Santa

For several years running I submitted some version of the following editorial to the Deseret News. Last year they finally published it. You may well guess it was controversial, as of course I knew it would be. I will have more to say on the subject of Santa, but first I want your initial reaction to this piece.

The Editorial
Traditionally, shortly before Christmas, an editorial in your paper will “bah-humbug” the non-believers in Santa. As one of those folk, I would like to offer an alternative perspective. We will have a season filled with family and friends, light and love, music and holiday food, the Nativity, and gifts—hardly “bah-humbug”! What we won’t have is Santa.

Years ago as a young mother I had some reservations about making over much about Santa, but Santa did come. Then one Spring afternoon more than 30 years ago while teaching a rather large church class of nine year olds one of the girls raised her hand and said, “When I found out that Santa Claus wasn’t real, I didn’t think God or Jesus were either.” The class just exploded with everyone wanting to talk at once. These children were still close enough to the “big discovery” that their memories on the subject were keen and close to the surface. Most had felt betrayed to one degree or another by the people they loved and trusted the most. They also openly wondered about what else they might have been told that wasn’t true.

They had been told by adults they trusted that Santa was real. They had seen Santa and talked to him. Santa was everywhere visible and talked about. And Santa delivered! If what they had been told about Santa was not true, then what could they believe? Who could they believe? This was a sobering day.

I believe that adults build up Santa for their own pleasure (although they all claim to be doing it for the children.) Conversely children’s souls hunger for the truth. They want to be treated respectfully and taken seriously. (None of us like to be the ones “not in the know.”) How the world really works is serious business and one of the most compelling developmental challenges of childhood. Imagining and wondering and exploring are important but truth is still the standard.

I don’t think you need to be hard nosed about Santa. Little children can hold onto several discrepant theories simultaneously. But even these children should not be told things are true which we know are not. We learned that with the youngest children Santa can be played broadly as pretend and “just for fun” with little of the magic being lost.

In the years since that “explosive day” I have come to cherish and protect my integrity and credibility to a degree that I had not done before. Trust is just too precious a commodity to be spent lightly or “just for fun”. As a parent, and now a grandparent, I have come to appreciate that having my credibility absolutely intact serves me well in hard moments (which will come to all of us) with all the dear children in my life. To be as truthful and kind as we know how should be the standard.

79 comments for “Santa

  1. Julie M. Smith
    November 28, 2006 at 12:03 am

    Ooooh, Russell is going to be mad at you.

    I completely agree with you on this one. Sure–Santa is fun for a three year old. But the problem is that the young teenager doesn’t remember being three–they remember being 6 or 7 or 8 or whenever they found out that Santa wasn’t real. Those are usually not good memories. I know mine aren’t. I remember this awful feeling that I was supposed to pretend that something was false was true or . . . upset my parents. Or something. I wasn’t sure. And that was the problem.

    I’ve found St. Nicholas to be a useful ally in the Santa issue: http://www.timesandseasons.org/?p=2707

  2. It's Not Me
    November 28, 2006 at 12:16 am

    Holy smokes. I guess I missed out on all the therapy. I believed in Santa as a child and thoroughly enjoyed it. Frankly, I do not remember when or how I discovered that Santa is not real. However, I do not feel betrayed, abused, or whatever. I recognize that others may bear deep psychological scars for the rest of their lives, and so I cannot judge them. I, however, never questioned the reality of Jesus Christ or his Father based on the “Santa betrayal” (or based on anything else, for that matter). I am 43 years old and enjoy lying to my children about Santa. I can’t wait for one of them to shoot up the post office because of it.

    Go ahead. Blast away.

  3. Bored in Vernal
    November 28, 2006 at 12:21 am

    We have always “done” Santa–and we’ve always told the kids he’s not real. The Easter bunny, the tooth fairy and Santa are all pretend, but we can still have a lot of fun with them. My reasoning in doing this was exactly the same as yours. I want them to be able to trust what I tell them about God and Jesus.

  4. November 28, 2006 at 12:21 am

    Not mad, Julie; just melancholy that another fine and loving person has assumed that, since there can only be one possible interpretation of Santa Claus, and that is the interpretation which so many parents promote and then take away from their children, thus causing crises of faith, it’s better just to do without Santa entirely. The possibility that the man exists and people keep setting up straw men in his place that need to be slapped down never seems to enter into the equation.

    Sorry Marjorie, I mean no disrespect–really, this is one of the better anti-Santa pieces I’ve read. (I believe it’s come up every year here at T&S.) It’s just that the Santa you’ve chosen–thoughtfully and justifiably–not to make a part of your Christmas celebrations isn’t the Santa which is actually out there contributing to said celebrations. (Read my Santa manifesto, of sorts.)

  5. Julie M. Smith
    November 28, 2006 at 12:27 am

    It’s Not Me:

    Despite my politically correct parenting, my 5yo came to me the other day with this plan “so that daddy won’t have to go to work anymore”: capturing the tooth fairy (which involved ripping her wings off) and robbing her “because she has to have at least ten thousand dollars.” I tell you this to assure you that your dear one likely won’t be the only one shooting up a post office. Perhaps we could carpool to the pokey for family visiting days.

  6. Matt Evans
    November 28, 2006 at 12:30 am

    Let me start by saying I don’t have a strong opinion about Santa. Santa comes to our house and I wasn’t a bit traumatized to learn that Santa was pretend. My gazillion questions had stretched the story so far that when a first grade friend told me the truth, it made sense to me. I still got baptized two years later.

    That said, it seems to me you’re taking this way too seriously. It reminds me of the anti-magic hysteria that surfaces every so often (Dungeons & Dragons, Harry Potter) with it’s argument that fantasy undermines belief in miracles or the priesthood.

    Hundreds of millions of believers were told there was a Santa by their parents without rejecting everything their parents taught them about God, and more importantly, there is no way to protect children from eventually questioning their parents’ knowledge of God. In your editorial you sound as though the girl would never have had reason to question her parents if they hadn’t told her about Santa, but the reason children eventually question their parents’ religion isn’t because they stop “believing” their parents, for whatever reason, it’s because they eventually question the basis of their parents’ belief. Nothing parents told them about Santa can protect them from that. For that reason I see no reason to believe that telling kids about Santa will harm their faith in God.

  7. Matt W.
    November 28, 2006 at 12:55 am

    The First thing I did when my Daughter was born was tell her that Santa Claus was only allegorical. Then I explained Sex. I am so glad that’s over with and I never have to do it again.

  8. Nick
    November 28, 2006 at 1:18 am

    Interesting, Marjorie
    Are you suggesting that those of us who believe in Santa and tell our children about Santa have no credibility and integrity? Please explain further.

  9. Santa
    November 28, 2006 at 1:22 am

    Question my existence, eh? You are SO getting coal this year… :)

  10. meems
    November 28, 2006 at 1:54 am

    I felt a tiny bit guilty telling my kids about Santa, so I made it a conscious effort to never say that Santa was real. I would say things like, look at that man dressed like Santa, or Let’s play Santa. Despite these careful words, my kids automatically picked up on the idea that Santa was REAL! I didn’t want to dash their hopes, so I didn’t tell them otherwise. But then my daughter, who was 4, came into me one day in the spring (not aound Christmas) and said, “Mom, is does Santa really exist?” I told her to go ask her dad. She came back in to me and did one of those big winks, like a Little Rascal’s kid, and said, shhh, we won’t tell (her 3-yr. old brother). Since then, she has insisted that she believes in Santa, and that Santa DOES exist, but when I look at her all puzzled, she concedes that it’s all part of the fantasy and that I need to go along with it. We make it known that it’s in fun and everyone’s happy. My son who’s 5 still believes fully though. :-)

  11. Brian G
    November 28, 2006 at 2:46 am

    Marjorie, two years ago I was invited (well, actually my wife was invited and I tagged along) to guest blog here and I wrote a very similar post.

    Then, and this is a true story, four days later my wife and I flew to Utah around midnight on Christmas Eve. Waiting in line to board the plane we struck up a conversation with a young boy about eight or nine who was travelling alone that night, being shipped from his father in L.A. to his mother in Salt Lake City. The kid was a little apprehensive and sad, so the flight attendant put us in the same row with him and sort of asked us to keep an eye on him. I guess the two of us look really harmless or something.

    The boy got the window seat and I sat next to him. The whole flight he was glued to that window, checking the skies for Santa and his sleigh. He asked me if I thought there was a chance we might see him. At one point he even thought he might have caught a fleeting glimpse of Santa. I don’t know what happened. Seeing the kid’s passionate faith in Santa carry him through the dreary experience of being shipped between his separated parents on Christmas Eve like that, it changed my thoughts a little bit. I had a kind of Grinch-like moment where I realized my heart was maybe a couple of sizes too small. I thought about the post I had written a few days earlier and decided I had probably been a little too hasty, and a little too harsh when it comes to the fat guy in the red suit.

  12. Santa Hans Hansen
    November 28, 2006 at 7:56 am

    I have been Santa to many children for over 30 years. The incredible joy we share is indescribable. A few years ago I joined The Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas (AORBS), an international association of real bearded gentlemen dedicated to the joy of being Santa. Some of our members are professional Santas (the president of our organization has been Santa Claus for several years for the Hollywood Christmas Parade), but many volunteer for schools, churches, and at children’s hospitals.

    http://www.aorbsantas.com/

    Now if you wish to take away that from the children, then you can expect a very large lump of coal in your stocking this year!

  13. lamonte
    November 28, 2006 at 8:40 am

    Marjorie – this is a thought provoking exercise in deciding what truths we think are important to impart to our children. I’ve attached a touching article addressing the same issue which was written by Marjorie Williams of the Washington Post back in December of 2001. Ms. Williams died from cancer in January of 2005.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A35009-2001Dec12.html

  14. November 28, 2006 at 8:41 am

    I believe in Santa. Of course Santa is real! I’ve explained many times before about him. He’s very smart and longlived, an advanced being. He’s got technology we don’t have. His time machine (that lets him get so much done in one night) works better if he can cancel out the rotation of the earth, and so for that reason and for privacy, he located his operation at the North Pole. He loves to give presents. He likes to spread the idea that he’s mythical, it’s sort of a joke with him, because he wants people to join in his spirit of giving, as many as possible. He will tell you himself that “Santa” is mythical, and not really him, sort of the way many celebrities consider their image to be a mythical character created by the publicists, that bears little resemblance to their personal selves. But he’s very real and he loves kids and loves the very real joy and magic of Christmas. He finds it touching, the miniscule things that make us happy (like new BMW’s or whatever), and he likes to indulge us. He’s having a wonderful time, and enjoys so much all the controversy over his reality or lack thereof, but especially he loves the starry-eyed, hopeful, true believers. They touch his heart. I won’t share his backstory, or why he ended up on this backwoods planet for the last several hundred years, but suffice it to say that he’s something of a tragic figure. You would never know it to talk to him, though. He’s as merry and jolly as a young elf. He gets such a kick out of what he does. It’s awesome to see. I love Santa dearly, so let’s hear no more of this nonsense about him not being real.

  15. November 28, 2006 at 9:21 am

    “I won’t share his backstory, or why he ended up on this backwoods planet for the last several hundred years, but suffice it to say that he’s something of a tragic figure. You would never know it to talk to him, though. He’s as merry and jolly as a young elf. He gets such a kick out of what he does.”

    Hmm–this sounds like one fascinating backstory! Please share it, if you have the time. I have to say though that I’m dubious of your theory; the evidence to me suggests that Santa/Father Christmas/call-him-what-you-will is human and mortal, or at least was at one time–I’ve long assumed that he’s a Three Nephites-type of character.

  16. Madden
    November 28, 2006 at 9:39 am

    It\’s a non-issue. If this is the thing that keeps you up at night, then I want your life.

  17. Frank McIntyre
    November 28, 2006 at 10:21 am

    Russell, I greatly enjoyed your piece on Santa.

  18. Starfoxy
    November 28, 2006 at 11:21 am

    I seem to recall someone saying that any moral dillema can be answered with something that happened in the Simpsons.

    I just watched an episode of the Simpsons last night where Grandpa and Homer are in a fight. Homer ends up sulking at his childhood home and finds a picture of “Santa” suprising him at Christmas in one of the books. He angrily declares that his dad wasn’t even there for him at Christmas, then as he looks closer he sees that Santa was just his Dad dressed up as Santa and that his dad really was there.

  19. Julie M. Smith
    November 28, 2006 at 11:29 am

    All:

    I think it is one thing to say you don’t agree with Marjorie and another thing entirely to mock her position or her. I think the latter is completely unnecessary. My sense is that mocking accompanies people who are either callous or lack confidence in their own decisions; I’m not eager to find out which is which, but I will ask y’all to stick to the issue and avoid the rudeness.

  20. Matt W.
    November 28, 2006 at 11:44 am

    Julie, who’s mocking?

  21. Julie M. Smith
    November 28, 2006 at 12:00 pm

    I read #2, #7, and #16 as mocking and unnecessarily rude. If that wasn’t the intention, this would be a good time to speak up.

  22. Marjorie Conder
    November 28, 2006 at 12:07 pm

    As a recent arrival at T&S I didn’t realize I was wandering into a perennial minefield. But I am unapologetic. As I hope you noticed in this original post I have never been hard nosed about this nor insisted that anyone couldn’t believe, I just did nothing to promote it and always told the absolute truth if asked. It is an interesting phenomenon that little children (apparently before the age of accountability) can simultaneously believe competing and discrepant theories about all sorts of things—Santa, babies, where daddy works, etc. etc. It is a doomed project to insist they believe the “one true anything.” So I never really tried to kill off Santa, we just never promoted him. All I ever did was make it clear I would always tell them the truth about whatever. However recognizing that I am not infallible (imagine that) I have also said on occasion, “I have always told you the truth as I understood it, but I too am always growing and learning, and now I know more on this subject.”

    I do think Santa is increasingly troubling in our culture. It is not all quite as innocent as it was even 30 years ago. Ironically, I think that the more canned and commercial Christmas has become the less imagination and creativity is left to our children. Toys come with their built in scripts (and often TV shows that reinforce the script and the need for more purchases to maintain the pre-scripted storyline.) I hope to have more to say about this later today. I am working 12 hour days to get our newest children’s exhibit ready for its Friday opening. But it is also good to be engaged with all of you, even when we don’t agree.

    And as for all of you who disagree with me and have threatened to send coal, don’t stop with a single lump, send at least two or three and I’ll add them to my “year’s supply.” Thank you.

    And Russell, perhaps we aren’t really as far apart as it seems. I enjoyed your post.

  23. Ahna
    November 28, 2006 at 12:09 pm

    I have no memories of believing in Santa, so have no trauma about that in childhood. But I remember struggling with this issue when my daughter was small. My sister-in-law gave some good advice: Don’t worry, they believe what they want no matter what you do. Although Santa brought gifts to our daughter, we never went out of our way to encourage belief in the traditional character. Around the age of five, she would ask again and again, daily, if Santa was real. If memory serves, I answered with something like, “Well, you receive presents from him, right?” or “What do you think?” That satisfied for a while.

    Then she made a friend whose parents had never “lied” to her and felt a moral duty to spread the word. Then my daugher couldn’t leave it alone. Finally, she asked me, point blank, to tell her the truth. “And don’t lie to me, Mom.” So, I told her the truth. “No, honey, Santa’s not real. We pretend to be Santa on Christmas Eve.” She was five. And guess what? From that moment, she was an ardent believer in all things Santa, ever willing to argue with her friend, eventually converting her.

    So we can say all we want, but at the end of the day, I guess parents don’t really decide their children’s beliefs. Maybe they don’t even have much influence. Kinda depressing.

  24. Ivan Wolfe
    November 28, 2006 at 12:11 pm

    My parents told me there was no Santa.

    Then I went and told my entire kindergarten class and destroyed a dozen or so childhoods (or at least, that’s what their parents told my parents after I got sent to the office and disciplined. About half my class burst into tears when I told them).

    Sometimes there are social benefits for your children if they believe in Santa.

    Of course, I do worry about the poor families that can’t afford lavish gifts and so their kids wonder why Santa loves the rich kids more.

  25. cantinflas
    November 28, 2006 at 12:18 pm

    Is Julie M. Smith a split personality person? In her comment #5 she plays along with comment #2, then 12 hours later decries poster #2 for a mocking tone? I didn’t think any of those comments you listed were mocking Marjorie, but Matt’s comment was pretty funny.

  26. November 28, 2006 at 12:20 pm

    “Ironically, I think that the more canned and commercial Christmas has become the less imagination and creativity is left to our children. Toys come with their built in scripts (and often TV shows that reinforce the script and the need for more purchases to maintain the pre-scripted storyline.)”

    YES! This is a sentiment that I can whole-heartedly support. Thank you, Marjorie! But be careful when you write your post on the topic, because I may not be able to resist providing links in my comments to about a hundred different books and articles about commercialization and corporations and the media and wages and land ownership and suburbanization and how we’re this close to the revolution, and then Frank and Matt will get involved, and there’ll be no end to it.

  27. November 28, 2006 at 12:27 pm

    My mother-in-law told my kids Santa wasn’t real without consulting me first. They were very young, just toddlers. Her belief was the same as Marjorie’s—you don’t lie to kids/just have Santa be a pretend thing the kids are in on. I may have agreed with her and decided to do the same thing. But I’ll never know now, since the decision was taken away from me.

  28. jimbob
    November 28, 2006 at 12:27 pm

    I agree with Marjorie, but would add one more reason. Apparently this Santa guy likes the rich kids better, and, indeed, some of the poor kids he doesn’t like at all. Combine that with the fact that we tell kids Santa sees if we are naughty and nice and recompenses us at Christmas accordingly, and you’ve got yourself everything that’s wrong with Calvinism: the rich kids get more presents from Santa because, unlike the poor kids, the rich kids were “nice” this year. Those poor kids could have gotten more presents, but they were “naughty.” That is, they’re poor because they’re naughty. Rubs me the wrong way. Of course, my wife thinks I’m overthinking it, and Santa still comes every year.

    On a lighter note, given the posts over at Blogger of Jared recently, I think I’m going to start telling my kids that Santa is living with the lost twelve tribes of Isreal in the center of the Earth. He uses their advanced technology to visit each house on the same night.

  29. DavidH
    November 28, 2006 at 12:28 pm

    I agree with Marjorie. On the other hand, I agree with those who think a belief by young children in Santa and the Easter Bunny is probably harmless, and is deeply entrenched in our culture.

    The compromise my wife and I reached about Santa was that if our children asked if there was a Santa, or would ask complicated questions about how Santa could do all those things, we would answer, “What do you think?” That is, we tried not to promote the myth, but we didn’t try to disabuse them of it either at an early age. I am still not sure if that was the right way to approach it, but that is what we did.

  30. Julie M. Smith
    November 28, 2006 at 12:28 pm

    “Is Julie M. Smith a split personality person?”

    Yes and no.

  31. Adam Laughton
    November 28, 2006 at 12:38 pm

    My wife and I have friends who have already decided that they will not inculcate a belief in Santa in their 18-month old son (and by extension, any of their other future children). Instead they have decided to tell their children that Jesus is the one who brings the gifts. Now, two observations:

    1. Once other parents hear about this, few will want their children to play with our friends\’ around Christmas time. I agree with #24. Believing in Santa is a rite of passage for childhood. I didn\’t have the kind of betrayal experience that some of you have expressed when I learned that Santa wasn\’t real. But I think that finding out is an important event for getting introduced into the real world from the fantasies of childhood.

    2. The whole idea of \”Jesus brings presents\” is extremely pernicious. I think that using it could create a great deal of confusion about who Jesus is and why he is important. I served my mission in Mexico, where the Three Wise Men are the ones bringing the gifts (though they are increasingly switching over to Santa or at least a dual-track system). I don\’t think that idea is nearly as troublesome, since nobody pretends that the Three Wise Men are objects of reverence or that their importance extends beyond their bringing Jesus gifts.

  32. Mark B.
    November 28, 2006 at 12:40 pm

    Virginia told me that there is a Santa Claus. And she got it from a legit source–a New York newspaper.

    But what bothers me is all this nonsense about Santa and his reindeeer and sleigh flying.

    If you go back to Mr. Moore’s poem, you see that there’s no “flying” sleigh. It just flies enough to get up onto the rooftop, and then, presumably, gets back down onto the ground where it, and all sleighs, belong. Sort of like a chicken, which will flap its wings and get a few feet of altitude before collapsing in a heap in the barnyard, but any self-respecting goose or eagle or albatross would agree that what the chicken does isn’t really flying. Just like my beagle when I was a kid who would make a run at the five-foot chainlink fence and eventually get over the top–it wasn’t like that horse in National Velvet.

    See:

    Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
    On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
    To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
    Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

    As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
    When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
    So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
    With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

    Get rid of the flying sleigh, and the rest is pretty easy to swallow.

  33. a random John
    November 28, 2006 at 12:56 pm

    #7 is the best thing I’ve read on T&S since DKL’s most recent Married to the Sea link.

  34. Matt W.
    November 28, 2006 at 1:11 pm

    Julie- re #7, no, really, that is what I did. Sorry if it offends you and I hope Ms. Candor doesn’t take it that way. I actually am pretty much the same as her. Santa Clause has become something like homosexuality in my house. “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

    ARJ, thanks.

  35. Matt W.
    November 28, 2006 at 1:12 pm

    oops, Conder not Candor… err….

  36. Frank McIntyre
    November 28, 2006 at 1:24 pm

    “and then Frank and Matt will get involved, and there’ll be no end to it.”

    There will be an end Russell, but it won’t be pretty :)

  37. November 28, 2006 at 1:53 pm

    It never is, Frank. But I keep coming back! Like socialism, only better dressed.

  38. Deb Graham
    November 28, 2006 at 2:19 pm

    When my daughter was about 5, I overheard her talking to her 9 year old brother. For us, a large part of Christmas fun is the magic, and I did not want that spoiled any sooner than needful. My heart skipped as I heard her ask \”You gotta tell me, for true. Is Santa real, or not?\” I strained to hear the answer. My son slowly told her, \”Listen, I\’m telling you true. There really is no Santa, he\’s just pretend. \” I felt a wave of sadness, but then he continued \”But, MOM still believes in him, so keep up the act!\” Nothing was ever said, and the act goes on, although the son is now a missionary, the daughter in college. Reality is overrated, in my opinion.

  39. Matt W.
    November 28, 2006 at 2:28 pm

    Deb, that almost brings tears to my eyes. I am so lame… But thank you.

  40. Christopher Johnson
    November 28, 2006 at 3:26 pm

    #16
    Your trivialization of the issue is rude. Remember the conference talk about cultural inconsistencies with the gospel of Jesus Christ? They didn’t say to keep them around–they said to pluck out whatever was outside to boundaries. Keep reading below.

    #24
    “Then I went and told my entire kindergarten class and destroyed a dozen or so childhoods (or at least, that’s what their parents told my parents after I got sent to the office and disciplined. About half my class burst into tears when I told them).”
    It’s pure insanity that someone thinks discipline is appropriate for speaking the benign truth. Perpetuating a lie deserves punishment. Any parent that insinuates that Santa Claus is a real man is in need of repentance. Shame on you.

    #27
    “My mother-in-law told my kids Santa wasn’t real without consulting me first.”
    This sounds like a control issue, not a Santa issue; although how people derive fun from lying to their kids also troubles me deeply. Why don’t you just come up with a new story to tell your kids? They defenseless, so it should be pathetically easy. *Now is the time to teach your children to bear false witness.

  41. Proud Daughter of Eve
    November 28, 2006 at 3:52 pm

    I don’t remember learning the truth about Santa. I guess it wasn’t traumatic for me. That said, I agree whole-heartedly with Marjorie. Aside from the issues of “Santa-mas” vs.”Christmas,” I don’t think it’s right to willfully decieve our children. My sister (along with other cranks, I’m sure) responded to that thought with “But you’re teaching them about Jesus.” The difference is I believe in Jesus. It doesn’t matter if she or anyone else doesn’t; I do and I am going to teach my kids the truth as I understand it.

    It’s not going to be easy. I was unpleasantly surprised to see Santa at the ward Christmas party last year. I hope he’s not there this year. I don’t know how I’m going to deal with the contrast of my husband’s large extended family but I’m going to try.

  42. Madden
    November 28, 2006 at 4:01 pm

    It’s a trivial issue; therefore, it deserves trivilization. Look, I’ve never told my sons that Santa Claus exists. I haven’t told them he doesn’t either. If asked directly, I’d probably tell them the truth; however, as of yet, my four-year-old son hasn’t been brazen enough to question the existence of Santa Claus.
    He did ask me about Frisch’s Big Boy, however, and I told him the truth. Big Boy is a fake. His grilled cheese sandwiches, however, are very real and very tasty.

  43. Madden
    November 28, 2006 at 4:05 pm

    Sorry for all the “howevers.” I’m typing while taking notes in my Tax class. I’ll proofread next time.

  44. November 28, 2006 at 5:04 pm

    This issue has been the topic du jour at our home lately. Our oldest is three and he\’s quite a … realist. He\’s very aware. My thought was that I\’d explain that Santa is something we pretend, but then carry forward with the whole Santa charade anyway to get the best of both worlds. I explained to him that Santa was pretend in the same way that Thomas the Train or Mickey are pretend. He said \”Uh huh. Okay\” with a glazed look in his eye, and then said \”Right, but he\’s still coming to our house with presents right?\”

    I think there\’s a balance there. You have to know your kids. Clearly my oldest boy wants to believe; truth is of no interest to him right now. But him in two years, however, will be another story. If I lied to his face about Santa I can almost guarantee I\’d do permanent damage (as was the case with his father). Some people are very literal. My husband is still grieving from the day he found out the special call he received from Bozo the Clown was just his dad. You gotta know your kid.

  45. Matt W.
    November 28, 2006 at 5:15 pm

    Your Husbands dad was Bozo the Clown? Sweet! sorry, I couldn’t resist.

  46. Mike
    November 28, 2006 at 5:43 pm

    We have a few extra characters around the holidays at our house to sort of give these celebrations a more realistic flavor. At Christmas time we have the Christmas Wolf. The Christmas Wolf chases Santa’s reindeer and if he catches them, he chews one of their legs off and eats it. That is why the reindeer have to fly, they can’t run any more. The Christmas Wolf has been known to tip over Christmas trees and tear up all of the presents and set the house on fire. The Christmas Wolf is mean and unlike the Grinch Who Stole Christmas he has not shown any signs of repentance or reformation. At Easter we have his cousin the Easter Fox who chases the Easter Bunny around and steals the Easter eggs, etc. I try and work in some of the stories about Briar Rabbit since Uncle Remus lived close by us here in Georgia. There must needs be an opposition in all things.

    I haven’t noticed much mention of the use of Santa as a behavior control device. “Gonna find out who is naughty and nice.” Parents of rowdy children of my generation could use Santa to squeeze several weeks of good behavior out of their children during the most stressful time of the year. I guess this has gone by the wayside with more sophisticated moral reasoning. But it worked for me for a couple years, at least.

    Some children will believe in Santa but not the Christmas Wolf, whom they think is a creation of dad’s overactive imagination. My understanding is that small children do not have a very clear distinction between the real and the imagined in their minds. The young crisis of faith may be partially a projection of other unresolved issues. Sometimes the process of figuring out about Santa and then helping out the adults with younger siblings develops critical thinking skills and social skills within the family. Then just when you think you have the literal truth of Santa firmly in your mind, you realize that Tatiana #14 might be right. You move from literal faith to paradoxical faith. These skills are important in dealing with our checkered and complex church theology and history, not to mention many other challenges in our society.

  47. Anita
    November 28, 2006 at 6:59 pm

    Thanks for this post–I really resonate with the sentiments expressed. When I see signs that say “Believe” sold in Deseret Book, it seems like they’re promoting false belief/worship, and I don’t want to confuse my children–this omniscient, beneficent, unseen, judging right/wrong Santa character of modern consumer society sounds too similar to the religious beliefs we teach them. It has caused trouble in our extended family, however, with my mother-in-law who thinks I’ve ruined the magic of Christmas for her poor grandchildren and hopes we don’t spoil it for the cousins. We try not to, but had a great moment at a holiday office party when my then four year old daughter spotted Santa and exclaimed (loudly, of course): “There’s a guy who likes to dress up like I do!”

  48. November 28, 2006 at 7:08 pm

    “At Christmas time we have the Christmas Wolf. The Christmas Wolf chases Santa’s reindeer and if he catches them, he chews one of their legs off and eats it. That is why the reindeer have to fly, they can’t run any more. The Christmas Wolf has been known to tip over Christmas trees and tear up all of the presents and set the house on fire. The Christmas Wolf is mean and unlike the Grinch Who Stole Christmas he has not shown any signs of repentance or reformation….There must needs be an opposition in all things.”

    Mike, you have got to track down a copy of the letters from Father Christmas which J.R.R. Tolkien decided to write (I would prefer to say, “was inspired by Santa Claus to write”) to his children. Talk about opposition. He has goblins attacking the North Pole, and Father Christmas organizing counter-attacks with the elves, and everything. They’re awesome.

  49. November 28, 2006 at 8:09 pm

    I agree 100% with Marjorie.

    “Santa” is not a thing that we, or God for that matter, have control over. I do not want faceless corporations controlling what my children would believe in. They mean more to me than would allow me to do that. Truama? Not necessarily, but it still feels awkward when placed in light of the scriptures about honesty and false traditions.

  50. November 28, 2006 at 8:52 pm

    Russell (#15) “…the evidence to me suggests that Santa/Father Christmas/call-him-what-you-will is human and mortal, or at least was at one time…” You may be right. He certainly looks human enough. I think, though, that he is able to fashion himself pretty much whatever sort of body he prefers, within the constraints of bioengineering, so I always assumed he chose his human appearance for our sakes. I could totally see myself, aeons from now, after I’ve experimented and lived in bodies of various wild and creative descriptions, preferring to go back to an exact simulation of my original mortal body, with its many flaws and limitations, just for the sake of …. something … I don’t know…. innocence or something. So perhaps he has done the same.

    I’m delighted to meet a fellow Santa believer, Russell. Please share with me what you know about him.

  51. Daylan
    November 28, 2006 at 9:14 pm

    Good job on the editorial. The truth will make you free…

  52. gst
    November 28, 2006 at 9:28 pm

    My dad told me lies a lot more wonderful than the one about the fat elf. For instance, my dad insisted that in his youth he was a quail. And that a little man lives inside the little box into which we shout our drive-thru orders. And that my dog, that he actually had gassed for eating our backyard picnic table when I was eight, had only gone off to college.

    I can only image the horror that it must be to have parents who tell you the truth all the time.

  53. November 28, 2006 at 9:31 pm

    Part of our christmas tradition is to read the christmas chapters from the Little House books. In those chapters, over a period of years, Laura discovers that *she* is Santa. The cool thing about sharing these stories is that little ones hear that Santa comes, and Christmas is a special time for family; older ones hear that Santa is about caring enough for others to want to do something special, even if it is difficult or not easy. As the kids get older, they just kind of realize, without being told or let down, just what Santa is: a personal attitude inside yourself, and not a little (claymation) elf somewhere.

    In my heart, *that* Santa is very very real, Virginia. And all you naysayers cannot take that away from me.

  54. Matt Evans
    November 28, 2006 at 9:58 pm

    “how people derive fun from lying to their kids also troubles me deeply. Why don’t you just come up with a new story to tell your kids? They defenseless, so it should be pathetically easy.”

    Puuhhhleeeez. Just when Julie asked us not to mock the anti-Santis, along comes an anti-Santi to prove that their pants are three sizes too tight. I’m so sorry for all of you have never been thrown a surprise party, or seen a magic show, and have never therefore enjoyed the fun of harmless mis-direction.

    By the way, there’s no need to lie about Santa, either. I’m sure I wasn’t the first to think of this, but it sure was fun. When my first grade son asked about Santa, I donned a serious expression, took him aside, and speaking in a hushed voice, made him promise promise that he would never tell anyone what I was about to tell him. He promised, understanding that what I was about to tell him must be crucically important. I then told him that *I* was Santa Claus. When he asked if I was serious, I just nodded, and reminded him that he couldn’t tell anyone. He could hardly believe it, of course, but probably because kids think they’re uniquely important, he didn’t seem too surprised to learn they were closely related.

    Some day your kids will grow up, learn that other parents are so much fun, and decide to buy you pants with more give. Ho ho ho! : )

    The way I see it, parents direct their kids lives, and just like directors decide when the audience will learn which parts of the story, I decide when my kids will learn what, all in an effort to maximize their experience. (I made my son watch the Star Wars movies in their original sequence, and required that he see each one multiple times before seeing the next one. That forced him to think about the possibilities, like I had, before they were given to him.)

  55. November 28, 2006 at 10:13 pm

    Matt #54- That sounds Really cool. Maybe we’ll have to steal your idea.

  56. Marjorie Conder
    November 28, 2006 at 11:49 pm

    Well, Matt, that was really funny. Good for you.

    I liked the Little House approach too. As I’ve said at least twice in this post, being heavy handed is not necessary, but the truth is. I’m not through with Santa however. See tonight’s post that I’m all but ready to send

  57. Christopher Johnson
    November 28, 2006 at 11:51 pm

    I do concede that I went tit-for-tat with my comment to #27. Sorry ’bout that.

    I definitely wouldn’t compare Santa-deception with young kids to lying about surprise parties or magicians. Why not?
    Because parades and mall decorations don’t continue the suggestion of a party’s non-existence. Because if you kid asks you if the magician is magic, you don’t say, “Yeah, he can spontaneously generate cards from his palms! I wish I could!” And if you tell your classmates that the magician is merely a master sleight-of-hand performer, then the principal won’t discipline you for your truth-telling. Something is essentially different in the Santa case.

    Santa-delusion is closer to hazing. It’s disrespectful to a child. You might feel clever and justified as you relate the story of covertly briefing your son that his dad is the Santa Claus of the world, but it won’t help your argument hold living water. No matter how many pants jokes.

  58. gst
    November 29, 2006 at 3:54 am

    I’m starting to doubt the existence of “Marjorie Conder.”

  59. Santa Hans Hansen
    November 29, 2006 at 4:52 am

    Four stages of life:
    1.) You believe in Santa
    2.) You don’t believe in Santa
    3.) You are Santa
    4.) You look like Santa

    http://www.nationalbeardregistry.org/beards/Beard-details.asp?ID=1413

  60. Fregramis
    November 29, 2006 at 12:20 pm

    Good thing the Holy Ghost does not get involved in this “truth”.

    Bearded man, dressed in red, down from the sky, comes like a thief in the night, bringing “gifts” and “coal”(which will probably be burning) respectively……

    Hmmmm…..type and shadow maybe?

  61. jimbob
    November 29, 2006 at 12:24 pm

    Re 54:

    Look, I don’t think that this is a particularly important topic, but this comment is wholly disingenuous: “By the way, there’s no need to lie about Santa, either.” I’m glad you didn’t lie to your kid when he asked you point blank, but he wouldn’t have had the question in the first place if the myth hadn’t been perpetuated in your home. I agree with you that the perpetuation is largely harmless, but please don’t pretend you kid made up Santa himself and then asked you about it at which time you nothing but forthright.

  62. Cyril
    November 29, 2006 at 1:21 pm

    Christmas is as literal or fantastical as you and your family make it. Children, especially downtrodden and depressed children, need fantasy to flourish. The thought and hope that something more powerful and benevolent and giving than this world can offer on a daily basis actually exists is enlivening.

    Jesus does not love commercialism, but he loves the Spirit of Christmas and the spirit of Santa because he loves the children. And all children love Santa.

    I am in my thirties and I still believe in the spirit of Santa. Those who don’t miss out on much. I wonder if children raised in homes that are anti-Santa have more or less difficulty believing stories about gold plates, seer stones, angelic visitations, and magic compasses. If there is nothing beyond what our five senses can prove, then are we anything?

  63. greenfrog
    November 29, 2006 at 1:31 pm

    Marjorie,

    I honor your commitment to truth.

  64. November 29, 2006 at 2:07 pm

    We do “Santa” at our house, but we also read about St. Nicholas and explain that he was the original “Santa” to the kids who are old enough to understand. My kids are skeptical by nature and we are in the habit of making a statement to them and inviting them to evaluate its truth or falsity for themselves (e.g. chocolate milk comes from brown cows). They have fun debating it. (“we made chocolate milk last night by putting syrup in milk!”) So when they ask us whether there is really a Santa or not, we say “well, what do YOU think?”

    We do the same for the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, etc.

  65. Melanie
    November 29, 2006 at 2:13 pm

    My dad and I (both single people living alone) are planning to break into each other’s homes (with keys of course) to “play Santa.” I suggested it because Santa has long represented to me the love of my parents and the spirit of Christmas in general, and I thought it a good opportunity for dad and I to do to feel the love. There’s something about waking up to a surprise in the morning that makes you feel special.

  66. Ardis
    November 29, 2006 at 6:11 pm

    I’ve been reading comments and scratching my puzzled head for almost two days now. It isn’t that I haven’t heard the “won’t lie to my children about Santa” line for years, but I don’t understand the vehemence of so many comments.

    Do you tell your children throughout their videos and TV programs that the characters aren’t real? Do you tell them that their dolls and teddy bears aren’t alive? Do you interrupt your games of peek-a-boo to explain that you aren’t really disappearing? Do you forbid them from carving pumpkins because the squash isn’t really named Jack? Do you avoid gingerbread boys and Mother Goose rhymes and winged poneys and leprechauns (on St. Patrick’s Day and in cereal) and Aesop’s fables and A Christmas Carol and Frosty the Snowman and the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son and everything else that isn’t strictly, literally, objectively “true”?

    You can say Santa is different somehow — some of you have said that, but you haven’t given any explanation other than the intensity to which the culture supports the fiction of Santa — but how different is it except in degree? If you insist on being “honest,” you should be honest the whole way, and not lie in little bits.

    What stunted, unimaginative, dull, wonderless children would be raised by such literally “honest” parents!

  67. Matt W.
    November 29, 2006 at 6:31 pm

    Ardis:
    You and my wife would agree on this, that’s why I had to tell my daughter the truth about Santa when she was born and leave it at that.

    I think for me, it’s not about “truth” but more about Christmas being about Christ. So I prefer reading luke 2 to “twas the night…”

    Anyway, I remind my daughter her imaginary dogs are just pretend, because then I only have to feed them imaginary food, and I remind her that the plastic food she has in her toy kitchen is just pretend, so we shouldn’t put it in our mouths…I tell her Spiderman is just pretend, so she won’t be scared. I think there comes a point when we need to just be practical.

    I don’t condemn anyone for teaching Santa Claus, and am personally torn about it, because I don’t want my kid telling other people’s children there is no such thing. I believe the parents have a right to let the kids have the Santa experience.

    But we just treat Santa like any other story at our house and don’t play it up with special significance any more than Spiderman or Luke Skywalker.

  68. Julie M. Smith
    November 29, 2006 at 6:32 pm

    Ardis,

    I, too, am puzzled over the vehemence of some of the comments here. But, as you know, we don’t ‘do’ Santa and I think the difference between Santa and everything that you mention in your second paragraph is that the kids either know that those things aren’t real or–if they were to ask–I would tell them the truth.

  69. Sue
    November 29, 2006 at 9:56 pm

    My five year old has always been terrified of Santa – well, Santa, the Easter Bunny, and Leprechauns – so we had to tell her early on about Santa – and somehow, Christmas is still lots of fun. Nobody will be scarred for life by not getting to participate in the Santa legend, my goodness.

  70. November 29, 2006 at 10:04 pm

    Why do we divide into groups that care so vehemently about how other people deal with Santa Claus?

  71. Melinda
    November 29, 2006 at 11:55 pm

    When my friend told me the truth about Santa, it cleared up a major life puzzle for me. We were seven. I knew I behaved better than my friend. She talked back to her mom, and I would never do that! However, despite her abysmal behavior, she always got four times as much from Santa as I did. I couldn’t figure out why Santa thought she was a better girl than I was. Then she told me the truth about Santa. Mystery solved. It was kind of a relief. I was ticked mom and dad still insisted I go to bed on Christmas Eve since I now knew that I didn’t need to be asleep before Santa came.

    And I didn’t even connect Santa to religion, meaning that finding out the truth about Santa didn’t even cause a blip on my thoughts about what I learned at church and at FHE.

  72. It's Not Me
    December 3, 2006 at 12:05 am

    #41: “I was unpleasantly surprised to see Santa at the ward Christmas party last year. I hope he’s not there this year.”

    Santa showed up at our ward party so I sent the bishop a letter requesting my name be removed from the records of the church. It was the last straw. At the high priest party the month before they were playing secular music (Beethoven). Next thing you know they’ll be serving unclean food at ward dinners.

  73. Murray Ceff
    December 3, 2006 at 7:22 am

    My nine year old told me that she grew suspicious of Santa when she received an article of clothing from him with a Target tag on it. Cannot remember how old she was at the time (but maybe about 5 or 6) but she asked if Santa was real and I simply said \’no\’. \’Thought so\’, she replied. My wife and I had already decided that we would neither promote nor lie about Santa. Like you, I thought \’If what they had been told about Santa was not true, then what could they believe?\’ Our daughter was smart enough to believe in him for a short time, but also smart enough to believe he was not real.

    I am fairly sure that the Jehovahs Witnesses have a ban on Santa. They also have a ban on Christmas, and most other fun things. I think imagination is important, but should not be banned. I also think that we should know the difference between imaginary characters like Santa and real characters like Christ.

    Congratulations Majorie, for bringing up this subject. After reading T&S for some time now, it’s the first time I felt inspired to write something in response to a post.

  74. Santa Hans Hansen
    December 3, 2006 at 5:49 pm

    Well, I will be doing Santa for the Ward party this coming Saturday. I last did it two years ago; then the killjoys on the Activities Committee decided they didn’t want Santa at last year’s party. There were a lot of protesting parents and disappointed children. Fortunately they got rid of the old committee and the new guys contacted me to be there this year.

    I’ve had kids in the past come up to me with lists, goodies, and even artwork. It’s a lot of fun and the younger kids get a kick out of it because I call them by their names. (I’m the Ward Organist, so they see me up at the console every Sunday, but when I put on the red suit, already have the white hair and beard naturally, they don’t recognize me!)

  75. Julie M. Smith
    December 3, 2006 at 6:25 pm

    “There were a lot of protesting parents and disappointed children. ”

    Well, of course. Where on earth could they possibly find a Santa Claus at this time of year besides the ward party? Sheesh.

  76. Jon in Austin
    December 3, 2006 at 8:40 pm

    Re. 75,

    It’s hard to find one without a $5 fee to get a picture taken with him. Hence, the disappointment of the parents. Santa + Ward Party = Nothing out of pocket other than bringing a green bean casserole.

  77. CS Eric
    December 4, 2006 at 4:30 pm

    I know this is late, but I have to tell this story. I used to believe there was no Santa Claus, until about 15 years ago. I took my niece, who was visiting us from St George, Utah, to see the mall Santa in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her name is Jenica, but we usually call her Jen, Jeni, or Jake. When she got to the head of the line and sat on his lap, he greeted her and said \”Hello, Jenica, how are you doing?\” I don\’t know who was more surprised, Jeni or me.

    He also thanked her for the cookies she left last year. I know he may have been able to guess about the cookies, but only the Real Santa would know her given name. I can\’t think of any other way he would have known.

  78. Pam
    December 18, 2006 at 1:09 am

    Hi,
    I guess I get an extra big lump of coal this year.
    I teach the CTR 8s in my ward. They are 8 years old and have been baptised. Anyway, today a mom called me up after church and lectured me for 20 minutes for teaching false doctrine. One of the children had asked me if there was really a Santa and I truthfully answered that there was a Saint Nicholas, but he lived a long time ago and that they should ask their parents for more information about Santa. I then continued with my prepared lesson on the Savior. The mother claimed her daughter was crushed and that I had taught false doctrine.

    Let\’s see…how does the First Article of Faith go…We believe in God the Eternal Father, in his Son, Jesus Christ and in Santa Claus???

    I guess I am in the anti-santa camp when it comes to 8 year olds believing in Santa. Three year olds maybe….but 8 year olds?

    Send me those lumps of coal.

  79. Steve H
    December 21, 2006 at 3:13 am

    And all children love Santa.
    My daughter pretty much thinks he’s scary, and I don’t think that’s too hard to understand, since, really, a guy in a red suit that doesn’t really talk to other adults is a bit odd. I think the prospect of presents is the only thing that keeps kids going back to Santa. I don’t think in the curent state of society Santa is naturally appealing to kids without being pruposefully brought to think he is in spite of himself.

    If there is nothing beyond what our five senses can prove, then are we anything?
    But what there is beyond our senses is not a jolly elf.
    Since the thread is a bit on the older side, I’ll just make a shameless plug for my longer explanation for my own reasons for being increasingly anti-santi here http://www.splendidsun.com/wp/index.php/2006/12/20/235

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