Santa Claus, Part 2: Should You Teach "Santa Clausology"?

Most parents with a Christian background teach their children about Santa Claus. While the tradition began with a mixture of Christian St Nicolas and pagan rituals centered on the winter soltice, today Santa Claus is a clearly a secular figure.

There are typically three different objections to teaching about Santa Claus. First, there are those who mourn the fact that he has overtaken the true meaning of Christmas that is meant to commemorate the birth of Jesus. The next set of objections has to do with how Santa Claus symbolizes the commercialism of Christmas given that his main function is to deliver material possessions to girls and boys. The third concern centers around teaching your child about a person who does not exist and in effect, lying to your children.

While the research into these areas is admittedly scant, there is no evidence that any of these concerns make teaching about Santa Claus harmful to kids. Parents who are concerned about how Santa detracts from their religious faith can make special provisions to ensure that their child understands the spiritual significance of Christmas, by going to mass, engaging in prayer or participating in any number of other religious traditions and practices. Those who worry about the commercialization of Christmas can choose to replace buying material objects for one another with donating money or gifts to those less fortunate, or going out for a special family diner. Similarly, those who feel they are lying to their children when they tell their kids about Santa, have the choice of not doing so. Whether a child learns about Santa Claus or not, there is no evidence that it is of any lasting consequence one way or another.

On the other hand, there may be personal consequences. That is, your decision as a parent may not be in keeping with your values. If you feel strongly one way or another on these issues, act in a way that is true to yourself.

Parents should also remember that prior to age 5, kids are not yet cognitively equipped to distinguish fantasy from reality. When children find out the truth about Santa Claus it is typically between 6 and 9 years of age. The revealing of the truth behind Santa Claus coincides with their natural ability to separate fantasy from reality. While some kids may feel disappointment, few feel betrayed unless it is within the context of a larger issue within the family. Some kids even feel proud of themselves for figuring out the truth as it reflects their growing self-awareness and maturity.

Tell us your Santa Claus and kids stories. We'd love to hear from you.

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