Belief in Santa Claus: Dangling by a Thread

When my now 9-year-old “Freckles” was 8, she started to interrogate me about Santa Claus.  “Is he real?”  “How does he get to all the houses in one night?”  “Are you and Daddy actually Santa Claus?”  “The kids in my class say Santa Claus isn’t real.”

Breath held.  Poker face on.  Employ avoidance tactics.  Do not smile.  Brush off the questions.  Delay.  Delay. Delay.  Google, “How to tell your child about Santa Claus,” for when the interrogation continues.

I didn’t know what to do, honestly.  I’d been perpetuating this clever ruse, along with the rest of our Christian culture, for years.  How do I come clean now without seeming like a heartless liar?  Not only that, but how do I handle it considering I have 2 other much younger children?   Hmm….it seemed that she had me between a rock and a hard place.

So I read some beautiful stories online about how to properly tell your child the truth, or some version of it.  Essentially the best thing I found was a way to explain that Santa Claus represents the spirit of giving, and of faith in something or someone greater than yourself ( a perfect tie-in to Christian beliefs in Jesus and his self-sacrifice for the greater good.)

Santa Claus is an excellent way to give Christian children a tangible expression of Jesus’ love and sacrifice- that we are all the beneficiaries of that inexplicable selfless gift.  Just as children reap the benefits of physical gifts from this “Santa Claus,” a man they have never known, Christians experience the gift of Jesus’ love and self-sacrifice.  And so, it is only natural for parents to do the work of “Santa Claus” and take on the responsibility of demonstrating the value of giving and of self-sacrifice.

I also know that there really is magic in this world, and Santa Claus shows us how to believe in it.  If you can look up in the sky and see an infinite selection of stars, there is magic.  If you can see the beauty of the world and its creatures and appreciate your family and friends through all of life’s trials and tribulations, then my goodness, there is magic indeed.

Of course, words often betray me when they come out of my mouth, so in talking to my daughter about Santa Claus, I’m pretty sure the above message (already kinda murky in its own right), was lost.  She continued her line of questioning, “So you are saying that for all these years, you and Daddy have been Santa Claus all along?”

Back-peddle.  Regroup.  “No, honey.  No one person can ever be Santa Claus.”  Right?  “Because we all need to continue to teach the spirit of giving to each other – at Christmastime and always.  To teach each other to believe in the magic that is all around us.”  Yes, that sounded better.

But then she mocked, “So, you’re getting me the presents, basically?” in a groaning, disappointed voice.  Tired of the charade, I crumbled and sighed, “Yes, basically.  But it’s your job to help keep the spirit alive, for all of us, but especially for your little sisters.  Can you keep this a secret and not tell them what we just said?”  Her reply, “I guess so.”  Me, frustrated: “No, not ‘I guess so.’  If you tell your sisters, you will be in trouble and you will get no presents at all.  Do you understand?”

Ugh.  Could that have gone worse?  I felt aggravated by my inability to handle this.  But, I tried to stay calm, to show her I loved her and let her feel that now we had this special secret, just between us.

I remember I was about her age when I found out about Santa.  A curious kid, I stealthily got into my parents’ closet and lo’ and behold – all of our Christmas presents were there in plain sight (well, some were in bags, but I did snoop further.)  Of course, being a little brat, the first thing I did was run and get my younger brother and show him what I had discovered, so I could ruin the magic for both of us.  But we were caught red-handed; my mom found us in her closet staring at all of our gifts.  And man, she was mad.

I think I was sent to my room, or maybe I huffed and pouted my way to my room on my own.   I don’t quite remember.  I do remember sitting at my desk with my diary and beginning an angry message about how wrong my parents were to lie to us.  But then the words were clouded with another feeling – a feeling of – oh my gosh – our parents got us all of those presents!  How nice of them!  They must really love us!  And I thought about all of the memories I had of Christmas together with my family.  And I felt this overwhelming joy.  Even as a kid, I did actually get it.  Years went by and every year, I still pretended that “Santa Claus” brought me all of those gifts.  Because the magic of it was just too much fun to give it up!

So, last year, I hoped and prayed that ultimately, my little Freckles would get it too.  I hoped that she would hold tight to the magic and the spirit of Christmas just as I did.   To my surprise, she has.  Seemingly oblivious to our conversation last year, she is wonderfully and amazingly attached to the spirit of Christmas – of Santa Claus and everything that goes along with him.  It is an amazing miracle to behold.






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