The magic of Christmas, “Bah humbug”!

Santa and bear

At this time of year in many places around the world there are children excited about the magic of Christmas. I don’t know the numbers to compare but there are a good few, mainly adults I suspect, who say “Bah humbug!” While I was once a firm believer in the magic and did my best to keep it alive, I now tread warily, unsure of how best to approach this topic. As a parent I didn’t get it right so can offer no wisdom of my own.

After many years of seeming to go along with the story, long after I thought it should have been abandoned, Daughter finally questioned why, if the stories weren’t true, would parents lie to their children.  She preceded her question with the request to not say if it was true or not, she just wanted to know why parents would lie.

I let her down on both counts. I told her the truth of the story and couldn’t explain why parents would lie. I’m not sure that I’ve been forgiven for either failing, and I have never stopped thinking about what may have been a better way of handling the situation if I was ever offered the opportunity for a do-over.

Interestingly I don’t recall having any similar concerns about my parents lying or disillusionment on finding out the truth. Daughter’s older brother voiced no concerns either, but I cannot be certain whether or not he had any. Until now when, with children of his own, the issue again is raised.

At first Son’s intention was to not engage in Santa stories; but with one child at school and the other in kindy the situation becomes more complex. The children are more exposed to the stories through friends and organized events and there is the concern about “spoiling” things for other families. Caught between the pressures of a shared popular culture and the questions of intelligent, critical thinking children, the parents must make a decision. I sympathize and wish them better success than I experienced. I have suggested to Son that he consult his sister. She knows better than I about this one and can maybe help him avoid making the mistakes with his children that I made with her.

musical Santas

There is a lot of well-intentioned advice on the internet, but the value of some is debatable. Many explain the Santa story as being about love, kindness and generosity, and the magic as the assistance given by many helpers, including parents, throughout the world. Many explanations are likely based on the famous response, Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus, to an 8-year old’s letter, the authenticity of which has been questioned.

Some of the explanations and stories encountered recently include:

Feeling the magic by Autism Mom

The Sweetest Way to Tell Your Kids the Truth About Santa by Sharon Silver

Santa’s Powerful Message For Boy With Autism “It’s OK to be you” by Dominique Mosbergen

A Sweet Story About the True Meaning of Christmas shared by Noelle Granger

As much as I love the sentiments of these stories, they don’t really help me with my truth or lie dilemma. So I returned to a post by philosopher Michelle Sowey  HO HO HO! (Q.E.D.) in which she questioned the ethics of the Santa lie. I shared this post previously in April 2014.  Michelle agrees that the attempt at compromise in many of the explanations, It’s Santa, Jim, but not as we know him, is unsatisfactory because:

  • the historical figure St Nicholas is omitted
  • Christmas for most children is more about receiving than giving
  • of a conviction that children should be encouraged to believe in things that are real (visible or invisible, tangible or intangible) and to disbelieve in things that aren’t (all of which are invisible), and
  • it is better to develop critical thinking than to believe in intangible things.

She says,

“Parents can be powerful advocates for their children’s intellectual autonomy. They can help their kids to draw their own well-reasoned conclusions; to value coherence and logical consistency (among other things) in the construction of their worldviews; and to cleave to their beliefs with a level of confidence proportional to the amount and quality of evidence available.

With a little analysis and reflection – perfectly accessible to an eight-year-old – it’s clear that believing in things without good evidence often means believing in things that aren’t true.”

Santas

Okay. We agree on that, but how would a parent extricate themselves from the myth once they have become entangled?

When I re-read her post I noticed Michelle has, just this month, added a postscript linking to an article by ethicist David Kyle Johnson who asks the question DO PARENTS WHO TELL THEIR KIDS ABOUT SANTA END UP ON THE NAUGHTY LIST?

David says that parents who lie to their children by supporting the myth are not necessarily bad parents (thank you!) but they would be better parents if they didn’t.

He adds to Michelle’s list with these:

  • Children should thank their parents, who have purchased and sacrificed, not Santa; “gifts are the giver’s way of showing the recipient that he or she has worth and is loved. Children need assurance their parents see them as worthwhile and valuable – not Santa Claus.”
  • Santa shouldn’t be used as a threat e.g. stop doing that (bad behaviour) or Santa won’t come
  • It stifles imagination because you can’t pretend if you believe: “By tricking children into actually believing Santa exists we rob them of the opportunity to imagine he does.”
  • And the big one: the loss of trust “Finding out their parents have lied to them about Santa Claus can cause children to think their parents are lying to them about a great many other things.” He says it is probably a bigger risk than most parents realize.

You can read more of David’s thoughts about the myth in this excerpt from his book The Myths that Stole Christmas.

David says that the tradition of Santa and gift giving is relatively recent and “sold” to consumers primarily for financial reasons. He urges parents to stop tricking their children into believing the myth. My experience supports that, and I wonder how I would go about it if I had the opportunity again.

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills challenges writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about “spreading the light.” While she suggests it could be used it to honor or memorialize a loved one, I thought I would attempt to shed light on the Santa myth and its potential for harm. Hopefully it’s not too far off the mark as I always loved, and protected, this myth; but perhaps a decision to protect the intelligence and critical thinking of my loved ones, and children in general, is even more important.

How true?

“What shall we read tonight?” asked Dad.

Jimmy searched the shelf for something he hadn’t heard before. There weren’t many. Suddenly he found one, slid it off the shelf and nestled into Dad’s lap.

“Twas the night before Christmas …” began Dad.

“Who…, what…, where…, why…, how…,?” began Jim, marveling at flying reindeer and pondering possible destinations.

As Dad closed the book Jimmy was ready with his usual question, “Is it true?”

“What think you?”

“As true as a fire-breathing dragon, a flower-petal fairy, and a talking animal,” laughed Jim; then added, “But you know, parrots really can talk!”

Christmas 2014

 

For whichever December festival you celebrate, and in whichever way you celebrate it, I wish you peace, joy and love enough to light up your world.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

66 thoughts on “The magic of Christmas, “Bah humbug”!

  1. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    I really enjoyed this post Norah. I haven’t anything to add as the quanderry has never arisen for me and I don’t recall being upset about Santa or my parents pretending all those years. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t continue to believe just in case the Santa pillowslip disappeared along with Santa. I know we also believed in the tooth fairy for years (even as a young adult, when the wisdom teeth were extracted, I called on the tooth fairy and she came. I wonder how many, like your daughter, saw it as a lie? I think the way you dealt with the problem in your flash was just perfect. It allows you to continue to believe whilst knowing it is fabrication. I’m sorry it has taken me so long to get here Norah. I’d love to know where the time goes.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for adding your thoughts to the conversation, Irene. You are one of the few to comment on the flash and I really appreciate what you have said. I was hoping it would work as a possible conversation.
      I not only want to know where the time goes, I want to know how to get it back! 🙂

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  2. rogershipp

    ““As true as a fire-breathing dragon, a flower-petal fairy, and a talking animal,” laughed Jim; then added, “But you know, parrots really can talk!”” There is more magic in the world than first appears!

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  3. Pingback: Let Your Light Shine « Carrot Ranch Communications

  4. Charli Mills

    Quite a stimulating discussion you’ve ignited! I didn’t get into the whole Santa thing because I never knew if we’d even have enough for gifts. Every year it seems that someone came through for my children, so it became a true statement that Santa was a spirit of giving. As we became more secure, we supplied plenty of gifts for our children and contribute to local families in need to be a part of the giving spirit. Yet we all felt rather disillusioned by the shifting focus to presents and now we don’t gift. We do stocking if we all get together. I have less of an issue with the mythology of Santa than I do regarding the pressure of gifting this time of year. I’d rather enjoy the lights, the music, the cookies, the relationships and a chance to just slow down and be present. Thank you for such a thoughtful post and for always adding your light to Carrot Ranch! I hope all is resolved among your children and grandchildren. You are obviously a marvelous parent despite the Santa scandal. 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks so much for joining in and sharing your thoughts, Charli. The conversation was definitely rich with most voting in favour of the myth. I share your disillusionment with the emphasis on gifting. I think the relationships and the time spent together is the most important thing. Maybe that is something that comes with age, but I’m not sure. I think many of my generation are feeling less enamored with the hype that seems to exist now. We remember it as being simpler when we were kids, but maybe that’s just our memory rather than reality.
      Santa scandal! I love it! I guess we are a family of thinkers. We question. We don’t blindly accept. I have always taught my children to question everything, especially me, so it stands to reason they will. I love it!
      Have a wonderful new year! 🙂

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  5. Paula Reed Nancarrow

    I don’t even remember how my kids found out Santa wasn’t real, but I don’t recall it being particularly traumatic. I will have to ask them. I do remember flubbing up with the Easter Bunny with my son in the grocery store. I guess in the back of my mind I didn’t think any child really took that seriously, but my animal-loving son most certainly did. But I don’t think our children ever felt lied to. They were highly imaginative children who deeply enjoyed play, and didn’t want to deprive their parents of the same pleasure.

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    1. Norah Post author

      That’s great to know. Thanks, Paula. I must admit my daughter really loved the Easter Bunny. There was a move over here to introduce the Easter Bilby in the hope of replacing the Easter Bunny. Rabbits were introduced to Australia and do a lot of damage to the native wildlife and environment, including to the bilbies’ habitat. The bilbies, which are very cute, are now threatened. I thought it was a great idea to substitute our native species for the feral rabbit. Unfortunately daughter wouldn’t have a bar of it – no bilbies for her, even though she has always been a staunch environmentalist. There are some things you just can’t mess with! 🙂

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  6. Cheryl-Lynn

    Interesting post…I like the idea of tolerance. I liked the magic and doubts of Christmas…my children were raised with the same magic and they are doing the same with theirs…I respect those who don’t go along with this and respect even more when they can accept other families who choose to.

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    1. Norah Post author

      The issue of tolerance and respect has been raised before. Thank you for adding your voice to it. I agree. I think all families need to accept the way that others deal with the story. Thanks for visiting and joining in the conversation. 🙂

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  7. Marigold

    A complicated question isn’t it? And I really think it depends on the child. When I was a kid, I quickly grasped the difference between reality and make-believe, and understood that pretending was often more fun (fairies especially). Even though I understood Santa couldn’t be real when I was probably about 10 years old, I still engaged in the fantasy until I was 12 (when I thought I had to suddenly ‘grow-up’ and stop pretending, and then changed my mind a few years later!).
    However, I have two half-siblings who are 3 and 2 years old. I don’t want them to be lied to… but then, they aren’t my kids. I can only hope they enjoy the fantasy for themselves as I had, rather than wholly believing in Santa Claus,

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences, Marigold. I think a lot of children are like you, hiding their knowledge to retain the benefits. What happened when you changed you mind as a teenager?
      It will be interesting to see what happens with your half-siblings. I too hope they enjoy the fantasy without the belief.
      I hope you have had a wonderful Christmas. Happy new year!

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      1. Marigold

        Happy New Year to you too Norah 🙂 I think I eventually realised that being mature didn’t mean I could never indulge in immature behaviour… if that makes sense? I can be an adult and a ‘big kid’ at the same time.

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  8. roweeee

    My feeling is that the vaguer you can be on the subject as parents with small children the better. If you can get away with it, neither confirm nor deny and ideally let the whole thing run it’s course. My daughter was absolutely terrified of Santa in the flesh but liked him as a concept. My son reached his own conclusions that we were Santa but a friend of mine had a great line: “You have to believe to receive”. This is quite true because once they stop believing in Santa, well certainly in our house, the presents cut back.
    What I also found out was there was this whole dialogue going on at school involving Santa, the Easter Bunny and the tooth fairy, The kids in effect had their own investigation going comparing notes about what us hapless parents were up to. As the kids were getting older and wiser, we also tended to let down our guard and were making mistakes which were reported “to court”. By telling your kids these things don’t exist, you are depriving them of being part of this great investigative journey and potentially spoiling it for other kids. My daughter came home one day very angry with her friend for saying Santa wasn’t real. Ideally, it would be good to be in touch with your kids’ friends’ parents and slowly ease your way out without a big confrontation being involved.
    By the way, it does bother me that Santa has certainly come to represent Christmas in so many ways now that even goes beyond being commercial.
    xx Rowena

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for sharing your experiences, Rowena. You have a slightly different take on the story, to neither confirm nor deny. That is probably what a lot of parents do. Some children may see the lack of confirmation as denial, and others may see the reverse. We never know just how it will work out. I think our kids have contact with too many for a localised conspiracy of parents to be any more effective than the broader conspiracy. It is probably quite effective as it is. It all depends on who finds out and who tells who first.
      I’m wondering what you mean by your last statement, if you care to elaborate. 🙂

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      1. roweeee

        Norah, I think I required more sleep before I made that last statement.

        I’ve really had to think about what we mean in Australia when we wish people “Merry Christmas” as I have a lot of Americans reading my blog and I felt pulled to use the term “Happy Holidays” even though we don’t use it here and is not a term I feel comfortable using. Yet, I also want to respect people with other faiths.
        The more I thought about it, I felt “Merry Christmas” in Australia had really lost much of its Christian heritage and had become much more generic and referred to Santa and time off work. I guess this is what I was getting at. I had to read that comment 3 times and I still don’t think I really understood what I wrote. Sorry! xx Rowena

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        1. Norah Post author

          That’s okay. I understand. I need more sleep too. I’m feeling a bit depleted as the year nears its end and I’m still pushing myself to get more done, not necessarily before the end of the year, just more, more, more!
          I remember being told as a child to say “happy Christmas” rather than “merry Christmas” as merry refers to how one feels after imbibing a little too much alcohol! I like to wish people the joys of the season or happy holidays. I know quite a few who are not enthralled by the “magic” of Christmas. For many now in a more secular world, there is no Christ in Christmas and the greeting seems irrelevant to them. Rest well. I think we both deserve it! 🙂

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          1. roweeee

            Thank you. The kids come back tomorrow and we have a few days to get our son ready for Scout Jamboree. I am thinking of taking my daughter to the Sound of Music. There are other musicals I’d rather go to but as she auditioned for it, I thought we’d better follow it through. We both enjoy it …dare I say love it. I’m sure there are a lot of closet fans out there.

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            1. Norah Post author

              I love the Sound of Music. I haven’t seen it performed live, but I’m sure it will be wonderful. While you may feel it’s more of a should than a choice, I’m certain you won’t regret it. Enjoy!

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  9. julespaige

    I think living in a diverse community people need to respect others traditions.
    I was reading a letter to an advice columnist and the parent had to sooth the crying child who had been told by another 7 year old that there was no such ‘thing!’ Does it really matter what that ‘thing’ was. No. What matters is the cruel way the 7 year old said; ‘Your parents have lied’.

    We have always taught our children to respect others beliefs. We can celebrate with others while celebrating differently at home. Magic, talking parrots, cartoons – when do we tell our children that the puppet has a hand or strings? Or the cartoon train, plane or tea kettle can’t really dance and sing? How do we encourage imagination without too much ‘bending’ of truth as others may see things. It is a tough road. But respect goes a long way.

    And there are many right answers. So try and not be too hard on yourself. After all love is its’ own magic isn’t it?

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    1. Norah Post author

      Great response, Jules. Thank you. Love is indeed a special sort of magic. It can make all sorts of wonderful things happen. I agree with you about respect. Without it, diversity would be very different.
      It is cruel that children (and adults in other situations – I’m thinking about gossip) are quick to point out something that they have just learned. I think they feel it shows their superior knowledge and delight in informing others of the “error” in their thinking. As you say, tolerance and respect. A great reminder. Thank you. 🙂

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        1. Norah Post author

          Thanks for sharing that story, Jules. It is an important lesson to learn. Hopefully we won’t have to go to those lengths.
          I knew a teacher who used to have a sign on her classroom wall about the ears and mouth. It’s a good reminder.

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  10. Caroline

    Hi Norah, what a good post and thoughtful comments. I hate the idea of lying to kids, but I have enjoyed the fun of stockings which Father C brings. And enjoyed this with my daughter and other family members too. I never wanted the children to think that bigger presents are I some way delivered by FC. Bit of a cop out perhaps but no lying! Other families have different solutions.
    Happy season, Caroline

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for adding your thoughts and experiences, Caroline. I know when my children were little their biggest gift was from FC. I’m not sure why this was so because it wasn’t that way for either Hub or me. It just seemed to be what we did. And it did complicate life a little. I now know others who do it as you did, with a few small gifts from FC in a stocking.
      A number of years ago an aunt told me that they always gave their children the biggest gift, and that there was just something small from FC. I wished I had thought of it when my children were young. It would have made life (or Christmas anyway) a whole easier. I remember mentioning this to Son, and this is what he has now done with his children.
      I wish you and your family all the joys of the season and a wonderful 2016!

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  11. Sacha Black

    Interesting. I think I like Geoff’s point – if we don’t play along with santa should be tear apart fairytales and fantasy stories too? Where do we draw the line. I don’t think I agree with the gentleman you quote – that ‘we don’t realise the damage were doing’ i think that is a total exaggeration. My mum played along with santa for me, and I turned out fine. I remember finding out that santa wasn’t real, but for awful reasons I won’t go into. I intend to let the magic fill our house, and I will enjoy every year we can keep it real and I can bet u anything my boy turns out fine too.

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    1. Norah Post author

      I consider the attempt to convince children to keep on believing in Santa, even when they start to question whether it could possibly be so, as vastly different from fairy tales and fantasy. It is like a conspiracy, and I know how much you love them! I don’t think adults try to convince children to believe in fairy tales and fantasy stories. Children know they are make believe. While I don’t think we should tear them apart, I do wonder about some parts, especially the stereotyping of “princesses” and “happily ever after”, but that’s a whole different issue.
      The almost-threat of doing damage by maintaining the Santa myth is confronting; but remember, he didn’t say it made one a “bad” parent. I think most of us probably survived the “lie” okay. I’m still waiting for Bec to clarify just how she was “damaged”, but mind you, she turned out fine too, and has a very good head on her shoulders. Critical thinking is her forte, which I think her question demonstrated.
      I do wish you a magical Christmas filled with love and joy; and I also have no doubt that your boy will turn out fine too. xo

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  12. Annecdotist

    Brava, Norah, for tackling this controversial topic, which I do remember discussing with your lovely daughter here some time ago – it might be the first time she and I connected. (And I note, this point, she hasn’t yet commented?)
    I think there are many variables around this topic regarding whether or not it’s okay to lie to the children: the overall culture of the family; the child’s age; the possibility of discussing with the child why you’ve lied – Daughter might not have forgiven you, but at least you’ve made space, a huge space, for her perspective.
    My own experience of being disillusioned was very negative, so I imagine if I had children of my own I’d have tried not to lie. But very difficult to do in the context in which everyone else is perpetuating this myth. As you say in response to another comment, it ISN’T the equivalent of other imaginary beings as there’s so much evidence provided to suggest that Santa is real.
    And I do think it continues as much for the parents (and capitalism of course) as for the children. Wouldn’t they be just as excited to receive the presents directly from the parents? After all, a pile of wrapped presents under the tree is pretty exciting.
    I’m reminded of a friend who had a similar problem in relation to religion, when her son was hearing all about Jesus at school. I think she told him “we don’t think Jesus is real”, but others do. Could that be done with Santa? I don’t know.
    A version of my experience of Santa has gone into my next novel, so I wonder how that will come over to readers.
    By the way, I don’t like Christmas, but I don’t identify with the “bah humbug” attitude, as I’m pleased for people who do enjoy it. So wishing you and yours a happy one.

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    1. Bec

      Well this seems the right place to drop in my reply here! Thanks Anne for remembering! And thanks Nor for the thought-provoking post as always. I enjoyed reading all the comments – lots of different and interesting perspectives. And I can imagine how fun it would be to feel like you are providing a sense of magic to your own kids. I still find the idea of promoting a mythical being as being real as bizarre, but then I always had enough fun at times like Christmas and Easter with all the special activities Norah created – treasure hunts for Easter eggs, gifts for the local giving trees, making special Christmas chocolates and treats, decorating the house. There seemed enough “real magic” (if that’s not an oxymoron) without the need for a myth. (And my memories are of the fun of these things – running around and dancing to Peter Coombe’s music while making pistachio and chocolate bark and choosing where to place the tinsel.) But then I also think that placing all wonder in things that aren’t real detract from the wonders of the natural and human worlds, and the latter are things I would certainly love to see fostered in kids. Care for other living creatures and the environment, and in some ways it seems like promoting a belief in a magical being which exists only to provide gifts doesn’t cohere with that. But I know 2 great kids who are the best little human beings I know, and they “believe in Santa”. Though I did hear some convenient reasoning from the 6 year old: “if reindeers exist then Santa must exist”. I’m not allowed to discuss the topic with him! But it doesn’t sit nicely with me that “we” (as adults) are intentionally disturbing his understanding of the laws of reality and possibility… What happens next time he is afraid of a mythical monster? The rules of ‘Santa’ would tell him that the monster probably is real, too. I’m looking forward to learning more about Anne’s Santa experience in the next novel 🙂

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      1. Norah Post author

        Thanks, Bec. This does seem to be the appropriate place for your response.
        I’m pleased you have good memories of Christmas. We did, and do, have a lot of fun celebrating. Being together and having fun as a family (which we do all the time anyway) is the best part!
        I agree with you about the wonder and magic of nature. I think there is more to wonder about there than in any fantasy tale; and sharing that wonder and appreciation is something many of us could do better. I’m grateful for the encouragement you give me in that.
        I think there might be a bit of faulty logic in your nephew’s thinking, but I can see how he got there. We might have to involve him in some philosophical discussions soon! I think Nephew’s Father may enjoy some discussions with you about how best to handle this situation! 🙂
        I, too, am looking forward to Anne’s next novel.

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    2. Norah Post author

      Hi Anne,
      I think Bec hadn’t commented at the time as she is very busy, as always. Work on her PhD keeps her busy at the best of times but she has had a lot of added stress and responsibility recently as her little puppy has had surgery on his only front leg. He has high needs at the moment as he recuperates. Then there is the added stress and responsibility of Christmas time too. I notice she has now responded to you, but I thought I’d let you know that’s why she was late replying. I notice she didn’t comment on her response to my “lie”. I wonder will I ever learn the truth. 🙂 I’d be interested to know more about your disillusionment. I guess I have to wait for your next novel for that. It is sad that so much of the “fairy tale” futures we are fed as children only turn out to disillusion us as adults. But I’m a meliorist and I’d rather paint a positive than negative picture. I think without hope for something better, looking towards the future would be very bleak and we have enough people now deciding that going on is just too difficult. I can remember expecting to know the answers, to be wise, as I approached middle age. Adults, in my experience, had never appeared to question anything, they always seemed to “know” (even when I knew they were wrong!). When I arrived at an age that I had expected, but hadn’t achieved, wisdom, I did feel a bit sold out, but it made me realise that it was okay to not aim for maturity after all!
      It’s interesting you raise the comparison between Santa and Jesus. For many, it is easy to maintain the Santa story than the Jesus story.
      Thank you for your wishes. I hope the season hasn’t been too overwhelming for you. I look forward to following your successes through 2016! 🙂

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      1. Annecdotist

        I’m honoured, Bec, that I managed to entice you to share your thoughts, which I very much appreciate, especially as you are so busy. Hope your poor three legged dog is recovering.
        I’m responding to you both together because I think there’s a commonality in what you’re saying.
        Norah and I are from a similar generation in which parents and teachers derived their authority from a pretence that they had all the answers. So not surprisingly, Norah that you should feel disillusioned on not achieving that level of superhuman wisdom yourself. But you write on your blog so convincingly about the power of not knowing, and the great wisdom that you clearly have in supporting others to reach their full potential. It’s not the false knowledge of previous generations but a much deeper kind of wisdom that embraces uncertainty. What I envisage that you engender in your own children and the children you’ve taught is the confidence that you will be there to work it out with them, even if you might not have the right answer straight away. I think that’s worth a lot more than the insistence on the older person being right, even when the child, as you say, knows that they’re wrong.
        I think Bec is also saying there’s enough, we don’t have to have all the answers and fulfil all the dreams because what we have is really pretty special if we stop and look at it properly. And I think we do ourselves a disservice when we create “false gods” to fill the hypothetical gap. (Not that I’m saying we shouldn’t create mythical creatures, fairies, and even Santa, but we should beware of building them into something that they’re not.)
        As you know, Norah, from our discussions before I’m not a meliorist, but I don’t think I’m negative. I really try to acknowledge both light and dark, in a way that feels quite positive to me.
        I might have more to say about this when my novel is published – but don’t want to build huge expectations (well I do, but not about the Santa aspect, as it would be misguided to dump all my main character’s disturbance on that!)
        Apologies that this is quite garbled. I got a stinking cold for Christmas, but wanted to reply to your comments.

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        1. Norah Post author

          That is an amazing response, Anne. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, support and encouragment. I wish I lived up to your summation, that there is more wisdom in my not knowing than there is in the fact that I know nothing! (You didn’t quite say it that way.) I appreciate the links you have made between the thinking that each of us, you, Bec and me, engage in. I know the conversations are lively and the exchanges certainly tweak and challenge my thoughts. I appreciate that.
          My intention wasn’t to confer you with a negativity award. I have never found you that. I’m hoping your anti-negative statement was not in response to my remark.
          I do have huge expectations of your next novel, Anne! 🙂 I look forward to reading the entire portfolio of issues that disturb your main character!
          I’m sorry you got a cold for Christmas. Maybe you should have been more explicit in your request to Santa! 🙂 I hope you feel better soon. xo

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  13. Allison Maruska

    Great post. I’ve been weighing these questions myself, as my older son is nearly eleven and still believes in Santa – I think. I suspect at times he’s on to us and pretends to still believe for his younger brother, and maybe even for us, his parents. I was about his age when I passively learned the truth about Santa, meaning I heard some kids talking about it at school and figured out pretty quickly what was going on. I mean, Santa and my dad had identical handwriting. I wasn’t mad or even disappointed. It was just a new truth. I talked to my mom about it, and I kept up the act for my younger siblings.

    I figure there isn’t harm in letting kids engage in the fantasy as long as possible. Being an adult sucks a lot of the time. The wonder and hopes for the future get lost in the daily grind and buried by responsibility. Christmas stopped being fun for me a while ago – now it’s just work and clutter and making sure I’m meeting everyone else’s expectations. I enjoy seeing my kids enjoy it though, so I’ll let them get the most magic out of it while they can.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Allison. I think your first paragraph aptly expresses the experience of many. By the age of 11 we’ve sort of figured it out anyway so the revelation isn’t going to be too drastic. But, while we can, there is much to be gained by feigning belief and little by expressing disbelief.
      Your second paragraph is telling too. Perhaps part of our desire for children to believe is our wish to return to the carefree magical days of childhood (limited though they may have been) and we can do this briefly by sharing the magic and myth with our children at Christmas time.
      I’m sorry Christmas is no longer fun and is more about the expectations of others. I know what you mean, but sometimes you just have to meet your own expectations and let everyone else meet theirs (that’s advice for me!).
      I hope you find some time for enjoyment, and wish you peace, love and joy at Christmas and in 2016.

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      1. Allison Maruska

        Thanks, Norah. I do need to figure out how to make Christmas more fun – I’ve done that a little with cards and cookies, namely I don’t send cards anymore and we only make cookies that we make any other time of the year because they don’t take all day and I know people will eat them. 🙂 I love Christmas Eve because everything closes in the evening and the rampant consumerism has to stop. That feels like Peace on Earth.
        Merry Christmas to you and yours. 🙂

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  14. desleyjane

    I don’t have any children but I really don’t see a problem in just letting them (and their parents) have some fun. We “believed” in Santa when we were kids and I’m certain we would continue the tradition if we had kids as well. It’s a magical time of year and Santa is one of the main reasons for that. Even now, when we know what’s going on, I think the magic of it still stems from how Christmas made us feel as children.
    Also, if “lying” to your children about Santa is so bad, how did we all turn out so good 😄😉
    Merry Christmas Norah, what a pleasure it has been to get to know you this year.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for your comment, Desley. I agree that we can never have too much fun! Certainly the pleasure for me as a parent and adult is in the imaginings. How wonderful it would be if Santa’s magic was real and just a little bit could rub off.
      As far as your comment, “how did we turn out so good” goes, I’d say you’d better just speak for yourself!
      It has been lovely to get to know you this year, Desley Jane. I look forward to hearing more of your adventures next year.
      Best wishes to you and your loved ones for the Christmas season and 2016. xx

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  15. Steven

    Another thoughtful post Norah. Perhaps I can spread my lack of wisdom to you as well.

    When Daughter was very young, I was encountering this very problem. It may have been her first, second or third Christmas and I suspect she has no conscious memories of the incident. Being the festive season, somehow the issue of Santa was raised (I think she was likely the recipient of a gift from Santa). In a spur of the moment decision, I decided to take the moral high-ground and told her that Santa wasn’t real. At that instant, I had recalled how I had never been told Santa wasn’t real and that as the years pass, logical reasoning begins to kick in and “disbelief” starts asserting itself (and in my case, discreet investigation). Now as a parent myself, it seemed to me that it was an outright lie and right then, I choose not to perpetuate it.

    Immediately once I uttered the words, I found myself in trouble from Wife. I don’t think I have since been asked about Santa or volunteered comment on the status of Santa. I decided that it was up to Wife to decide when to stop the lie and as far as I know/realise, the lie continues. I think like myself, Daughter has learned by logical reasoning, probably half way through Primary school.

    Son has never liked Santa and has some sort of fear of Santa. He is happy to see Santa at a distance but doesn’t like to get close to Santa. Perhaps he is gifted in some way and already knows about the Santa lie; maybe he is the one that needs to be told. Pity it won’t come from me – I already learned that the hard way.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for sharing your lack of wisdom, Steven. We each sound just as confused and hopeless as the other about this issue. Interesting that you were in trouble with your Wife. I was in trouble with Daughter. Have you been forgiven? It would be interesting to hear what your Daughter thinks about it all now. She is obviously at an age (more than halfway through Primary School) of knowing the “truth”. It sounds like you offered the information without a request for it. I think, as with anything to do with raising children, parents really need to decide together how to deal with particular issues. But sometimes you can’t predict what will be an issue!
      I like the idea of your son being “gifted” in already knowing about Santa. It’s a great pun. There must be a joke in there somewhere!
      Thank you for this, and all your other lovely comments and kindnesses throughout the year. Much appreciated.
      I wish you and the family (whatever they think of Santa) a wonderful Christmas season and great 2016.

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      1. Steven

        So based on our two experiences, you either perpetuate the “myth” and risk being chastised by one family member, or be brutally honest and risk being chastised by another family member. Sounds like “life” to me. The best strategy here seems to be the middle ground.

        Interesting point you allude to about being in trouble from Wife. Thinking about it retrospectively, from my perspective she is the one who should have been in trouble! Isn’t that strange. In any case, it was a long time ago now and in the scheme of things a non-issue.

        Daughter starts High School next year and without it being spoken, we know that she knows the truth about Santa and has for years now. She seems to follow along for the benefit of her younger brother. I think one thing we did (when her rationalisation about Santa was starting) was to indicate that there was only one real Santa (of course) and that all the others were helper Santa’s. Or thinking about it now… maybe that was Wife’s way of rationalising her years of “lies” – I seem to be spiralling into over-analysis.

        As for Son, I suspect the logical reasoning about Santa has started very early for him. His character is such that not very much will come out of his mouth, but you can see the cogs of thought constantly turning in his head. Oh, I only just realised the pun you mentioned – how clever of you to pick it up and how silly of me to not even notice it.

        All the best for next year to you and all your fellow readers.

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        1. Norah Post author

          Our joint research of two experiences sounds like pretty conclusive evidence! :)As you say, it does sound rather like life! 🙂 Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, damned whatever choice you make. No, life’s not really like that. Interesting that you now think Wife should have been the one in trouble. It’s a good thing it’s so long ago now and forgotten; a non-issue.
          Daughter starting high school! That’s quite a transition. I hope it goes smoothly for her and all the family. High school and teenage years bring many changes, for everyone in the family.
          Thank you for your additional thoughts about Santa and the impact of the story on your family. I am always interested to hear how others deal with, and cope with, issues such as these. I think most enjoy, and survive, the “lie” without suffering too much harm. Or do we? There might be a little parasite in there that makes us think that way! 🙂
          Thank you for your wishes for 2016. I wish you and your family wonderful times together. 🙂

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  16. TanGental

    I’ve always been rather indifferent to this lying to children stuff when it comes to a fantasy. Billy goat gruff and Jack and the beanstalk are just fantasy but we offer them to small children as we do Santa. Ditto every film we take them to before they can distinguish. Do we explain fantasy? Nope and none of them are I would suggest damaged by these fictions. To say do you lie or tell the truth is far too black and white. We introduce them to fiction in many ways. This is one form. When asked is Sanra real, being the lawyer I answered with a question. Do you want to muss out in his presents if he’s not real? My children were both shrewd enough to maintain the fiction. Still do to this day in truth….

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks, Geoff. It’s interesting to hear a lawyer’s point of view regarding the truth and its telling. I think many children are like yours, shrewd enough to maintain the fiction in order to keep receiving.
      I don’t put Santa in quite the same category as the Troll or dragons though. Most parents are quick to tell their children they aren’t real, that they’re make believe. However many are quite keen to convince their children that Santa is real, for a few years anyway. I put my hand up as being one. I think because the idea of there being someone so wonderful, so kind and loving, so magical, gives as much pleasure to adults as it does to children. Until formally accused, I had never thought about it as lying as such. As I said, now I’m not so sure.

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  17. macjam47

    When my children were you, I indulged in the myth. Since my children were each six years apart, we had believers for a long time. When our oldest son learned from a friend’s older sister that his Mom and Dad were really Santa, he came to me and asked if it was true. I said yes it was, and asked him if it was fun believing in Santa. Of course, he responded yes, but was sad he no longer did. I told him we needed to keep the myth going for his younger brother. My son decided to be the Christmas Elf and took one of his toys that his younger brother always wanted to play with, wrapped it, and placed it under the tree with a note “from your secret elf.” This tradition continued until our middle son found out Santa wasn’t real, nor was the elf. Since our youngest still believed, he decided to pick up where our oldest left off, and became the Christmas Elf.
    At our house there were always gifts from each other in addition to Santa gifts. Nothing big, just a memento of love expressed through taking the time for each child to search and find, or to make, the perfect gifts for those loved ones in his life.
    I know this debate has gone on since before I was a child. I don’t think it is telling a lie at all. It’s merely letting your young child believe in the magic of Christmas – the love, sharing, giving, receiving, the whole shebang. Are we, as parents, to deny our children the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the enjoyment of fairy tales, make believe play, and all the other wonderful gifts of childhood? I think not. By indulging in make believe are we less as parents than we could be? I
    I don’t think so. I believe we are giving them a fabulous gift by letting them stretch their imagination.
    Merry Christmas, Norah

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your lovely family Christmas traditions. What a lovely thing for your children to do: gift from their own belongings something the younger sibling would like.
      It’s interesting that you say about finding out from friends and older siblings. Many children find out from friends in school. Maybe Daughter was a bit protected from these influences as she didn’t go to school until she was 9. As Brother was 12 years older, he probably felt more protective than having a burning desire to tell.
      I definitely agree with you about children needing opportunities to stretch their imaginations.
      Best wishes to you and your family for the Christmas season and 2016.

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  18. noelleg44

    Sue said what I was thinking – it was a balancing act, and I figured I would NOT be the one to tell the kids there was no real Santa Claus, I was right; my son learned from his friends and he in turn told my daughter. They were both ok with it, perhaps because they were raised in a somewhat religious family where giving at Christmas was stressed. To this day, I have no idea if this was the best way to do it, but I feel the magic of Christmas is something all little children should experience. It’s a memory I myself treasure. Children need to use imagination and believe in magic, at least for a little while.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts here Noelle. I agree. Although we didn’t get a lot at Christmas time, I do have memories I treasure, many of which involve the magic and wonder. The story you shared on your blog is a beauty. It gives me goosebumps and the warm fuzzy feelings that only Christmas stories can give.I can think of no other time in the year that encourages such thinking on a wide scale. It would be a shame to lose it. Best wishes to you and yours for the Christmas season and 2016.

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  19. Louise Gordon

    I guess everything said here is valid, we have always played along with Santa and magic of Christmas. Now the girls are 14 and 16, I think it has been a few years that Santa has not been real, but it was a fun game and never mentioned. But Santa presents have not even been mentioned this year . As they got a bit older we always told them we helped Santa out with the presents cause he had so many kids to provide for now he needed some help. But this year the 14 year old has turned into a bit of a Bah Humbug, and that is what we have called her and I am hoping it is just her age. I remember in the 16 yr olds year one class , one child told her Santa was not real, she came home most upset. She said is he real. I said, is the Easter bunny real? (she loved the EB) and she said “Yes” I said there is your answer, and the question was never asked again.We always made Christmas special and magical . That child’s mother said to me a few years later do I like lying to my child about Santa,(pretty sure you know which parent that was ) and I just looked at her and said
    ” yes, yes I do “. I don’t look at it as lying to my child but as a little bit of magic and fun and it certainly hasn’t hurt any of my three children.
    But everybody has their own believes and thoughts.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Louise, for sharing your thoughts on this topic and the experiences of your two beautiful girls. I can’t believe the 14 year old is going Bah Humbug! How could she? Isn’t she surrounded by a garden of Christmas lights?
      I think I remember the situation you mention with your now 16 year old. She loved fairies too, if I remember correctly, and always loved writing. Fortunately I have a selective memory and I don’t remember the parent you mention. We had some wonderful Christmas magic that year with a great party at the lake. I believe Santa himself joined us for the festivities. It was a lot of fun! Thank you, for then and now. 🙂 Best wishes to you, your girls and the rest of your family for Christmas and 2016.

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  20. Sue Vincent

    It’s a delicate balancing act… and I’ve no idea how right I got it either… to try and allow children the space to imagine and to believe in the impossible, while still telling them the truth. My sons believed in Santa… but still knew who the gifts came from (and usually where they were hidden before Christmas!) and why they were given. I don’t necessarily think that telling the truth spoils the magic… which is all about believing in things that can’t possibly happen 🙂 Maybe we just need to teach them that the willing suspension of disbelief is okay.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this topic, Sue.It is a balancing act. I think as parents we’re always walking a thin line and just have to hope for the best, and that we don’t screw our kids up too much! I think if there’s one thing we parents know for certain, it’s that we are not going to get everything right; there’s always going to be something our kids thought was unfair, unjust or unreasonable. After children know about Santa, perhaps it’s not believing, but imagining anyway. You can’t believe something you know to be not true, but you can imagine it. And Santa’s a pretty good thing to imagine! I wish you all the best for the Christmas season and 2016! 🙂

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      1. Sue Vincent

        Oh we could be the world’s most perfect parent and we will STILL screw up in our teenagers’ eyes 🙂 As long as we foster their imagination, maybe our children can manage to believe ‘at least five impossible things before breakfast’ 🙂

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