The Santa Claus Lie

Is it wrong to teach our children about jolly old St. Nick, and set them up for heartbreak?
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The Santa Claus Lie

Is it wrong to teach our children about jolly old St. Nick, and set them up for heartbreak?

-April Daniels Hussar


I don’t remember ever believing in Santa Claus. My mother believed whole-heartedly until she was quite old – maybe 9 or 10 – and, as she tells me, she was so utterly heartbroken and disillusioned when she found out the truth, that she wanted to spare me from the heartache. So, though I do have a photo of me on Santa’s lap, I think I was too young at the time to really understand who he was supposed to be – and by the time I was old enough, I knew who he wasn’t.

Read Do You Believe in Magic?

My 6-year-old daughter Isabella, on the other hand, is a believer. And this year, her letter to Santa breaks my heart. It’s just a short list with a big note at the top that says, in her sweet, first-grader scrawl: “Dear Santa, What I really want this year is to go for a ride on your sleigh.”

Augh. Instant, wretched mommy-guilt. I immediately began trying to figure out how I could fake that. Of course, I can’t. And it kills me because I know that no matter what we tell her (Oh honey, Santa can’t do that, it’s not fair to the other kids …), she believes in her heart there is a slight possibility that he’ll arrive on Christmas Eve to grant her wish, and whisk her off through the sky in his cozy sleigh, the stars twinkling merry Christmas songs and Rudolph beaming his red nose to guide them all the way to the fairyland at the North Pole.


Earlier today, I asked my husband if he feels bad that we taught Isabella about Santa Claus. “Yes,” he said immediately. “It’s a lie.” He’s worried that when she does find out the truth, she won’t ever believe in magic again. The real kind of magic – which, the way I think he sees it, is the magic of possibility, of miracles, of all the beautiful, unexplainable things in life and beyond.

“So you wish we never told her about Santa?” I asked. “Yeah,” he replied, “I wish we just taught her about The Spirit of Christmas.”

Ah yes, the Spirit of Christmas – a very real and true thing, even for non-religious people like us. And certainly a concept that we’ll try to segue Isabella’s notion of Santa Claus into, because of course Santa really does exist, in a way, if you think of him as a parable, as an embodiment of giving and generosity. It’s just that the truth isn’t as exciting if it doesn’t come wrapped in a red coat and a long white beard, carried on a magical sleigh.

That’s the bald-face lie part. And it’s making me more and more uncomfortable as Isabella gets older that I’m telling her a lie when the rest of the time we teach her to be honest and true.

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0 thoughts on “The Santa Claus Lie

  1. I am a 55 year old gramma to 5 and a mom to 2 of the most wonderful daughters you could ever want..and I still to this day believe in Santa..Santa just like Jesus and God lives everyday in my heart as well as my girls heart. They were made to believe in Santa as well as the spirit of Christmas-the same they instill in their Children..It’s not a bad thing to tell your child of Santa-it is a part of a childs belief. Anything is possible in a childs eye,no matter if it is Santa,the Tooth Fairy,Easter Bunny or even their make believe’s all part of their majical world and in my opiniion something that should never be taken away from them..

    Miricals happen everyday..just look in the eyes of your child..

  2. I remember when I found out there was no Santa Claus. I cried for about 2 days. I found out Santa and the Easter Bunny didn’t exist in the same day. My daddy accidentally said something on Easter when I was 8. But I got over it. Now I cherish the times I believed in Santa. I have a 5 year old little girl and she believes in Santa. When she gets old enough to know there is not an actual Santa we will tell her, but we will also tell her there is a spirit of Santa that is certainly real.

  3. I never told my daughter (she is 5) that there was a Santa or Easter Bunny. She loves Christmas, but by golly…she KNOWS it is me that buys those gifts under the tree…and she works just as hard all year (brushing her teeth using manners etc to get lots of presents.

    Kids seem to have fun at Halloween, no real spooks there so whats it going to hurt to point out that we all pretend each yer that there is a real Santa. I do not lie to my daughter .

  4. april,are you kidding me…santa lives in all the generous and giving people that love and help during the christmas season. all kids eventually figure out that there is no one santa but thousands of them. eventually they figure out that you are santa, the care workers at the shelters are santa, santa claus (#5 above) is santa, etc. and they figure it out seemingly through osmosis. i can’t believe that there is even one person in the world that feels they were lied too and has be permanently hurt, that’s just crazy. santa exists, just not the fairy tail santa.

  5. While working malls and tree dreams around the nation, Santa Claus is often called on to offer a special helping hand. The proof is here: Thanks to helpful Santa Orange County marriage proposal goes well Jonathan Nguyen wanted to make his proposal to his girlfriend special. The two have been dating since 2001. It took the help of a special Santa, but Jonathan managed for making it nice.

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