when it is right for them.
- Remind them that there’s no proof that there is not a Santa, and that it is quite possible that you have no idea what you are talking about.