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'Is Santa Real?' Should You Lie to Your Kids?

Hazel in Stripes

Hazel at her first Christmas party

Let me just start this by saying I love Christmas. But now that I have a baby and we’re celebrating her first Christmas, my fiancé (Mike) and I are wondering how exactly we should navigate the whole “Is Santa real?” question. Or rather, when it comes to a new baby, do you basically lie to them from the start? And if so, isn’t that kind of sketchy parenting?

Maybe my problem is that my parents are unsentimental Brits. So although my sister and I grew up pretending that “Father Christmas” came down the chimney bearing gifts, I don’t remember ever actually thinking that he was real. My parents just sort of let us believe whatever we wanted to believe, and then my mother would ask us if we wanted to leave cookies for Father Christmas, and we’d say yes. We went along with the charade for the fun of it. And I sort of thought other kids who did believe in Santa were kind of ridiculous.

That said, part of me feels like maybe I missed out on the magic. Would my Christmases have been that much more jolly if I really did believe that a flying fat man broke into our house via the roof? Would I be a nicer person today if I’d written hopeful letters to Santa every year and thought I’d be penalized for naughtiness? Or would I have a big blotch of betrayal on my childhood from when I figured out that my parents had been lying to me for years? Isn’t it traumatic to find out that Santa is a fraud?

Mike’s mother says that she was outraged when a neighbor boy told her that Santa wasn’t real. “But I have photos!” she insisted. “He came to my living room!” Turns out it was her uncle in a Santa hat.

Still, Mike is pushing for lying to Hazel—or rather, he’s pushing to add that much joy to her youth. “I wouldn’t want her to think that she was robbed of her childhood,” he says. Was I robbed of my childhood? Maybe I was!

We could just tell Hazel “some people say that Santa exists,” which would also give us the opportunity to add, “but only for good girls!” But then should we leave presents specifically from Santa or not? Cookies or no cookies? Help!

More posts from Esther:

Is My Baby Too Fat?

5 Surprising Things About New Motherhood

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