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Is It Good or Bad to Tell Children That Santa Claus Is a Myth?

Chuck enjoys celebrating holidays with his family. This has led to an interest in researching & writing about holidays & their traditions.

Don't Spoil the Fun of Childhood

What is to be gained from telling a child that Santa Claus is a myth?

After all, childhood is a time of discovery and learning for children and the existence of the unseen and unexplainable add spice to the mystery and wonder of life. What is to be gained by spoiling this?

As writer Frank Church wrote on the pages of the New York Sun in his classic 1897 response to eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon's question about whether Santa Claus was real:

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.

Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

A Santa Claus Dressed in White

A Santa Claus Dressed in White

Myths and stories have been a part of the human experience since the dawn of time and have often been a means of transmitting values and culture to children.

What better way to instill the idea of generosity and selfless giving than by the example of a stranger from the distant North coming in the night and leaving gifts for children who have been good while asking for nothing of material value in return?

This is not only a perfect example of sharing and generosity but also an opportunity for children to reflect on their behavior and incentive to actively strive to practice good behavior for at least the few days or weeks before Christmas.

A Santa Claus Jack-in-the-Box

A Santa Claus Jack-in-the-Box

St. Nicholas Was a Real Person

Technically, Santa Claus is not entirely a myth as he is the modern American personification of the real life fourth century bishop Nicholas of Myra (located in modern Turkey), who has long been recognized as a saint in the Roman Catholic, Orthodox and some other Churches and whose feast day is celebrated on December 6th.

As a bishop, Nicholas was known for his kindness and generosity and, following his death, numerous stories sprung up about him reappearing and helping those in need.

For centuries, St. Nicholas Day has been a holiday in much of Europe and other parts of the world. It has also been a day in which St. Nicholas appears, sometimes in the form of an adult dressing as a fourth century bishop and dispensing little gifts to children and sometimes secretly in the night, leaving gifts for children.

Christmas Lawn Decoration featuring Santa Claus, His Reindeer Rudolph and an Elf

Christmas Lawn Decoration featuring Santa Claus, His Reindeer Rudolph and an Elf

As a Child I Not Only Believed in Santa Claus but the Easter Bunny & Tooth Fairy As Well

As one who was raised believing in Santa Claus and who continued the tradition with my own children, I fail to see any harm in this.

As very young children my brothers and sisters and I were strong believers of the existence of both Santa Claus as well as the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy.

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As I got older I began to see some logical inconsistencies in the stories about these characters.

I questioned in my mind why it took my grandmother hours to fly from New York to Florida (and this was before the airlines used jets) while Santa Claus was able to get around the entire world in one evening on reindeer power and the Easter Bunny was able make the trip on his own by hopping?

What's more, how could Santa fit enough toys for every child in the world into a single sleigh?

Also, if Santa and his elves made his own toys in his North Pole workshop, why did he feel it necessary to put them in the same packages as similar toys in the stores?

For a while, as reason and logic caused me to doubt the existence of Santa Claus, et al, I continued to believe on the basis faith alone.

Santa Claus on Snow Shoes

Santa Claus on Snow Shoes

Santa Claus Remained a Part of Our Christmas Celebrations Even After I Learned the Truth About Him

However, there came a point when it was obvious that, no matter how much I wanted to believe, I had to accept the fact that Santa Claus,the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy did not exist.

My mother confirmed my discovery but encouraged me to continue to play along for the benefit of my younger siblings (I was the oldest) which I did.

Upon learning the truth about Santa and the others, I was neither devastated nor felt that I had been deceived by my parents with what I now knew to be a myth.

Quite the contrary. I realized that my Christmases and Easters past had been richer and more enjoyable as a result of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Further, I realized that, in using my intellect to see the truth behind this myth, I was becoming more mature.

When my mother saw that I had figured it out and invited me to join her and my father in perpetuating the mystery for the sake of my younger siblings, I didn't feel that I had been deceived, rather I felt that I had reached a milestone on my road to adulthood and was starting the long process of maturing and being accepted as an adult.

Even after my youngest sister, learned the truth about Santa Claus all of us continued to hang our stockings on Christmas Eve and to not only receive an orange and some candy in the stocking but also an age appropriate gift from Santa Claus under the tree on Christmas morning. This continued in my parent's home until each of us graduated from college and left home.

I Continued the Tradition With My Own Children

I continued the tradition when my children came along, even going so far as to throw in St. Nicholas Day as well.

Like me, my oldest son eventually figured out that Santa Claus and the others were not real but continued to enjoy the candy and gifts and helped to keep the myth alive for his younger brother. When my youngest figured out what was going on he simply switched from being the surprised little boy to my helper in keeping the custom alive in our home right down to the leaving of a plate with Christmas cookies and a glass of milk out for Santa who continued to consume each year after filling the stockings on Christmas Eve.

When I remarried four years ago and brought my new Russian wife and her two children to our home, we introduced them to our St. Nicholas Day, Christmas and Easter customs which included St. Nicholas, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

My two new children and wife enjoyed finding candy in their shoes on St. Nicholas morning, candy and an orange in their stockings on Christmas morning and a hidden basket of candy for each on Easter morning.

While my two new children knew that Santa Claus and the others were not real, they were wrong in their assumption that I was the one who left the candy in their shoes and stockings and hid their Easter baskets.

With a new wife awaiting me in the bedroom, I was not about to stay up late to fill stockings and indulge in Christmas cookies and milk.

Instead I choose to retire at my usual time and left the job of filling stockings and consuming the cookies and milk he had left out earlier to my then 17-year-old youngest son, who a few years before had made the smooth transition from believer in Santa Claus to accomplice in keeping the tradition and myths alive.

Santa Claus sitting by his fireplace waiting for little children to come.

Santa Claus sitting by his fireplace waiting for little children to come.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2007 Chuck Nugent

Comments

joem789 on December 13, 2014:

I was raised on Santa Claus. It certainly put me in a bubble every December. Which of course fueled the bubble for every other holiday. I didn't figure out Santa wasn't real until I was 13 years old when on Xmas Eve I heard my dad getting presents out of the attic. Sure. I was disappointed. But I look back and realize all the sense of entitlement it put inside of me. And more. In other words, nothing good came from the Santa Claus myth.

I am 42 now and learned a long time ago that Santa wasn't a good thing. Our two youngest have never been told Santa was real. And they are 5 and 7. They get the TRUTH 100% of the time. And the thing is, they have more faith and trust in me than I ever had in my parents. I find it hard to respect my parents. Because I believe that anyone who would trick their kids into believing in Santa would lie to their kids often. There will be zero respect and trust in that relationship.

We are supposed to have respect for the TRUTH. So much so that no worldly tradition could break our stance. I feel sorry for all the clueless children out there that don't have the chance to live a childhood of TRUTH. Instead they get fed lies.

OhMyMaple0701 on November 26, 2013:

Actually, taking a look at the story of Christ, there are so many historical inaccuracies it's unbelieveable. Quite honestly, Santa Claus was what I looked forward to every single December, because to me Santa Claus meant magic. It meant spirit days of red and green at school, alongside getting dressed up for a play in the gym on the last day before winter break. Santa Claus was the reason I got up early, excited and unable to wait until the coffee was ready (my parents always made my brother and I wait until they had a cup of coffee before we could all start opening gifts). It meant that the santa hat we had was passed around so everyone got a chance to choose out a gift from under the tree and read the nametag out, before giving it to who it was for. Santa Claus is what makes me sad when I remember those feelings of magic, because now I know they won't be there. It's something I've been in helping my brother with for my niece, so she can remember that same magic that we both loved. Yes, you may be of a religion, but really, is it worth taking all that magic and mystery away from your children just to tell them a truth about another person we don't know was even real? Why can't you combine the fact that Santa Claus comes on the 25th and the 'truth' of this Christ child's birth?

Brian on September 28, 2012:

Really....who cares if children believe in Santa Claus? That's part of being a kid. It's a rite of passage. It's not "harmful" to anyone's psyche. It's a great part of being a kid. Quite honestly, I'm astounded that some of you here have negative things to say about children believing in Santa, that we are "lying and deceiving" our kids. WRONG. It's just a part of being a kid. I wasn't angry when I found out, as I became older the puzzle pieces started to fit. In fact, looking back on my childhood, I actually MISS believing in Santa because it was fun. I can't believe this is even a discussion and people are debating it. Believing in Santa is a great part of childhood. If you want to strip your children of happy memories to look back on, be my guest. When I have kids, they will absolutely believe Santa is real.

Britt on August 07, 2012:

Thank you for keeping the tradition and the faith in hope and magic alive. I'll never understand this belief that Santa is dangerous. I've known anyone who regretted believing. It's a wonderful tradition and adds to the joy of the season.

Robert on March 12, 2012:

He's as real as Mickey Mouse and however you want to look at it, that's why I still go to Disneyland every other year even at the age of 50 something, and still wave to Mickey.

FullOfLoveSites from United States on February 20, 2012:

Very well written...thumbs up!!!

Norman C CARR on February 06, 2012:

For all of you who say theres no Santa ask yourself how do you know that a God who created the world in six days six thousand years ago