Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Santa: To Believe or Not to Believe

A query from a concerned agnostic parent about whether or not to do the Santa Claus with his daughter thing prompted a very interesting thread over at Ask MetaFilter.

Many of the initial posts equated promotion of the Santa myth with lying, but more nuanced arguments emerged later about what really constitutes "lying" to children. Others brought up the role of make-believe as a healthy component of child development and suggested too much realism might be just as bad as too much fantasy.

In any case, this thread took me from ambivalence to leaning toward Santa if I ever wind up having kids. Of course, I'm still ambivalent about having kids in the first place, so it may be a moot point.

My upbringing figures into this, too. I was raised with Santa and believed in him until I was about six. An older kid down the street told me he snuck out of bed on Christmas Eve and saw his dad putting "Santa's" gifts under the tree. After thinking about that for awhile, I gradually realized there was no way one guy could do all the stuff Santa was supposed to do in just one night. Then I asked my mom about it and she confirmed my suspicions.

I don't remember being particularly upset by this revelation. I also don't remember feeling any resentment toward my parents or anyone else for "lying" to me about Santa. My mom told me not to go around telling other kids who still believed that there was no Santa because it was mean.

Every year, there's a story in the paper about how some poor public school teacher (I've noticed this never happens at private schools) let it slip that there's no Santa. This year's story took place in Richardson, and while it's pretty clear the teacher intended no malice, the parental uproar that followed forced the school district to issue an embarrassing press release saying Santa talked to the teacher to prove he's real after all.

At that point, it's more about preserving the parents' lost innocence.

1 comment:

Dan said...

Hopefully, before telling the class about Santa she read a statement saying that Santa is just a theory, that there are alternative theories about how the presents get there, and that there is much historical evidence that present-day Santa theory cannot explain.