Santa: Don't ask, don't tell?

For families who celebrate Christmas, Santa can be a pleasant diversion and a means for promoting good behavior, when children are young. But as they get older, the family might settle into an uneasy equilibrium. The children are old enough to know better: they couldn’t possibly believe that a man could deliver presents to millions of homes in a single night, powered by a few flying animals. Yet, perhaps, they are also wise enough to not question the clandestine delivery of presents which do not require a thank you note!  It might be hard for a modern mother to know: Do they know? Or not? Will they be humiliated in eighth grade when they are the last of their classmates to discover the truth?  Should we sit them down for a talk?

When there are multiple children of different ages, it becomes even more complicated.  If an older child asks directly, “Is Santa real?” in the presence of his younger siblings, the modern mother faces a conundrum: spill the beans to all of the the children, or lie to her 8/9/10 year old.  Alternatively,  she could take an existential approach: “If Santa doesn’t exist, then he can’t bring you presents, so if you would like to take that risk, you may.” And thus, the whole Santa thing evolves into a “don’t ask; don’t tell” situation.  Healthy? We’re not so sure. Effective? Yes. The older children become complicit in the Santa phenomenon, or maybe they just suspend disbelief for a few more years. Either way, the show can go on, even if it includes a knowing wink. 

* Santa image from 


Kate said...

I think we are in limbo here with an 8 year old who can't possibly believe in Santa, so I am definitely following your motto of don't ask/don't tell. I amped up the Elf on the Shelf antics to keep him amused. My girlfriend sent me this link because it seemed to have kept the magic going with her kids:
I am not going to create a message for him after giving it some thought. When my daughter asked me if I believed in Santa (I think she was in 3rd grade?) I said, "I believe in the spirit of giving at Christmas" and this kind of helped her ease into the sad truth.

EHP said...

I am so with you, Kate. I haven't done a lot to perpetuate the myth with my older kids. Just feels wrong. Not that's I'm above using the threat of a phone call to Santa as a way to get my 5 year old to go to bed, but after a certain age, I thinking brining it up rings false.

Capability said...

So tough when they want to know but really aren't ready to hear Santa isn't real. The oldest has to be on board with being Santa's helper, too.

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