Christmas is around the corner, and with Christmas comes the pop culture icon Santa Claus, which raises some serious issues for me. Elliot is two this year, which makes it the first time he really understands Christmas. Already Elliot knows who Santa is. This does not bother me, in itself. The idea of Santa is deeply embedded in our culture and Elliot should be aware of the idea. The problem is that Elliot does not know that Santa is not real.

I try not to lie.Of course, I do lie all the time because not doing so would devastate the other person and the lie does little damage. But it makes me feel wrong when I do that. I do try to only ask questions for which I really want to know the answer so that others are not put in that position. I try even harder not to mislead Elliot, even when it would be more convenient. This causes my dilemma, I know that Santa is not real. How can I let Elliot believe that there really is a Santa? How can I not let Elliot believe that there really is a Santa?

The idea of Santa a nice one. Some guy you have never meet comes to your house and leaves presents, no strings attached. The idea adds a bit of magic to Christmas. Also, there is something amazingly innocent about believing in Santa and innocence is something we value in our children. On the other hand, I believe that Christmas is magical because the people near you make it so. In some ways, off-loading the magic on to some fantasy creature trivializes the spirit of Christmas.

Which still leaves me with my dilemma. How do I reconcile my desire to not mislead my children with my desire to have them fit in with the culture around them?

2 thoughts on “Santa

  1. A two-year old doesn’t really distinguish between fantasy and reality the same way adults do. Whether Santa is real or not is a non-issue for a couple years yet. As to Santa’s bringing presents… that can be trickier. My son just turned three and I find myself asking the same questions you are.

    The way I’ve dealt with Santa so far is not to shy away from telling stories about him or that involve him, but also not to do anything that contributes to the Santa hype. So far Santa and the gifts are just a small part of the whole Christmas experience, and I aim to keep it that way. Stories we read or songs we sing with our son may tell about Santa bringing gifts, but we don’t turn around and tell our son that Santa’s bringing *him* presents. We just matter-of-factly move onto the next story or song. If his grandparents sign gifts “From Santa,” it should be no stranger to him than if were to get presents from any other characters he reads about. Because again, whether Santa is “real” is a total non-issue for kids this age.

    Now, as he gets older I don’t know how we’ll handle it, but I hope that we can just keep doing the same thing with minor variations: yes, Santa’s there but is not a big part of the season.

  2. Sam, you are certainly correct that two year olds do not understand reality and fantasy the same way that adults do. In fact, Elliot barely understands Christmas this year.

    This whole delimma actually has very little to do with my son directly. After all, he is quite unlikely to remember anything before the age of five by the time he is an adult. And I do not think that him believing in Santa, or not, will damage him. It is more a matter of how one should implement one’s system of morals. And in this case my moral system is in conflict with itself. (It occurs to me now that the conflict might indicate a bug. :)

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