Why I Believe in Santa (And My Kids Will Too)

coke santa It’s my favorite time of year. No really, I’m obsessed. I love all of it—the music, the movies, the Christmas trees, the ornaments, the wrapping paper, the bows, the giving, the parties, the games—everything. But what I love most of all about Christmas is the magic. I love seeing families reconnecting, reminiscing, and reminding one another through gifts and hugs and words of the love that exists between them. Nothing brings me more joy than seeing expressions of wonder and ecstasy on the faces of children drinking in the mysteries of Christmas.

And Santa Claus. I LOVE Santa Claus. I love him because he is jolly and kind and patient and rosy and magical. But mainly I love him because he is a shining representative, or token, if you will, of all that makes Christmas so wonderful. I still write a letter to him every year, thanking him for the joy he brings to every little boy and girl who are allowed to believe. Occasionally I come across articulate articles saying that parents shouldn’t “lie” to their children about the mystery of Santa Claus.  While I disagree with them, I genuinely admire their sincere pursuit of righteous judgment. I’m here today to offer you an alternate opinion on the subject.

You see, I not only believe it’s okay to encourage your children believe in old Kris Kringle. I think it’s important–necessary, even–for them to believe in Santa. Gasp! Hannah Giselbach! Are you suggesting we LIE TO OUR CHILDREN?! Calm down. Give me a minute to explain this. Here are 3 reasons why I believe in Santa (and my kids will too):

1.    It’s Not A Lie.  

Waiting for me to admit I know he’s not real? Don’t make me do that. I love him too much. But okay, for the sake of argument, let’s say he’s not physically real. I know there are TONS of well-meaning parents who passionately believe it’s wrong to tell their children stories about Santa because they think that’s lying. They’re afraid their children would perhaps grow up with a broken trust in them because they didn’t immediately dispel the Santa myth right away in the name of loving honesty. But for those of you who believe it’s necessary to tell your children Santa doesn’t exist, have you thought about whether you can really be consistent with being so literal about everything?  If you’ve told you’re children Santa isn’t real, you should also tell your little girl when she plays with dolls that the dolls are not REAL little girls…They can’t REALLY talk. When you take your kids to Disney world, you should tell them that each character they hug is not REALLY Snow White or Cinderella or Peter Pan. They’re just young adults with really cool internships. And while you’re at it, you should tell them that none of the stories behind the characters are true, either (well, maybe Pocahontas but the Disney version doesn’t count). When you take them to a play, you should lovingly remind them that none of the people on stage are who they’re claiming to be, and the story is made-up. You should tell them they shouldn’t play with action figures unless they understand they’re made of plastic and can’t really save the world by defeating evil.

You get where I’m going with this. The thought of having an intervention every time your children use their imaginations is ill-advised and rather silly. Why, then, are we so afraid to let our children imagine and pretend when it comes to Santa Claus? Pretending isn’t always lying. One very sad and dismal day, your children won’t play with dolls anymore. They won’t run, elated, arms flailing when they see Mickey Mouse at Disney World. One day, your children will grow up and understand that all the things they used to play with and pretend with are not actually real. I beg of you, don’t take away that magic prematurely. It will happen when it happens. And I’ve never once met an adult who felt betrayed by their parents who “lied” to them about Santa when they were children. Not once! I have, however, met adults who feel deprived of a major part of childhood because their parents felt the need to dispel their belief and encourage their questioning doubt at a very young age.

Let me remind you of a heartwarming moment in America’s history. In 1897, a little girl wrote to the New York Sun asking if there was a Santa Claus. This was the reply (Go ahead, grab a box of tissues and read it all):

“DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old. 
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. 
Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’ 
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

 VIRGINIA O’HANLON.
 115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.

“VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished. Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. 

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

Let your kids be kids. There’s plenty of time for them to be grown-ups once the fairies have danced away and your backyard swing is still. And please stop mixing up pretending and lying. There’s a big difference.

Also, from a spiritual standpoint, keep in mind that God (as our Father) has often revealed Himself to us in METAPHORICAL terms that are not literally true (shepherd, fire, rock), but these terms stand for things that are literally true. Santa Claus (we shall admit for argument’s sake) is not literally true, but he stands for things that are literally true. “Father” itself is a metaphor for God. God, in His divine wisdom, revealed himself to us in our own HUMAN language, which is capable of expressing at best a rough approximation of God’s nature. That language is true and helpful nonetheless. Santa Claus is a great way for kids to learn generosity, faithfulness, joy, kindness, and a myriad of other wonderful qualities.

2.    It’s SO Much Fun. I was one of the lucky kids whose parents made the choice to make Christmas the most magical, most mysterious, most wonderful thing in the world.  My brother Caleb and I would write letters to him together, go to the mall to get our picture taken every year (even while I was in college), set out cookies and milk on Christmas Eve, and thought of him every time we even considered disobeying or talking back. It was exciting and mystifying and merry. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without that magic. I cherish those memories and always will. I always pity children who despairingly look up at me with sad eyes when I mention Santa and say, “I know the truth. My parents told me.” Christmas can still be fun for them, but never to that magical degree of happy, hopeful believing. Let your child be one of the delighted, rather than one of the deprived. There is very little fun left in the world that is not accompanied by some kind of trade-off–some disappointment–or sin. Even sports, while fun, involve disappointments. Believing in Santa Claus in theory, involves pure fun with no drawbacks. The more you believe, the better the experience. The same is true with belief in God, which brings me to my next and final point…

3.    Your Children Need to Know They CAN Believe in Things They Can’t See.  Kids are so smart. They soak in every little thing. So when you tell them (or imply, even) that they shouldn’t believe in things they can’t see, things that seem unrealistic, or things that are magical, you run the risk of messing with their belief in things you WANT them to believe. While I understand there’s no scientific evidence Santa exists—as opposed to the hundreds of scientific evidences proving the existence of God ( see www.apologeticspress.org )—when children are struck with the understanding that magic like Santa doesn’t exist, they’re probably not going to be able to make that distinction quite yet. When they feel all grown up now that they debunked the magic of Santa, they’re going to have a hard time believing in God when peers or even adults tell them that God is no more real than Santa. They might start to piece together logic (however flawed) like this: If it’s impossible for Santa to fly all over the world and deliver toys to every child in one night, surely it’s impossible for this whole world to be created in just 6 days. Or…If I can’t believe in Santa’s sleigh because nobody’s ever seen it fly, why should I believe in God? Nobody’s ever seen him.

Instead, children need to live in homes where the idea that incredible things can and do happen is allowed to thrive and grow…because, in all reality, God’s miracles are the most mysterious, most wonderful things in the universe. Your children don’t need to hear that amazing, impossible things can’t happen. Christians are necessarily believers in miracles—not just that God exists. We believe that incredible, magical things like the Virgin Birth, the flood, dead people being raised again, and all kinds of other phenomenon actually happened, and will happen again when the miracle of Christ’s return occurs. God is living proof that wonders can happen, and hearing otherwise will put doubt in the hearts of your little ones before they’re able to see the difference between real wonders and imagined wonders.

I’ve rambled on long enough. I’ll leave you with this small portion of the defense speech from the courtroom scene in the film Miracle on 34th Street (1994) which I think suitably expresses the beauty of giving children the permission to believe:

“Your Honor, a lot of people believe in Mr. Kringle. Including millions of children. If you rule against him, you won’t destroy anyone’s belief but you will destroy the man they believe in. Mr. Kringle is not concerned for himself, if he was he wouldn’t be here. He is in this regrettable position because he is willing to sacrifice himself for children. To create in their minds a world far better than the one we’ve made for them. If this is, as Mr. Collins suggests, a masquerade then Mr. Kringle is eager to forfeit his freedom to preserve that masquerade–to subject himself to prosecution to protect the children’s right to believe.”

There’s my two cents. Please understand this is all merely my opinion and it is not my intent to bind that opinion on anyone else, and please don’t misunderstand me to have said it’s a sin not to do Santa Claus in your home or any other such nonsense. Merely an opinion. But even so, you better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout….well, you know the rest. Merry Christmas!



19 thoughts on “Why I Believe in Santa (And My Kids Will Too)

  1. Hannah…this is without question the best that I have ever read about Santa!!! Children need to have the right to enjoy Christmas and Santa is on top…..The pure joy on their little faces is just wonderful to see, and what a shame to deprive them of this. Thank you for this article…I know you put a lot of thought into it and I know that the memories of your Christmases helped you to do such a great job…thanks and Merry Christmas to you and Ben!!!
    Joyce

  2. Very well-written and thoughtful piece! I still do not believe in telling children something that isn’t true, so your explanation of “pretend” makes perfect sense. While we raised our four children without telling them that Santa or the Tooth Fairy were real, we did “pretend” with them and they were able to enjoy the fun of wondering what Santa would bring. They even insisted on putting cookies and milk out for him. Unfortunately, the pretending has gotten a little blurred these days with churches sponsoring “Breakfast with Santa” in the same setting as we tell them Bible “stories.” As a converted atheist, I know all too well the result of treating fairy tales the same as Bible truths, and vice versa. None of my siblings are Christians. My prayer this Christmas is that the Bible is treated as the truth that it is, and the “fun” stuff is separate, just as Disney characters and G.I. Joes are separate from the precious Word of God that is able to save our souls eternally. Can we please keep it out of the church? The rest of the time, we can agree to disagree, and each of us celebrate (or not) and raise our children the best and most loving way we can. Thank you for your thoughtful, kind, and tolerant attitude toward us who don’t tell the tale of Santa. May you have a blessed and Merry Christmas! I always enjoy your writing, Hannah. Your love for God and family comes shining through!

    • Very well said! We have handled things the same way with our four children. We love and embrace the magic of Christmas, and our children eagerly search for their gift from Santa each year, but they understand that the magic is in our hearts and imaginations rather than in a real person.

  3. Thank you Hannah. This is what I tried to express to my children when they were little. So many I know are trying to rid the world of the magic of Santa Claus. The world is way too literal and realistic nowadays. We need what Santa represents, his kindness and his generosity. It is very refreshing to hear a young lady such as yourself realize this necessity for our children.

  4. I totally agree with all you have to say, without imagination, there may not be an iPhone, or plays, or even everyday inventions, I thank The Lord that my parents gave us this imagination for as long as we had faith, I still do have the faith in Santa Claus, and so do my grown children.with out imagination and pretend, I don’t think there would be a me! Writer, inventor, business man. I hope all that have faith continue to, it will make their life more rewarding, and reward those around them. J. Curtis Smith. Fiction writer.

  5. This is an excellent article! I know when my mom told me Santa wasn’t real it was about a week before Christmas and I remember just not feeling the Christmas spirit..until I realized that I can still believe in him within my heart. It also helps knowing that and plus my mom puts gifts under the tree that say from Santa! I hope you and Ben have a merry Christmas 🙂

  6. Interesting. I grew up in a home where we were not taught to believe in Santa Claus and I do not feel deprived. If I ever get married and have children, they won’t be taught to either. However, I have never before read an article that made a good argument for the other side. Yours does.

  7. Some kids do live in a completely literal world. And there is nothing wrong with it. It’s part of the way god created children with Autism/Aspergers.

    If we could do it all over again, we wouldn’t have done the Santa thing all out. We would’ve let our kids know from the get go that it was pretend. We would’ve done it, only being honest about it being just for fun. But, we didn’t know about how traumatic it would be for our child with Asperger Syndrome. He was devastated to find out that we had lied to him and it took a long time to rebuild that trust. We didn’t find out until he was 8 about the Aspergers. We ended up “lying to him for the first TEN YEARS of [his] my life!”

    I don’t begrudge anyone for doing or not doing the Santa thing. With three of or four kids, it was fun and not a big deal when they found out. But with the one, it was a very emotional ordeal. While trying to convince him that we didn’t lie about “everything,” he asked about the Easter Bunny & the Tooth Fairy. Not good. At least we can look back on it and laugh now. Although, I can still see the disappointment in his eyes.

  8. Thank you. I’m the mom of three… a 3 year old girl, a 5 year old boy, and a severely autistic 8 year old boy. I’ve pushed the thought of Santa so far from my mind since my oldest was diagnosed, mostly because I didn’t want to confuse him… then the “lie” thing came up, and I just didn’t feel good about it. But my husband and I love Disney, Star Wars, and so many other cartoons and other characters from books and the like. Your piece, coupled with a providential chat I had with my son’s psychologist, has helped a lot with our decision. Thanks for sharing… especially on a topic that seems to polarize dramatically.

  9. Your article is excellent! My children are grown and we did allow them to believe in Santa. I have mixed feelings on this topic. I believe all parents should decide for themselves what is best for their children. I agree with the person who posted about mixing faith with fantasy. I believe the church should teach the “fact” that Jesus was born and while we celebrate his birth each and every day, Christmas, December 25th is the day that we as Christians proclaim his birth to the entire world!!! Greed is also promoted at Christmas time, and what about the children who wish for desired gifts and may even tell Santa they want certain gifts that are never received? See where I’m going with this? Pros and cons to both sides. My biggest concern is that Christmas has become so commercialized and so secular that Christ has been shoved into the background, if even acknowledged at all. We are celebrating the birth of Christ…what gifts are we giving him? Worship, honor, glory and power to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus, our Savior! My Christmas offering is worship and praise, my life. He is worthy of all!

  10. Hannah,
    Thank you for posting this. You have put articulated everything I haven’t been able to put into words what I believe about Santa. I tell my students at school that I still believe in Santa, lol. I think one things that people don’t realize is that pretending helps children becomes problem-solvers- helps them work through things. Because later, when you become an adult, you are able to look at situations from different perspectives and consider possible problems by thinking about hypothetical situations (in a sense, is that not pretend?). And you’re right- there IS a BIG difference between pretending and lying! Also, if you think that letting your children believe in Santa is lying to them, then you should also, for the sake of consistency, not let your children read ANY fiction, nursery rhymes, or anything that is not fact based. How boring would this world be without imagination?!?! From the child inside this 25 year-old, thank you…

  11. I am a Christian, I believe in God, and I believe in honoring the scriptures. Having said that it is refreshing to see someone who enjoys Christmas and the season. We didn’t tell our children about Santa Claus, but there was enough joy and celebration with out that. We strove to teach them that it isn’t about ‘getting’ but about giving. they were encouraged to make as well as purchase gifts for others, and think about others as well during this season. I could celebrate it at anytime of year, but I like the speech Mr. Scrooge’s nephew made about it may never have put a penny in anyone’s pocket, but it does a whole lot more good than we will ever know. I’ve heard fifty million times from my brethren ‘why I don’t celebrate Christmas’, till all I can think about them is Bah! Humbug! The angels sang a Christ’s birth, they told many many people about the birth of the Son of God. The shepherds rejoiced and told people…yet these well-meaning brethren say since it’s not THE exact day we have no example and cannot celebrate it at all. I love the magic, the sharing, the caring of the season–it does so much good. Too bad those people close their hearts, and stick their nose in the air. If they don’t want to that’s their prerogative, but I do wish they’d stop whacking me over the head with ‘why they don’t–and I shouldn’t either’. Just let me give presents, have a merry Christmas, and eat my candy out of my sock in peace why don’t they… 😉 Romans 14:5 “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let each man be fully assured in his own mind. 6) He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord: and he that eateth, eateth unto the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, unto the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.” Thanks, Hannah~

  12. Thank you for this nicely written article. I do have to disagree, however, and do not tell my children that Santa is real. As quoted in the article,” …..we thought of him every time we even considered disobeying or talking back.” This sentence did make me cringe a little, because Ephesians 6:1 (“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right”) should be what motivates children to be obedient, not a mythical man. If we teach our children that Santa Claus is watching them so they need to be good in order to receive gifts, we are crossing a dangerous line. They should be respectful and obedient because that’s what’s pleasing to God, not because that’s what’s pleasing to Santa.
    When I was a child and found out about the non-existence of Santa Claus, I was not only disappointed, but felt deceived. I did wonder to myself, “What if God is made up too, and if he is, when are they going to tell me?” So now as a mom, I just don’t want to do anything that could cause possible doubt of God’s existence to form in the mind of my child, because I know from my own Santa experience that that doubt can happen.
    Thank you for your respectful words for those of us who have different ideas about Santa. Have a merry Christmas!

    • Jack, 13 (and Jude, 6) were taught that Santa is a game some parents play with their kids. He’s not taboo, he’s even used in decorations all over our house. In fact, they’ve even sat on his lap, for pictures and told him what they wanted for Christmas…but they were never told he was REAL. I asked Jack last Christmas if he felt cheated that we didn’t “believe” in Santa…he laughed and said “No!” He thought it was great that he knew this rich secret that only parents knew, and he was privileged to be IN ON IT. Then he thanked me for not lying to him. I told him, “and I never will, son.”

  13. When my brothers were little, my dad convinced them that they were adopted. Then there was the time that he had them convinced that the antique icebox we had picked up from somewhere was a full sized refrigerator from a time when people were a whole lot smaller. Then there was the April’s fool joke he played on me one year with the letter from some publishing company telling me that I’d won, not only the writing competition in my third grade class, but one with a magazine that had a monetary reward. I treasure these memories. My brothers are not warped individuals– well. . . Ha! And I’ll never be able to think of and April Fool’s joke to top his as long as I try.
    I don’t remember ever believing in Santa, but I did have an older brother who didn’t keep secrets well. I wouldn’t trade the twinkle in my little boy’s eye for anything in this world. Thanks for rallying on the side of fun and imagination!

  14. I was a child who’s Mom didn’t want to confuse real and pretend. I still wanted to believe, and did in the magic. I always left “Santa’s” favorite cookies or pie. I would be in Awe when I woke up Christmas morning to gifts displayed beautifully.
    I now love bags, wrapping paper and anything else with Santa on them!
    Thank you for sharing your heart with us!

  15. A few disagreements.

    A VERY well-written blog, though. Love the personality showing through.

    1). “Pretending isn’t always lying.” Totally agree. Although I think there’s a difference between me pretending to be a plane while my son pretends to be a car (when he knows we are pretending, and yet using our imagination) and “pretending” that Santa comes down the chimney once a year. It’s not pretending if he truly believes it…and is heart-broken when he finds out differently.

    2). Great point. 🙂

    3). They need to know they can believe in things they do not see. I totally agree. And yet, they do see Santa. I’ve accidentally seen him two times so far this season alone, in two different malls. Not only that, but I saw him when he visited my family when I was a child. Santa Claus isn’t something that helps a child’s faith in what he cannot see, because most children do see Santa…

    Like I said, great post. I think it’s good for parents to think through these things. I, by no means, will ever judge any parents to play along with the idea of Santa Claus with their children. BUT, I will say there is much more “magic” in Christmas in the real, world-altering story of Jesus Christ. I have written my thoughts on the subject on my blog: http://unhinderedtruth.com/2013/12/16/why-my-son-wont-believe-in-santa/

    Thank you for this post! You’re a great writer, and I just introduced my wife to your blog (I myself am a Discipleship Pastor, so she feels your pain :). She loves it!

  16. I truly appreciate the spirit if this, but I cannot endure it. I had lunch yesterday with one of the church members where I preach. He was telling me how he told his son at about age six that Santa was not real. He decided that he could not lie about that to his child. I agreed. We have four children and never told them that Santa, or any other mythical character, was real. Our children have enough trouble with faith in God as it is, so why add doubts with lies such as this? I know some of you don’t see it that way, but I cannot imagine Jesus telling that as a father, had He been one. God has never lied to us with things such as this, or in any other way, so why should we?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.