In second grade I asked my mom how Santa could make so many public appearances on such a tight schedule. Not every Santa was the actual Santa, she said, they were just guys that the real Santa asked to help him out. How logical, I thought, Santa is a busy man.
That’s the sort of loving lie parents tell their kids about Santa. It’s a pretty easy lie to tell. An ingrained part of our culture, talking to kids about Santa feels, if you think about it, weirdly normal. Letting children use their imaginations to conjure this image is healthy, psychologists argue, saying that the practice is what will later help them dream up inventions and other big ideas. Similarly, fairy tales have been shown to be an effective and more meaningful way to teach children morals; the naughty-or-nice list becomes a guide to growing up to be a decent person. Even if your goodness is derived from a fear of not receiving a Furby.
Yet, about 54 percent of children, myself included, find out the truth from someone who’s not a parent. About three weeks before Christmas, a fellow 8-year-old told me the deal. I laughed him off. No Santa? You’re crazy. If Santa wasn’t real, then how could there be carrot leftovers at the bottom of our chimney that he clearly threw back down after bringing them up to the roof to feed his reindeer? The same carrots I carefully laid out alongside some Nutri-Grain bars because my grandpa said Santa was trying to be a little healthier that year.
While not enough to break my resolve, he had planted a seed of doubt. Before school the next morning, I asked my mom the hefty question, stopping her before we got in the car. She walked over, sat me down, and gave the sweetest reply: “Santa was once a real person, and now we honor him by giving thoughtful gifts to the people we love most. He’s a feeling in our hearts.” Yeah I know, I thought, Santa is a feeling in my heart and also an elderly obese man who writes me back every Christmas. Seeing that I clearly wasn’t getting it, she took a breath and said, “But no, Santa is not real.”
Then I lost it. (Sarah Sloat, “Is Santa Claus worth the heart-break,” Salon.com)
- - - - -
I hate stories about Santa not being real. It's as if we're all—outside of childhood — living in a world that is "faerie / demon" free. This whole Santa-isn't-real reveal is just a ritual we do to convince ourselves we see things outside of this magic-saturated early period of our lives, in a sober, strictly denatured manner.
Does this sound Reagan looking upon USSR?
Does this sound tea-bagger?
Does this sound democrat Slate-founder Michael Kinsley saying austerity is good because we all need toeat more spinach?
Does this sound our need for banks, army, homeless, leaders — archetype "institutions," which blink half-real all the time, as if we've deposited some part of our own psyches into deadly outside form?
Aboriginals see their own "Santas," their own imaginings, the whole of their lives. Half of their lives is indeed going into uber-lucid dream states. We're less than this, but it's still in us. Consider this the next time you feel reborn in the New Year: an elf on the shelf spent a heck of a lot of time watching you and decided you'd earned a pass: thereby only, the refresh. You appeased the demon. You appeased the demon. And so you get a second chance.
* * *
I have never understood why otherwise honest folks would choose to lie to their own children about the existence of a fantasy creature, why folks think it is "cruel" to tell their own children the truth? I cannot remember ever believing that some supernatural being brought me my toys, I always knew my parents were the gift givers, though we played along with the charade but more as a joke than anything else.
I have instituted a policy of honesty with my own children, when they asked me about Santa, I replied that he was "real" as a concept, as a symbol but not as a real living person, I told them that he was an imaginary being that exalted the idea of giving.
I would never lie to my own children.
@BoshSpong What a boring, tiny little person you are! So kids should never have any kind of fantasy in their lives and be trained to think (like the early Puritans) that reading fiction will lead them to hell because stories are "lies"?
Let'em have Santa for a few years. They'll figure it out on their own, and for MOST kids, they adjust to it nicely. It's the parents that freak out.
Sort of like you are.
@Aunt Messy @BoshSpong Why are you confusing the issue. No one is against fantasy. Some people are simply against lying to impressionable youths for no good reason.
There is nothing wrong with telling endless, arguably-valuable tales about a christmas myth, so long as it is made clear that it is a myth, not reality.
@Pain_In_The_Agnostic @Aunt Messy @BoshSpong I also like how people who defend the Santa lie always frame those of us who don't want to lie to kids as boring, tiny minded or somehow scrooge like.
I don't think it's right for adults to spread lies to children, but that has nothing to do with whether I enjoy fantasy, I love the colored lights, giving & getting gifts & all the parties. People who know me in person never describe me as boring, and I get along very well with kids of the age that the Santa lie is aimed at.
@Pain_In_The_Agnostic @Aunt Messy @BoshSpong You don't quite win here, PainInTheAgnostic. Christmas may not be foisting anything onto children. The end of the year may naturally draw them to recall a rebirth ritual, something experienced as more than real, owing to it having been ground into their psyches when they first became conscious.
If Santa is the chubby blood-red fetus going down his birth chimney attached to his placental bag — if it's themselves, at their earliest and most impressionable state, recalled — telling kids he isn't real or not telling them at all "abjects" them worse than leaving end of year as if something normally lost but always more important wasn't making its presence once-again known.
* * *
Truth exists in many forms. If fact and truth were synonymous, we would all be much poorer. The idea that something that is not literally, tangibly factual must therefore be untrue is so facile that any intelligent, educated adult should be ashamed to utter it.
I figured out that Santa was not literally real on my own, through evidence and reason. It was one of the small triumphs of my early life, and superb training for life in an adult world stinking with convenient fictions and collective delusions.
Grown ups need more experience learning that things you want to be true aren't true just because you really wish they were — not less.
@Amity You are spinning my fragile little mind :)
Are you saying that institutional lying about the actual existence of Santa coming down a chimney and leaving gifts is a form of "fiction" and therefore constructive or are you saying it is "not fiction" but just an acceptable lie that doesn't do damage or that the "idea of Santa," put forth as a fictional story to pass on a moral concept is "a good thing?"
Inquiring minds want to know…
@Amity You are so fucked up I don't know where to start. First with the "noble" Puritans, then with the shite about never reading fiction.....
Really, what can one do?
Please, please tell me that you're sterile. There aren't enough therapists on the planet to deal with the way you'd fuck up your kids.
Oh.....that was from a poem. Don't worry your little head about it.
I wish you had more experience of parents who did "Santa" because they were utopians. Imagine if the reason parents did this was because they wanted to ground their kids with the possibility that life could be about wonder (another hippie 1960s, anyone?), before the inevitable takeover into the-rest-of-the-prosaic-world-insisted, sobriety-reality. This would be so awesome of them!
You make it seem as if some heavy blanket smothered over them that if kids peel off, then already prepared, world's foes will be faced that much more confidently. This is good, but still a lot of going the other way than I'd wish it.
Emporium / Patrick McEvoy-Halston
* * *
BONUS! -- some of the rest of that interesting thread:
* * *
BONUS! -- some of the rest of that interesting thread:
I had this "conflict" with my wife when our children were young. I was never raised with a delusional belief that Santa was real, yet my wife was, or at least thought it was a sweet traditional ruse appropriate for children.
I felt that such institutional lying to children, with the inevitable "reveal," instilled a deep mistrust in "adults," "parents" in particular. It seemed indoctrinating children with the idea that adults could lie to them so convincingly was borderline abusive or at least cruel.
It also required lies upon lies, making sure no other "non-believing minors" let the cat out of the bag. That in turn creates wedges between children, some feeling more mature than others, breeding an intellectual divide at a time when we are struggling to teach reality-based foundations for knowledge and education.
Additionally, I felt it disempowered parents, giving credit to an outside party for the gifts and generosity of christmas. The look of shock on my son's face when he realized it was "us" who gave him all those presents over the years... he knew how wrong it was to give credit to a fantasy man.
And all for a meaningless moment of fantasy-thinking, with no purpose other than to cloud the minds of children with quasi-religous dogma, that no one believes will last past the age of 10…
That said, this is not a rant against christmas -- I think the spirit of the holiday, it's focus on charity, giving and love is wonderful. I just think there is nothing lost when "Santa" is merely acknowledged as an idea rather than an actual person.
@Pain_In_The_Agnostic You never read fiction, do you?
@Aunt Messy @Pain_In_The_Agnostic Huh? Do you believe "fiction" is normally presented as truth?
That is the definition of fiction -- you are aware it is not real and that is where the fantasy comes in. Telling kids "Santa is real" is not fiction. It is lying.
You may be fine with that, I wasn't, yet I still appreciated the "fantasy" of christmas. I never said don't mention santa, just mention him as an embodiment of an idea (fictitious) not some "magical" religious poppycock figure.
As someone noted above, the lie of Santa is religious-faith-indoctrination and that is probably why you are so defensive about reality-based thinking...
"Telling kids "Santa is real" is not fiction. It is lying."
Right, like saying that Ebenezer Scrooge hated Christmas until, haunted by his past, he had a change of heart, is also a dirty, dirty lie.
Because that never actually happened. So you shouldn't talk about it like it did.
No I mean it. I'm totally serious. Children have no capacity to distinguish fantasy from fact anyway. Our noble Puritan forebears had the right idea.
@Amity Nobody thinks or tells their children that Ebenezer Scrooge or the fox who couldn't get the grapes "exists" or that he visits the family.
@Amity Your "noble" Puritan forefathers escaped England five minutes ahead of the axe BECAUSE they were so freakishly religious the English kicked them out!
Quit being an idiot.
There was no "nobility" there. Those twits were the last of Cromwell's troops - who were responsible for slaughtering their own countrymen for the sake of a piece of the Host.
Talk about a fantasy life!
@Amity "Children have no capacity to distinguish fantasy from fact anyway."
How absurd. Have you EVER met a child? My 3 year old "eats" pretend invisible food. She knows its not real!!
Oh wait, I think I am detecting satire??
"You never read fiction, do you?"
Aunt Messy. Fiction is lies. Don't you understand?
Just like music encourages dancing and dancing encourages you to touch and hold the hands of people to whom you are not married -- another lie.
Anyone who dances, listens to music -- especially music with lying lyrics -- or reads fiction is unfit to be a parent. They will raise children with the capacity to grasp and understand things that are not literally, tangibly true -- who can imagine things that are different from lived experience -- and then where will we all be?
@Amity You know why Baptists never have sex standing up, don't you?
It might lead to dancing.
You are HILARIOUS! Please tell me this is parody!
No one is as disgustingly foul as you are, surely....