• Tue, Dec 24 - 10:00 am ET

I Need To Know All The Gory Deets About How Kids Find Out The Truth About Santy Claus

santaMy oldest son is only two and can barely talk, but my husband and I have already been discussing how we’re going to handle Old St. Nick. As luck would have it, we were both raised in religious households. Now that we have kids of our own, we both agree that it was pretty annoying for our parents to kick the concept of Santa Claus in the balls just because Jesus is the reason for the season.

I’m not trying to get into a religious debate, and I still believe in God—outside of strict religious parameters. The point is that I want my kids to experience the magic of Christmas, and I think the fun of believing in Santa is a big part of it.

So, the good news is that my husband and I both agree that Father Christmas is on the table. But we’ve all heard horror stories about young kids being told the truth about Santa in a not-so-gentle fashion—whether from a well-meaning relative, or a rude kid at school, or accidentally overhearing Mom and Dad talking about putting “Santa’s” gifts under the Christmas tree.

To prepare myself for the holiday heartbreak that is sure to ensue, I need to know how this all goes down. Is there an age where you are supposed to sit your kids down and tell them the truth about Santa, kind of like the birds and the bees talk? Or are you supposed to let them find out naturally from other kids at school? Or do they figure it all out by themselves and look at you like you’re a total moron when you try to tell them Santa isn’t real?

The only story I have as a reference point is some poor kid in my husband’s 5th grade class that was a diehard Santa believer, even after all the other kids had long ago discovered the truth. According to my husband, his friend would bring up Santa in conversation, insisting that he’d bring him such-and-such cool toy at Christmas, like he always did. My husband was nice enough to smile, nod, and play along, even though on the inside he was like, “Let it go, man.”

I’m absolutely going to encourage my kids’ belief in Santa—maybe as a way to vicariously live through them since I didn’t get the “Santa magic” in my own childhood—but I need to know where and how it ends. I need to prepare myself for some Christmas drama so I know what to expect when shit hits the fan in a few years.

(photo: Getty Images)

You can reach this post's author, Bethany Ramos, on twitter.
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  • http://carrie-murphy.com/ Carrie Murphy

    I recognized my mom’s handwriting on the gift tags that said “To Carrie From Santa.” And also I thought it was weird that my parents never gave me anything for Christmas. From there it was a short journey to “My parents are Santa.”

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      This is how I figured it out, too, but I was always in denial and wanted to keep believing, so I chose to ignore that. So Mom didn’t really tell me until sixth grade (which is pretty damn old) and I remember sitting on her lap and crying like a baby!

  • Kheldarson

    I don’t remember when I found or figured out the truth, but it was probably around an age where as long as I still got presents, whatever. Lol. I don’t really know when my younger brothers outgrew it either. Maybe the fact we celebrate St. Nicholas Day in my family helped? Don’t know. But it obviously wasn’t traumatic enough for me to remember so…

  • thefluter

    I found out in third grade — there were rumors from kids at school, and I wasn’t sure what to believe. I went shopping with my mom, and she left me in the toy department while she went to do something. I went to find her and saw her buying bikes. Christmas morning, there were the bikes! I don’t remember it being traumatic or anything, just confirming what I was already suspecting was the truth.

  • Janok Place

    I think I inevitably put two and two together at some point. My mother refuses to admit Santa is a fictional character to this day. Kids eventually figure it out for themselves regardless. Her reaction was always “How can you expect Santa to be real, if you stop believing?” I know there are some people who feel it’s a LIE and a terrible terrible thing to do to your children. Something tells me they relied a little too heavily on Santa for one reason or another, and there were underlying issues in their childhood for them to take the truth so hard. There’s a very small window of opportunity in our lives to truly believe in magic. When the time comes that you no longer believe, I like to think it’s because you’ve hit a point in maturity where you are capable of reason.

    • Bethany Ramos

      That is excellent logic! I also think that’s so cute of your mom – maybe I’ll do that too. ;)

  • chickadee

    I found out when some kid in kindergarten brought it up. I went home and, seeking reassurance, asked my mother. She mistook my question as a desire for truth, and she spilled the beans. I remember bursting into tears and telling her that she was supposed to say he was real.

    To this day there is a small but definite part of me that knows that Santa is out there…..somewhere.

    • guest

      As a 27 year old fully grown woman, who has been spilled the beans to many times, I refuse to believe that he isn’t somewhere out there. I actually believe more now than I ever did. : ) I don’t even have kids that I keep it up for, to me the idea is magical!

  • EX

    I figured it out eventually. No dramatic reveal or anything, I just kind of grew up and figured it out. I didn’t tell my parents that I knew, however. I kept up the charade well into my teen years because it was more fun that way.

    ETA: But my parents also didn’t make a huge deal about Santa so that may have helped lessen any disappointment I may have felt.

  • Raquel

    I was 5 or 6 years old. My sister, who is 10 years older than me and still a bitch to this day, told me “There is no Santa. Mom and Dad buy the presents and they can’t afford everything you are asking for.”

    • Emma

      A bitch for trying to make you tone down your huge list of wants and have some compassion for your parents? Yeah, wow. What a bitch!

    • EX

      Um, I wasn’t there, but I imagine she felt her then 15 year old sister was a bitch for telling her 5 year old self that Santa wasn’t real, not for trying to get her to tone down her wish list.

    • AP

      A lot of 5 year olds don’t understand how money works, so asking
      for a Wii U and an iPad and a puppy on one wishlist isn’t greedy on
      purpose. They really don’t know that they’ve asked for $800 worth of
      toys and several thousand a year in pet care chores and costs. They just ask for stuff that looks cool.

    • MEE

      I’m sure she would know whether or not her own sister was trying to teach a big life lesson about compassion or was just being a snot.

    • Raquel

      Yeah, she always found the negative in everything, and it wasn’t because she was altruistic. I was a kid, and had no idea what I was asking for. I couldn’t imagine being that age and wrecking Santa for a kid.

  • Emily Wight

    My parents always said that when you stop believing in Santa, he stops bringing you presents. So, to this day, as far as we’re all concerned, Santa is real and every year there are presents from him under the tree. I think I was 7 or 8 when I figured it out, but I was not going to forsake extra presents just to be “right.”

    • Bunny Lucia

      I’m the same way, we have an advent cupboard and even at twenty I still play along, but I had a MASSIVE Freudian slip the other day so I think it’ll be over by next year.

  • FF4life

    I must have been in second grade… My younger sister was in kindergarten. Our bus driver assigned our seats with the meanest most abusive Middle school kid on the bus. He told us just to be a dick. Fuck that guy.

  • pineapplegrasss

    I think that there is a def age where Santa is real to kids. You prob only have a few years when they truly believe. Maybe about ages 4-5. When they are any younger, they don’t really get it anyway. Even if some dummy tells them, they will believe anything mom says. When they are older, say about 6 or 7, they will start asking. All 3 of my older kids asked about 5ish. When my kids ask the “is Santa real?” question, that’s when I explained it’s just a Christmas game for the ‘magicalness’ of Christmas or whatever. This year I have a 2yo who obviously doesn’t care one wit about Santa. Santa stories and figurines are the same to him as snowmen and reindeer. He didn’t want anything to do with Santa when we went to see him this year, and we even went down to the community airport and watched him land in a helicopter. Helicopters are cool, Santa.. not so much. My 8yo on the other hand has a good time playing the ‘Santa game’ He even shouted to me from the tv room this morning that the news was showing Santa on his sleigh already. And he knows Santa isn’t real. Telling your kids the truth when they ask doesn’t take anything special about Christmas away from them. On the other side though, once they start asking and the parent doesn’t want to give up the charade for themselves or whatever reason, and starts fooling and tricking them, when they know that logically it just doesn’t make sense. That’s when it becomes.. the Santa LIE lol. Then that’s confusing, and quite a bit silly. And personally to me, Santa kinda represents the receiving part of Christmas and there are so many more things to focus on then getting presents, but I guess that’s what Christmas has really turned out to be. ugh. But, I just don’t see how Santa gets such a high reverence that rivals the Jesus part of Christmas.

  • pixie

    I probably figured it out somewhere between 6 and 8, but I think I still wrote letters until I was about 12 because I loved it. I wasn’t told, my parents figured that I would figure it out by myself eventually. My dad still fills stockings for me and my mom every year, though, saying they’re from Santa. :)

  • ash

    when I was little, my parents would do great things to make Santa magical for us. one year, my neat freak father even dipped his boots in fireplace ash and made foot prints all around the living room like Santa had walked around! my little sister and I got a kick out of that! it is one of my fondest Christmas morning memories. and we never really stopped believing… sure, we discovered our parents wrapping the Santa presents and putting them out on Christmas eve, but the magic never left. my parents still give us stockings and a present from Santa every year and we are in our late twenties! I tell my step daughter, who is nine and still believes, that once you stop believing Santa never comes again because believing is what makes the magic real :)

  • NeuroNerd

    I had started to suspect that Santa wasn’t real by the 4th grade (only child), when it was confirmed via an episode of VH1′s Pop-up Video.
    The episode did say “If you believe in Santa, look away for 60 seconds,” as if that would make kids magically not look.

    The song was “All I want for Christmas is you” by Mariah Carey.

  • Snarktopus

    My brother and I just started noticing the stuff that wasn’t logical. Like why did Santa have mom’s handwriting. It was just a natural progression.

  • CrazyLogic

    My parents sat us down on our sixth birthdays and told us the truth about it, and then explained it was a game that everyone played, but I was not old enough to be told the rules. They also made sure which of my friends still believed every year around Christmas and told me who, and said it would be mean to ruin the game.

    My uncle has a funnier story that I may have told on here before. He caught my Nana putting presents under the tree when he was four. He went quiet for a while, sulked in the bathroom and then came out and asked the most traumatic parenthood question my grandmother ever heard, “Does that mean there’s no Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy or God?”

    And that is how my devout Catholic grandmother birthed an atheist.

  • AnastasiaMcNally

    When I was in year 1, a nasty boy in year 6 came to the area where all the kindergartens and year ones were eating their lunch and went up and down the seats saying “oi, idiots! Santa isn’t real! Your parents made it up! Santa isn’t real! It’s just your parents!” He carried on for two or three minutes until a teacher removed him. I went home to my mum and dad and told them, and they told me that if I believed in Santa, he was real. My dad threw in a bit about Santa not bringing presents if you didn’t believe, and now I am 21 years old and part of me very firmly believes.

  • Leafyleafster

    I figured it out on my own at age six, noticed the wrapping paper and handwriting was the same (I intend to use the mall charity gift-wrappers to trick my own in the future), and then my older brother tried to be THAT GUY about it about a year later (he was like 10) when some kid at school told him.

  • jsterling93

    Mine wasn’t upsetting. I started asking questions about Santa and my mother told me that Santa was a special kind of thing. That he only can exist within a family if everyone believes. And “you have to believe to receive.” Maybe my siblings and I were different from other kids but once we heard that we knew he wasn’t “real” but that if we said it out loud to our parents they would stop doing Santa. As a result I was married with my own house and “Santa” brought me a new Kitchen aide stand mixer to my parents’ house. I still “believe” and generally get a gift and stocking from him at my mom’s.

  • Jordana

    I lied to my daughter and told her that the girl in class who continually tried to ruin it for everyone will not be visited by Santa due to her lack of faith…not sure what kind of long term damage this will do, but I wasn’t ready to give it up when my daughter was only in 2nd grade! I would have appreciated to get to believe in Santa as long as possible, so I will fight the good fight as long as I can :-)

    • Bethany Ramos

      Santa is the good fight ;)

  • Kay_Sue

    I was about six or seven when I started figuring it out for myself. Santa was in the living room assembling a Barbie dreamboat and he was swearing a LOT for someone that was supposed to know whether I was being naughty or nice. The things he said about those stickers…

    I was nine when I finally asked for sure. Kind of like, “Mom, who first came up with the idea of Santa Claus, like who first saw him?” It was pretty painless.

  • Samantha Lobdell

    I forgot how old I was, but I was helping my parents put the Christmas stuff away and saw the bag they keep the wrapping paper in. One of the rolls of wrapping paper was the exact same paper “Santa” used to wrap his presents in. I was getting suspicious anyway, so it didn’t bother me at all. No way a full sleigh and eight or nine reindeer were landing on our tiny little house without waking everyone up. Or, for that matter, breaking through our worn-out roof.

  • JussyLee

    The Santa bubble was popped for me in a crappy way…

    My dad lived in a different state, and I’d stay with him and my stepmom for a week for every other holiday. The first year he had me over for Christmas, my stepmom spilled the beans. We were driving to visit her family for Christmas Eve, and she told me that her younger nephew “doesn’t know Santa isn’t real, so don’t you go saying anything to him.” I was shocked and really hurt. I was disappointed to find out the truth, but I mostly really embarrassed for believing in him. Since she obviously assumed I knew, it felt like I should have been more grown up and known better (I was only a third-grader!). I also took it personally that she thought I would say anything to her nephew. I knew that was an innappropriate, mean thing to do, and I was not a mean kid! …I just sat there in the back seat with my emotions churning, not saying a word….
    I flew home to Mom a few days later, and as we were driving home from the airport, she told me “Wait until you see all the presents Santa brought for you while you were gone!” I started BAWLING!


    My dad and stepmom didn’t stay married long, so she and I never got much chance to click. Her role in my life was fleeting, and the Santa incident is just encapsulated in my memory of her. I got over it pretty easily. In a way it was convenient to have had my had my nine-year-old heart broken by somebody I never liked anyways!

    • Bethany Ramos

      At least there was a bright side!! But I totally get that embarrassment. To me, there was nothing worse than feeling embarrassed as a kid, especially when somebody pulled the rug out from under you. Happened to me a few times.

  • AugustW

    I received a dollhouse for Christmas when I was 5. A few weeks later, dad was bragging in the grocery store line about making the dollhouse, forgot I was there I guess. Boom. No more Santa.

    • AugustW

      I still buy a separate roll of wrapping paper for Santa gifts for my nephews and my daughter and use a totally different pen and try to change my writing as much as possible. No reason to mess with their belief.

  • Maddi

    I’d just like to point out that Jesus isn’t the reason for the season at all. Christmas is the pagan winter solstice celebration, it was simply appropriated by christianity, almost all of the Christmas traditions (the tree, the food, the presents, the decorations) are pagan. Aside from that, most kids just end up working it out or someone at school tells them. I had older siblings who hated my happiness so they ruined Santa for me as soon as they found out for themselves.