• Thu, Dec 12 - 2:00 pm ET

I’m Totally Telling The Santa Lie And No One Can Stop Me

200268288-001I have very vivid memories of trying to stay awake on Christmas Eve as a child, so I could see Santa’s sleigh cruising through the night sky. I have very few memories that remain of my early childhood, actually – but these have stuck. I plan on telling the Santa lie. And I have no problem with it.

I don’t have any memories of the of my thoughts on the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy – although I’m sure I believed in them, too. But Santa stuck. I can actually remember what it felt like to believe in something magical. Okay, so it was a total fabrication. So what? I would sit at my window convinced I was hearing sleigh bells. It was exciting. I wish there was still something I believed in with that much conviction.

My son is three and this is the first holiday season that he’s hearing about Santa. I got him the Elf on the Shelf book and Santa is all over it. I’m trying to explain the whole Santa-bringing-toys thing, but I’m not sure he quite gets it yet. I’d think he’d be more interested if it was DJ Lance Rock coming down the chimney, instead of a bearded, fat, old man. Still, I’m making an effort to explain the tradition. I loved believing in him – and although I remember being a little dismayed when I realized he wasn’t real – it didn’t traumatize me at all.

It was Christmas Eve. I had peeked into the living room over our second floor landing and saw my mom putting the cutest koala bear stuffed animal under the tree. It was all I could do not to run down and grab it immediately – I was so happy to see it. The next morning, as I ran down to the tree my mom pointed to it and said, Look what Santa brought you! I remember a moment of total confusion and not much else.

Are there people who actually feel deceived because their parents told them the stories of Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, or any other make-believe character? All of these entities bear gifts – that alone makes me think all kids would rather they “exist” than not. Besides, adulthood sucks. I wish I could believe in some kind of magical entity that breaks into my house to shower me with gifts. That would be awesome.

I don’t think my kid is going to feel betrayed by me because I told the Santa lie. If he does, I’ll just add it to the list of parenting failures he’ll eventually need therapy for.

(photo: Getty Images)

You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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  • pixie

    I think I figured it out fairly young, but I loved even just pretending I believed in Santa, et al. I wasn’t traumatized when I found out, and I don’t even think my parents ever told me Santa wasn’t real, they just figured I would figure it out on my own.
    My parents still tease me in good humour that I was the kid who wanted to go to sleep at 5pm so Santa would come. They actually had to convince me to stay up until my bedtime and watch christmas movies or read books or whatever.

    • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Maria Guido

      See – I love that.

    • EX

      It was the same with me. I’m not sure when I figured it out but I continued to pretend to believe long after I knew the truth because I didn’t want to ruin the magic of it all. I remember getting mad when I was older (like, almost an adult) and my mom stopped the whole Santa act. Luckily my nieces were born shortly after that so the magic was back!

    • brebay

      My mom’s take was that Christmas doesn’t have to be such a big deal (or involve as many presents) when the kids stopped believing in Santa. So, we “believed’ until we were about 12 & 14.

  • Alexandra

    That’s so sweet. We rob kids of their innocence enough (I don’t mean as parents, I mean as a society) we should keep something magical in their lives.

  • Rachel Sea

    I don’t recall ever believing in Santa, but I vividly remember being four and telling my cousin that there was no Santa. She got mad, and called in her mom for backup, and I got punished for “lying.” I was PISSED.

    • Iwill Findu

      Punished for lying is total bs. Might have been far more fair to be told not to be rude by spoiling the fun for other children that do believe in Santa. Because it is super fun to believe in those things.

    • iamtheshoshie

      I’m Jewish, and when I was in first grade I got into a fight with one of my friends and told her that Santa wasn’t real. I definitely got a talking to, but I think my parents had a really hard time doing it with a straight face. I know I would.

    • Rachel Sea

      We’re Jewish too. I have no idea why my aunt taught my cousin to believe in Santa.

    • nikki753

      Yeah, “lying” was the way wrong thing to punish you for. It would have been a lot better to talk to you about hurtful things said in anger and to explain that it’s not very nice to ruin stuff like that for other kids.

    • Rachel Sea

      My cousin was older, and we’re Jewish, so when she started talking about Santa Claus, I thought she was fucking with me.

      Aside from that though, I’m not on board with the idea that little kids need to be the guardians of each others’ beliefs. We were already having discussions on the existence of gods, and if that topic is not taboo for small children (and it clearly isn’t, because religious classes start small) then neither should the topic of Santa.

    • Rodrigo_Girao

      If you were my kid, I’d confirm to the other kids that you are correct. And I’d give you an ice cream or something, as a reward.

  • Kay_Sue

    I love Santa. I enjoy lying to my children immensely in this instance. ;)

    • Iwill Findu

      I really hate that the whole Santa thing is seen as lying. It’s a white lie at worst, something that adds magic and mystery to growing up.

    • Kay_Sue

      I was being facetious. We usually call it a “game” around here.

    • Rodrigo_Girao

      It’s a lie, no matter how you sugarcoat it. It’s immoral.

  • Emily Wight


  • brebay

    Christmas definitely lost something after I knew. Of all the lies our parents tell us, this one does the least damage, I never heard of anyone who grew up with trust issues because of Santa.

  • Brittany Anne

    I’m half-expecting to get heavily down-voted for this, but I wanted to offer an explanation for the other side of the argument.

    My husband I have a seven month old son, and we’re not planning on doing the whole Santa thing with our kids. Santa will definitely be a part of our tradition, and we’ll talk about St. Nicholas and how Santa is a story that helps us understand the spirit of Christmas. But we definitely won’t be pretending that he’s a real person.

    When I was a kid, my parents (and my husband had the same experience) were heavily invested in encouraging my belief in all sorts of things that don’t actually exist: Santa, the Easter bunny, fairies, elves, etc. And once I started to outgrow my belief in those things, it was difficult for me to find magic in things that actually exist. When I found out that Santa didn’t exist, it made Christmas feel much less special for me for a very long time. And I feel like my parents really pushed belief in imaginary things at the expense of fostering awe for the actual world that we live in. They, like a lot (but not all) of parents I’ve met, when arguing for Santa, took a very cynical view of the actual world. “The world is a terrible place, so why not foster this in order to make my child’s life more magical?” And the world is a terrible place sometimes. But it’s also absolutely awe-inspiring. And I want my child to feel like the actual world he lives in is fantastic and amazing and inspiring. I don’t want him to (like I did) find out that Santa isn’t real and feel like his parents lied to him because they felt like Christmas wasn’t magical enough own its on.

    • Brittany Anne

      UPDATE: I am continually amazed by how kind and civil the women at Mommyish are. It’s wonderful.

  • AP

    “Are there people who actually feel deceived because their parents told
    them the stories of Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, or any
    other make-believe character?”

    Slate’s been running a series on Santa, and if you read the comments, there are a TON of people who feel like their lives were utterly and completely shattered when they found out that Santa wasn’t real, or when a classmate called them a baby for believing. I’ve never seen so many melodramatic wet blankets in one place before.

    That said, I think the true damage of all things imaginary is when parents have too much invested in the child’s belief in it, and go to extreme lengths to reinforce it, instead of just playing along. It’s one thing to go along with a magical white lie, it’s another to start constructing elaborate schemes and cons to convince a kid that their gut instinct is wrong.

  • ted3553

    I have never even thought about NOT going along with Santa. My sister was super upset when she found out about Santa and the Easter Bunny but got over it. I don’t remember suffering at all so I’ve never given the idea a second thought.

  • Natasha B

    Yes! Thank you! I was totally not traumatized when I found out Santa/tooth fairy/bunny were all just mom and dad. Still loved the holidays. They were still magic. My kids are all believers, until they figure it out themselves.

  • Jane Boolittle

    I found out about Santa one Christmas when I snuck a peek and saw my folks putting presents under the tree. i kept my mouth shut until the Christmas before i was to hit high school and my folks wanted to talk to me about Santa. I admitted that i had known for awhile but thought *I* needed to keep the magic alive for *them* by not letting them know! Not traumatizing at all.

    My husband, on the other hand, still believes as he swears he heard hooves on the roof one Christmas Eve and under the tree there was a mystery present his parents honestly did not know where it came from (I heard the story from them as well) so our kid will probably believe well into adulthood thanks to her dad :D

  • nikki753

    I’ve always been completely mystified that people were so upset with their parents when they found out about Santa. Maybe it’s because I figured it out gradually or something but I was always just really touched that they had done all of that for us. I used to pore through the Sears catalog and make two lists: one for Santa and one for my parents. The Santa list had the items that would require Santa magic items on it including things like Nintendo and Power Wheels and a puppy that I would never dream of asking my parents for. My other list was toned down and much more reasonable.

    I think now of how desperately tired my poor parents must have been on Christmases where they had been up all night trying to outlast our endless popping out of bed, finally getting to stuff stockings, nibble some cookies, leave a note and go to bed, only to have our overly excited selves wake them up at about 4:00.

    It never offended me in the slightest.

  • Angela

    I don’t remember finding out that Santa isn’t real but I do remember finding out that he doesn’t visit poor families. When I asked my parents about it they invented some explanation (I think that Santa later sends a bill to the parents) to keep the belief alive but the magic was gone. I still believed Santa was real but started to see him as more of a classist chump out to make a buck. And when they took me to the mall to see him I felt like a sellout when I didn’t tell him off because I was afraid of rocking the boat and losing my presents. I really wish my parents had just come clean.

    My oldest son is 5 and still believes in Santa. I don’t do a lot to push the belief but I do stand back and let him enjoy the magic. However, when he gets old enough to start asking the tough questions I’ll tell him the truth instead of trying to force it.

  • JadePanda

    I used to believe Mickey Mouse was real too, but even when I discovered otherwise, I didn’t love Disneyland any less. Even as an adult, there is still a sense of magic for me. I look at Santa and the holiday season the same way, and want to give our kids that experience of wonder and excitement while we can.

  • FF4life

    My daughter believes in Santa… but she is constantly telling me, “FINE! Tell Santa. I don’t care.” She’s stubborn and doesn’t like people telling her what to do. I’m actually really proud as much as it sucks.

  • Rodrigo_Girao

    To hell with all you liars. The Santa deceit is absolutely immoral and unethical.