How harmful is it to lie to our kids, if we have them, about the existence of Santa Claus? I'm now in two minds. On balance, I think it's probably harmless enough, but the Christmas book that I've been reading has two essays on the subject examining the morality of the practice. One, by David Kyle Johnson, argues strongly against it; the other, by Era Gavrielides, is in favour.
I think that Johnson overreaches at points, and, again, I'm leaning towards being okay with the practice. I'm not convinced that it does any real harm, and I don't go around with some kind of absolute standard of opposing lies in all circumstances.
Still, there's something at least tacky about the giving children misinformation, and I certainly resent little half-recalled examples of this from my own childhood. I most definitely dislike the idea that it's "cute" for children to be deceived and to act on the basis of their misapprehensions. But for all that, I don't resent being told stories about Santa Claus in particular. I just don't feel that it harmed me.
I don't very clearly remember the circumstances in which my parents came clean about the non-existence of Santa Claus. I do recall that it was when I discovered a children's book that I knew I was supposed to be getting for Christmas ... in a wardrobe at home. It was obviously waiting to be wrapped for me and left as a present on Christmas Eve - and this kind of proved that the gift was coming my way from my mum and dad, not from Santa. When I challenged them on it, they came clean that of course it was all make believe; and the way I remember this, I wasn't at all surprised because I'd already worked out for myself that the whole story didn't add up. I can't, however, recall more than that, and I'm not at all sure how old I was at the time: I've got no other recalled events from my very young life at the time to match it against.
Johnson, who is writing a book on the subject, says that many people tell him stories about their experiences of learning that Santa Claus was a fake - and many of these stories express memories of childhood disillusion and distress, and feelings of ongoing bitterness. What about you? Can you recall when you worked out that the Santa story was made up, and/or when your parents came clean about the Santa Claus myth? Was the experience hurtful to you in any way, do you think? Do you feel that your period of believing in Santa was even beneficial?
If you have kids, did you/will you tell them the Santa story? Do you think it's the right thing to do? Does it worry you in any way?