Lying to children about father christmas, lying to kids about santa claus

The Father Christmas myth. Why do we lie to our kids about Santa?

Warning: Bah humbug Christmas post coming up.

I have a vivid childhood Christmas Eve memory of lying awake in bed, much later than I should have been, staring out of the window up into the star filled sky, with the hope of catching a glimpse of Father Christmas speeding through the sky in his sleigh.

However, instead of feeling all warm and nostalgic about this, I simply think how ridiculous it was.

The magic of Christmas?

I now wish I had been looking up at the darkened sky wondering about all the planets, stars, galaxies, and all the things we have yet to discover. I could have been contemplating our place in the universe. I could have been thinking about how amazing it is we send vessels into space to explore the heavens, and have manned space stations orbiting the Earth.

In recent years in the UK, we have been lucky to have the International Space Station (ISS) visible around Christmas time as it circles our planet. It’s even occurred on Christmas eve. When this happened a couple of years ago, we went outside to watch it and told our daughter it was Santa on his sleigh. As this bright light streaked across the sky in its low orbit – higher & faster than a plane, nearer than a star or planet, brighter than them all – it made for a very convincing one.

But I am now pretty ashamed that I did this. How I dismissed this wonderful feat of human engineering and exploration – for the sake of perpetuating the great Santa Claus lie.

Christmas fact vs. fiction

We are (I hope) teaching our kids that it’s wrong to lie – yet that is what we are doing every Christmas by reinforcing the Father Christmas myth. What are we teaching them about telling the truth by perpetuating this lie in their childhood?

While, as an atheist, I also wince at the nativity story being part of my daughter’s December schooling. Yes, I do believe there was a man called Jesus who did good things. No, I do not believe he was the son of God. But I do accept it is a powerful story which our children should appreciate, as it is central to western art, culture, and civilisation.

Another Christmas icon who was has a basis in reality is the original Santa, Saint Nicholas. He was a 4th Century Turkish bishop, and apparently he was famed for his kindness to children and generosity to the poor. He now has little relation to the jolly supernatural Father Christmas, who’s modern look owes more to Coca-Cola ad campaigns than Saint Nicholas.

Post-childhood, Christmas has never been about Santa (or Jesus) to me. It’s about coming together as friends and family, when the nights are darkest. To give thanks to those around us, reflect on the past year, and celebrate the new one as the days get lighter, and we can look ahead to the magical rebirth of life in Spring.

The Christmas lie: Telling kids the truth about Santa?

However, I’m not planning on bursting my daughter’s Santa Claus bubble. She has already picked up from too many places that Santa is a real phenomena. But I won’t lie to her about it any more either.

My daughter often ask me about mythical creatures. Recently, it was about dragons. I don’t believe dragons are real. But I can’t prove it, and more than that I’d love to imagine they exist – or at least existed – because I think they’re cool. So when my daughter asks me “Are there dragons in this world?”, I answer, “Well, I’ve never seen one.”

I’ve never seen Santa deliver presents on Christmas eve. And I know I never will. But I can’t prove that he doesn’t. So when quizzed about Santa, I talk only about what I know. That if he does deliver presents to every child on Christmas Eve, he would have to be pretty magical.

But I will not let the Santa lie overwrite the truth of human kindness, fellowship, & achievement, and celebrating the magic of nature.

The ISS is due to make another pass this coming week. While I may tell my daughter that some believe it’s Santa’s sleigh, I’ll tell her I believe it’s a space station, created by people, to undertake scientific research, the exploration of space, and help us understand our place in the universe.

That, to me, is magical.


Image courtesy of Kevin Dooley.



8 thoughts on “The Father Christmas myth. Why do we lie to our kids about Santa?”

  1. My eldest knows the truth. In fact I never wanted to do the whole Santa thing. I wanted the kids to know exactly where the gifts came from but pressure from my wife means we went along with the charade and I dislike it intensely.

    That said, when a school friend told another school friend who told my daughter, my wife and I told her about Bishop Nicholas. It was one way of making clear Christmas was about giving. not receiving.

  2. Great post! I have never told my daughter that Santa is real, from the start he’s been a nice Christmas story that some families pretend is real, but I do understand why some families choose to do that. Like you, though, I feel uncomfortable with the new trend for claiming the ISS is Santa’s sleigh. Not only is the truth way cooler, it seems to be artificially inflating their belief if you see what I mean? Parents seem to be going to greater and greater lengths to convince their children which almost takes the magic away from it. I think your approach is a very balanced one though.

  3. I must disagree with the “Well, I’ve never seen one” approach. You say you’re an atheist, not an agnostic. Me too. That means I reject any metaphysical phenomenon, not because I have no personal experience of it, but because it’s just that… meta. physical. That means it cannot be explained by science. On the other hand, there are many phenomena that I’ve never seen, nor I know anyone that have, but I believe them to be true because they are scientifically valid. So I guess a “Santa is a tale. He’s as real as any tale. As real as Luke Skywalker.” is a more honest response to our children.

  4. I enjoy Santa and I enjoy the meaning and have no problem telling MY DAUGHTER that he is real!!! That’s what wrong with everyone now a days if you can’t see it or explain with science then how can it possibly be real! I am proud that my daughter has a strong faith and doesn’t need to see something to believe it. What next your going to say ghost are not real cause you’ve never seen one or cause science can’t explain it. I bet you don’t have an imagination and can’t be creative! Because hell if you can’t see it then it doesn’t exist. I believe in God and yes I definitely believe in Jesus!!! I believe that the real meaning of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus. So if you don’t believ this why do you celebrate Christmas? You don’t need to follow western civilization culture so why do you bother? You title is wrong you shouldn’t say the truth behind the Sanat myth cause all your basically doing is rambling on about how you feel, here I was thinking that maybe you would go deeper into it but yet you didn’t. You just wanted people to hear out how you felt about Christmas and like I stated earlier you don’t believe in Jesus so why celebrate it!!! Change your title it should say why I hate Christmas!

  5. Great post! In this technological age where people post pictures of their “what I got for Christmas” on social media, I think the meaning and message of celebrating Christmas might be easily overlooked by the monetary value. Christmas is a joyous celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and kids especially love Christmas a lot.

    To us adults, Santa is a myth that we once believed to be true when we were younger but as we got older, we learned some things are just make-believe. However, I don’t think we should rush the kids into popping their bubble of fantasy. Let them live in their imagination that Santa climbs down the chimney and delivers presents to everybody. Let them have fun with it, until they start asking mature questions like “but there so many people in the world, how does he do that?” then slowly and gently reveal that maybe Santa isn’t all that real.

  6. I really struggle with this! My standard phrase with anything to do with santa basically starts with “some people believe” and that’s about as far as I can take it.

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