There are a lot of very difficult decisions one has to make as a parent, and each family has their own battles to face. Sooner or later, there is one dilemma common to many: What do we do about Santa Claus? There are several options. Do you present Santa as a reality and generate the surrounding magic necessary to establish that belief? Do you reject Santa completely as a consumer-driven money maker that cheapens the holiday? Or do you create a hybrid understanding?
Once our children came to an age of awareness of this chubby overgrown elf, my husband and I took very seriously how we were going to handle Santa’s presence in our Christmas holiday. We chose the hybrid model. We didn’t want the North Pole storyline to be the main focus of the season. However, we remember the fun and innocent traditions from our own childhood that included good old St. Nick.
We decided honesty was the best policy and that it was important for our children to understand the difference between truth and fantasy – both of which had purpose, but not the same value. So, Santa was a welcome part of our Christmas tradition. We enjoyed the contents of stockings that “Santa” filled after reading a letter that “Santa” wrote. Various presents under the Christmas tree were gifts from “Santa.” And, of course, songs about Santa coming to town, seeing you when you’re sleeping, and inviting Rudolph to guide his sleigh were sung with joy. However, though they kept this to themselves out of respect for friends whose parents chose otherwise, our children understood Santa as a fun – though fictional – part of Christmas.
How important is honesty? Does it really make a difference for us to be able to tell truth from fiction and to teach our children the same? I’m really at a loss to answer those questions in our world today. We live in a time of crisis when a fatal virus continues to ravage our world. Trusted medical professionals are clear that, while we continue to learn more daily, right now there is also a lot we don’t know. One thing is certain: COVID-19 is a deadly virus easily spread by those infected who may or may not be symptomatic. These same trusted professionals agree that wearing a mask, physically distancing, and regularly washing your hands is vital to care for yourself and prevent spreading this virus to others.
However, there’s also many stories of fantasy out there. COVID is a conspiracy. Masks are harmful. A cure has already been discovered, but it’s not being shared. And on and on it goes. These stories and theories get posted on social media with great regularity and with no regard for sourcing, fact-checking, or reality. Basically, if it agrees with what I want to believe, that’s all that matters. This may work when not wanting to expose the truth of Santa Clause to a child, but when it comes to a deadly virus, shouldn’t we be more concerned about the welfare of others over our own agendas?
I tend to avoid commenting on controversial social media posts. It’s generally not worth trying to have an actual conversation of importance in public view online. However, every once in a while, I just can’t help myself. Against my better judgement, I will find myself typing a response when I read something that is blatantly false, harmful, and marginalizing. I really don’t want to put myself out there for verbal sparring, but isn’t it important to at least try to regain the value of honesty? I have been horrified by responses making it clear that honesty, truth, and facts are not the priority.
There’s a reason even parents who promote the fantasy of Santa eventually tell their children the truth. It’s because the truth matters, and honesty adds more value to life than a determined grasp on what may be more “fun,” but eventually more harmful, to believe. If we are so careful about preparing our children for adulthood by being honest with something like Santa, is it not even more important to lead by example and have greater integrity in much weightier matters?