My friend Elizabeth Esther wrote a great post this week that detailed aconversation she had with her son about Santa Claus. In it, she gently guides him through the disappointing realization that Santa isn’t a real person.
I don’t know about you, but I held out on my belief in Santa long after most kids had given it up. In fact, I used some of my Christian apologetics training to defend his existence to my skeptical fourth-grade classmates, arguing that St. Nick was actually one of God’s angels who had been given supernatural powers similar to that of Michael or Gabriel. “You can’t prove Santa’s existence,” I explained. “But his existence is supported by the evidence—nibbled cookies, presents under the tree, the presence of his helpers at every shopping mall in the country.” (Fourth graders are smart enough to notice the fact that there’s a different Santa outside each J.C.Penney.)
Of course, I eventually gave the thing up—but not without a fair amount of bitterness toward my parents (and the local weatherman) for perpetuating the lie. I think the worst part of accepting the truth about Santa is the subsequent concern that the existence of God is also a myth. As a kid, the question crossed my mind momentarily, but didn’t resurface until college, when I started to worry that maybe I’d been brainwashed…about everything.
So, when do you think parents should tell their kids the truth about Santa? How should that conversation go? Is the Santa phenomenon good for our culture? How do we nurture imagination and wonder in children without deceiving them?
When did you realize Santa wasn't real?