Why do we perpetuate the santa claus lie?

I’ve always wondered how the Santa Claus lie impacted my life! Perhaps an explanation for what others perceive as my “issues with authority”! My parents of course don’t realize what they taught me, but I agree with the last line of the article that reads:

“But then again, maybe we do it to teach our kids to develop a healthy dose of skepticism about everything, including our parents and anyone with power. In this day and age, that’s probably a pretty good lesson.”


Why Do We Perpetuate the Santa Claus Lie?

Parenthood unavoidably requires telling a certain amount of lies, or at least misleading statements, to your children. “There aren’t any more cookies.” “Your teddy bear has to stay home and take a nap.” “Mommy and Daddy were practicing wrestling.” “Ebony the kitty went to live with another family.” (That one was after the cat was hit by a car.)

Sometimes these misleading statements can instill closure or avoid trauma in a child that may not be able to cope effectively with the reality of the situation. At other times, saying these things is just easier for Mom and Dad than admitting the truth.

But what about the Santa Claus myth? It has nothing to do with favorably “repackaging” an existing unfavorable situation. No child intuitively comes up with the idea of a fat man in a red suit flying around the world on a sleigh powered by reindeer, stealthily sliding down chimneys and leaving toys without being discovered by even the family’s schutzhund-trained German Shepherd. Adults are the ones who came up with that image and propagated it.

So why do we fabricate this rather outlandish story for our children? The obvious answer is that it might coerce our children into behaving. But if we practice this same method of using material goods to bait our offspring into obedience throughout the year anyway, why is the fat man myth necessary at Christmastime?


The obvious answer is that it’s a tradition, and sometimes you carry on traditions simply because your parents, and grandparents, and possibly great-grandparents, did the same. “If it was OK for Grandma Mildred, it’s OK for us.”

I asked my question of a friend with two small children and her answer was, “So all your children’s friends will get to experience the mystery and magic of Santa Claus, but not your own kids?” Now I understand. We have to continue the lie because everyone else does. And sometimes parenting requires you to lie so your kids won’t have a nuclear meltdown and drive you crazy

I understand the “mystery and magic” theory behind Santa Claus. I wholeheartedly believed in Santa Claus until I was probably nine or ten years old. Even when neighborhood kids hinted or insisted that Santa  wasn’t real, I mentally clapped my hands over my ears and sang to myself, “I can’t hear you! I can’t hear you!” I wanted Santa Claus to be real SO BADLY. Partly because of family circumstances, Santa Claus was my method of coping with the holidays every year. My parents didn’t drink – ever – but they probably should’ve around Christmas.


My stepdad broke the news to me one day while we were driving somewhere. I was devastated. I moped for days, weeks, maybe even a couple of months. It was like someone I loved had died. Looking back, I wouldn’t want to go through that mourning again. But I got over my grief when my parents made a deal with me – “You can play Santa Claus for your little sister.”

Perpetuating the myth made me feel much better. If the magic of Santa Claus was going to be ripped away from me, I would turn around and feed the myth to my sister. And by the way, she apparently figured out Santa was a sham all by herself just a few years later. Oh well.


Why is it necessary to lie to our children at Christmastime? Probably so we can briefly pretend there’s a guy out there we’ve never met who loves us (mostly) unconditionally and will give us anything we want, if we just ask for it nicely when we’re sitting on the lap of one of his “assistants” at the shopping mall. Sort of like a non-dysfunctional stand-in for our parents.

But then again, maybe we do it to teach our kids to develop a healthy dose of skepticism about everything, including our parents and anyone with power. In this day and age, that’s probably a pretty good lesson.

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