Death to Santa Claus – Don’t Lie, Kids Can Handle the Truth

Summary – Who says it’s all right to convince your kids Santa Claus is real? Childhood shouldn’t be a hazing ritual perpetuated by their own parents.

santa is not real

Does she know Santa is not real and this is an actor. You bet. Does it make it less fun to get your picture with him. Nope. In fact, I think it's better because she's not all stressed out and crying like the other kids who think this guy is the guy who holds the fate of their presents in his cold weathered hands.

What if you knew a parent who told their child Star Wars was real. Like real as in a historical document. That Darth Vader patrolled the galaxy in a giant Death Star looking for rebels. People fought with real light sabers and The Force could absolutely be controlled by both the good and the dark side. To further trick the child the parent would periodically point to the sky and shout “I think I see the Death Star, I hope it doesn’t destroy our planet!”

When you confronted the parent on their manipulative behavior, they explained that they grew up thinking Star Wars was real and they want their children to grow up  having the same experience. They reasoned that it makes the movies and the toys more fun if their children think it’s real. Plus using the threat of Darth Vader destroying the planet is a great tool for getting their kids to behave.

You would probably think that parent was cruel and deceitful at best, and bat-shit crazy at worst.

Yet, this is exactly what most parents do to their children every year. Except  it’s not Star Wars, it’s Santa Claus.

“Oh, but Santa Claus is different!”

Really? OK, explain. Go ahead. Think hard.

Can’t really justify it can you?

The only reason parents think it’s OK to jerk their kid around by tricking them into thinking that Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny is real is because it’s a culturally accepted form of deceit. That’s it. Try that with any other fairy tale and you’ll get dirty looks and maybe even a visit from child protective services or a school counselor.

Teacher: “I’m a little worried about your daughter.”

Parent: “Really, how so?”

Teacher: “Well, she claims that the reason your house is made of bricks is because you had two other relatives killed by a wolf because they made their homes from straw and wood. She’s telling all the other children that they better make sure their homes are made of brick too or they might get eaten by a wolf. It’s a little disturbing.”

Parent: “Look, this is how I grew up. My parents taught me the Big Bad Wolf story was true and I want my child to grow up with the same tradition. It makes the Holidays more fun. Kids grow up so fast you know and there’s no need to push it any faster. Why crush their innocence? She’ll find out it’s not true soon enough, so just back off and don’t tell her any different!”

Sounds a bit nutty doesn’t it? Would you want your kid hanging out at the Big Bad Wolf house? How about the Stars Wars house?

My daughter has been told from day one that Santa Claus is just a fun story and that we bring the presents. Know what? She still loves Christmas! She loves decorating the tree and the windows. She loves touring the neighborhood for the best Christmas displays. She has all the Christmas specials on DVD and absolutely loves them. Yet, she knows Santa Claus is not real. Enjoying Christmas has nothing to do with thinking Santa is real. Just as I can enjoy watching the Terminator or Ghost Whisperer without believing in time travel or spirits, so can my daughter enjoy Christmas without believing in Santa.

So if  the idea of a parent visiting their child at night in a DarthVader costume and in a deep breathy voice telling their child to be good or he will unleash the power of his Death Star on the planet is creepy, then the idea of taking your child to visit Santa, having them write letters addressed to the North Pole, putting out cookies and milk for Santa to eat, and telling them that if they aren’t good Santa won’t bring them any presents, should be as equally creepy.

You know how you tell your child that just because everyone else is doing something, it doesn’t mean you should or that it’s right?

Good advice isn’t it?

That’s it for now.

File Under: Santa Claus Lie – Tricking You Children Into Believing That Santa Claus is Real – Lying To Children About Santa Claus

84 Responses to “Death to Santa Claus – Don’t Lie, Kids Can Handle the Truth”

  • Captain Rick Says:

    You can make the same argument about God.


    Straight Dope Dad Reply:

    Yes, I know. I have a separate essay I’m working on about explaining death to children and how stories about the afterlife or euphemisms like “passed away” or “she’s in a better place” don’t help kids understand death. I figured taking on Santa Claus was going to controversial enough without mixing God in their as well. It was only after having a child and NOT tricking her into believing in Santa did I find out just how many parents have a problem with it. Many of them act is if I’m depriving my daughter. On the few occasions that my daughter has told her friends there is no Santa (hey,they brought it first) the room just went silent and then the other parents scramble to reinforce the lie. Who would have thought that stating the obvious would be so disruptive.


    Captain Rick Reply:

    I commend your fortitude, I’m sure it’s not an easy undertaking. I do not at this time have custody of my children, and their mother uses the same device in a very negative, and in my opinion, very damaging way. Instead of the big bad wolf or Darth Vader, she uses the idea of the monsters in the dark to scare the children into behaving. So now they have a strong fear of the dark. I can only imagine the potential psychological damage it may create in their adult psyches.

    Keep writing! Never let your opinion be suppressed!


    Jeremy Reply:

    There is much here worthy of a thoughtful reply. Let me say first on a personal note that I appreciate the quality of your writing and even though our worldviews are diametrically opposed, I find some common ground with you on some arguments (such as Santa Claus and the one about sex after kids).

    Conversations like this typically go nowhere without some shared understanding of the nature of evidence and the proper function of evidence in establishing truth claims. I think we can agree that what counts of evidence to justify a claim depends on the nature of the claim being made. For instance, historical claims depend on different kinds of evidence than scientific claims which depend on different kinds of evidence than mathematical claims, and so on. So I ask you, what kind of evidence would be required to substantiate claims about any aspect of immaterial reality, and particularly about an infinite, immaterial being?

    Sure such evidence would be different than the evidence to support a claim of the existence of a finite, material being like Santa Claus.

    A second point about evidence is that what we accept as evidence and how we use evidence to justify conclusions depends on all kinds of factors that are non-evidential, such as personal bias, prejudices, loyalties, prior experiences, and so on. So a person of faith could present a skeptic with a range of evidences for the existence of God, that the skeptic might reject, not because evidence is non-existent, as you claim, but because the evidence is inconsistent with the such factors.

    For instance, I once had an atheist friend years ago who was convinced by the historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection that this actually happened, but said he still did not believe in God, because, as he admitted, he had a ‘philosophical bias against the supernatural.’ With such a bias, no such evidence could convince him otherwise.

    So, if you’re still reading :), a couple thoughts about evidence for God’s existence (and I am referring exclusive to the God of theism, specifically as revealed in the Bible). I’m not going to lay out such evidence in a blog comment, but in general the evidence falls into three categories:

    1. Nature – evidence of design/purpose/intelligence in cosmology and biology.

    2. Conscience – evidence of intrinsic moral law in the universe.

    3. History – evidence of supernatural activity in history, such as Jesus’ resurrection.

    Countless books have been written detailing such evidences. Does this constitute proof in a indisputable sense? No, not if one demands proof that negates absolutely all reason to doubt. But very, very few beliefs can be proven in such a manner. Most of what we count as knowledge has degrees of uncertainty/doubt, but that does not mean necessarily that we are unjustified in believing it (sure you’re argument for not teaching kids about Santa Claus is not an absolute proof grounded on undeniable evidence, but I think you are indeed justified in your ethical claim that we ought not to deceive our children about such myths!).



    Straight Dope Dad Reply:

    For one, there is no evidence of the resurrection or any supernatural events of any sort anywhere at anytime in the history of the world. So let’s discard that. Secondly all the other questions about our innate sense or morals and other mysteries prove nothing. Zero. Simply bringing up question that can’t be answered by anyone at the moment doesn’t mean that any fanciful concept that you can create must therefore be true. Christianity has no more credibility as the answer to these basic questions of existence that any other myth – be it past present and future.I know that’s hard for you to accept because you desire some validation that elevates your personal creation myth above all others but there is nothing to back it up. This has always been the quandary of faith. It requires you to compartmentalize your brain in to two parts. The first is “I believe it because it feels right”. And the other because the preponderance of all available evidence at the time leads to one conclusion being most probably over all others. Religion can only exist in the former. No one, starting from scratch, without any bias, would ever choose the bible as being the most probable answer to anything. The fact is you like what Christianity offers. But to reconcile this with the logical side of the brain, you have cherry picked “evidence” to support your preconceived belief. This is what always happens when you make a judgment first and then search for evidence to fit your judgement.

    And it’s just not in religion, it happens everywhere. Cops do it, prosecutors do it, congress people do it, investors do it, and even scientists do it (though less often than other professions because of the rigorous peer review and the guiding principals of scientific method)

    This is precisely why science is always changing but almost everyone else is repeating the same thing over and over.

    This is why I don’t have discussions about this anymore. It goes nowhere.

    So this is the end of this thread. No more.

    Jeremy Reply:

    I agree with the argument and follow the same practice, but the analogy with God is a false one predicated on the belief that God does not exist. Whereas belief God can and has been rationally defended and religion is one of the major influences on any culture, belief in Santa Claus certainly is not.


    Justin Reply:

    I disagree with you. Belief in anything can’t be rationally defended. That’s why it’s belief. Otherwise, it would be called science.

    Santa is a pure analogy for God and helps children understand that someone is always watching them, seeing their good deeds and bad, even when they don’t think so.

    Simply by saying that God is a major belief of many major cultures, doesn’t make his existence any more true.


    Straight Dope Dad Reply:

    Justin is correct. There is no evidence for god. None. Zero.

    The “evidence” we do find in favor of god are always “arguments from ignorance”. In it’s simplest form, arguments for ignorance claim that since you can’t prove me 100% wrong, then my position must 100% right. It’s a false dichotomy.

    So the pro god logic goes like this. Science doesn’t know for sure why life exists, therefor it must have been created by a supreme being from nothing. But just because we can’t explain something doesn’t mean any fanciful option you can come up instead becomes truth.

    The other version goes like the: The world was created in six days from nothing by a supreme being, prove me wrong. But any attempt to prove them wrong is never enough as they are the sole arbitrator on what is sufficient evidence for their own claim.

    The person claiming god has the burden of proof for their claim. Discrediting others doesn’t automatically make you option true. This is how all religious people “prove” their religion to be true.

    All religions share one thing in common and that is they are all equally valid. Believing in Zeus is just as valid as believing in God or Shiva. There is no way to prove one true while the others are false as they all rely on an internal logic that only exists within its own religion. It’s the classic “I know it’s the Bible is the true word of God because the Bible tells me it’s the true word of God.”

    It’s really no different than me claiming to be the world’s best basketball player because I gave myself a medal declaring it so.

    But what makes it easy to claim that all religions are false is that all religions have specific rules on how they are suppose to work. So using their rules we can test the science behind their claims. When tested, every religion’s premiss on how things came to exist, how the afterlife works and how miracles happen, it becomes very clear that things simply can’t work as they describe.

    Now does this negate the concept of god in the abstract? No. But we can safely say that how god works as described by the world’s major religions is simply an impossibility. So when referring to “god” as the majority of the world’s people conceive it to be, we can safely say that yes, god doesn’t exist.

    Jeremy Reply:

    Justin, I would challenge you to reconsider your claim that belief cannot be rationally defended. Isn’t the above article a belief (about telling your children the truth about Santa Claus) that the author rationally defends? Would you say he knows that it is wrong to tell your children about Santa Claus? That he is certain in some absolute sense? Yet he still gives a rational defense of his belief.

    Knowledge, actually, is a type of belief. The most common philosophical definition of knowledge, widely accepted for millenia, goes all the way back to Plato: justified true belief. Meaning that knowledge is a belief that is distinguished from other beliefs in that they are both true and justified (all of us have a whole host of beliefs that are neither and do not count as knowledge, but these are different types of beliefs)

    When you say ‘pure analogy’ I take that to mean similar in all important respects. A ‘false analogy’ is a logical fallacy in which someone assumes that because two things are alike in some respects they must be alike in other respects. So yes, Santa is analogous to God in the qualities of omniscience and some kind of justice for behavior, but that does not make it a ‘pure analogy.’ They are different in some of the reasons I stated (and I would add that God, at least the God of theism, is an infinite, eternal, necessary being; Santa Claus is not).

    I also agree with you that the mere fact that many people believe in some concept of god and that it shapes entire cultures proves God’s existence; the point was simply that God is unlike Santa in this important way.


    Jeremy Reply:

    correction: meant to say the mere fact that millions belief does NOT prove God’s existence – yes I agree with this point!

    Jeremy Reply:

    “This is what always happens when you make a judgment first and then search for evidence to fit your judgement.

    And it’s just not in religion, it happens everywhere. Cops do it, prosecutors do it, congress people do it, investors do it, and even scientists do it (though less often than other professions because of the rigorous peer review and the guiding principals of scientific method).”

    Apt description of how the mind works. And you don’t do this?

    I can see my response struck a nerve; I thought you would welcome a carefully thought out, respectful reply to your earlier comment.


    Straight Dope Dad Reply:

    Actually I rarely do. My mind just doesn’t work that way. I have no allegiance to anything but the best idea or solution. I’ve changed my mind on some very big topics from the death penalty to legalization of drugs by simply being presented with a superior argument. I’m serious. I went from pro death penalty to anti death penalty in five minutes when someone showed the fallacy of my thinking. I grew up in a faith free, superstition free, political free environment. When I was young I thought everyone just looked at all the available evidence and then made the best choice. I was continually shocked to find out that is not the norm. I had no idea about what being white, asian, black, or hispanic meant. I had know idea what being Christian or Jewish and Muslim meant. I didn’t see the world that way or place any value on these things either way. I still don’t. I take everyone and everything on it’s own individual merit. And this whole “we don’t yet understand the origins of entire universe therefor my personal creationist myth MUST be the only explanation” gets old quick. I don’t know why life exists, no one does, but I do know your version must be incorrect as everything we know about physics, chemistry, geology and biology complete contradicts it. So either the entire universe was created under a different set of natural laws and then these laws were suddenly reversed and then this supreme being also filled the universe and our entire planet full of evidence that contradicts the existence of his own legacy – or- it didn’t happen that way.

    And no you didn’t strike a nerve. I’m just tired of hearing the same circular logic to defend a faith based position. Seriously, how much patience would you have with living in a society where everyone was a Muslim or Hindi or thought they could predict the future by reading your palm. After a while you’d be done with hearing it. But since your mythology happens to be the dominant mythology in the United States you never have to deal with this frustration and are also surrounded with rewards for subscribing to this mythology. Societies momentum is in your favor. It’s a nice position to be in.

    The truth is nearly everyone on in the world is an atheist about most religions and supernatural beliefs. I just added one more to the list. Which is logical. Why would you reject 1000 religions but accept one as truth. The same rigorous application of reason that would lead you reject the first 1000 should lead you to reject the last one as well as they all based on the same premiss.

    So I have nothing to learn from having these discussions any more than you would if were I tell you over and over the reason your car ran out of gas was because evil spirits drank it all.

    I’m sure you can’t understand why someone who’s capable of thinking deeply about things can’t see the truth in your God much in the same why I can’t understand why someone as smart as you does. It’s an unresolvable position as we are using two completely different sets of rules to achieve our conclusion. This is why I can have very good friends, whom are very honorable and I trust completely, who are devout Christians. We have an unspoken agreement not to get into it as it will lead to nothing but aggravation.

    And this is the end of this thread…for real this time. My parenting blog is not a forum.

  • Tina Says:

    I’m with you on this one. Christmas is not about Santa Claus and that’s just what our culture has let it become. I never thought about it before as tricking our children but I’ve got to say that you just hit the nail on the head! Well said!
    .-= Tina´s lastest blog ..The Little Tykes Wagon For Your Little Folks =-.


  • Justin Says:

    I just found your blog this morning and this is a very interesting post to start with. I am completely with you. Around the Christmas season, I saw a onesie that had a nice picture of Santa holding a present and reading “Santa isn’t real, but it’s OK because I can’t read.”

    My wife and I were raised in very different faiths and backgrounds (she had faith, I didn’t) and we’ve had numerous conversations about what to do with our daughter in terms of what we should teach her.

    My thoughts about religion in general fall pretty much in line with what you have here. Keep up the good work and I look forward to reading your posts!
    .-= Justin´s lastest blog ..Post-Partum Parting =-.


    Straight Dope Dad Reply:

    Thanks for your comment. You’d think that Santa is secular but it’s not, at least not in practice. It’s still a faith based system and faith based systems trigger all sorts of deep feelings and conflicts because maintaining them is so fragile. Every bit of contradictory evidence must be squashed or countered lest it lead to questions and an unraveling of the concept. Sounds like a bunch of unnecessary stress to me.


  • Laura Says:

    When my parents told me there was no Santa/Easter Bunny, etc… I remember it well. I was around 5 (I found out earlier than my school mates), and I was crushed, not because there was no Santa, but because I realized that my parents had lied to me. I thought of the extent of it, and all I could think of was how stupid they must of thought I was, falling for the cookie crumbs supposedly left by Santa, the bits of carrots left supposedly by the Easter Rabbit. I could not believe they would go to such lenghts to fool me. I was so little, but very smart for my age, and that was very traumatic. I wondered what else they lied to me about and if I could trust them. I never told them any of this of course, so they thought my tears were for Santa, so I guess I lied to them too in a way. I could never imagine thinking so little of a child that I would think it would be “funny” or just “fun” to tell them that lie or any lie for that matter. I think about this periodically, and just decided to see what I could find out about others views online. I am very glad I came across your site. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in realizing how absurd the Santa lie is.


  • Sabrina Says:

    A handful of my fondest childhood memories have something to do with my “encounters” with Santa and the Tooth Fairy. Unlike Laura, when I found out that these two were mere figments of the imagination, I did not feel anything negative at all towards my parents. In fact, it touched me that they went to all those extremes just to make my childhood seem quite magical. And later on in life, I decided that I would make my kids’ childhood memories just as delightful.

    That is, until I came across this post.

    You really have me thinking here …


  • Chris Says:

    Great article. It is a great explanation to show to those who feel we’re being cruel or kill joys by not lying to our child. I can’t remember actually believing in Santa (I mean, why did Santa write like my folks?) but it really did make me question what I was told more. Now at my house we all take turns ‘playing’ Santa. We buy about 100 teddy bears from the dollar store, wrap them, and deliver them to the local group homes wearing Santa gear. A little hokey, but its still a tradition that fosters giving and it doesn’t require deception.


  • April~ Says:

    Hi, I am in total agrrement with you. I found out early on(4)that Santa was based on St.Nicholas, but was not real. That my family supplied the gifts. I had no problem keeping a secret however. My husband and I disagree on this topic, but I refuse to contribute to to this unnecessary deception. He did bring up a good point however, so I ask you How did you encourage your child not to reveal the truth to her peers? I had a student who knew the truth and told everyone during the holidays in class. She even began arguing with classmates. I changed the subject, but the damage was done. I had paerents calling wanting the student suspended for “spoiling” Santa for their kids… Yikes! Since the Santa Claus Lie is so popular and accepted in society, What advice do you have for when your child says “If it is true there is no such thing as Santa, Why do I have to keep it a secret?”


    Straight Dope Dad Reply:

    We told her that most kids are told that Santa is real even though it is a lie. If you tell them it’s not true the parents and the child gets upset. So just keep it to yourself. But if someone asks you what you think about Santa go ahead and tell them the truth – that Santa is not real and your parents bring you the presents. If they bring it up first you can say whatever you want.

    We tell her the same thing about God.

    I was trying to explain prayer, the afterlife, the soul, ghosts and the story of God/Jesus to her the other day and she said “that can’t be real, that doesn’t make any sense”. To which I replied, “Mommy and daddy think so too, but most people in the world believe that they will live forever as a ghost of some sort and that there is a powerful person in the sky that grants them wishes. So unless they bring it up first, it’s best to not tell them it’s wrong because it just makes them upset. A lot of my friends are religious and we just don’t get into because we both know our beliefs can’t be reconciled. So for the sake of the friendship we just understand not to bring it up.”

    She seemed satisfied with that answer and there have been very few “Santa isn’t real you know” gaffes.

    To me I don’t see it as keeping a secret or compromising my beliefs and more of a common decency thing. A general guideline for getting along in a crowded world. No need to get someone all riled up unless they start it first. But if they start it, they they forfeit the right to have their feelings spared.


    Kimberly W. Reply:

    I too, have deceived my kids. who are now 10 & 12 and trying to decipher the truth. I have very mixed feelings about it. Your article expresses one half of my conflicted feelings perfectly. I do have a question though. If you are also telling your child that religion God/Jesus is also a lie, then why are you celebrating Christmas in the first place? That has to be horribly confusing for your child. I am very interested in your reply as my hubby is recently become atheist and I am still with my own faith. Thanks!


    Straight Dope Dad Reply:

    We celebrate Christmas the same way we celebrate Halloween or Thanksgiving. It’s just another day do a specific activity. Christmas is not a Christian holiday anyway. I know Christians will disagree but the truth is the holiday was co-opted from pagans. Everything about the day from the tree, to the ornaments, to mistletoe, to the feasting, to placing it on the winter solstice – all pagan. So the holiday as we know it predates Christianity by thousands of years. Even the basic components of the Jesus story itself have been played out in various forms throughout the world long before Christianity existed or in isolation of knowledge of Christianity. Virgin or miraculous birth of a good like creature sent to save or teach us, sacrificial death, rebirth or reincarnation, salvation, redemption, erasing of sin, and restoring moral order are cliche’s in the field of faith. Now as far as Santa, elves, flying reindeer, stockings, and all the trappings go, these were the results of a few imaginative writers and artists. So the Holiday and the official reasons for the Holiday are hardly original nor pure. Now besides being a mash-up of various borrowed beliefs and rituals, Christmas has been co-opted by corporate America. Starting in November every paper and news programs runs reports on how active consumer spending is and how this will effect merchants and the overall economy. If spending is off, we’re in trouble. But this is how all holidays are treated in America. Does anyone seriously celebrate our independence on the 4th of July? Does anyone tell the story of the pilgrims and honor their struggle at Thanksgiving? Is Halloween really “O’ Hallows Eye” to anyone except wiccans? So when it comes to being a non-believer on Christmas, there’s really nothing to get confused about. It’s no more confusing that taking Sunday off from work or yelling “god damn it” when you stub your toe.

    But back to the other part. We’ve never told her there is no Jesus or God. We’ve explained how we feel and the reasons behind or total non-belief viewpoints (that includes astrology, angels, devils, karma, afterlife, reincarnation…the works) After thinking about it she also agrees that god and heaven and the afterlife must not be true because, as she said herself when I was trying to explain why people pray, “that can’t be real, it doesn’t make any sense”. Amen to that brother! Seriously, if someone grew up without any religious/faith based indoctrination and then at age 21 you told them the story of God and Jesus they would just laugh. It has zero basis in reality and cannot be corroborated by anything. It exists only in a self referential loop. In fact all the evidence we have about biology, physics and chemistry point to the impossibility of an afterlife in heaven as every religion on the planet describes it to be. It’s simply impossible. Can’t exist. Does that mean that no part of you can survive beyond death, like perhaps a wave length of energy or bits of subatomic matter. Not necessarily, but it can’t be the way people believe it to be. This is simply fact. But I can’t completely dismiss all forms of potential afterlife, just the specific ones put forth by religion which are clearly wrong.

    If I told you I could jump 1000 feet straight up into the air you would rightly say that was impossible. There is no maybe. Human legs do not posses enough strength to propel our weight that high under earth’s gravity. Biology and physics prohibits it. Walking around as a ghost with a fully functioning brain and sensory organs, yet completely free from the trappings of a physical body is impossible. Even the walking part is impossible. How does an ethereal being gain traction? They would pass right through anything they touch. Which means light would pass right through their “eyes” and never touch the retina, therefore they would be blind. I could on and on. So there is no need to tell our daughter there is no god because a simple exploration of the ideas as put forth by religion fall apart all by themselves. However, there is absolutely no question that Santa is fake. So there is no reason to treat it like religion and use logic and reason to come to a conclusion. Santa is 100% false to the core.

  • Wesley Says:

    I fully agree on your views about santa. I live in the Netherlands and we have something called Sinterklaas, which is exactly the same only he looks a tad different.

    My son was very scared of him and didn’t want to go near the guy, ever. So I got fed up with it because he took away the joy for his sisters. I called my ex-wife and told her that I was going to explain to him the whole deal. After that he wasn’t afraid of Sinterklaas anymore and the little girls got back their joy of the whole festivities.

    I also like your view about the whole religion part. Can I use your view in an article I am writing about religion ? (it’s controversial I know.) It won’t be an article that attacks or condones religions, just how people react when they want to force their views on you when you are in a discussion about thinking outside the box.

    Excellent blog, I enjoy reading all your articles !

    .-= Wesley´s lastest blog ..Media monday I =-.


  • Dan Says:

    Awesome perspective! I have had this same thought and mentioned it to a handful of people (always receiving the typical response) . I don’t have kids yet, but I have questioned why it is okay for parents to lie to their children about an imaginary being.

    It seems that if we taught children the joys that come along with Christmas, like giving, the holiday would be bettter and children wouldn’t be left questioning the integrity of their parents.


  • Michele Says:

    What? Santa isn’t real? Thanks a lot! Just kidding 😉

    I don’t see the harm in providing childhood fantasy. With so much ugly in the world today, it’s just a fun tradition. Just as when my son asks me if I like his new jeans that I don’t particularly care for or if the cake he baked is great when it isn’t the best, I’ll “lie” and say that it’s the BEST DARNED cake I EVER ate! They’re all lies that are “good for you” lies and I’m OK with that.
    I appreciate your view though and good for you for standing up and doing what you believe is best! If only all parents would be so involved and concerned with the way their children are raised. Imagine the world we would have.


    Justin Reply:


    I disagree that there are lies that are “good for you.” It is true that there are times when telling the whole truth may hurt someones feelings (“Yes, that dress makes you look fat.”) but I don’t think that means it’s ok to purposely lie to people.

    I plan on teaching my daughter to always tell the truth, but that there is always a version of the truth that exists that doesn’t have to hurt (“Does this dress make me look fat?” “It’s a really interesting color! It brings out your eyes in a very beautiful way.”

    I think it’s possible to avoid hurting someones feelings without an outright lie.

    Another example is when my students (I teach high school math) get back poor test scores and tell me that they are dumb. Some of them are quite dumb, but my response is always something like “Don’t say that. You could do better next time if you would study a little harder.” (Which is always true.)
    .-= Justin´s lastest blog ..My Daughter- The Girl With One Living Great-Grandfather =-.


    Straight Dope Dad Reply:

    Well put. There is a big difference between lies of commission (to intentionally deceive)and lies of omission (not giving the full truth to spare someone’s feelings). Good job on sidestepping the “dumb” issue. Every study done demonstrates that over the long run, children who are praised for their intelligence perform worse, have lower self esteem, get frustrated faster, and quit difficult tasks easier than those who are praised for their hard work. The reasoning is that praising for innate intelligence leaves the child nowhere to go when things don’t go their way – their intelligence has failed them. The child who is praised for effort and hard work has endless possibilities that are in their control.


  • Lucy Says:

    Thank you so much. I specifically came looking for posts like this because, as a parent who tells our children that Santa Claus isn’t real, we get all sorts of negative reactions … from EVERY other parent we meet! It’s great to know we’re not alone.

    At the heart of the choice is the realisation that if we don’t want our daughters to lie, we shouldn’t lie to them. I just can’t bring myself to be that mean to my children.

    And like you say, they get just as much enjoyment out of Christmas. They also find plenty of wonderment in the natural world and in technology – wonderment doesn’t have to come from things that simply don’t exist.

    Thanks again!!


    Straight Dope Dad Reply:

    Here’s a funny story that kind of captures the whole Santa conundrum.

    My buddy asks me one day.

    “Why do you tell your daughter that Santa isn’t real?”

    “Ummm, because he isn’t real.”

    He kind of chuckles a bit as he now realizes how obvious the answer is. I then flip it.

    “The real question is why do you tell your daughter Santa is real?”

    “Well, you know, childhood…fantasy…magic…belief,…fun…etc, etc”

    It was the usual wishy-washy answer involving the usual justifications.

    This is what happens when a lie becomes the truth. The truth now becomes the lie. That’s why Santa parents react so strongly when Non-Santa parents point out the obvious. The truth (Santa is not real) is treated a hurtful and destructive. In other words, it’s treated as a lie.


  • Christina Says:

    I could hug you. I am an atheist and I do not believe lying to kids is okay. This made my day. Thank you.


  • iiTsBriana!! Says:

    I am 16 years old and I am currently 14 weeks pregnant. Though I am a young African American female these are things I have to think about with the develpoment of my child. See, when I was about 5 or 6 I realized that Santa wasnt real on my own but contiuned with the thought to please my mom, lols. I am a very logical person(Like when I first saw sex on a porno my older cousin was watching, by accident I figured out that is how babies are made) and I like to put pieces togeather, thought I had my up’s and downs about believeing in God, I do believe in him. I felt kinda disappointed that my parents, teachers, the world at that would lie about a man who doesnt exsist.

    Now that I am about to be a mother, I have came up with that decision that I am not going to give this “Lie” any credit for what its father, its family, and I are buying it for Christmas.. (I feel horrible saying it but i dont know what the sex is yet).

    Also I dont want to spoil it for my childs classmates like I did for mine “/.. My words were to the teacher, “I dont wana color him in! Santa aint real!!” So I will jus tell my child ” Your family and I are your real Santa, You dont have to believe in him to have fun on Christmas”
    In reality if a child had to choice between Santa or a gift, what would they choose??


  • Jeff Says:

    Wow, you should all go to Disney Land jail for the attempted murder of Santa. I do understand your point, but as a therapist I wonder if there might be some childhood resentment of your parents that has nothing to do with Santa.


    Straight Dope Dad Reply:

    Actually as a therapist you should understand that those of us who think lying to our children is wrong are the healthy ones and the ones who defend this Santa ruse the ones with the “issues”.

    We don’t need elaborate justifications to shield ourselves from what we know deep down inside is unjustifiable, it’s the pro Santa parents that do. This is exactly what I mean by a socially sanctioned lie. It’s normalized to to point where those who don’t subscribe to the lie are considered the ones with a problem and the ones who participate are considered healthy.

    If this was any other socially sanctioned lie (eg. spanking is the way you teach children respect) you wouldn’t be suggesting that we have the problem. But as it stands now, the Santa lie is normalized, so the defenders naturally react by labeling us as party poopers, scrooges, and generally depriving our children of a wonderful experience as a defense.

    How bad is it? All my friends know that my daughter is raised without religion. We don’t believe in God. Yet not one person had an issue with that. However, when a friend finds out we don’t trick our daughter into believing Santa is real, that’s when the shit hits the fan, especially if their children are in the room.

    By the “shit hitting that fan” I mean it causes a reaction that is out of proportion to the event. It exposes a lot of deeply held assumptions and beliefs that are not often talked about in public.

    This is why I wrote about it. For the parents who prescribe to the Santa lie, there is something going on that is far greater than just the Santa issue. Otherwise the reactions wouldn’t be so strong. It’s truly an “emperor’s new clothes” situation.

    So who’s the ones with the problem? Not me, that’s for sure, as I’m not the one who’s created an elaborate lie that needs to be defended lest it crumble.


  • Arita Trahan Says:

    It’s interesting to me that adults feel responsible for giving their children fantasy – when children are better at fantasizing that adults any day. I wonder at their maintaining their child’s innocence by deceiving them, and then embroiling them in the deceit for children younger than they. However – I must add here, that these are my own issues. If this stuff works for you, then go for it. I am pleased to have discovered, however, that “make-believing” in Santa is more magical while being absolutely void of deceit. When Santa is a favorite story and a game that practically everyone is already playing in their own way, we can play Santa “with” our children instead of simply “for ” them. Children can be the anonymous giver, Santa himself,in one moment and then be the child expecting surprise gifts in the morning morning. From ages two to eight, children live in an imaginal world. We don’t have to tell them that their doll is a real baby! It’s a win-win-win situation. A child who is make-believing has no “news” to break to the other kids. They have no disappointing truth to discover and deal with. They have no truths to keep from younger siblings (involving them in the deceit) Yes – there are more than two choices for parents in this scenario. Hooray!


    Straight Dope Dad Reply:

    Well put. I have comment envy now.


  • Michael Dorris Says:

    Wonderful analogy. I’m having this battle right now with my wife over telling our 8 year old because she is asking. I never wanted her to believe in it to begin with, but I didn’t fight it that hard. This Star Wars story will work perfect as a debate tool. Thanks!


  • heidi van veghel Says:

    i appreciate this perspective. i had my first child this past july and this is something i have worried about for a long time. i read a book years ago that talked about a parenting style where you talk to your child with respect and how parents often dont give children credit that they are intelligent and dont need to be talked down to, lied to, etc. this has helped me see that telling the truth wont be hard as i thought.


  • Kesia Says:

    When I was 4 I sat on Santa’s lap at the mall and asked for a pony, a doll and waterbed. Then I asked him how he planned on getting me those items when I lived in the projects without a fireplace. He said Santa had his ways, I said OK and waited for the doll and pony (the waterbed was a longshot). Needless to say the gifts never arrived and I knew then he was a sham. If he ever showed his face in my ‘hood it would be a B&E and the cops would be called. I don’t believe we should perpetuate a lie that only ‘certain’ children can benefit from ie Christians with safe accessible homes.


  • karly / design-crisis Says:

    My husband and I have a new baby and are considering raising him without santa. We’re both fine with telling him the truth and still creating wonderful
    Christmas memories. My concern, however, is how he will interact with other children around the holidays. I don’t want him to spoil other kid’s Christmas by telling them there is no santa (it’s not his place, it’s their parent’s decision). But I also don’t want to teach him to lie, after all, this is about being honest all around. How do you handle this with your kids?
    .-= karly / design-crisis´s lastest blog ..Ike’s Holiday Lookbook 2010 =-.


    Straight Dope Dad Reply:

    I covered that pretty thoroughly in my responses above. Basically I tell her not to spoil it for other kids unless they ask her about it. Then they forfeit the right to be protected from the truth of their parent’s trickery.


    karly / design-crisis Reply:

    Thanks for your response, sorry I missed your original notes, I skimmed the comments section but didn’t see it.

    Enjoying your blog, thanks great writing and a realistic perspective
    .-= karly / design-crisis´s lastest blog ..Ike’s Holiday Lookbook 2010 =-.


  • Kimberly W. Says:

    Thank you for the thoughtful reply. Still feeling very guilty that my 12 year old believes, I am just going to have to confess to her. Warmest Wishes for a wonderful new year. :o)


    Straight Dope Dad Reply:

    I suspect she provides the illusion of belief because she thinks that’s what you want and it makes you happy. I’m not sure it’s possible for a 12 year old, living in a modern world and with access to education, TV, radio, other children, and books could 100% believe in Santa. But who knows? The Santa deception is rather out of control. Even the government is involved in perpetuating the lie Now the NORAD Santa tradition would be cute IF parents didn’t actually trick their children into believing. Then it’s not cute at all. It’ sad, desperate, and a bit pathological.


  • Ash Says:

    I do believe you shouldn’t tell your children that Santa will come into your house at night, watch them while they’re sleeping, and keep tabs on their good or bad deeds – Sounds like a stalker to me. However I don’t think you need to altogether deny he ever existed for there was a man that lived in 3rd century Greek named Nicholas, from where the story of Santa Claus is derived. When his parents died he used all the money that was left to him to dedicate his life to the sick and needy. So instead of telling her about a jolly man in a red suit you could tell her about a man who did exist and who cared for whoever needed his help. You don’t even have to be Catholic or otherwise to appreciate the kindness he showed to the people around him.


    Laura Barnes Reply:

    That’s what we tell our kids – that anyone who gives out presents in the middle of the night does so in the spirit of St. Nicholas. And we don’t really perpetuate or deny the Santa Claus. We just let it be. Our oldest figured it out last year and was fine with it. Now she enjoys being part of the “Spirit of St. Nick” and leaving presents for her little sisters.


    Straight Dope Dad Reply:

    That’s what I don’t get. I understand “in the spirit of” concept but why wouldn’t you deny Santa Claus. It’s a fact he’s not real. If your child thought eating carrots gave you cancer, would you just let it be until he figured out it wasn’t true? Parents have an obligation to correct patently false information, even seemingly minor ones like Santa. It’s not fair to the child to pit them against the world and say “figure it out dude!” Wouldn’t you want someone to correct a false belief that you had? Wouldn’t you be disappointed in your friends and family if they watched you act upon information that they knew to be untrue.

    I remember getting excited about the Metallica/Guns-n-Rosed show in Oakland. Everyone at work knew I was going. Also, everyone at work knew it had been cancelled. Except no one told me. This was way before smart phones, the internet and all the other communication devices we now have. So if no one told you you, or you weren’t listening to the radio at the right time, wouldn’t know. I drive two and half hours to Oakland to find out the show had been cancelled. The next day everyone said they just thought I new or would figure it out.

    I tell you, there was nothing magical or wondrous about being kept in the dark. And my innocence was definitely not protected.

    Not correcting false information provides no benefit to the believer no matter how you slice it.


  • Christie Says:

    Great article. I have nothing against Santa or any of the other fictitious characters we make our children believe in. I think they’re all part of the magic of growing up. Kids have a lot of time to sober up and get seriously boring when they to their teens. 😉


  • Me Says:

    When my friend was little and believed, she would stay up late, lying in bed, terrified of him.

    Christmas is Jesus’s day and Santa steals it. People deservie their birthday. Christmas is magical and nose not need to be coved in lies


    Justin Reply:

    I’m not sure if this comment was left with irony, but there’s something upsetting if not.

    “Santa” doesn’t steal anything since he’s not real, but the idea that one magic man could steal a magic day from another magic man strikes me as silly.


  • R%n White Says:

    Interesting when I was sending you an arguement for those of you that clearly do not understand what the true meaning oif thew Spirit of Christmas means as your site did not alow me to finish what I believe and practised for many years portraying Santa and Father Christmas. Most people appreciated what I was doing for their families, so have your belief’s, but it does not make them right! Don’t take away your childrens right to have imagination as they are our future! allow them to be a child for some it is too short of a time, and you might be taking away a future storyteller or writer that your children likes their story telling and words that allow them to imagine! WQhat would you propose them to believe in if not the spirit of Christmas? How Politics and Religion are killing our youth? Think about the choices, I wished that I could have had more of a child life than I did, but I had to work, as my father did not want to pay for my schooling as I failed becaus noone checked my eyesight and could not read the old chalkboards that were green with yellow chalk and I got behind and it was a Minister that found out about my eyesight, not my parents!


    Straight Dope Dad Reply:

    Actually it is the pro Santa parents that are robbing their children of their imaginations by presenting their adult constructed fantasies as fact. It’s the pro Santa parents who grossly under estimate a child’s sense of play and wonder.

    I find it offensive that you think that without pushing prefabricated fantasies on children that somehow they will just be too brain dead to enjoy their childhood or develop an ability to create. All evidence actually points to the opposite. That’s why the preschool my partner use to teach at banned all t-shirts and clothing and toys that represented commercial characters (Star Wars, Sponge Bob, etc). By pushing prepackaged characters and themes on children it over rides their creative process. So instead of children creating their own role playing games where the characters and the rules are fluid and ever changing, you get kids playing Star Wars where they argue constantly about what a light saber can and cannot do and what the various characters are supposed to act like. You can’t have Darth Vader talk in a different voice or develop the ability to fly because that’s the “wrong” way to play Star Wars.

    And can we just stop with the “true meaning of Christmas” nonesense? There is no true meaning. It’s largely a manufactured Holiday pushed by advertisers, toy companies and card makers with only the tiniest resemblance to any pre-industrial traditions. You speak of Christmas as if it’s a universal law like gravity, or that it predates human existence, or that every culture on this planet celebrates Christmas. It’s all made up. All of it. It has no meaning other that what we give it. It’s not a requirement to being a decent human being nor necessary for our cognitive development.

    And let’s also drop the “what should we have our kids believe in if not Christams”. Huh? Why do we have to force our kids to believe in anything? Where is the drive for “belief” coming from. Are you so afraid that without pre-empting a child’s own internal ability to create their own creed, their own outlook on life, based upon their innate moral compass and common sense , that they will grow up to be ethically vacuous, heartless savages? I don’t teach my daughter to “believe” in anything. Belief is a crutch that actually blinds us to the true wonders of the world. Belief doesn’t open yourself to the world and it’s near infinite possibilities, it closes you off to them. How often do you hear the phrase “I don’t believe in that”? Does that ever lead anywhere? No, because belief is a wall, a defense mechanism. Belief is an intellectual dead end. Children don’t need belief, they need love, stability, honesty and facts.

    So what you are proposing is no different that the companies that push commercialized fantasies on our children though commercials. The truth is that yes, my opinion is right, not because it’s my opinion, but because it’s factually correct. I’m still amazed that so many adults feel they must provide fantasies to their children or they will have none, and that lying to them is actually for their benefit, because without lies, how will our children hold on to their innocence and sense of wonder? Seriously, what the fuck?


  • Mark Says:

    Children are still children even if they know Santa is not real. It is insane that adults think that children will not be innocent unless they think Santa exists.

    Children don’t need Santa to be innocent.

    Adults lie to appease the status quo.


  • Noah @ French press reviews Says:

    Huh? Wait a second… what are saying? Santa’s not real? lol.

    Ya’ know, this almost seems like a moot point anymore. My parents tried to convince me that Santa Claus was real, but I found out really quickly from other kids at school.

    But, I mean honestly, you think that it’s going to hurt a kid in the long run? I mean, my parents tried to lie to me about the existence of Santa, and I turned out alright besides the nervous ticks and such.

    You compare it to Star Wars – yeah, it would be pretty bad for an adult to convince a child that the Death Star was going to blow up Earth. But, what’s so bad about Santa? Wait… an old man coming into your house when everyone is asleep… … oh… good point.


  • Anamous Says:

    When she was very little, one of my very best friends would lie awake on Christmas night, terrified of Santa.

    When I was in 4th grade I was bullied horribly for not believing in Santa.


  • Lisa Says:

    For those parents who worry that kids raised without a belief in Santa are likely to “spoil” Christmas for the rest of the children, I can tell you that nothing has been further from my experience.

    Raising your children without lying about Santa does not necessarily mean that you have to pedantically explain to very small children why Santa isn’t real and why we don’t believe the same things as some other families. In my case, it means simply not going through an elaborate charade to convince my kids that Santa is real. My children have always known that their parents provide the Christmas
    presents (just as we provide their birthday presents, incidentally — and no kid seems bothered by the fact that birthday presents come from family and friends). However,
    Santa is welcome in our home as a fictional character in books, songs, and decorations. My children are as excited to see someone dressed up as Santa as they are to see someone dressed as any other storybook character. I also don’t
    automatically squash talk about Santa between my kids in the same way that I don’t try to inhibit any other form of pretend play. If my children come downstairs saying, “Today we’re
    pirates,” I would never spoil their game by saying, “Oh, no, you aren’t pirates, you’re just a normal boy and girl.” But I
    also wouldn’t try to convince them that our house is actually a ship!

    As a result of this approach, Santa’s reality is a non-issue for my children, and they’d be no more likely to tell another kid that Santa’s not real than they’d be to walk into
    their classrooms loudly proclaiming that Cinderella or Winnie-the-Pooh wasn’t real. In my experience, the kids who are obsessed with the issue of Santa’s reality are the ones
    who were raised believing in the myth of Santa and have seen evidence that causes them to suspect otherwise.


  • Vicki Says:

    I appreciated this article, and agree with the importance of honesty with children, especially after also having just read an article about a research study which shows that even babies will listen to and follow adults based upon whether they prove to be honest and reliable or not from the previous experiment, so I would think that for kids to go through a major disappointment about their parent’s reliability as they near teenage could lead to a major break down in the relationship during a crucial time in kid’s lives.

    In regard to the matter of whether God exists or not, (as well as in regards to the issue of Santa Clause), I’d like to share a few thoughts. Although I am a Christian, I respect other people’s beliefs and I feel that there are many reasons why people believe in different ways than I do, including because of the actions of people who call themselves Christians, etc. I also believe that the Bible says very clearly there are many good people who don’t even know or believe in God (Romans 2:13-16).

    I believe that a major reason why many people are reluctant to believe in God’s existence to begin with is because of the false doctrines promoted by Christian churches, such as eternally burning hell-fire, which make God seem like a merciless monster who no one should want to believe in. If you study everything that the Bible says about this matter you cannot conclude that the Bible says God is a monster who will burn people forever for the sins of one lifetime. All throughout the old testament, and many books of the new testament make this matter clear- showing that judgment will take place the future on planet earth (not in the middle of the earth, or Satan with a pitch fork or any of those fanciful ideas) when all evil will be burned completely up so that God can create the world anew. The problem is how people study the Bible- taking one or two verses and building a whole doctrine on that (in this case out of Revelation which makes a couple of statements which seem difficult to understand, but it should be remember that Ref. is a book that is highly figurative, instead of literal), as well as the fact that some pagan doctrines of eternal hellfire from the middle ages were mixed into Christianity.

    From what I understand, these ideas of eternal hell-fire were rampant before Darwinism sprang up- so people were ready to accept any relief from such a horrible doctrine- I can’t blame anyone for wanting to escape the idea of such a horrible God as was created by these false ideas.

    As far as the validity of the Bible, or scientific evidence for the existence of God, I believe there it is really quite abundant. But, at the same time, I believe that Jesus is gentle and patient, unlike many Christians who want to “prove” his existence, and force people to believe in him. Remember, this is the same Jesus who refused to let them crown him king and often stayed at the back of the crowd, while all his followers kept pushing him to “show” himself, (i.e. “prove” himself?)- they kept asking him “why won’t you show yourself to the world?” because they wanted so badly for him to take the world by force and demand that everyone believe in him and accept him- but that was not his way. Unfortunately, many of Christ’s followers today are just like his followers were in those days- wishing to force him to become king, wishing to force people to believe in him, wishing to “prove” that he exists and make people believe in Him. But I don’t believe that Christ is that way- he only wants to draw people through love and patience, and respect the free will choice of everyone.

    But, for the sake of honest sharing and consideration, I’ll list a few things which I believe show evidence that the world was created and is fairly young- those are things such as; the sedimentary layers at the bottoms of the oceans is very thin (doesn’t match the millions of years idea), the erosion of all the world’s major water falls from where they started out to where they are now can be measured, and if you divide that distance by the rate at which they are currently eroding backwards you only come up with a few thousand years rather than millions of years. The rate of erosion of topsoil from continents – and even the fact that there is still any top soil remaining, doesn’t match the millions of years model. Also, the formation of ATP, the most basic element of life- is irreducibly complex. I might not have this exactly right, but as far as I remember it’s something like 10 enzymes as complex as a ball of spaghetti (which would be denatured if the slightest part weren’t intact) that must be present all at the same time in order to produce ATP, but it requires ATP in order to produce those enzymes. That irreducible complexity is the signature of God.

    The accuracy of prophecy is a reason why I believe the Bible is a valid source. The 490 year (70 weeks) prophecy of Daniel 9 pointed out the exact year that the Messiah would come, and when he would die. The prophecy of the image in Daniel 2, and the beasts of Daniel 7 prophesied the rise and fall of European kingdoms with uncanny accuracy- the rise and fall of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome and the 10 tribes happened exactly as was predicted. At this present time, the Bible foretells how the world will end and what we need to do to prepare (esp in both Daniel and Revelation, etc.). Considering the unerring accuracy of it’s predictions in the past, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for people to take notice of what it’s saying, if you really think about it.

    A few more things in regard to Santa Claus, I think it’s really sad that people lie to their kids about this, especially because children may have a natural awareness of the existence of God, and if that is replaced by something they will someday learn is only make-believe, they may be likely to believe that all religion and belief in God is merely a fairy tale- so they could be cheating their kids out of having a chance to know the real God.

    Another reason I don’t feel right about Santa Claus is because it seems very obviously to be like Catholic propaganda. If you think about it, Santa looks quite a bit like the Pope- with the white hair, being called a “saint” like the “Holy Father,” – and if you notice, the Pope also dresses in some outfits which look just like Santa Claus. The fact that Santa is so universally accepted everywhere seems a little creepy when you realize that the Catholic church has plans to create a one world religion (especially in light of the history of their persecution of anyone who would not accept the church), perhaps in combination with a one-world government. This is not only the agenda of earthly governments (illuminati, new world order), but it has been predicted in Revelation 13, etc.

    I wish a Merry Christmas to all!


    Straight Dope Dad Reply:

    Same ole same ole. No matter how hard you twist things around, no matter how many times you quote the bible, no matter how much you choose to misinterpret scientific findings and largely ignore our entire body of knowledge regarding biology, physics and chemistry, your beliefs have no more validity than any other belief in the supernatural. Christ is equal to Zeus which is equal to Shiva. It’s intellectually dishonest to claim otherwise. You “scientific” questions are just laughable. It’s simple, if you believe that nuclear bombs exist, then you must believe the earth is billions of years old. The same principles that allow us to generate a nuclear explosion are the same the guide carbon dating. It’s also the same principles that allow us to determine if stars and galaxies are moving toward us or way from us and at what speed. It’s the same principles that allow us to take x-ray and MRIs. You can’t just accept one and reject the others.

    Fundamentalists can’t follow this logic because they are very good at dissipating the effects of cognitive disonance. This allows them to retain gross contractions in their mind with little emotional and intellectual discomfort. This is why you’ve built this disjointed theory to explain away the inherent contradictions in your belief system.

    I’m only leaving this long winded justification of your personal creation mythology because I’d feel bad about deleting your hard work. Anyone on else who uses this blog to defend their religion will be deleted from now on. Go to a Christian forum to discuss these things. I’m not interested.


    Al Rand Reply:

    SDD — I’m glad you left Vicki’s comment up. I appreciate her articulating her (bad) logic, rather than just say “there’s so much evidence”. I say (usually to myself), “let ’em speak”. Their words stand as evidence of their nuttiness. — And thanks for the great santa clause parables. I agree — we can handle the truth; and so can our kids.


  • Gypsy Says:

    The tradition of passing down legends, myths, and magic is as old as humanity itself. Stories are passed down to kids by parents who know they aren’t necessarily “truth” all over the world and for any number of reasons. Been that way for a long time. The same is true for religion. Mythology serves many purposes, some of which are to encourage children to believe in possibility without evidence, to act upon faith in a greater good and, yes, to indulge in their wonder. It’s a natural part of society. So while your idea is far from original, and shared by many parents who think other parents simply believe in “lying to children”, you’re not really doing them any good with the “straight dope.”


    Straight Dope Dad Reply:

    Sorry it’s still lying. It’s even worse than just lying. It’s an elaborate ruse, carried out over several years, to convince a child of something that is indisputably false. A lie that the child will be required to figure out silently by themselves because their parents will never openly admit to what they did and the rest of society is in on the lie as well. That is just wrong no matter how you try to spin it.

    And the degree of harm it may or may not cause, or the intentions of the deceiver, is irrelevant. Calling it tradition doesn’t exonerate the deceiver either. The list of “traditions” we’ve done away with, or on their way their way out, because they were either harmful (slavery, circumcision, scaring, shunning of women during their menstrual cycle, human sacrifice, only allowing white landowning men to vote, etc) or ridiculous is growing year by year, and this is a very good thing. Santa just has more staying power than most. It’s fanatical the way people rally around to perpetuate it. It’s somewhat of a national psychosis. You just don’t see this level of devotion to a lie anywhere else in society. And by a lie, I mean there’s not a single adult alive who actually believes it, which is different from religion where the messenger actually is sincere. So why don’t we trick children into believing that leprechauns, minotaurs, or cupids are real? Those are traditional stories as well.

    So the “tradition” argument doesn’t hold up at all. The Santa myth goes far deeper than that or else it would be just another fun story like finding gold at the end of a rainbow.


    Gypsy Reply:

    Oh, it’s relevant alright. Because unfortunately in our society, when most adults make racist or homophobic remarks, very few other adults do a damn thing about it.

    But I take it you do something about it, so I applaud you. Now, is your reaction based on the harm those kinds of comments cause, or because they happen to be factually untrue? C’mon, you’re not worried about the ‘accuracy’ of bigoted statements, but their intention and their consequences. At least I hope those are your concerns.

    If your purpose is to rid society of all mythology, because you think it cannot coexist with reason and science, then you’ve got your work cut out for you. If the harm these myths cause and the intentions of the deceivers are “irrelevant,” then I really question the purpose of your endeavor.

    Still, I can’t see why taking on Santa Claus is high on your (Christmas) list, or what good you hope to achieve with bringing him down. But good luck anyway.


    Gypsy Reply:

    And btw, I agree with you about the harmful traditions growing less acceptable every year, except perhaps (and quite sadly) the white landowner being the only one at the voting polls. That one seems to be getting some legs again.

    Straight Dope Dad Reply:

    I react strongly to bigotry because it is lie first, and secondly because of the consequences of the lie. Some lies cause more harm than others. But if it was actually true that black people were mentally deficient, or gay people have a “disease” then saying that wouldn’t be bigoted it all. It would just be the truth. But it’s a lie, and bigoted lies cause massive suffering. So they are high on my list and I will call anyone out at anytime of such nonsense.

    However, debunking Santa is not high on my list. But I think it’s unusually relevant in illustrating how the world works. I also see lies as habit forming. You start with the simple ones and it gets easier to embrace the bigger ones. It’s a continuum. Santa is very high on the falsification spectrum, but rather low on the harm spectrum.

    I also think it’s accurate to say that lies have a cummulative effect. Taken together a lot of little lies leads to cynicism and cynicism is a dead end.

    I thought I wrote a funny and simple essay explaining an irrefutable truth. I figured like minded people would find comfort that they are not crazy for opting out of the Santa lie, and Santa parents would go “yeah that kind of makes sense when you put it that way…but I’m going to keep lying anyway.”

    I was not prepared for the reaction. I was also not prepared to have my parenting choices called into question by strangers and acquaintances when they found out we didn’t trick our daughter into believing Santa was real.

    Seriously? I’m the bad parent for NOT lying? In what universe is that true?

    It’s like I live in Bizarro world (that’s an alternate world in Superman comics where everything is the opposite).

    Now that’s a proper use of myth. I just used Bizarro world (everyone know it’s not true but it’s a fun story) to create an analogy to describe a reality. Which is what I think the original purpose of myths were in a pre-scientific method and oral tradition world. A fanciful and memorable story, song, or poem that illustrated a concept, would be about the only way pass that bit of info on. Otherwise people would go around saying “uh, when were we supposed to plant our crops again?…damn I wish we has some magical way to record that date and then be able to retrieve it when ever we want!”

  • Straight Dope Dad Says:

    “except perhaps (and quite sadly) the white landowner being the only one at the voting polls. That one seems to be getting some legs again.”

    Funny and painfully true.


  • Gypsy Says:

    Fair enough. And I’m not one to call someone else a bad parent (usually) or to go out of my way protecting the Sanctity of Santa. Along those lines, I’ll just respectfully disagree about how to approach this one. In any case, your blog got a new follower in me.


  • Stacey Says:

    This has turned in the great debate 🙂 I’m pro Santa and God. I respect others to believe as they choose. To me it comes down to personal view point. I’m a 28 year old mother of 3 little boys. I BELIEVE IN SANTA. There IS a santa (to my family atleast). I can say this and I know it is true. WHY? Because I believe that as long as there’s someone to give, there will forever be a Santa. I am my family’s “santa”. I do not believe I lied to my kids. It’s in the land along with fairy tales and make believe/pretend (there’s alway a possibility). When my kids start wondering or asking I’ll come out and explain the situation more clearly. But this is how I was raised up. I remember how magical it was… and then when I was in the “know” I was able to be included and helped other… I helped bring Christmas Magic to the less fortunate or those who needed help.

    I’m not one to say to others God is or isn’t real. I myself believe. I can understand non believers viewpoints and respect them. But I’m on the opposite as far as belief is. I choose to believe (for the most part of things). I take what I will and leave the rest at the door. I would rather believe and find out there isn’t than to not believe and find out their is.

    I have tons of faith… not just in god. BUt day to day thing. Faith/beliefs in people… daily interaction… just a variety of things… That my friends will be there for me, mail will come on time, get a good parking spot, my kids will behave ect… Important and less important things.

    faith/belief is just that faith/belief. Do we ever actually know the truth??? Not till the end. There are so many things that have been “proven” TRUE by science only to find out 20-50 years later that it was false. Things happen. I know how life is. I know how tough and viscous this world is. I like the whole idea of Christmas… it brings people together and makes people a bit nicer for a minute. I think for the most part it bring the good out in people even if only temporarily. In short to sum up my opinion… I bring/give happiness, joy and help others.

    I’m sorry people are giving you a hard time. I wouldn’t judge a parents, parenting, because of their beliefs. If a child isn’t abused or neglected and they are happy I don’t usually see a problem. I understand people and get very riled up when people doubt the existence of their faith. Life would be much less stressed if people could just agree to disagree and let it go.
    I think for what it is (that you wrote)… from your perspective is good. I see your view point. I don’t believe the same though.

    Warm wishes to all, and to those you love.


    Straight Dope Dad Reply:

    Ok, I get the whole “Santa is a state of mind” thing but let’s be honest here. To a child asking if Santa is real, they aren’t talking about an abstraction, they are talking about the fat guy in the red suite who lives at the north pole. To say that yes, Santa is real, or even a possibility, is lying. You are intentionally answering a completely different question than what you know your child is asking. Young children can’t possibly be aware of, or understand, such a sophisticated use of cognitive disonance. So for all intent and purposes it’s lying.

    It’s like when Clinton said he never had sexual relations with that woman. And then when he was caught, he claimed that he thought by “sex” we meant intercourse only. No one bought that line and I can’t by yours for the same reason.

    All I really want is one parent to just admit that, yes, I’m lying to my children, I understand lying is wrong, and I’m going to do it anyways because it pleases me.

    That I get. All other justifications, I don’t. And I know that the parents themselves don’t buy it either because if I were to apply the same justifications for other lies that were socially out of favor instead of sanctioned, people would rightly get upset and think I was a bit bonkers.

    There’s also this odd idea that somehow Santa is universal and eternal. While there have been many “santa like” characters throughout European history, the modern version of Santa Claus was created by a a few authors in the early 1800’s and then solidified by political cartoonist Thomas Nast’s illustration of Santa in the late 1800’s (the same guy who invented the donkey an elephant for Democrats and Republicans). Then Coca Cola took a step further in a very popular and famous advertisement in the 1930’s. The free market then made it permanent because Santa is hugely profitable.

    So this whole Santa thing, that we invest so heavily in, is very recent and largely the result of the wild imaginations of a few artists and authors and a major corporation selling sugar water.

    So why do we think that children will hate presents and treats, that no one will appreciate spending time with family, and that children will grow up being unimaginative dolts without a sense of wonder if we don’t convince them that this fabrication is completely true?

    A child’s natural state is magical, fantastical, imaginative, spontaneous and free of the constraints of time, expectations, and consequences. That’s why it’s so hard to get them to focus on mundane tasks (brushing teeth, getting ready to out, picking up their toys). They are completely in the moment and utterly self centered.

    So they don’t need an adult force feeding them a lie to have a sense of wonder and they don’t need to be lied to to maintain their innocence (which is the biggest load of crap I’ve ever heard and completely contradictory… it’s up there with “work will set you free”)

    The real reason parents lie to children, for any reason, is for their own benefit. They are the ones who get the rewards from lying, not the children. Children have no problems with truth as they take it at face value. They have no ingrained prejudices to defend, no ego to defend, and no position in society to defend. So they just accept the world as-is. It’s adults that are the ones who have a problem with accepting things the way they are.


  • Stacey Says:

    A little more food for thought… I’m the believer in the family. My husband is in the opposition. Doesn’t too much care for the Santa idea and is Agnostic… won’t say there is or isn’t… doesn’t follow faith. But he lets me be and doesn’t rain on my parade with out kids. He lets me be with it. We’ve discussed and decided when they are old enough they may choose and believe as they wish in both aspects. They will know his and my view and opinions and then may choose their own. But until then they get to taste the experiences 🙂


  • Tundra Says:

    Thanks, we’re discussing this on my website now. I personally am on your side with this.


  • SD Says:

    It’s SO refreshing to hear a voice of reason. I’m pregnant with my first child, and have been thinking a lot about all the Santa crap lately, and have come to the decision not to push it on my kid. When I mentioned this to other people though, I got the usual responses. Luckily for me my husband isn’t into it either. We’ve decided we just won’t force it onto our baby, and just treat Santa like another character or game. I live in Australia, where not many people are religious. There are a lot of different religions around, but there’s definitely no religious feel at all to christmas (hardly anybody goes to church) – so christmas here is all about Santa and conspicuous consumption. I am so over it. I haven’t enjoyed christmas for many years, and was really uncomfortable with pushing a lie onto my kids, just because that’s what everyone else does. It’s only recently the possibility of opting out of it occurred to me, and what a relief!! This is a great blog, I’m glad I came across it.


    Straight Dope Dad Reply:

    You’re welcome. I know to the Santa parents I must seem like a raving lunatic but I don’t care. Lying is wrong and the Santa lie has reached epic portions. I’m continually surprized at how much effort this country puts into keeping it going.

    Recently I was invited to be a guest on a public radio program about the Santa lie (should we or shouldn’t we) and the first two minutes was devoted to explaining to parents what was about to happen and that they should turn off the radio or move the children out of the room if they want to protect them from hearing the truth. WTF? Are we insane? Protect them from the truth?

    In concept, is that any different than government official shielding us from lies and corruption perpetuated in our name because that would cause us to lose our innocence and lose faith in our institutions?

    I’ll answer my own rhetorical question in the affirmative. It is the same thing. The only difference is scale and consequences.

    How in the world can be possibly tackle the huge problems we have, problems that require a sober look at our present environmental and economic situation, if we can’t even admit in public that Santa is not real.

    That’s what drives me nuts. It’s just not Santa lie itself (which is relatively minor on the offense scale), it’s the belief system that drives, supports and justifies the Santa lie.

    See, now I sound even crazier.


  • Kevin McGeary Says:

    Obviously children can enjoy a “make-believe” seasonal costume party without the practical joke that Santa is real. Perhaps we should tolerate those parents that insist Santa is real. Then, when their children find out from older siblings and friends that their parents duped them, they may develop a healthy skepticism.


  • Ayla Says:

    I grew up never believing in Santa Claus, definately never had any trouble with it,and happily played make-believe games about Santa with kids who did believe, destroying a perfectly good globe with scotch tape mapping Santa’s most efficient course. On the upside, I still harbor a great love of geography to this day, but I also harbor a fear of what will happen to me if I ever inadvertently peel the paint off another globe.

    To all those parents worried about their kids spreading the “not believing in Santa virus” to other kids: In my experience, kids who believe and are told later on are really more likely to attempt to preach the anti-santa gospel to friends and classates. This can get to the point of ridiculous where I actually still met kids in high school who were defensive about it.

    That being said, I’ve never had a problem with parents telling their kids Santa is real, especially if it’s done at a very young age and not too elaborately. Child psychologists tend to agree that at a very young age (under 3) children don’t have a clear enough sense of reality to distinguish between the real world and fiction anyways, so telling your child Santa is real is much like telling them a story. Not a big deal. I think that if parents were really doing it for the kids it would never go past this, and I wouldn’t of had to watch as a kid in my ninth grade history class left the room crying because he finally discovered the truth (true story)


  • Al Rand Says:

    My spouse and I disagree on this (predictably, because she’s devout (Mormon) and I’m a non-believer (raised mormon). (yes, we have problems, but try to keep chaos to a minimum, for the kids’ sake); so that explains us. But …staying with the santa clause topic/thread, it seems to me that telling your kids the truth will teach them that others will lie to them, and that even Society will lie to them, but that you (I) as their parent will be truthful with them. That is a responsible approach. They can handle the truth and benefit from it. If they are “in” on the joke, they can witness the situations and the lies as they are told and watch while ALL THE ADULTS in a room go along with a lie… for whatever reason (reasons which you can discuss with them). This experience will give them better knowledge than the alternative, which should, but apparently doesn’t always, teach them that they shouldn’t trust what their own parents tell them! There is always a day of reckoning. And so, do you leave them with having to figure out this complex social topic? or do you help them know that what they are witnessing makes sense, because people lie sometimes for selfish reasons?
    — Props to SDD for your refreshing, well-reasoned opinions.


  • Doug Wilson Says:

    Clay, I thought I’d check the blog out, read something you mentioned and located via wpw forum. I agree one hundred percent and have been saying the same thing for years. I’m also a fan of “I don’t know”. Lies set up conflict. Anyway, nice to see you & blog, Doug Wilson


  • Spencer Says:

    Great post! I’ve wanted to raise my(future) kids outside of cultural norms like these and my wife is the only person I’ve ever met who didn’t think I was aweful for it.
    Quick question though and someone kind of touched on this but didn’t address it directly. How do you make sure your kids don’t get you in hot water with other parents when/if they tell their friends that santa isn’t real??


    Straight Dope Dad Reply:

    The short answer is you can’t. The long answer is that if you tell them straight up that most other kids have been tricked into believing Santa is real, and if you tell them the truth they may get upset and the parents get upset to, then they generally understand why they should keep it to themselves. However, we also told our daughter, if someone started it first, then you don’t have to keep your mouth shut and you can tell them the truth. It seems to work well. It also kind of funny. Since she’s in “the know” it’s a little bonding experience between us when a little kids starts talking about Santa. We look at each other and grin knowing that we know the truth. No need to spill the beans on the whole Santa scam.


  • Jade Says:

    I’m a single 27 year old without children, to me this doesn’t discredit my ability to have opinions on how I will raise the children I wish to have in the future, however when the Santa myth comes up and I mention not planning on lying about it I’m met with similar arguments and aggression that have been presented in your comments. I’m also met with the incredibly frustrating comment of “that will change when you have kids of your own”. I’ll admit that I have changed a lot as a person over the last 27 years, and I hope to continue to change and grow for the rest of my life, I can’t imagine how this means that giving birth to someone will suddenly make me have a burning desire to lie.

    I appreciate your ability to provide such a concise way of explaining why you choose the things you do (not lying about Santa, not being married etc.), it gives me hope and makes me feel somewhat validated. And I know that validation should come from within and it shouldn’t matter what others think and blah, blah, blah. In a world where humans need, and want, to exist together it’s nice to know that you aren’t the only one thinking and behaving the way that you do. More so when others that agree with you are able to provide an intelligent discussion about their motives rather than falling back on “shut up, that’s why!”.

    In short, thanks for your blog, I’m really glad you share your views the way that you do and I feel a lot less alone after reading it.


    Straight Dope Dad Reply:

    While it’s true that you will adapt some of your idealized concepts about how you will parent to match the realities of actually raising a child, it’s not the important stuff you toss out. All the parents I know that lie about Santa (almost all of them) also lie about other stuff. So to them it’s just another lie in a pattern of lying. Sort of a lifestyle of casual lying whenever it’s convenient. It’s really common.

    A typical lifestyle lie of convenience is telling a child that the cookies are all gone instead of telling them the truth that there are plenty of cookies left but they have already had enough. Parents do this all the time to make their lives easier and it’s a bad policy. Not only does it bypass reality (which prevents them from learninghow the world works) it also undermines your authority. Eventually the child will pick up on these little lies and learn to not trust you. It also teaches them that it’s ok to lie to avoid confrontation or make your life easier. So when the child starts sneaking around and telling little lies, the parent has no moral authority to demand accountability, and the child knows it.

    So you won’t cave in I assure you. You either believe that lying is OK or you don’t.


  • Sam Says:

    I love this! I am an atheist and have been debating for a while about whether or not Santa is something I want to do with my kids. My fiance and I are pretty much on the “not going to happen” side, but others seem to think it’s heartless. But not only do I have a big problem enforcing a lie, I think the whole Santa myth is lacking in fairness and morality. I grew up poor and I remember being hurt that other kids got the stuff I wanted from Santa. It just doesn’t feel right to me, nor does it mesh well with the “question everything” attitude I want to instill in them. Thanks for being so open about this issue, I hope it helps others like it did with me. 🙂


  • Ann Says:

    Haha, great blogpost!


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  • jl Says:

    When kids can use the internet they’ll find out.
    Ah innocence goes away at such an early age.
    FYI my parents never exactly said he’s real they always said ‘be good and he’ll come at Christmas’ and never said he isn’t. I found out from an older cousin and blabbed it to my younger brother. Actually we weren’t really crushed, kids can handle the truth. I guess if you obsess and make that your standard to keep kids in line and do all that stuff with the ‘do you hear the sleigh on the roof etc. when they find out the truth they might be crushed. Yup and I found out about the easter bunny, tooth fairy etc. etc. I wasn’t crushed, and yeah if they can use the internet they’ll find out pretty quick the truth. And ya know what most of em will be just fine with it. And perhaps as they get a little older they get to ‘play santa’ for the younger kids.


  • Death to Santa Claus – Kids can handle it | IMAGINE Says:

    […] by Jane – March 2, 2012 – Dog BLOG, What to tell your children about god This guy, Straight-Dope Dad, makes a powerful argument for telling your kids the truth.  Here’s an […]

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