It’s our “favourite” time of the year – Christmas. When we were young, most of us believed in the tooth fairy, Easter bunny… but the most influential character is Santa Claus. Should parents tell their 5 year old kids that Santa’s not real?
Before talking about the pros and cons of telling your kid that Santa isn’t real, why is Santa Claus the most popular character out of other made up characters? Firstly, Santa gives out presents to the children who are good. Presents can be in forms of money, chocolate, toys and favours etc. Therefore, he beats the tooth fairy as “she” gives money in return of a tooth. However, children at that age don’t have a strong concept of money and saving, so she’s not as influential. As for the Easter bunny, food is usually not the top priority on the children’s’ wish list. Moreover, they could get different types of candy and chocolate through trick-or-treating during Halloween or birthdays. Secondly, it is the most commercialized character in the world. You would always see a person dressed up as Santa Claus in shopping malls, toy stores, restaurants during Christmas time. Moreover, “Santa Clauses” are usually fat and cuddly which make them very “huggable” and lovable.
There are a few reasons for telling your children the truth is the correct way. The whole concept of Santa Claus is basically telling children to behave in order to get presents. Therefore, it makes children believe that they would only need to behave well if they want presents, not knowing the importance of behaving well or the concept of manners. Second, in the viewpoint of parents, you would need to get extra presents to pretend they are from Santa. It would be quite costly if you have a few children. So telling them earlier could save your money. Third, they will neglect the true meaning of Christmas – the birth of Christ. This is more important to Christian families as they shouldn’t let their children to focus on Santa Claus, otherwise it will become idolatry. Moreover, you are teaching them how to think critically and logically, by explaining that it is totally impossible for a man to sit on a sleigh pulled by a group of reindeer and to fly to every place of the world to deliver gifts within a night. Lastly, by telling them that Santa is made up later may break their hearts. This shows you are indirectly teaching them how to lie, which is not good at all. Therefore, it’s better to tell them immediately that it’s a myth.
The other side of the argument is that it will destroy their childhood. I don’t really think so. Children love Santa because they can have more gifts not because it is so cool to sit on a sleigh delivering presents. The level of happiness of giving them a present and another gift but saying it’s from Santa is the same as giving more gifts while denying the existence of Santa when children start to understand words. Another argument is that they will lose their “innocence”. We should let them dream or fantasize about Santa or other fictional characters and let them find out the secret later when they grow up. I quite agree with that point of view. However, we have to differentiate the difference between creativity and innocence. Creativity is to think outside the box, thinking something that is original, while innocence means free from sin or wrong. There is actually no direct relationship between the 2 words. And innocence? Really? Does this word still appear in this world, when we are living in a world that 3 year olds and toddlers are already learning or even know how to operate touchscreen tablets or iPhones? 7-8 year old kids who already started to create their own facebook pages? Are kids who are materialistic and want more gifts from some fictional character called innocent? No! This “innocent” argument used to be a strong point but not in the materialistic world of the 21st century.
However, it would also be quite embarrassing when your child acts mature at school saying that Santa’s fake in front of his/her classmates which will make them all cry and spoil their fantasies. Then the parents of the crying kids would have to fabricate another story to cover it up.
The sad fact is that Christmas is a time when shops offer super cheap products to the public in order to clear their year-end stock but saying it’s a Christmas sale. It is also a time for restaurants to charge customers at unreasonable and exorbitant prices by using “festive season” as an excuse (a HK Christmas eve dinner at a fancy restaurant may cost over HKD 2,000, which is around £200/person). However, in order to prevent our children from experiencing the sad reality of the over-commercialized season too soon and protect their innocence (which I believe have been already lost), I think we should stick to the principle of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and let them figure it out themselves when they grow up…