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How We Answered the Question
"Is Santa Real?"


How do YOU tell kids the truth about Santa?

They actually had never come to ask us Is Santa real? It is us who started the topic when they were almost 10. Our twins are now grown-up University students. I have asked them while writing this how they felt then and they both said, apart of each other: “Surprise. Not disappointment. Only surprise. It was OK.”

Here it is in detail how we've solved the problem many years before, without breaking down the magic or even worse, shocking them. It proved to be a smooth bridgeover into the being a big child.

 

Chocolate Santa et Comp.


They were lucky enough to have nice primary school colleagues: They were already 10 and nobody had told them about Santa! It helped also the fact that any twin parent knows: they were self-sufficient and happy with each other, not needing friends from the outside world. So they barely had friends.

About 10 we thought it would be better to have control about how they find it out: Not that some nice smart a** out there comes with the word “lie” attached to us. We had succeeded so far in our purpose not to lie at them no matter what, and we wanted to keep it that way. We didn’t want to break their confidence in us.


Sidebar

I had experienced this break down of a confidence, I knew how bitter if felt. During my years of study in Vienna I used to live in a small hostel where all students were leaving their doors unlocked even for the whole day. I found this reciprocal trust wonderful.

Until the day when some blue jeans disappeared from the washing machine in the basement. The girl asked all of us abut them, but to no avail. And then everybody started locking their room door. She did find them some time later, between the wall and the heater in the basement. She had forgotten she had laid them there for drying.

But the beautiful habit of leaving the doors unlocked wouldn’t return anymore.


We set up a small evening to speak about Santa with our twins a few weeks after Christmas. The discussion started like “You are already big enough, Santa doesn’t come anymore to such big kids…”

Our daughter stood up, came to hug us and said “Why, maybe he would still come, Mom, we are so well-behaved kids!” An almost ten years old child saying that…

Uh-oh, it’s not what you think, we thought. And seeing that much innocence, we stalled as of whether to tell them the whole truth.

I say the “whole truth” because we had geared all our previous talks about Santa (in Romania called Father Christmas” around this idea I am describing you here.

Children do see Santas scattered all over the place in Santa’s season, and well ahead of his due time. They don’t get it, how is that possible. It’s somehow obvious even to them that these are not real Santas.


There is only ONE Santa, isn’t it, daddy?

Yes, dear. But since he cannot be in all places where and when he’d be needed, people thought about a scheme to replace him. That’s why you’ll see a lot of human Santas around.


By giving in and accepting a bit of the lie, you save the Santa fairy tale. And by seeing a drunken “Santa” as I have seen (it was disgusting), you can make this work as an argument on your side. Like “They are men, do you think real Santa would get drunk?”


 Real Santa comes only on the Christmas night. All the others you see around are imitations.


Accepting that there are also fake Santas around saves the magic for a longer time and saves you some troubles. It lays a foundation for the future, too.


We even told them about younger kids whose parents might have told them that also those men around are real Santas. We asked them not to steal the magic of those little children and don’t tell them what they, as older kids, know already from us.


This is also a good step, because it puts them into the same boat with us without them knowing it. And it also allows them experience and understand already now our feelings and reasons in doing the same with them.

 So that, in that big evening when we decided to talk with our kids, we said like


 Santa does exist, my dears. But we haven’t told you the whole truth. Exactly the way you also obeyed our plea and haven’t told to the small kids that the Santa’s we see around are not real. You could have done it, for the sake of the truth. Not telling them is part of their happiness. Do you think this is a lie? 


(And do listen what their answer is. It might be of big help ten minutes later.)


Santa is real, but in another form than the one you have pictured him. He is an idea, or a spirit, he has no real body, not one of flesh and bones. He had once one, some 300 hundred years after Jesus, somewhere in Anatolia, in today’s Turkey. There were Greeks there by then, and his name was Nikolaos. (PS it shares the same root with “Claus” of Santa Claus which entered in English through Dutch) He came from a rich family and used to make presents to poor people. And he loved kids. But think, how many kids could have he had made then presents to when he was alive? And how many kids are now in the world?!


If Santa needs only a minute for each of them, just calculate! (You may really have them calculate, if they are old enough and you feel it appropriate. It might scatter a bit of the seriousness of the moment.)


And after he died there was the problem, Who would share now the presents they loved so much? People liked very much also the idea of acting out of generosity, so they tried to keep that alive after he died. Thus the spirit of St. Nikolaos comes down to Earth and finds people which are glad to spend money to make others happy, and make kids get presents. This is Santa. He is just like a special mirror: You send to it your wish, and he sends it back to you. It comes back however not as a thought, but materialized as the toy you wanted. Do you know who is usually assisting him into making the thought become an object? Just guess!

Would you do the whole thing differently with your kids? Would you steal them, or your younger sister, the magic?

(This is an important question. It shifts them into your shoes. Makes them think, become empathetic – and possibly understand you.)

If you dislike the word “spirit”, just replace it with “idea”: Santa is an embodiment of the idea of making others happy. Like “The same way as you build a house around an idea, Santa is the embodiment of the wish of many people for a world where people fulfill each other wishes and are generous.”

Gearing our future answer to question bound to come “Does Santa exist?”, in the years before this discussion we had answers like:

Is it true that Santa lives in Finland? Oh, no, Santa from Finland is just another human. Like those Santas on the streets, he´s only there to make little kids happy [and make a living out of something he likes to do]. Real Santa is usually everywhere, but especially where kids are. (You may ad “, … just like God”, if you want to.)

Where does Santa make the toys? In the factories, along with all the toys made not for Christmas.

Does he buy them? Yes, he does.

Where from does he have the money?

He was very rich, don’t ask me how rich, I don’t know. It seems he still somehow affords to buy so many toys…

(See how beautifully you don’t really lie, while setting the scene for the future?)

 If Santa is Uncle Ioan and the kids do notice his beard is fake, don’t give much attention to the incident. Ours had noticed and talked about this, but did not ask us. If they did, we would have said something like I think this Santa was actually a man, maybe because real Santa could not come in person. He sent somebody instead of him, it's very much possible he was Uncle Ioan indeed.

 

If you don’t know what to answer, the escape I’ll ask Dad / mom / other parents and I’ll tell you later gives you time to think about something that covers both truths: what they know about Santa by then, and what they would find out later.


Or just say plainly an “I don’t know what to tell you”… The child would understand it as you don’t know it , while you actually know but you really don’t know how to tell him that.

This way to answer the question Is Santa real? worked out great. Everything run smoothly. I think that this happened because of a continuos blending of the truth with the beautiful Santa fairy-tale.

Oh... One more thought. They had once asked us Is the Easter Bunny acquainted with Father Christmas? They answered it right away by themselves: He actually should, they have the same occupation…! In this important talk about Santa...  


... Our kids asked some time toward its end: "Oh, then the Easter Bunny? He will do come, isn't it?" Tears came now in my eyes, recalling the obvious spark of hope that at least Easter Bunny was real the way they had thought it to be. I sensed the fight in them between the understanding that Easter Bunny must be the same with Father Christmas, aka Santa Claus - and the tiny little hope the silently gleaming part of the childhood is not over...


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