Could it be . . . Santa?

December 15, 2003 | 16 comments
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In the spirit of Kaimi’s Christmas themed post, I offer another musing on the season. My wife Cirila and I have a two-year old. He is just becoming aware of Christmas-time and all the stuff that goes with it. As a result, Cirila and I have been trying to forge a unified front on the all-important issue of Santa Claus.

As I see it, there are three approaches:

1) Teach him the myth — Santa comes down the chimney (or fire-escape or garbage chute for us apartment dwellers) and delivers toys for good boys and girls based on what he learns from them at the local mall.

2) Tell him the truth — Santa is the embodiment of the joy of giving and a symbol of the season. Have fun with it, kid, but Mom and Dad are the ones you need to butter up. That guy with the Santa suit at the ward Christmas party is the bishop.

3) The “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach — Let him pick up what he will from his peers and TV and whatnot, but neither encourage the myth nor explicitly disavow it. When asked, just shrug or say “what do you think?”

For those with kids (or not) — which do you do?

I have heard some (well, one) Mormon mother argue that because faith in God is the fundamental thing she’s trying to teach her kids, it would be too confusing to also teach or even encourage a belief in Santa. In other words, if Mom fools them with Santa, won’t they think that God is just another one of Mom’s comforting stories?

Now that seems too Grinch-y for me, but is there something to it? Will Santa Claus undermine a child’s will to believe?

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16 Responses to Could it be . . . Santa?

  1. Russell Arben Fox on December 15, 2003 at 6:38 pm

    You leave out approach 4): Teach him that Santa Claus (Father Christmas, Weihnachtsmann, St. Nicholas, Grandfather Frost, the Ghost of Christmas Present, etc.) exists. I’ve no reason to believe he doesn’t. I mean, maybe the guy was translated. Granted, I can’t identify any one specific gift that he has ever personally delivered to our home, but then again, I hear about anonymous and practically miraculous gifts being received all the time, and to try to disprove the supernatural agency which may or may not have been behind each and any one of those events seems to me a strange use of one’s time. Frankly, I think there’s far more support for a belief in Santa Claus than there is for a belief in the continued existence of John the Baptist or the Three Nephites.

    Our girls are seven, three and newborn. When and if any of them ever asks me directly who obtained for them some particular present, I’ll answer truthfully. And when and if any of them ever ask me if there is a Santa Claus, I’m going to say “yes,” because I think there is. It’s a reasonable belief, I think.

  2. Kaimi on December 15, 2003 at 6:41 pm

    I have taught them about Santa. I think they figure these things out when they need to. Sullivan’s conception of the difference between real and pretend is evolving and getting more nuanced, it’s fun to watch.

  3. clark on December 15, 2003 at 6:58 pm

    Actually I think learning that there is a “false reality” is an important thing for kids to learn. So long as you catch it before it gets too far, I don’t see the problem. Kids eventually have to learn that not everything that is said is true.

    As for things getting out of hand. I must confess that at age 6 I’d become convinced that Santa was actually Jesus as only Jesus could do the miracles that Santa had to do. (i.e. get in all those houses in a single night) Probably that’s when telling the kid is appropriate…

  4. Greg on December 15, 2003 at 7:08 pm

    That’s so great Clark — even at six the thinker in you was reasoning things out from a standpoint of faith. As for me at age six, I was just thinking that Santa must get a very early start to his day.

  5. Nate on December 15, 2003 at 7:14 pm

    I remember hanging on to belief in Santa for quite some time as a child. I wasn’t really convinced that he existed, but I figured it might be dangerous to affirmatively reject the possibility of his existence. (I might lose all those presents!) Not Clark-style theology, but a kind of Pascal’s wager nevertheless.

    FWIW, my parents never really made claims about Santa, but they did insist on the existence of Clyde, Santa’s helper elf, who was the one who visited our home.

  6. Kaimi on December 15, 2003 at 7:28 pm

    I’m okay with Nate making a Pascal’s wager at age 6, as long as he wasn’t calling it a Pascal’s wager. :) If he knew what it was at that age, I would be a little worried, and would suggest that he spend more time thinking about what his presents were going to be.

  7. clark on December 15, 2003 at 8:25 pm

    Actually my best questionable logic moment as a kid was when I became convinced that the basement was haunted. (After going downstairs to turn off the TV at the insistence of my parents only to find a rather horrible scene in a horror movie was on) Our basement was only partially finished so you can get the idea. Well one day I decide I want to move my room to the basement for a change. (Plus it had an old Queen bed down there and lots of shelves) Well I do this but the sound of the clothes washer, exposed pipes and so forth begin scaring the heck out of me.

    Well I reasoned that the ghosts weren’t real. But they were dangerous. So what else wasn’t real, but dangerous? G I Joe, of course. So I got as many G I Joe figures and their equivalents and set up a perimeter around the room. Lots of hidden sniper posts, machine gun turrets, mine fields and commandos ready to leap on the ghosts. Since they weren’t real I figured they were on the same terms as the ghosts and could really “lay down the law.” Worked like a charm. The ghost was scared to heck and never came back.

    You see? I was in danger of scholastic philosophy even back then…

  8. Jim on December 15, 2003 at 9:53 pm

    We played along with Santa when our children were young and they seem to have done well in spite of it. I like the fantasy and I thin it is harmless or even positive. Nevertheless, my second son and his wife have decided to be completely honest with their daughter about Santa. As far as I can tell, the only problem she has as a result is that she has a difficult time avoiding the temptation to tell her friends. Sort of like when my father gave me the sex talk when I was in the second grade. (I don’t remember why, but he must have had a reason; it came complete with anatomic illustrations.) He made me promise that I wouldn’t tell anyone else, but I couldn’t resist. The result was embarassment for him when I told everyone in my class about it–and got most of the details alarmingly wrong.

  9. Adam Greenwood on March 3, 2004 at 4:11 pm

    Russell,
    You have liberated me. Now that I realize I can, I willingly join you as a tentative believer.

  10. Russell Arben Fox on March 3, 2004 at 5:13 pm

    Adam,

    Welcome aboard. We’re a small movement, resisting the disenchantment of the age, but we’re passionate. If C.S. Lewis can put Santa Claus in his Narnia stories, then darn it if that isn’t good enough for me.

  11. Nate Oman on March 3, 2004 at 5:22 pm

    Does resisting the disenchantment of the age also involve rejecting the germ theory of disease or the chemical treatment of depression?

  12. Adam Greenwood on March 3, 2004 at 5:31 pm

    Nate,
    Yes, it does. When I go to the doctor, I go knowing full well that it is the the modern age that has forced him into this pretence of ‘science’ and ‘germs.’ He is in reality an acolyte of the ancient east, dispensing magic fluids dipped from the well of the sun. Sorry to disillusion you.

  13. Nate Oman on March 3, 2004 at 5:37 pm

    Devastated…

  14. Russell Arben Fox on March 3, 2004 at 5:38 pm

    I believe acupuncture and various other folk remedies do in fact cure many diseases, if that’s what you mean. Also, divining for water with a rod works. My dad has employed diviners to look for water on land he’s purchased on several occasions.

  15. Greg Call on March 3, 2004 at 5:54 pm

    I’ll second Russell’s belief in acupuncture and divining for water, and add that I also believe in mother’s intuition, feng shui, and (in honor of the season) my lucky Mets socks, not stepping on the chalkline, and the curse of the Bambino.

  16. Adam Greenwood on March 3, 2004 at 6:09 pm

    I wasn’t aware that a chastened belief in Santa Claus required believing in herbal remedies and so on. Although, for the record, I do believe in mother’s intuition, father knows best, and the curse of the Bambino. As an American, I put no stock in feng shui.

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