Our daughter is already one year old. Last Christmas we were just going with the flow as we, the two parents, were very tired and Janka was a newborn. We thought that this year, it’s time to come up with our own holiday traditions and of course, the question arose: “Should Janka believe in Santa Claus?”…

My personal experience

As far as I’m concerned, I never believed in Santa. When I was one, my maternal grandmother dressed up as Santa on Santa Claus Day (6th December). I got so confused by that whole thing that in subsequent years, my parents didn’t find it important for me to believe in him. Of course, they told me that there is such a tradition but I knew that the person in the red outfit who gives chocolate isn’t Santa Claus for real, but someone from our village who dressed up as Santa. I knew that the red Santa package in my polished boots on the windowsill wasn’t left there by some stranger, but it was my dad or mom who put it there.

I used to have mixed feelings about Santa Claus Day celebrations at school: on the one hand, I used to enjoy preparing for the celebrations, learning poems and songs with my peers and I was happy to get candy. On the other hand, I used to find the big-bearded guy in his red outfit, bashing his shepherd’s crook to the ground on his way to our classroom, scary.

When I got older – around the third or fourth grade of primary school – I find the whole thing an absolute nonsense. One year, the mother of a classmate of mine dressed up as Santa Claus, and a female friend of hers dressed up as a snow fairy – or whatever it was -,  and somebody from our village lent them a horse carriage which they drove across the village, visiting households where small kids lived and gave candy to the children during the evening on Santa Claus Day. They got to our house as well. When my mother answered the door, and “Santa” greeted me, I immediately recognised who “he” was. My mother enthusiastically said, “Look, here’s Santa Claus!” – or something like that. All I could into her ear was, “But mom! This is just Ági’s mother…”.

What is for the Santa Claus story?

I’m not a psychologist by any means, I’m just a teacher and mother. I think that it’s good for children’s imagination to believe in something. And let’s not forget that Santa Claus isn’t only an imaginary person, but his story is based on the legend of Saint Nicholas, who we know was a person of good deed, so his story and be told to kids and they can learn from it.

The next pro-Santa argument is that Santa Claus Day celebrations or opening Santa packages at home can be really nice memories for kids later on in their lives. And it is just as nice to remember the excitement of waiting for Santa.

The third bullet point on my list for Santa isn’t my own idea actually. A read it at babble.com and it made me think. Santa Claus is a lesson in critical thinking. In every child’s life there comes a phase when they can’t simply take this whole story, but they start to ask questions. A truckload of questions! Why? Why not…? How…? What if…? By the way, critical thinking is something that isn’t supported by Hungarian system of education, though it’s a really useful life skill.

The anti-Santa side

Santa is a lie, isn’t he? Just like all the tales we make our kids watch. Let’s think about how many tales have fairies, witches, enchanted castles and talking animals. Obviously, nobody says that The Lionking is a lie because there are talking animals in it, which of course doesn’t happen in real life.

Learning the truth can be traumatising. Or at least this is what the members of the anti-Santa group claim. As far as I’m concerned, I haven’t met anyone whose heart was broken by learning the truth about Santa. However, I know someone who was a teenager when her parents told her that Santa doesn’t exist – I can’t believe how she couldn’t figure it our for so long, her parents did a really good job and her elder sister managed to keep her mouth shut, too. So this person wasn’t willing to believe that Santa doesn’t exist and was busy writing her letters to the jolly old man for a year or two.

The problem with both sides

I realised that whether I support the Santa story or I don’t, society will do the job for me. if I take my child to the city centre where Santa’s House is set up every december or in one of the shopping centres there sits a “Santa”, will she believe that Santa doesn’t exist for real? Will she not feel bad when the presents for all of her peer at kindergarten or school are delivered by Santa and she is excluded from the magic?

And what if I tell her that it’s Santa Claus who leaves a package in her boots on 6th December? In this case, after a few years, I’m sure there will be some “enlightened” kids around her, who will say: “This wasn’t brought to you by Santa, but it was your parents who bought it!”

The thing is the same with the baby Jesus. In Hungarian culture, it’s the baby Jesus who brings presents in the evening on 24th December. My problem with this tradition is that I think it’s an absolute nonsense as a baby can’t bring to millions of people during one night and if you celebrate your birthday, you don’t give but get presents. What shall I say to my kid? On an online forum, I read that a mother told her child that it’s the angels who bring us presents. For me, this approach is appealing. But then society comes: our relatives were raised with the baby Jesus story. One slip of the tongue is enough to confuse a child. And what happens at kindergarten where almost everybody’s presents are brought by the baby Jesus?

These are difficult questions. As regards to Santa Claus, I guess I will join the group of “liar” parents and let the Santa Claus Day magic happen for Janka for a few years.

(source of the smiling Santa image: Designed by D3Images / Freepik)

(source of the Santa’s flying sleigh image: Designed by Freepik)

What do you think about this topic? What do you say to children in your families?