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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tell Children The Truth About Santa

I do not have any children, yet, but I pledge to tell them the truth about Santa Claus from the beginning. I will not pretend/lie that Santa Claus is a real person who delivers gifts all over the world to children on "Jesus' birth day". In what type of world is that possible? A magical, miracle filled world. But that's not the world we live in and I don't want children to get the wrong idea. I will let them know that Santa Claus is "make-believe" just like Superman and Star Wars.

If we are truly free to believe what we want and pass that onto our children then my children will be in kindergarten debunking Santa Claus. :)

It is a little known fact that the North American aboriginals were raising their children to be well balanced members of their community without spanking or hitting their children before Europeans came to the Americas. Considering that and the reality that we know a whole lot more about the world, history, the nature of life then did our grandparents we should be open to new ideas when it comes to the education and relationships parents have with their children.

I believe that telling children Santa Claus is real when they are young is the first remember-able lie that parents tell their children. When a person is young they are still learning how to remember. This accounts for why we don't remember the earliest years of our childhood.

I still remember the pain of finding out Santa Claus was not real. On reflection I experienced a major episode of cognitive-dissonance. I remember being in complete disbelief of this new fact. If Santa were not real then my parents lied to me? If Santa were not real who gave me those gifts from Santa? Why would they lie to me? Where was the reasoning?

There is no reasoning! All that remains is an ironic similarity between a child's head over heels faith in Santa and an adults head over heels faith in Jesus. The study of Santa and the building of his folklore can be of great interest when contrasted with how other mythical characters such as Jesus developed. There was a Saint Nicholas who was known for his gift giving and after his death was consider a saint for children (as well as sailors and other things) even though he was never formally made a saint. These tidbits of historicity can be pillars of foundation for folklore.

If you are giving gifts to your children and spending quality time with them over the holidays, where is the need to tell them the gifts are from Santa. Tell them it's you! They will love you instead of Santa. Get them to respect you. Let them know other children are not as fortunate and their parents lie to them about Santa. No child will respect you for crafting an elaborate time extensive lie. It's as simple as equating Santa Claus and Mother Goose. Children understand nursery rhymes are not real.

Christians started the tradition of tagging a new ideologically based holiday/festival on top of a pre-existing one. Remember Saturnalia? It was the religious (often referred to as pagan) festival of ancient Rome near the end of December. Christian developers placed Jesus' birth day as December 25th so that one holiday could be placed over/next to the already existing holiday. No Christian then or now could determine Jesus' actual "birth day" and this is because Jesus is mythical and was therefore never born in reality. If you would like a reference to a modern religious institution attempting to do the same thing the 4th century Christians successfully accomplished then see Iran. The Iranian New Year (Norooz) which is part of the pre-Islamic culture in Iran and dates back 2500 years (almost a millenium before Islam) is being swarmed by new Islamic public holidays around Norooz to drown out the non-Islamic celebrations.

Perhaps, although I'm speculating, the cultural crafters of Santa Claus (who were Enlightened) had the intention to drown out Baby Jesus with Father Christmas and send the future children (all of us) a hidden message!

My proposal is that we should worship the cell and more specifically the human and plant cells (Eukaryote) during the December holiday season. Tag a new ideologically based celebration to an old one. We should launch an army of atheist/biologist artists to craft the stories, the new traditions, the poems and songs of our new holiday. In the spirit in which the Mitochondria gives energy to the cell we should give gifts symbolic of the energy and love we have for friends and family.

Happy Cell-ebration!!

By Peter


mrj171 said...

Don’t forget about the winter solstice factor. Many religious celebrations stem simply from the observance of the time when the days start getting longer, symbolizing hope and new beginnings.

You could argue that as the focal point of the Christian holiday, Jesus was simply an enlightened humanist who was able to transcend the suffering of ordinary life and serve as a compassionate role model who gave others hope.

Santa Claus is based on the idea of giving generously to those less fortunate than oneself without recognition for the action. So as you can see, it is very easy for even the most ardent atheists to celebrate the spirit of the season without worrying too much about the religious agenda and BS. This is a time for hope and new beginnings, so give generously and be thankful and try to enjoy it. Happy holidays!

Kaylea said...

My daughter is 4 months old -- so I haven't had to handle this kind of issue yet, I will soon.

I think Santa belongs in the same category as fairies, dragons, unicorns, folktales, myths -- wonderful sources of makebelieve, an idea to use our imagination about. Sure, in our hearts, we know we're just playing pretend, but so what. I wouldn't interrupt children playing like they were doctors or zookeepers to remind them that they really aren't those things. I wouldn't lie to them and claim imaginary things are real, either -- but I might very well play along with their ideas.

I think children should have the same privilege in their lives that we claim for ourselves as adults. Adults play pretend all the time, we just call it entertainment instead. When I read a novel or watch tv, I'm not hoping for an endless rationality lecture about how the stories I'm so wrapped up in aren't real.

Unknown said...

Kaylea: All I think that the entry was saying was not to link the joy of giving to a mythical being, which traps you into lying as growth from year to year occurs. Instead, just be honest, right off - the first time she asks - with your daughter (daughters are wonderful - I have two, both grown)best.


In reality there once lived an elderly kindly old man named Nicholas. He carve wooden toys for the poor children and delived them at Christmas time. They called hima saint for his actions, ie Saint Nick. He brought magic into the lives of these children - as the traditon lives on - the magic of the unopened box - the present continues. How is thiw wrong in a world who tries so hard to do away with the magical??

A said...

I'm very much an atheist. Now please allow me to be redundant and verbose. :)

Here's why you're 100% wrong.

1. Letting the 'magic' of Santa exist teaches an important lesson to the kid once he or she finally finds out. It shows him or her that we as people can believe in a made-up concept and are susceptible to deep belief. I think this can be instrumental in making a person more skeptical and questioning. It's very much a gift. It's a gift of both letting the kid's mind have years of wonder/fun/anticipation in thought while it lasts and it's the gift of a powerful example of being impressionable as he or she reflects later in life.

2. It's one of the few societally-acceptable traditions that allows this lesson, where parents are not later looked upon negatively for having "lied."

3. Santa, the elves, Mrs. Claus, flying reindeer & sleigh, candy canes, toy factory, lights, pretty trees, fun and emotional music -- the whole shebang -- is extremely fun and beautiful. It's now totally non-religious in its practical form and function, just like the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny.

4. It gives kids (and adults) some ('real') magical feeling, under the full understanding among our culture that Santa is a fictional concept. That's an important distinction to, say, parents and society belonging to a cult/religion and actually proselytizing with unsubstantiated beliefs.

5. It's fun. Magical /feelings/ are not bad. They're inherent to our biology, like taking delight in the twinkling lights, that certain sense of peace in the air, and inhaling the grandness of nature. What matters is how it's derived. Everyone should enjoy such feelings when they can, depending on the situation, of course. Such feelings do not have to have anything to do with cults/religion/institutions, and need only to do with the reality of human feelings. Appreciate the vastness. Enjoy the unexplainable.

6. The kid doesn't get the gift they want?: Santa's fault. Haha!

7. But seriously, life is short. Have fun. It's an enjoyable, secular experience, and even an important lesson.

As an atheist, I temporarily thought like you did years ago. I figured it would be more proper to be 100% real and present the (cold) truth because the truth is a beautiful concept as well. Buy you know what? I later realized that it's not only not harmful, it's actually a pretty helpful memory. And reality is partially of our own volition. If it wasn't we would be totally boring and not do millions of "irrational" things like celebrate birthdays.

Is it wrong to like fantasy, to think about castles, sprites, heros, villains, strange new worlds & ways of life? Nope. It's good for one's mind and curiosity. It's good to learn to separate fantasy from reality, yet still succumb to feelings and imagination.

So let the secular tradition live on!

Succumb to the 'spirit' of it all. And, of course, along with Santa, show why giving to others is so important. Have kids think of ways to give back. Go out and do it. Empathy and ethics are best established by making actual connections to people and animals, to see and relate to suffering, to see and relate to how much a little help can mean to others.

Also, the actual feeling in the air on xmas/solstice holidays is as real as we are real: it's the sum of knowing that others around us are taking part in a peaceful collective action. It's the feeling of harmony that we strive toward as a species.

Sure, it'd be great if every day were so healthy. But it's good that certain holidays/traditions still live on. They live on in the secular land of fun and goodwill. That itself /is/ rational.

~ Season's (and Reason's) Greetings! ~


Anonymous said...

Wow. You really need to lighten up. I have a 15 month old daughter who I love to bits and I have every intention of doing the Santa thing with her. Why? Because it's straight harmless fun, and that is what children need and are about, something I guess you are yet to find out.

Unknown said...

My wife and I are expecting our first child this year and I fully intend on educating my children about the differences between reality and fantasy. In knowing the historical facts, i.e. Jesus and Saint Nicholas of Myra were real people in history, I hope they will be able to appreciate fantasy all the more.

Our family won't celebrate Christmas as the commercialized pagan holiday with Santa Claus being at the center. Instead, we will give our attention to the man named Jesus of Nazareth, who was born in a "dumpy rural hick town", and claimed to be the "son of God".

Holidays and traditions are great opportunities to teach kids history, as well as the richness and depth of peoples value systems and faith (which is central for all humanity to have in order to live progressively).

"Reason is the natural order of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning."--C.S. Lewis

A said...

If one wishes his or her child to appreciate fantasy all the more, one must give the gift of allowing that child to actually experience fantasy.

Intellectual pontification in parenting is rather removed from a young kid's thought process. What adults value as richness and depth is usually meaningless in relation to how a child sees the world. We only have so many chances in life to fully experience "magic" before childhood slips away.

I find it ironic that destroying the myth of Santa -- by talking to a kid about "St. Nick" as the person he was in recorded history -- is deeply antithetical to the beauty and fun invoked by "St. Nick's" actions: secretly giving gifts.

No Santa? What about the Tooth Fairy? What about the Easter Bunny? Anything!? The gift of a /temporary something/ is healthy in youth. It lets minds & dreams flourish. Would you not want as much when you were a kid? Answering "no" is probably intellectual dishonesty.

All (of my) empirical evidence hints at it being instrumentally formative of a healthier, more creative mind later in life. It's a good part of a secular education. Within reason, one should sometimes do irrational things. :)

In parenting, there's no ultimate right & wrong per se; my words are solely for some readers' (re)consideration. I wish you all well and much success either way.

(And: go Kiva team!) ;D

Eric said...

Another practical perspective to add to the "keep the magic" thoughts above: Santa is a convenient way to have children not know parents are giving them all these gifts. As children are forming their expectations about how the world works, there's always the risk of them getting spoiled. I would not want to have to deal with "butbutbut you would have bought me this for Christmas!"

Of course there are other less elaborate and deceptive ways to deflect the responsibility, but this one's got built-in credibility.

PaPaJim said...

Oh, the horror! Poor Peter, finding out Santa wasn't real and experiencing cognitive dissonance! WOW! How have you managed to move on from such an experience?

SantaMan said...

Oh you Poor mis-informed little puppies. You are all asking the wrong question. I am so sorry that your parents destroyed your life for you by telling you that Santa was a fake. look at you don't believe in anything anymore. Very unfortunate.

The question you should be asking is "Was" Was Santa for real? If you decide to raise your children as an athiest, that's fine. He or she will miss out on everything that you wewre denied and that will make for a wonderful family life.

Read your history books. Find out where the name came from originally? I'm not preaching any religion. I am a non-religious person. But the truth is that he once existed around 300 AD. Long before he was ever called Santa Claus. Does he fly in a sleigh, come on. of course not. Does he come down a chimney? Duh! But was he real? Yes, indeed. and the Name Kris Kringle was just a derivative translation from old-German. Do some homework before you go on about fairies and fantasy. Does he exist today. No! But if you teach your children that he never existed, then you are sorely mistaken. Just a bunch of overgrown kids who were disappointed by the news. Sorry you feel that way.

Unknown said...

Interesting. I thought I was the only one that felt like this. I have two teenage boys but I always told them the truth. I told them you put "from Santa" when you want to remain anonymous. Santa is the symbol of giving.
I just felt that Santa was a terrible lie and I thought how could they ever believe anything else I said if I tricked them with something so huge as this.
This is not to say we didn't play Santa. But my kids always knew the truth even when they left out the milk and cookies.

Reinventor said...

A said it best.

Unlike the author of the original post, I do have a child: a wonderful, very intelligent 6 year old boy. His friends told him this year that Santa was fake. No horrible trauma. In fact he liked the game of telling US the truth while we were insistent Santa existed. He then spent a long time telling us how this was not true: There were boxes from Amazon that I had never opened that he knew had toys, he received gifts from other relatives, if there was a Santa why did we have give toys to less fortunate children, etc., etc., etc.

It made him feel like an adult to have discovered the truth. It was harmless fun. Sometimes life with children is harmless scarring, no "cognitive dissonance". Sometimes the life well led is the life led less seriously.

Michele said...

The children who live next door to us are raised to believe that Santa, the Easter bunny and all the rest are lies. They are the saddest boys I've ever met. There is NO magic in their lives. You're a child for 18 quickly passing years and an adult for the rest of your life. Why make them so adult. Christmas, Santa it's about people all over giving and goodwill.

Those two boys love our house, the people who give them Easter baskets that the bunny leaves for them, and that Santa left a gift for them at our house. Their mother tells them one thing and she is okay with us telling them what our beliefs are. Guess whose house they love to visit. Yes us the magical ones. Not because we give gifts because there's joy and happiness in this house.

Think said...

Why not cultivate in our children the same sources of awe and joy that we get to experience as adults. This way they are emotionally prepared for their entire lives instead of just the early years.

Based on some of the posts here, it sounds as if many of us believe that becoming an adult means leaving all wonder, amazement, and imagination behind. That's a horrifying thought.

What about the wonders of nature or those of human ingenuity and imagination? The world is full of amazing creatures, a scintillating array of cultures, and a depth of scientific discovery which would take a lifetime to plumb. We have built the pyramids, the Great Wall, and have sent explorers to the moon. We have works of the likes of Asimov, Herbert, and Tolkien to fire our imaginations.
And above all, we have friends and family with which we can share and enjoy it all.

So read to your kids. Encourage them to see the beauty in the natural world around them, and make sure that they're always learning something new. This will keep them happy, excited, and interested in life without having to deceive them into thinking that fictional characters are real.

If you've been reading this blog, you must have noticed that some people feel betrayed when they eventually find out that Santa and the others are not real. These were/are someone's children. Are we really so arrogant that we can pretend to know that our children won't have a similar reaction? Are we willing to take the risk when the alternatives are so rich and abundant?

I am not.

SantaGuy said...

Gentlemen, do you shake hands when you meet a new acquaintance, or see an old friend? Ladies, do you greet your friends with a smile or perhaps a friendly hug. Or maybe you are the high-five type. These are traditions that have their roots in ancient beginnings. Some day your children will learn this. Perhaps you will teach them and perhaps they will learn it on their own. Santa Claus, Kris Kringle and the whole story behind it is just a wonderful mystery for children. It's fun! To be sure, it is partly fantasy, but it is happy times. It's childhood. You may choose to deprive your children of this wonderful period in their lives, when they learn the meaning and pleasure of giving and receiving gifts. You can start them out in life with a cold and stark home with no symbol of Christmas, because you don't believe in God, much less the birth of a human son of god. (to believe or not, in a religion is a choice we all make and we are all entitled to our own beliefs or dis-beliefs or non-beliefs.) But we are talking about the early understanding of a tradition and a lesson of human nature. The lesson of giving of yourself. A lesson that each child can only be enriched by. But,that's a choice we all make on our own. If your child begins his or her life in a social environment that has a general acceptance of the concept of Santa Claus, when the time comes so see through the fantasy and face the real story, will you be ready with another lie? Will you just say "Sorry Sweetie, Santa is a fake and all your presents are bought for you, so just don't believe in that crap?" Or will you at least attempt to tell them the history behind the tradition. You don't have to believe that warriors held out their empty weapon hand, as a symbol of truce and trust, to shake a friends hand. You don't have to believe in the birth of a Christ Child, if you find it that repulsive a thought. But you can take the time to tell a story, regardless of your belief. A story of tradition. A true historic event that has resulted in a common, once a year tradition. There are many ways to answer a child, when they look to you for answers. Some prefer the short, hard, cold "facts". Others prefer to allow the young, inquisitive, creative mind an opportunity to see a much broader answer. Anyway you do it, id your decision. I am not preaching "wrong and right". I suggest you look for a book. It may soon be an eBook. It is the story of how one grandfather answered his granddaughters question, as told by the 5yr old herself. It is published by Outskirts Press. Titled "Tell me the Truth..Is Santa for Real? A Five Yr Old's Own Story. It's not the answer. It is just one of the ones that worked!

Anonymous said...

I'm an agnostic and have never stopped "believing" in Santa. When I was a little kid, I played along with the physical santa concept. I knew that was just for fun though. I believed in Santa then as I do now as a symbol. That Santa Clause is the essence or symbol of the giving spirit during the Christmas holiday. I give pagans, christians, and macy's their due in creating what we now know as christmas... but there is a good feeling of giving, and to me that is embodied in the image of Santa.

Why crush that out of the holiday? Or out of your children? Obviously the physical part isn't there. Get over it. Stop whining about the lie. Have a little vision and don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The true magic in this world is all the amazing things humans are capable of... the amazing things the natural world creates daily. The spirit of selflessness and giving is one of those magical things.

Unknown said...

Some people here are splitting the wrong hairs. You can tell your kids about Santa and keep all the other standard trimmings (candy canes, trees, wreaths, mistletoe, etc), but why do you need to lie and tell your children a man is coming down the chimney with gifts?

I don't see how this 'magic' is so terribly diminished by understanding that people who love you are the ones buying you gifts.

I wonder, to all the Santa proponents here, how you would have a low-income single mother explain to her very well-behaved son the reason why Santa brought the little punk who picks on him at school all sorts of games, gadgets, and toys, while he received only a few things.

Why does Santa discriminate against poor kids?

Unknown said...

One more post, forget to subscribe last time. Sorry!

Warwak said...

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