Believing in Santa: The Pros and Cons
I decided to write this article based on something that happened to me three years ago. My eight-year-old nephew came into the room and started talking about Santa. I gave a derisive laugh and said, "Oh that's so cute that you still believe in Santa!" Later that evening I received a very annoyed phone call from my nephew's mother. I apologized and told her we never really did the whole Santa thing growing up but after I hung up I thought about how ridiculous it was for such a small thing to make someone so upset. After sharing the story with numerous friends, family and coworkers what I was amazed to realize is that nearly everyone but myself and my siblings believed in Santa at one point or another in their childhoods. As it turns out Santa is a much bigger thing than I knew!
The Worldwide Legend
For centuries all over the world people have believed in Santa Clause: A fat jolly man who dresses all in red, drives a sleigh driven by flying reindeer, and delivers gifts to children all over the world in a single night, based on whether they've been naughty or nice. He accomplishes all of this through magic and some sort of omniscient power that allows him to monitor the entire world twenty-four hours a day. A child's standing with Saint Nick is also stretched furthered by leaving milk and cookies or other treats for him to eat.
Pros to Believing In Santa:
- Believing in Santa encourages imagination and promotes a sense of magic and wonder
- The character of Santa Clause is recognized by children all over the world, giving the legend a sort of unifying property
- Activities such as baking cookies for Santa and hanging stockings can also have a unifying effect on families
- The belief that someone is always monitoring what they do can have a positive impact on a child's behavior
Cons to Believing in Santa:
- Children are sometimes very upset when they learn the truth about Santa, and sometimes this can negatively impact their sense of trust
- The image of Santa, while charming, can mislead children into believing that they can trust anyone wearing a Santa suit, which can be dangerous in extreme cases
- Well-behaved children from lower income families may feel hurt and confused when their more wealthy, not-so-well-behaved counterparts receive more gifts than they do
Like all other information in a child's life, how they react to it is all in how it is presented to them. I know several people who tell their children Santa has access to all of the world's security cameras and that's how he judges who is naughty and nice. This provides a nice introduction into the actual purpose of security cameras and the very real fact that someone is watching and you will be punished for certain wrong-doings captured by their relentless stare. I also know people who spend more than they can afford on gifts, feeling obligated to buy whatever their children ask Santa for. I also know people who have remedied this situation by putting just one or two "From: Santa" gifts under their tree. The psychological trauma in finding out Santa is not real is actually minimal, most children figure out he is not real on their own, but caution should be taken with more sensitive children or children who are immature for their age. Just make sure it's all in good fun and don't oversell it!