The Santa Question

12.22.11 What's really behind the magic of the season?


I’ve been doing an informal survey of how parents deal with the Santa Question: Is he real? I was surprised at how sensitive a subject this is. Some people were adamant that telling kids Santa is real is the same as outright lying. These folks also expressed concern about perpetrating a myth about a strangely dressed man breaking into the house and eating the cookies. They thought that could be potentially disturbing for children, even though he’s bringing in gifts instead of stealing them.

Others didn’t take such a hard line and thought the joy they and their children shared through the “whole Santa experience,” was worth the small amount of deception required to carry it off. Others felt like Santa provides a valuable life lesson that teaches children they don’t get to know everything about the grown up world while their little and they should be happy about that. Still others say it’s a great way to allow kids full power over their imaginations and a way to encourage them to fully experience the magic of the season. My take on the Santa question is this: Santa is 100% real.

Since many of you who are pregnant now or just had a baby have never been Santa before, never filled a stocking or made reindeer food (dry oatmeal mixed with cake sprinkles and glitter) to sprinkle in the snow on Christmas Eve, you may not have established your Santa policy yet. Maybe you’re in the camp that vows you’ll never utter a single word other than the absolute truth to your child. I think that’s admirable and idealistic if maybe a little impractical and lacking in imagination (by that I mean, you have no idea what you might find yourself fibbing about in the near future, like what you and Daddy were doing behind that closed door during naptime).

Maybe you’re one who’ll go all out, rent the Santa suit, hire an actor to play the jolly old elf and give your child every gift on her wish list. Maybe you’re unfamiliar with the Santa tradition and wonder what the heck those crazy Americans are up to? It’s the same thing parents all over the world are doing as Father Christmas, Pere Noel, Papa Noel, Julenissen, Pai Natal, Swiety Mikolaj and Ded Moroz. We’re passing along a tradition of indulging our children with gifts and loving every minute of their anticipation and excitement right along with them.

That’s why I say Santa is real. Santa is a tradition passed along from generation to generation all over the world. Santa has history, mystery and spirit along with practical techniques for instilling wonder at the marvels that surround us. Plus, it motivates a code of behavior (naughty versus nice) for children who are wide open to believing that there are real benefits to doing the right thing.

Need proof that Santa is real? The evidence is right there on Christmas morning. Somebody puts those presents out on Christmas Eve. Somebody planned, purchased, made and hid those fabulous toys and goodies. Somebody ate the cookies, drank the milk and left bite marks in the reindeer’s carrot. Somebody who knows when they are sleeping, who knows when they’re awake, who knows if they’ve been bad or good so… As any new parent can attest, they know exactly when their child is finally asleep and just how early and often they wake. They know when they’ve been kind, generous, loving and giving and they know just as well when they’ve been mischievous, obnoxious and downright naughty. They know that no matter what they’ve been like this year, they deserve some presents just because they’re beloved children and we want them to be happy. Who knows this stuff better than Santa? Parents. Sure it requires a degree of faith and suspending disbelief, but don’t worry, you can do it. You can be Santa too, if you just believe.

What about the lying? Life is full of mysteries and none of us get to know all the answers. There’s a big wide range of truths out there and if some of it involves receiving much-wanted gifts and wonderful surprises via a little bit of magic, then so be it. In a way, it’s a little like pregnancy, isn’t it? Will that baby fit through your chimney or will he have to go through the roof? And even though you know exactly where the gift that is your child came from, you still have to wonder: why this child, at this time, to these parents, in this life? There’s some magic there. Allow your imagination some freedom and believe in all the good things in life that come from mysterious sources. Happy Holidays.

Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and five children. Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to and it may be answered in a future blog post."¨

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