By Tracy Cassels
The holidays are rolling around and if you live in a Christian-centric culture, chances are you are facing the onslaught of Santa (even though Santa has nothing to do with the Christian religion). Santa is everywhere and it has become somewhat sacrilege to not have children that “believe” in Santa. Yet, many moons ago, my husband and I made the active decision not to raise our kids with this belief. My son is only just 3 and thus has very little awareness of it all, but my daughter is 8 and has never believed Santa is a real person.
This means we get a lot of flack from people who don’t know us or our daughter.
We get accused of being cruel. We are told we’re ruining her imagination. We hear how she will somehow suffer as she looks back at some lost childhood from not believing.
I would like to take this moment to tell you how absolutely, ridiculously wrong these people are in case you, too, are thinking of going this route. I should say, though, that if you choose to do Santa with your kids, that’s wonderful! I have no problems with that whatsoever and for many people, believing was a cherished part of their childhood. For others, finding out the lie was devastating. I don’t know which way individual children will go, but for us it was just the right thing to do in our house. The following are the rebuttals to the many issues that have been raised in response to something that apparently is as bad as feeding children a diet solely of McDonald’s.
The issue of imagination
Folks, imagination is being able to imagine things that aren’t real. It’s not believing in something that you think to be real. When I think about my husband or children or even an older ancestor I may not have met but I have a picture of and know the history about, I’m not really using my imagination. I’m just thinking about something I think is real.
However, my daughter is as into Santa as she can be. She shouts for him at parades, says hi to all the Santas she sees around, talks about him as if he’s real (e.g. the other day she asked, “I thought Santa was nocturnal?”), and so on. She knows he’s not real, but it doesn’t stop her thinking about him and the stories she hears. In fact, given she knows it’s not real, she is arguably using more imagination than those who believe because she’s not tied to a given narrative.
The issue of magic
So many people equate believing in Santa with the magic of Christmastime. Half of these people seem to no longer find it magical now that Santa isn’t real, whereas the other half still find it magical despite knowing Santa isn’t real. In my mind, if Santa is the only thing that makes Christmas magical then you’re doing it wrong. There is so much magic that can be a part of this season, especially when the focus becomes about giving to others and bringing joy to people around you, friends, neighbours, and strangers. This is what we try to focus on during this season, not a fat man who decides if you’ve been good enough for gifts. That’s not magical for us.
The issue of childhood
I have actually had people online suggest not doing Santa ruins a child’s childhood. All I have to say to this is: Do you tell this to Jewish families? Muslim families? Families around the world who don’t live in cultures that celebrate Christmas? Do you really believe their childhoods are “ruined”? If so, then I really don’t think anything I can say would change your mind. If not, think about why my child would be different. I will also add here that my daughter loves being a kid. She’s one of the few I know who has no desire to be older. She just loves every bit about childhood. Even without believing in Santa.