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Christmas time is looming and I am currently having a debate with a co-worker on the topic in the question title.

She believes that you should tell your child from a very early age that there are a number of different things that people believe about religion etc... Including the fact that Father Christmas is not real, and is simply made up by the parents.

I am a firm believer that the child will eventually come to the realization by themself when they get to a certain age and will be happy to have had the whole 'Father Christmas Experience'.

What is the general concensus on this?

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Is Father Christmas (ie, Santa) a religious topic? Anyways, there's no general consensus on it. –  DA01 Oct 3 '12 at 15:37
    
@DA01: Well, Christmas itself is a religious event so it kinda follows from there - even if many people don't put much religious meaning into it. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Oct 5 '12 at 7:05
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What? Father Christmas isn't real? –  KitFox Oct 5 '12 at 10:24
    
But my stocking still gets filled every year! Who told you that? He's real and its crazy to think otherwise! –  balanced mama Nov 21 '12 at 4:29

8 Answers 8

It is very important for me that my son learn to understand the world as (I believe) it is. I believe there is no Santa (and very likely no God), so I try very hard to let him not get indoctrinated by these fairy tales, and if I tell or read them to him, or he tells me that someone told him such a fantasy, I explain that they are not true and why people made them up. This is important to me, just as it is important for me that my son understands that there are no monsters, that the earth is not flat, and that white people are not superior to colored people.

I believe that our world, even from an "agnostic" perspective, is so full of magic and wonder, that there really is not need to make anything up. Imagination is a powerful thing, and it is fun to play "make believe", but I strongly despise the delusions that are part of our culture.

As you see, the question for me is not, if letting a child believe in Santa Clause is harmless, but wether or not you want your child to grow up in an atmosphere of supersition, or in an atmosphere of scepticism. Our world is full of people who refuse to think for themselves and prefer to believe the lies that they are fed by the media. I want my child to learn to think and to find his own truth. So I teach him to question generally held truths. And Father Christmas is just one tool for me to teach him to use his mental abilities.

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I've struggled with this myself. I make every effort never to lie to my kids (boy 8, girl 5) and yet we tell them about Santa (and the Easter bunny, tooth mouse, etc.). Some day I may have to justify this to them while getting upset with them for lying.

In the end, while I admit it is a lie, it's done with no intent to deceive or harm. In fact, we do it only to add a bit of wonder and joy to their world. They'll realize soon enough that the world can be a pretty dull and uninspiring place without an imagination. I think its justifiable.

Besides... I still believe in Santa. I just believe in a different way.

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Although something like this will always be subjective, and to each their own and all that, personally I feel you shouldn't tell them. Number one reason ? To stimulate their sense of imagination.

And (for the kids) it has nothing to do with religion.

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I've heard and made the argument myself that you shouldn't tell your kids about Santa Claus because it will eventually undermine their trust.

But now that I have two children, I have not disabused them of the idea that there is a Santa Claus. Telling a child a story that is part of your culture's mythology is not the same thing as lying, not by a long shot. My oldest son learned that Iron Man isn't real, and magic doesn't exist, and it hasn't affected our trust relationship at all.

What is important is that we don't use Santa as a threat or promise to ensure good behavior in our household, and also Santa only brings one present. The rest come from family members.

He will figure it out on his own, like when he realized that his favorite superheroes weren't real, and when he asks us point blank if Santa is a real person, we will answer truthfully.

For the record, as the youngest of three, I never believed in Santa Claus, but I still remember the breathless anticipation of Christmas. I firmly believe that I was not warped from knowing that he didn't exist. I remember my parents telling me that some kids really liked to believe he was real, so I should play along. I'm guessing they didn't want me to be the kid who told all the other kids.

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I cannot speak to a general consensus. From my experience:

  1. Relationships are based on trust.
  2. Telling a child something that is not true will eventually be found out
  3. And, even if subtly, this is an attack on true and absolute trust
  4. Which is an attack on the relationship iteslf

If the child opts for similar behavior as they grow, you will not be able to believe them when they look at you in the eye and tell you something important. This is very disheartening.

Furthermore if by your actions you teach your child that not everything you say is true, then why would they believe you about really important things that are beyond the realm of their understanding at the time?

Things like god, drugs, education, safety -- these are topics that we wish our kids to trust us on, and later in life, understand why.

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I totally agree with that. As it happens, just recently I talked about this exact question with a couple of friends, and no less than three of them told of how they had felt angry towards their parents for having told them these "lies". It didn't destroy their relationship with their parents, and worse things happen in families, but as you say, I believe that relationships are built on trust, and I would never dream of telling my child untruths when he wants to understand the world. Maybe, in my eyes, that is even more important: that providing untrue explanation will hinder their development. –  user3140 Oct 11 '12 at 22:06

The answer like anything having to do with religion and mythology is that there is no consensus, or even a right or wrong answer, there is only opinion. I think the majority of people on this forum (including myself) would agree with you that there's no good reason to pop the Santa Clause bubble and that the child will come to the realization that there is no such thing on his/her own.

There are so many times that telling the child there is no father christmas is also the right thing to do, it's up to the judgement of the parent.

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No, don't tell. Don't give away the secret, or break the illusion (or however you like to see it). As long as all is nice and fun, let the kid figure it out on his own. See this question for a discussion about it: When do kids usually stop believing in Santa Claus?

Exception: Karl's answer poses a situation where it would make a lot of sense to do tell. Perpetuating a myth is only nice and fun as long as it's enjoyable (enjoyment the primary purpose, in my view) so don't perpetuate the myth if it causes grief.

This presumes that you like the myth in the first place; if it's contrary to your beliefs or objectionable for any other reason, then of course you're not obliged to follow it.

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There isn't a consensus. However, I wouldn't exactly say children come to the realization fully by themselves. Someone has to confirm their suspicions, and it's probably better to be the parents.

I know a lot of people who are "happy to have had the experience," but I am not one of them. My parents were not well off, so every Christmas I wondered what I had done to offend Santa such that he would bring better presents to kids I knew to be naughtier than myself. I also resented my parents for only getting me practical gifts like new clothing, and didn't realize until I was much older how much they planned and sacrificed to make Christmas as special as possible for us.

So with our kids we take an approach of neither promoting nor denying. They get gifts from Santa, but we don't make a big deal out of it. You'll have to decide what balance to strike with your own children.

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