It’s Christmas Eve and I believe in believing in Santa Claus.
The world would be a better place if all parents taught their kids to believe in Santa Claus — at least for a while.
My children enjoyed Christmas better and they are better human beings because they really believed (and because we didn’t give them too many gifts.)
I believed in Santa Claus when I was a kid, too. My parents lied to me and I thought the lie magnificent. On the way back from the Christmas Eve party with the Brewer family I scanned the skies for Rudolph’s nose. I imagined Santa sneaking into my house. I gave him cookies and milk and wrote him thank you letters. It gave me joy. When I opened my (factory second) “Hot Wheels Action City Travel Racetrack Suitcase” on Christmas morning, there was a big rip right on the cover (repaired crudely with black electrical tape). Mom told me a big fat one: “Um…Santa drove through a huge storm last night and the wind ripped it — he didn’t think you’d mind.” That was one of the coolest lies, ever.
My wife and I lied to our own kids, too. Soon after my kids went to bed on Christmas Eve I grabbed some old sleigh bells and ran around the yard doing my best “Ho! Ho! Ho!” The kids bought the whole thing.
Turns out I was a pretty good liar — even during non-Christmas situations and even when I wasn’t trying. I used to joke with the kids when we were driving through a downpour by shouting, “I command the rain to stop!” And it did. And then 2 seconds later I’d say, “…and start again!” and it would. It did, of course, because we’d just driven under a bridge, but my kids never made the connection. I had no idea that my kids had no idea. When they told me, years later, that they thought that I could control the rain, I felt kinda bad.
But not too bad, because my kids weren’t crushed when they figured it out. They thought it was pretty funny. I think it would probably do all the children of the world some good if they thought their fathers had magical powers.
However, when my parents told me Santa wasn’t real, I went on a rampage, killed all the cats in the neighborhood, and joined a Satanic cult (Satan. Santa. Same letters. Coincidence?). I stopped believing in God, too.
No. That’s not true. I didn’t stop believing in God and the earth did not crash into the sun.
Nobody told me that Santa wasn’t real — I just figured it out. I remember that I was in the living room on my hands and knees reading the newspaper and I shouted back to my family (still at the dinner table), “How in the world could Santa fly all the way around the planet in one night? Stopping at every single home? That would be impossible.” My older brother very gently said, “FIGURE IT OUT, PAUL!!!!” And there was a long pause and eventually I said, “Oh.” And I laughed and we all laughed and that was that. I was, from that point on, in on the joke.
I’m very suspicious of people who don’t teach their kids to believe in Santa (this includes my in-laws). These are the kinds of people who frown on reading fiction because elves and orcs and hobbits aren’t in the Bible. These same people are NOT bothered by the witches, prostitutes, and baby killers in the Bible… but then, I digress.
The point is simply this — it’s fun to make believe! It’s just as fun to believe in Santa as it is to sit down in a theater and pretend you’re actually on Tatooine (Star Wars) or attend a play and listen in on the dead citizens of Grover’s Corners (Our Town). We even have a name for it; “suspended disbelief.” I know someone who can’t enjoy scary movies because she can’t allow herself to suspend disbelief — or, to put it another way, she can’t pretend to believe! Jason is running around decapitating attractive co-eds in his hockey mask, blood is spurting all over the place, and my wife is smirking, laughing, rolling her eyes, and saying, “Ya. Right.” Even with really good scary movies (like The Bad Seed) it’s all just a big joke. I told you that she didn’t grow up believing in Santa Claus, didn’t I? She has other qualities. 🙂
One year, in addition to other things, we got the kids coal for their stockings. Now as it happened, Sophie only got the coal. The Stewart kids could open their stockings as soon as they woke up, but they had strict instructions to let us sleep. So everyone opened their fun little stocking stuffers and Sophie just sat there and cried. Eventually, when we finally woke up and discovered the goof, we made up a whopper about Santa spilling Sophie’s stocking in the basement. Sophie cheered up in a hurry and to this day she loves to tell the story… who wouldn’t!? It’s a great story!
Believing in Santa Claus teaches wonder, imagination, creativity, and the idea that there are mysteries out there waiting to be uncovered. By the time the fairy tale is “spoiled,” it doesn’t matter — you have already been given all the the tools you need. Truth can be told with facts and lectures and stern admonitions from your parents. But it’s far better to learn the truth in the amusement and excitement of a good story. Santa Claus is a magnificent start.
So do your kids a favor and teach them to believe in Santa — and don’t buy them too many gifts.
And that reminds me… The Christmas Law of Diminishing Returns:
One gift is amazing.
Two gifts is twice as amazing.
But three gifts?
It isn’t three times as amazing. It’s only a little bit more amazing.
And four gifts? Four gifts produces zero additional amazingness. After three gifts they all just blend into each other and each gift becomes less special.
Over-gifting is bad. It produces fatigue. (In adults it produces embarrassment). If you don’t believe me, watch your kids tomorrow.
If you got your kid one cool toy, an outfit, and a good book, that would be plenty. Maybe some stocking stuffers.