Santa Claus sparks a lot of controversy when families who celebrate Christmas must decide whether to encourage their children to believe in him. Some people are rigidly against having children believe in Santa, while others feel it wouldn’t be the same without children thinking that he will visit them on Christmas Eve. Many parents try to walk a middle line between belief in the possibility and the consideration of reality.
People who do want their children to believe in Santa generally cite two reasons. Some may not want this Christian holiday dominated by belief in a pagan symbol. They often emphasize that he can divert attention from celebration of the birth of Christ, and take away from the true meaning of Christmas.
Other families are opposed to encouraging kids to believe in Santa Claus because they feel that this is an outright lie to children. They feel they break their children’s trust by telling them a lie that sooner or later will be discovered. These adults may remember the disappointment of finding out that Santa didn’t exist when they were kids and do not wish to inflict the same disappointment on their own children.
Some parents, on the other hand, argue that not believing in Santa steals away some of the magic of Christmas. From a Christian perspective, they may argue that he is symbolic of the giving spirit of Christmas, and is, therefore, related to Christ. They find no harm in telling children this, and encouraging belief, because childhood may be the only place where such belief can occur.
Parents who encourage the belief in Santa Claus may have a specific ritual for telling children about Christmas, or they may leave it up to children to find out on their own. When children do find out, however, parents should be aware that this could be a cause for grief in children. They may want to tell kids themselves, and make them part of the Christmas spirit by having them help put out gifts.
Families may walk a middle line between belief and nonbelief. They may teach that Santa Claus is a symbol of giving, and that believing in that symbol is a good thing. Christian parents may also emphasize that he is just a symbol while Christ is a reality. Thinking about Santa may then take on a quality of all the family pretending and imagining together.
When children give gifts, they are playing Santa in the middle road approach. A parent can, therefore, encourage children to be part of the symbol of generosity and miracles. Children tend to work out how presents arrive in a few years anyway, but belief in the symbol, some parents feel, can last a lifetime.
There is no one right way to answer whether parents should encourage belief in Santa Claus. Parents should judge by what they think is right for their families. If they do decide to go the non-belief route, or when they disillusion children about the reality of Santa, it’s important for children to realize that not everyone believes the same way. In fact, it can be somewhat mean for children to tell other kids that Santa doesn’t exist. So children who don’t believe should be encouraged not to spoil it for those that do.