Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Day Santa Claus Died

Do you remember when Santa Claus died? For many of us, the tragic day when we learned that Santa Claus wasn't real was a day of deep wounds. Innocence was lost. Trust was shattered. Everything our parents told us later forever became suspect.

Those of you who have read my book The Image of a Father know that I advise parents not to teach their children to believe that Santa Claus will visit on Christmas and give them presents. The simple reason is that it's a lie, and any lie can create a shadow of distrust that will hurt your credibility. If you are willing to lie about this, what else are you lying about? Why should they ever believe you again?

I would like to support that teaching with anecdotes. Did your parents tell you that Santa Claus was real? If so, when you learned the truth, did it hurt you emotionally? Did it harm your trust in your parents? If you have a story like that, please post it or send me an email. Thank you.

27 comments:

Scott Phillip Appleton said...

This is a great topic,Bryan! My parents elected to never lie to me or my siblings when we were growing up. Many of our relatives and some of our friends did not understand and it irked parents that I would tell their kids that SC wasn't real. But my parents' honesty strengthened our relationship and, growing up, it made me realize how blessed I was to have parents who dared be different. -Scott

Shane said...

I never believed in Santa Clause as a child, my parents informed us he wasn't real, in fact he was rather shunned altogether...

I know he isn't real but I prefer Father Christmas at any rate. I wrote about him in my book I'm working on, so in a sense, he's alive in my imagination world, at least.

Anonymous said...

my friend lasted until 12 yrs old believeing in Santa. My parents never taught me, but it was hard to eith tell him it he wasn't real, or to keep the scret. It hurts when you find out your parents have been telling you stuff that's not true

Shane said...

I have to add to my previous reply a somewhat humorous note, our neighbour was furious that my sister and I, then children, informed their children that Santa Clause wasn't really real. Neighbour disputes over Santa Clause... Honestly.

Clefspeare said...

Thanks for the comments.

Shane, yes it's amazing that someone would get so upset that you told their children the truth, something the parents already knew was the truth.

People don't like it when you expose a lie.

WayneThomasBatson said...

I was taught to believe in Santa, but it was never instead of God. And when I discovered the "truth," it did absolutely nothing to harm my trust in my parents. I always understood that it was my parents' attempt to carry on a fun Christmas tradition.

IMHO it's not cutesie stories about Santa, Tooth Fairies, and Easter Bunnies that will determine whether a child trusts his parents. It's whether the parents have been loving, kind, fair, disciplined, and supportive throughout a child's life.

I view Santa much like the fantasy stories that Sir Bryan and I write--a form of entertainment. I know many of us fantasy writers have had a bit of a hard-sell, trying to explain to other Christians why our brand of fantasy is actually good--not evil. But it's been a hard sell because fantasy isn't real--therefore is it a lie? Some would say yes.

I've countered by arguing that kids using their imagination is good--perhaps stretching them so that one day, they may even imagine that there is more to this life than we see around us.

A very intelligent Christian blogger named Rustin Smith had this to say about Santa and Christians:

"Let’s cut to the chase. When we hold up a metaphoric, symbolic figure like Santa Claus, we are making the existence of a loving, sacrificing, joyful, benevolent, just, and mysterious person plausible. Children, who do not yet have the capacity for grasping imperceptible abstract realities like God can get their eyes and hands and…imaginations…on a character like Santa Claus (who, by the way, stands for so many of the things that are also true about Jesus).

A child’s imagination is widened by Santa Claus so that when they encounter the Christ behind the Claus, they will immediately recognize him. In a letter to C. S. Lewis, a 9-year-old boy worried that he might love Lewis’ character Aslan more than Jesus. Lewis replied to the boy’s mother, 'He can’t really love Aslan more than Jesus, even if that is what he feels he is doing. For the things he loves Aslan for doing or saying are simply the things Jesus really did and said. So that when (he) thinks he is loving Aslan, he is really loving Jesus: and perhaps loving Him more than he ever did before. I don’t think he need be bothered at all. God knows all about the way a little boy’s imagination works (He made it, after all).'

And so, when we love Santa for being all that he is (or isn’t), we are really loving what is not fact, but truth–truth that is perceivable by imagination first, and reason second.

From one adult that still finds magic in Christmas, who as a child spent many sleepless Christmas Eves awaiting the man in red, to any of you who feel confused about the role Santa Claus might play in your families, let me say not only have I never developed a distrust for my parents because they told me a myth as a boy, but that myth made room in my heart and mind for a true story about a another man who receives my gifts (not milk and cookies–but time, talent and treasure), a man who also could come into my home bringing gifts, and joy, and…magic.

May Santa Claus deliver to you and your family what he brings to mine each year: a houseful of all the things Jesus lived and died to give us."

I whole-heartedly agree with Mr. Smith.

My concern is that when Christians--well meaning though we may be--come out flaming cherished traditions like Santa, that we give the world one more reason to look at Christians as judgmental, insensitive, and unapproachable.

My .02

(Jim &) Brandy Brow said...

I don't remember my age--sometime in grade school--but I remember clearly the incident that brought the illusion crashing down.

It was the hardest night ever to sleep and I had come downstairs near midnight, the time I thought Santa was about to come. I looked at the mantel where our stockings hung. Something appeared to be in them. I felt a flutter in my stomach. Was Santa near?

I reached in and pulled out a Santa Claus chocolate resting on top of an orange lodged in the stocking's toe, the chocolate only Santa left. But the stockings weren't full and the tree didn't have the special gifts with flamboyant ribbons Santa always left that were scrolled with loopy lettering.

Confused, I sought my mom with chocolate in hand and inquired. She looked surprised, but insisted Santa must have come and left them there and left or hid because he heard me come down the stairs, so I should go back to sleep right away.

That feeling in my gut changed from excitement to worry. As I sauntered back upstairs I consoled myself that it must have been Santa because Mom and Dad were the only two people in the whole wide world who would never lie to me.

That Christmas, I doubted Santa was real, but held onto the belief because I couldn't bear to believe my parents had lied to me all my life and that my favorite person was fake.

The Christmases after that, my belief slipped downhill until I realized the truth on my own and that my parents had lied. Going into my teenage years, distrust in them was the last thing I needed yet it was that Santa lie that birthed a strong bitter root in me that took years to pull out.

Only after I was an adult and after my mom became a Christian did she finally admitted she had put the chocolates in that stocking and then lied about it, at which she felt terrible.

Today when people look at my kids and ask them if they're excited about Santa coming, they look them head on and say, "Santa's not real."

Others ask me about it and I say, "We don't do Santa." "What do you do?" they inquire, at which I reply, "We celebrate Jesus." They always nod their head and go on their way. And I'm still one my kids can rely upon with assurance to always tell them the truth.

Brandy of The Building Brows

Clefspeare said...

Wayne,

Thank you for your comments, but I strongly and completely disagree with both you and Mr. Smith.

Telling kids that Santa is real is a lie. When we write fantasy stories, we're not telling kids to believe that the stories are true. They are fantasy.

No matter how pretty a lie might be, no matter how much it sparks imagination, it remains a lie, which is a sin.

No, Wayne, you're wrong. "Flaming" Santa, doesn't show Christians to be judgmental, insensitive, and unapproachable. It shows that they care about the truth and want to tell their kids the truth.

If telling the truth makes people think that I'm judgmental, insensitive, and unapproachable, then so be it. I will continue to tell the truth and be hated by the world system that worships the lie.

(Jim &) Brandy Brow said...

To add to my post, we do tell Santa stories and love to watch the Santa Clause movies (my favorites), but my children know about the real Saint Nicholas and understand Santa Claus is fun fiction. And they seem to enjoy all of it.

Brandy of The Building Brows

Clefspeare said...

Brandy,

That's a great story. Thank you. It really demonstrates the heartbreak some kids feel when they learned their parents lied. What a tragedy!

Scott Phillip Appleton said...

I agree with Bryan Davis. A lie is a lie no matter how well it is put. If parents propose to their children that Santa Clause is real then they are lying and scripture clearly says that is a sin.

Is it possible to lead someone (a child in this case) down the right path with an act of sin? No.

It is not wrong to inform children of the legend of Clause. The story is an endearing one, but there is a universe of a difference between telling them he is real and telling them about Santa Clause.

My family joked around with each other (and still do) with "from Santa" on gifts from time to time, but it was in jest.

In closing: a fairy tale is harmless as long as it is recognized as a fairy tale or purposed for allegory. But when the laws of those fantasy worlds are made real, they take the place of reality.

Galactic Overlord-In-Chief said...

Hi Wayne,

I can't find myself in agreement with Mr. Smith that Santa Claus is necessary to widen children's imaginations to conceive of God. It's that time of our lives when we are the most perceptive to God. Jesus said that we must be like children to enter the kingdom of Heaven. And if Santa can be as helpful to kids' imaginations, it isn't necessary that he be depicted as real to do so.

I'm sure many parents have no ill intent when they tell their kids that Santa is real. Like you said, they're carrying on a tradition that seems to go back probably 200 years, and not enough people have thought to break the cycle. If you told them they were "sinning" I'm sure they would be very surprised, if not shocked.

- Jason

Jessica said...

I love my parents for allowing me to believe in Santa Claus. For me, Santa never died, and, for me, he *is* real.
After reading "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus" for the first time a couple of years ago, it confirmed my feelings towards Santa Claus. I still believe.
He is a symbol of giving, much like God *giving* (sending) His son to the earth to save us from our sin (not so extreme for Santa, but the parallels are still there).
I *was* angry at my parents, until I realized that I was happy my parents allowed me to believe in something that was beyond my senses. I think that made it just that much easier for me to believe in God.

I have a younger brother (7 years old) who my parents have "taught" (don't like to use that word) to believe in Santa. He brought a younger friend of his over and his friend said "You know, Santa isn't real." He said it in a superior tone that made me cringe, and then wonder about kids who believe and don't believe.
Obviously, we can't separate the kids who believe from the kids who won't/don't believe, but can't the parents of the kids who don't believe try to teach their kids subtly? I don't know, I really don't know.
Oh, I just so that you know, the comment that his friend said, didn't affect his belief in Santa. He still believes, still in the same way most children believe in Santa (as if Santa is a real person).
I would like to find out what everyone else thinks about the friend who came over and said something that could have destroyed my parents decision to let my brother believe.
Thanks
-Jess

Clefspeare said...

Jess,

Thank you for your comment. As you might expect, I disagree with your parents' decision to get you to believe in Santa. I'm glad you're not angry with them any longer. Regardless of the "Yes, Virginia" articles and the sentimentality we might feel about parallels between Santa and God, telling kids to believe in Santa Claus is still wrong, because it is a lie.

The boy who told your brother the truth was certainly not wrong for telling the truth. Why should we think anything wrong about telling the truth? Of course, the superior tone is wrong, but the content was not.

Pam Halter said...

Wow, is this ever a hot topic with Christian parents.

I found out about Santa when I followed my mom into the attic and saw all the gifts. When I asked her who the gifts were for she said, "Now what do you think?" I was devestated and cried for days.

When I had my son from my first marriage, I didn't know what to do about Santa. I was very young, and while I attended church, I don't believe I was a true believer at the time. Still, it was a quandry. His daddy insisted we do Santa, but my heart ached. When Scotty finally came to me and asked, I told him about St. Nicholas and how he loved Jesus and loved to bless people in secret. When he died, people took on the tradition and gave gifts in secret in the name of St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus. Scotty was satisfied with that.

When I married again, my husband and I agreed we would not do Santa. And we didn't. My daughter was kicked out of a neighbor's house for arguing with their daughter about Santa. That was upsetting to her and us. I sometimes wonder what their daughter thought when she learned my daughter was right.

We told our daughter about St. Nicholas and explained just because someone is dead, that doesn't mean they weren't real. The stories about Santa Claus are not real. The person who gave selflessly was real and we carry on his tradition.

We also celebrate Jesus's birthday. Our focus of the day is devotions and singing before we open our gifts and thank Him for all He provides. Our Christmas Day is one filled with peace and joy.

We never did the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy, either. Our hopes were that when we told our children about Jesus, there would never be a doubt.

Clefspeare said...

Pam,

Thank you for the story. I'm glad you're telling your kids the truth.

Truth Seeker said...

Dear Clefspeare,

I must tell you that I do not think a healthy belief in Santa Claus is in any way wrong. And I do not see it as a lie.

I am in agreement with Wayne.

I was raised to believe in Santa and I was not mad, or harmed in any way when my mom spilled the beans. She even told us long before my Dad did. He was the one who got all excited about videotaping our little faces and he took great pride in finding the best stocking stuffers. So my sister and I knew long before he knew we knew. And to us it meant so much more that he was excited about it.

But for us it has always been more like believing in what you cannot see.

For my part I still believe in the magic that Faeries represent.

And I think that what it truly comes down to here is; is fantasy a lie as well?

My mom believes so, she doesn't like your books Brian. I do.

And I like Santa Claus, my kids will be raised to believe in him. I will also raise them to seek the Truth. And in Santa I see the Truth of classic love and joy. The Truth of peace, forgiveness and grace.

-just my thoughts.

Clefspeare said...

Truth seeker,

Thank you for your comment.

A lie is a falsehood told by someone who knows it isn't true with the intent to get the hearer to believe it is true. Therefore, it is a lie if someone, knowing that Santa Claus isn't real, tells someone else that he is real.

It doesn't matter how many times people try to claim otherwise, a parent who does this is lying.

Fantasy, on the other hand, is not a lie, because it doesn't pretend to be true. I don't want anyone to believe my stories are true. In fact, I would be astonished if they really believed them. We call the stories "fantasy" for a reason. We know they aren't true, and we don't portray them as being true.

Still, good fantasy has truths within, as does the Santa Claus myth, giving both potential value. I have no problem with parents telling kids about the Santa myth as long as they include that it is just fantasy. That way the kids can enjoy the meaning behind the myth without being led astray.

I hope you will change your mind about trying to get your kids to believe in Santa. If you want them to seek the truth, then tell them the truth. Doing otherwise would prove to them that you don't value truth as much as you say you do.

Krista said...

I have to agree with you, still, Mr. Davis. I believe parents should not lie to their kids, and therefore tell them that Santa is not real. Some kids may start loving Santa more and wanting Santa more then Jesus, and that is wrong.

But, my dad agrees with Mr. Batson. <_< Oh, well. He won't be raising my kids. :p

Great topic! :D

Anonymous said...

I too was taught about Santa in addition to the true story of Christmas. While I don't remember much about what my parents told me about Santa when I was little. I do remember that somewhere along the way that my Dad was playing "Santa". And "Santa" was simply someone who left gifts under the tree. I also learned the story behind the original St. Nicholas at a young age. During family gatherings one of us was "Santa" and "delivered" the gifts into our family members hands that year. It never harmed my trust in my parents because I knew my parents loved me and that "Santa" never was the real reason for Christmas. Jesus was the reason and "Santa" giving gifts was just a nice tradition. Even to this day, I stay in my room until my parents call me down 'cause "Santa" left stuff out for me that didn't get wrapped. lol.

While I don't have kids, if I can balance the view that I had growing up with the real reason for the season, then I may continue. But that is something to discuss with my future husband.

WayneThomasBatson said...

Hey, Bryan
I definitely respect your views on this topic, and for now, we must agree to disagree. The best thing to come out of this, IMHO, is that people are forced to think about what they believe and what they do. To often we just go with the flow, or even worse, go through the motions.

We need to be more thoughtful in word and deed.

Clefspeare said...

Wayne,

I'm glad you and I can disagree and still remain friends, especially considering the way you handle a sword.

You're right that we should examine what we believe and do. You and I are at the forefront of the effort to shake up lethargic minds, and I appreciate what you're doing.

Elizabeth said...

Wow- I'm surprised at how much conflict the Santa story causes between children! I thought I was the only one ever to argue with my friends about it...they were dead set on believing in Santa...

I don't remember ever *finding out* that Santa wasn't real, so my parents must have explained it to me when I was pretty young. I always knew that my parents were the ones leaving the presents in the stockings (and the money in place of the missing teeth), but we all *pretend* to play along because it's fun. Neither of my younger siblings or I believe (or, as far as I can remember, ever really believed) in Santa.

Jessica said...

I have to agree with Mr. Batson on this one (that we must agree to disagree).
I am very happy at being able to share my views without fear of being verbally attacked, and I hope I see more of this kinds of blogs in the future.

-Jessica

Clefspeare said...

Jess,

I’m glad you’re comfortable expressing your opinion. You won’t be flamed here.

Yet, I will continue to disagree with you in a loving manner. I’m not sure what “agree to disagree” means. If it means that I agree that we are disagreeing, then yes. That’s clear. If you mean that our opinions are equally valid and have come to a stalemate, then no. Neither you nor Wayne has explained why it is acceptable to lie to children about Santa Claus.

Someone might successfully defend lying to save an innocent life, but lying in order to have fun and stoke the imagination is unacceptable. Have fun on Christmas. Tell children about the myth of Santa Claus. But be sure to tell them it’s not true. They will still have fun, and there will be no danger that your integrity will be compromised.

Jessica said...

Thank-you again. It helps a bit when I talk with other people about their opinions (and truths).
I don't plan on having kids at this point, but if I do, I will certainly consider both aspects and weigh them out even more.
At this point, I am not too worried about it.
Thanks
-Jess

Flair Lyabi said...

Yeah, my parents did the "Santa" thing, but I just sort of grew out of it. No one told me he wasn't real, either. Not really sure exactly how it happened, though...I was probably about 6 or 7 when I basically realized it was my parents instead. I wasn't bothered at all.