Why I'm Struggling with Santa Claus This Year

Family Matters on 11.29.12
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Photo: AurélienS/Creative Commons

My three-year-old son has a lot of questions about Santa Claus: “Where does he live? How do reindeer fly? What are their names? What do elves do? What do they look like?” When he was a baby, I used to look forward to telling him about Santa, but now that we’ve reached that stage, I’m finding it a lot tougher than anticipated. It’s not so easy to spin a fairy tale as I once thought because I hate lying to him. His little face is so open, curious, and trusting as his mind races to process everything I say.  

As a child, I was a huge fan of Santa Claus. While my family focused more on the Christian Christmas story, Santa was my hero. I read every Santa-related book at the library and my favourite was “The Story of Santa Claus,” written by a certain Scribbler Elf, who knew the ins and outs of the North Pole like nobody else. Every Christmas Eve, I lay awake in bed, rigid with terror and anticipation, listening for the sound of an invader downstairs. Once I was convinced I saw the silhouette of a sleigh and reindeer flying through the sky. I clung to the Santa legend for years until it gradually drifted away. There was no grand moment of discovery or disappointment, only a slow maturation and sad acceptance of reality.

I am seeking a balance between preserving the magic of Santa Claus for my child, while not feeling hypocritical or jeopardizing his trust in what I say. Childhood imagination is unique and fleeting; I believe it needs to be encouraged, stretched, and filled with fabulous fictional tales because, we all know, pure imagination gets lost all too quickly in today’s fact-filled, media-saturated world. On the other hand, I respect my child as a unique individual and along with respect goes telling the truth. If it’s not OK to lie to an adult, why is it acceptable to lie to a child under certain circumstances?

The Santa Claus story does command a certain kind of sanctity. Just last week, a man was arrested at a Christmas Parade in Kingston, Ontario. He was yelling, “Santa isn’t real!” as he walked down the main street. While there’s no actual law that prohibits ‘ruining’ Christmas for kids, the police arrested him on the grounds of public intoxication and disturbing the peace. I found this story interesting because this man, who was obviously telling the truth, is considered bad for disturbing children’s imaginations.

I’m committed to sticking to the Santa Claus story for a few years yet, because I know how much joy it brought me as a kid and I wish the same for my son. My internal struggles will remain my own. In the meantime, however, I’m curious to hear how other parents handle Santa Claus. What do you tell your kids? 

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