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The Santa lie

Today's Dear Prudence letter on Slate talks about when to tell kids the truth about Santa. She prints one letter and two responses about it, but it's clear that a lot of people had very strong ideas about it. What is it about the Santa myth that gets people so passionate?

I'll be honest, maybe it's not that important to me because I don't remember a time when I believed in Santa. My family is Dutch-Canadian, and the Dutch tradition is to celebrate "Sinterklaas" (when you get presents from St. Nicolas) early in December, while Christmas itself is a more religious affair (or at least it was for us)*. We held a hybridized version of it by getting presents about a week before Christmas (usually the day winter break started), keeping the 25th for going to church. My parents made a token effort to get us to believe in Santa: they always made sure we each got one present from him and one from them, and I remember them saying things like "Go to bed or Santa won't come", but they also put out the presents a few days ahead of time so that the living room looked more festive (this may have been proof they believed in torturing children), and I always knew when Mom was coming home from buying presents because she told us to stay in the basement and not look around the corner until she brought all the 'groceries' in. My mother was a terrible liar. I was also the 5th kid in the family, with much older siblings, so trying to get everyone to keep the secret that Santa wasn't real was a hopeless task.


Long story short, it was never that important to me. I'm sure I believed when I was really young, but found out soon, and it never affected how much I loved Christmas in any way. I don't remember talking about it much in school, and don't remember if it was ever apparent that some children believed in Santa while other's didn't. But now it seems like a lot of people practically see it as abuse to deprive children of the 'magic' of believing in Santa. It came up the other day at work that a colleague's 7 year old still believed, and I told my history, she looked at me like I'd admitted to growing up in a war zone. If I ever adopt or foster young kids, I don't know that I'd care enough to keep up the charade that Santa is real. It's not like I'd giggle with glee as I destroyed their beliefs, but if they asked me the truth, I'd certainly tell them, no matter how young they were.

Does anyone else here want to comment on this? Do you remember finding out Santa wasn't real? Did it actually affect you in any way?

*Just as a warning, if you google "Dutch Christmas traditions" and look at images, be prepared for a racist shock. I feel the need to let you know that THAT part of Sinterklaas was never a part of my upbringing.

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