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Should We Lie to Kids About Santa Claus?

Should We Lie to Kids About Santa Claus?

I really love Christmas. The tree decorating, the egg nog, the cheesy Hallmark movies – I love it all. And that’s partly due to the fact that I’m lucky enough to have had a lot of great Christmases as a kid. It was a magical time for me growing up and it still is today. So naturally, I always assumed that when and if I had kids, I’d want them to have the kind of Christmases I enjoyed – complete with gifts from Santa.

I don’t have kids yet, but I’m starting to question the whole Santa thing. Linking the magic of Christmas to getting gifts seems overly materialistic to me. And of course, there’s the whole part about Santa not bringing gifts to “naughty” kids. That’s a little insidious for two reasons. First, it begs the question – what about kids whose parents can’t afford a lot of gifts? Are we to assume those kids are naughty? Second, this part of the Santa myth lends itself to being used as a threat. It’s all to easy for parents to tell their kids that Santa won’t bring them anything if they don’t behave. Of course, since I don’t have kids, I haven’t experienced what it’s like when you just need your children to settle down for a few minutes and they’re not listening. Maybe I’d resort to Santa threats, too. But it does strike me as a little disingenuous.

What’s more, the Santa myth isn’t fully in keeping with the way I would want to parent. I think being honest with kids – telling them the truth about life (in a way that they can understand and handle) is important. For example, I never get it when parents are reluctant to allow their kids to participate in sex ed classes. And abstinence education drives me crazy. When kids are at the right age, they can handle the truth about sex – and we should respect them enough to tell them the truth. Is Santa an earlier example of the same method of parenting – a method that doesn’t prioritize being straight with kids when it’s appropriate to do so?

On the other hand, Santa is about the magic of being a kid. Childhood is the only time in life when we can believe in something as outrageous as Santa, so is it unfair to prevent  children from enjoying those fantasies while they can? I’d like to believe that as a parent, I would be able to instill my kids with a sense of wonder about the beautiful things in the real world, but maybe fantasies like Santa help to reinforce that. I enjoyed believing in Santa as a kid and I don’t think I’m any worse off for it.

I recently read a Facebook thread in which a parent explained that she tells her kids the story of the historical Saint Nicholas, puts out the cookies, writes “Santa” on the gift tags, the whole nine yards. But she makes sure to tell her kids that Santa doesn’t actually bring gifts to all the world’s children – that the story is symbolic of the meaning of Christmas. Maybe that’s the way to go.

Clearly, when it comes to Santa, I’m conflicted. Is the story helpful or harmful (or neutral)? What are your thoughts?


Read more: Babies, Children, Christmas, Family, Holidays, Life, , , ,

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Sarah Cooke

Sarah Cooke is a writer living in California. She is interested in organic food and green living. Sarah holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Naropa University, an M.A. in Humanities from NYU, and a B.A. in Political Science from Loyola Marymount University. She has written for a number of publications, and she studied Pastry Arts at the Institute for Culinary Education. Her interests include running, yoga, baking, and poetry. Read more on her blog.


+ add your own
7:26AM PST on Dec 28, 2013

Let's face it, Kids love to hear the myth about Santa, they all eventually realize that he's not real but so what.. kids should have fun when they are young and there's nothing more fun than knowing 'Santa Is Coming'.

You can also ask the same question about God !!

11:36AM PDT on May 1, 2013

This is a hard one. I think it's OK up to a certain age, but once they get older and realize it's a lie, they'll start to think it's OK to lie to people about stuff.

3:56AM PDT on Apr 16, 2013

Hmmmmmm Have to think about it

5:21PM PDT on Apr 8, 2013


1:54PM PDT on Mar 29, 2013


7:24AM PST on Feb 7, 2013

Everyone needs a fairy tale before reality takes over

2:26AM PST on Jan 21, 2013

christmas is magical for children of all ages , my 3 children love it , and yes one is old enough to know the truth , and its still a magical time of year for her , she 14 and the looks on there faces christmas morning ( even tho she knows the truth ) , is as magical as it is for my 2 younger kids , so no there is no harm

5:15PM PST on Dec 26, 2012

Besides its fun, for a while, the believing part is... lololo!

5:13PM PST on Dec 26, 2012

Absolutely! Our politicians lie to us all the time, the difference is, we finally figure out the truth about Santa, and learn from the experience, laugh and continue onward!

2:58AM PST on Dec 23, 2012

Believing is not the problem. The Santa story with all its embellishments is a great one, and
helps children feel secure. The problem is that not all children have parents as thoughtful
as Deborah J.'s Facebook Mom and Dad. So when the time comes to lose the belief, it leaves
an emptiness, an insecurity. Though that Mom and Dad didn't kill the belief in their letter, we
know that that child would have their guidance through the loss.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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Anything that makes you laugh is good for you. And they're cute too! Its a win, win.

Good info thanks.

Tried and true, "laughter is the best medicine." Thanks.

I was happy that I could watch President Obama's eulogy on CBS TV. Obama did a very good job! …


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