Look, we all agree that the Santa myth is a ruse, and as a culture we collectively condone and perpetuate his legend for the benefit of children and amusement of adults. But it’s clear that not everyone thinks there’s any benefit to believing in the jolly old elf. Many of our readers have chimed in to tell us (both last year and this) that they feel children shouldn’t be lied to about Santa, that Santa is nothing more than a marketing ploy and that children should know who is paying for their gifts. Some readers have written that they have not told their children that Santa brings some or all of the family’s Christmas presents because they remember feeling betrayed by their parents when they discovered the truth as youngsters. Others simply think the whole thing is silly and that children deserve the dignity of the truth.
I understand all of those perspectives, and mentioned in my post about the Chicago newscaster who blurted out on air “There is no Santa!” that I have considered coming clean about old St. Nick to my daughter, who is now 6. I’ve held my tongue so far, and I figure kids in school will start the “Santa isn’t real” whispers soon enough. I can’t remember at what age my classmates started buzzing about how babyish it was to believe in Santa, but one Rockland County teacher just ruined it for her students — who are only in second grade.
According to the New York Post, Leatrice Ann Eng, 58, “was in the middle of a lesson about the North Pole Tuesday when one of her students pointed out that that was where Santa Claus lives. The educator snapped that not only was there no Santa, but their parents are the ones who leave presents under the tree.”
Um, hear this now, American adults: it’s not cool to just snap on kids and tell them Santa isn’t real just because you’re fed up with the commercialization of Christmas or you’re in a bad mood. After all, it’s not like the Santa myth is anything new; we’ve agreed to go along with it for hundreds of years. I mean, the real-life St. Nicholas is almost as old as Jesus! Maybe the Santa myth will die out as people get more and more frustrated with our buy-buy-buy culture. Or maybe Santa’s legend will return to its more pious, meaningful religious roots. But you can’t chose to destroy a child’s belief system willy-nilly without the prior knowledge of his/her parents, right?
Tell me I’m wrong. (I know some of you will.)