First off, I know this is long but please read all of this if you're going to disagree with me. I know that a great majority of moms will disagree with me, but don't just roll your eyes and say "Oh great, another mom who thinks I'm damaging my kids for doing Santa Claus" because that's NOT what I think.
I don't like Santa Claus, at least not in the way mainstream America portrays him. He's the fat man in a red suit that comes to your house after the kids are in bed on Christmas Eve. He travels all over the world leaving presents to the good little boys and girls. He has flying reindeer. He lives at the North Pole. He eats cookies and milk. He fills stockings and leaves gifts. He is not real.
When I was in kindergarten, a little girl told me that Santa wasn't real. My parents managed to convince me that he was, and Christmas was saved. But they decided that they couldn't hold me off for another year, so Christmas Eve during my first grade year, they sat me down and told me the truth. Santa was once a real person who did this and that, and now we keep his spirit alive by pretending that he's still real. Ditto to the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.
I was crushed. I felt foolish and lied to. This was the first time I questioned Christianity, the religion I was being raised in. In my shocked and humiliated 6 year old mind, I reasoned that if they lied to me about Santa in order to make me behave, when would I learn that heaven, Jesus, God, and all of that was a lie too? It was just as flawed logically, the whole story I mean. There is this grandfatherly figure up in the clouds watching my every move, reading my thoughts? Then he sent his son down and Jesus died on the cross so that I could go to this magical home in the sky called heaven, but only if I believed in him and was a good little girl? Yeah, not a lot of logic in there. In fact, there's even less logic in that than a fat man hitting up every house in the world in one night.
But I was a good kid by nature, so I played along. But I was actually in junior high before I realized with a start that people really DO believe in the Bible. I was terrified. I spent most of my high school years trying to make up for lost time. Going to church 3x a week, joining prayer groups, reading the Bible, etc. Once I slowed down enough to actually look in my heart, I realized I was happier when I was figuring things out on my own rather than letting a preacher and a centuries old book tell me what to believe. Those years of agnosticism paved the way to giving myself permission to blaze my own path, and I have. I'm an eclectic, pantheistic Pagan with Wiccan leanings. I am happy. I am whole. I am constantly searching and expanding my religious knowledge.
I decided that fateful night when I was 6 years old that I would not lie to my kids about Santa Claus. And before you get defensive over the word "lie," think about it for a minute. It is, by definition, a lie. Whether or not you believe it's a justifiable lie or not is up to you. Just like lying to your friend when her ass does, in fact, look fat in those jeans, for millions of Americans the Santa lie is just fine.
But alas, the day came when I was pregnant with my first son and my husband was dead set on doing the whole Santa thing with him. After many long talks, I caved. After all, generation after generation has been through the truth about Santa without the trauma that I had. My son will be just fine, and while I don't like it, I am comfortable with it. So don't tell me that I'm ruining my childs childhood, or crushing his imagination, because I'm not. My husband won.
But even if he hadn't won, how is skipping that one lie of childhood enough to ruin a child? Is there no magic in the world besides Santa? Is Christmas ruined without him? First let's explore imagination. There is a difference between pretend play and lies. When your child hands you a mud pie and you pretend to eat it, they know that you are pretending. They don't actually expect you to eat it, they expect you to play with them, to pretend with them. But when you tell them that Santa literally exists, there is no pretend on their part. They are told that it is literally true, not that we pretend it's true, not that it's a fun game, but that it's REALLY real. You can even watch the evening news and see his progress. You can get phone calls and letters from him. You can log on to a website and see video of him at homes across the world. This is very different from imagination and pretend play.
It's also possible to play Santa without making him literally real, which is the path I wanted to take with my son. We would explain from the very beginning that Santa is a fun game to play, just like cowboys and indians or mud pies. If he ends up being the kind of child who thrives on imagination and pretend, he will take it all the way. If he ends up being the kind of child who prefers logic and reasoning, he will tone the excitement down and enjoy other parts of the holiday. It would be up to him.
The last argument is the one that really got me to bend to my husbands wishes. The kid in the class who ruins it for everyone else. No matter what I do to create a kind, humble, compassionate child, there is always the chance that he will be that kid. I don't want to ruin Christmas for another child the way it was almost ruined for me. I don't want to see crying children and angry parents when I pick my son up from school. This is why my son will believe in Santa, no matter how uncomfortable I am with it.
If you actually made it through all of this, thank you. I hope you will understand a little bit more about why some parents choose not to do Santa, and I hope you will stop feeling sorry for the kids who don't believe. Happy Holidays to everyone, no matter who eats all the cookies at your house this year