Lunchtime Poll

LTP: Do You Believe in Santa?

Every Christmas season the debate starts again over whether to tell your kids about Santa Claus. On one side, the parents who want to preserve the magic of the holiday; on the other, people who smugly claim they’ll never lie to their children or who object for religious reasons and want to put the Christ back in Christmas. (And of course, the people who don’t celebrate Christmas and are probably rolling their eyes over how heated some people can get over such a seemingly trivial issue.)

So what do you do? Do you believe in Santa Claus? Did your family have any special traditions about him? Were you totally crushed to learn he wasn’t real, or were you the kid ruining it for everyone else? If you have kids, what do you tell them? I’m totally going all out with Santa stuff for my 2-year-old, but given that my husband was the Jewish kid who made little girls cry when he crushed their illusions, we’ll see if I can get him to go along with it!

By [E] Hillary

Hillary is a giant nerd and former Mathlete. She once read large swaths of "Why Evolution is True" and a geology book aloud to her infant daughter, in the hopes of a) instilling a love of science in her from a very young age and b) boring her to sleep. After escaping the wilds of Waco, Texas and spending the next decade in NYC, she currently lives in upstate New York, where she misses being able to get decent pizza and Chinese takeout delivered to her house. She lost on Jeopardy.

11 replies on “LTP: Do You Believe in Santa?”

I haven’t thought about this much, because I’m nowhere near having kids. But I think if/when I do, I’ll probably do what my parents did: we had Santa, without going overboard with it, and then when both my sister and I had figured it out independently, the presents were from Mom and Dad instead.

Basically, I think this sums it up:

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.

So what do you do? Do you believe in Santa Claus? Did your family have any special traditions about him? Were you totally crushed to learn he wasn’t real, or were you the kid ruining it for everyone else? If you have kids, what do you tell them? I’m totally going all out with Santa stuff for my 2-year-old, but given that my husband was the Jewish kid who made little girls cry when he crushed their illusions, we’ll see if I can get him to go along with it!

We go along with the Santa tradition (our traditions, anyway) but don’t push or force it on our four-and-a-half-year-old. Our family traditions were to get presents from Santa and the cat, and the night before Christmas, we left out a little brandy, some mince pieces and carrots. The leaving out of food carried on until my brother and I were in our late teens (pretty much until we left home) and everyone gets presents from Santa and the cat.

This year is the first year that Juniper Junior has really ‘got’ Christmas (last year I think he was incredibly disappointed on Boxing Day, when he realised we weren’t going to do it all over again). And so yes, we’re going along with the Santa tradition, to a degree. We’ve yet to decide if we’ll be leaving food out for Santa, but it seems rude not to if he’s bringing presents to the house. However, we’re just keeping it at a gentle level. I don’t remember being crushed or telling other kids! I honestly don’t remember when I came to realise Santa wasn’t real. I did speak to my mother though, and she said that my brother and I both came to the conclusion that he wasn’t real and that was okay, we still put things out for Santa and still got presents from him (and the cat!).

Though I will say that after I wrote about having a Humanist Christmas, we have ended up having Hogswatch and presents that would have been from Santa are going to be delivered by the Hogfather.

I actually got into a fight with a friend, when I was pregnant for the first time, about the whole “Santa is lying” thing that resulted in me not talking to that friend till my son was about two. The fact is, even if you have the best of intentions, you are probably not going to be 100% truthful with your children all day every day. My personal opinion on the subject is that Santa is fun for everyone and childhood is better with a dash of magic thrown in. He’s like an imaginary friend that everyone gets to share.

This is a tough one for me.  I don’t like lying, even though that makes me a no-fun-jerk.  But I do like imagination and creativity.  But I am uncomfortable with the deception.  Even though everybody seems to grow up with Santa and be JUST FINE.

In other words, I have no idea how we are going to treat this, and I’ve probably spent more time thinking about it than I really should.

I remember my own parents treating it like any other game of pretend. They never insisted to me or my brother that Santa existed or that we needed to be good for fear of not getting any Christmas presents. But we all kind of played the “Santa game” around Christmastime, leaving out cookies and the like, just for the fun of it. I can remember my brother asking my parents once if there was a Santa Claus and their answer was something like “I don’t know! What do you think?” and most Christmas mornings someone would say something about “oh, I saw lights in the sky last night!” and we would all go “oh, mayyyybe it was Santa!”
like I say below, I see no harm in playing pretend games with your kids, letting them work out the logistics of Santa magic for themselves, and enjoying the fun just like you would any other flight of fancy or imagination.

My mother spoiled it for me, intentionally, when I was about four, and I resent the crap out of it, so I have found ways as an adult to believe in the things about Santa that are important to me; namely, that there is a magical force out there in the world that works for good and that is at least partially behind the sense of wonder and possibility I occasionally catch on to.

I never spoiled it for anyone else as a kid, though. It always felt wrong to me that my mom had told me that, not only in the sense that she shouldn’t have “spoiled” it but also in the sense that she wasn’t quite right.

I can’t remember ever actually believing in Santa, but my family always played around with it when I was a kid. My brother and I would always get little notes from Santa (and sometimes messages on our computer saying that Santa just HAD to play a couple games of Solitaire before heading out again). Every Christmas Eve my brother would make every grown-up in the house swear that they would not eat the treats he was leaving for Santa, and every Christmas Day the treats would be magically gone (everyone kept their promise by not eating the treats, just by putting them back in their box).

My family is Christian, and I don’t remember there ever being any sort of conflict between the religious part of the holiday and the Santa Claus part. My parents always encouraged us to be imaginative and to enjoy the wonder that comes with being a kid. To this day, every Christmas morning both my brother and I receive a Christmas present from “Santa”. It’s fun and magical!

okay I do have to share this story because oh my goodness. during the summer I was hanging out with my cousin and a group of her friends, who are all very VERY conservative homeschooled evangelical types. somehow the topic of Santa came up and the general consensus was that it’s “lying” to kids and you shouldn’t encourage the Santa thing. I scoffed, and here’s the explanation I was given (well, here’s the mansplaination I was mansplained):
“You see, fifthpevensie, when you’re telling your kid about Santa, you’re probably also around the same time telling your kid about Jesus, right? So what happens when they find out there’s no Santa? They’re going to think Jesus isn’t real either.”
I had to go to the bathroom because I couldn’t hold in my laughter. honestly.


I just think it’s so weird! like, isn’t it a good thing to encourage whimsy and imagination in your children? are you not going to read fiction to/with them, or play pretend games with them?

I think this is the thing for me. I don’t see a difference between playing the “Santa game” with your children and going along with it when your kid says “now you pretend to be the baby/puppy/evil queen/Peter Pan/etc”. My parents never forced the Santa thing, it was more like “welll you never knowww… this is kind of fun!” type of thing.

it’s so ridiculous. I’ve yet to meet a kid who is incapable of separating imagination and fiction from reality and who is totally damaged as a result. I had a very rich imagination when I was a kid and so did my friends and our playtime was the BEST. but it’s not like we ever actually believed we were orphans living in the woods and hiding out from the evil orphanage-people.
also most people I know who are making these grand statements about how Santa = LIES and how kids don’t know the difference between fantasy and reality so they shouldn’t be allowed to read Harry Potter blah de blah de blah… don’t even HAVE kids. granted neither do I, but my guess is that it’s more a figure-out-what-works-best-as-you-go thing.

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