Don’t you remember the joy of seeing a bulging stocking at the end of your bed on Christmas morning, leaving the ritual mince pie and a carrot for Rudolph by the chimney, and that too-excited-to-sleep feeling? How could parents possibly deny their children the joy of Christmas? Although many argue that the true meaning of Christmas should not be focused on material goods and receiving presents, for many children, the magic of Santa Claus is the highlight of the year.
It’s true that children should not simply come to expect to receive presents without giving anything in return; this sense of entitlement goes against the Christmas spirit. However, the idea of Father Christmas’ ‘naughty and nice lists’ encourages children to behave well, and rewards them when they do. Surely there’s no harm in rewarding children for good behaviour?
Besides, how would you feel if you were the only child in your class at school who didn’t get a visit from Santa Claus? Santa has become such a traditional cultural icon that it almost seems to be a foregone conclusion that parents tell their children about this Christmas myth. If one child is left out of this Christmas tradition, parents risk their child feeling excluded.
For parents who are concerned that perpetuating the myth of Santa Claus is a form of lying, teaching children about Father Christmas is more of a fiction than an outright lie. I’m sure many parents sometimes tell their children small white lies to make their little ones’ lives a bit happier or easier. The existence of a magical being who brings presents to children at Christmas is surely the nicest of white lies. It may seem a bit indulgent to some, but a child’s belief in magic only lasts so long and it’s great fun for both children and parents to sustain the magic for just a little bit longer. An additional bonus for parents is that Christmas Eve is possibly the one night of the year when the children will be tucked up in bed on time, as ‘Santa only comes if you’re asleep’!
Believing in Santa also creates a sense of excitement for children and engages their imaginations, which can only aid their development as they grow up. What’s more, the anticipation of Christmas morning creates wonderful memories for children to remember and pass on to their own children later in life.
Perhaps it’s worth suggesting that while parents should still teach children about Santa Claus, this encouragement should also be qualified to ensure that children do not purely associate Christmas with presents and material gain. The ‘true meaning of Christmas’ is increasingly disputed as the holiday becomes more secularised; for some people, family is at the centre of the holiday, whereas for others, religion is the most important part of Christmas.
Certain aspects of the myth of Santa Claus may seem problematic to some parents, but it really is just harmless, magical fun for children and adults alike. And who’s to deny a child a few more years of innocence and magic?
Illustration: Asher Klassen