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Santa Claus was originally based upon the Christian figure of Saint Nicholas, a patron saint of children, but Santa Claus today has become a wholly secular figure. Some Christians object to Santa because he is secular rather than Christian. Some non-Christians object to Santa because of his Christian roots. There is no denying that Santa Claus has become a powerful cultural symbol which is impossible to ignore, but this doesn't mean that he should simply be accepted without question. There are good reasons to dispense with the tradition.

Read Article: Should Parents Perpetuate the Santa Claus Myth?

Comments
November 22, 2006 at 5:34 pm
(1) blutfink says:

I’d guess the percentage of atheists in a country is hard to measure with polls. This is because the definition of “atheist” is not clear to many people.

In my country (Germany) virtually everyone I know aged below 40 isn’t a Christian in any meaningful sense. Jesus doesn’t play the slightest role in their lives, they never pray, don’t go to church, never read the bible and generally know next to nothing about its teachings. I’d say you can’t really call them Christian believers. But none of them would call himself an atheist (or an adherent of another religion).

You’d need smart polling questions to get a good measure of the percentage of atheists here.

November 22, 2006 at 6:43 pm
(2) John says:

I think it is important for children to learn that anyone can lie to them-even their parents-and for no good reason.

December 6, 2007 at 4:16 pm
(3) Eric says:

Is there any empirical evidence to believe that children who are taught about Santa Claus have worse outcomes in any area of life than children who are not? I’ve never heard anyone say that they wished their parents had never told them about Santa Claus. Ia there any evidence of any long term damage to the relationship of trust between a parent and child as a result of this belief? Or is this solely a matter of principle?

December 6, 2007 at 4:26 pm
(4) Child of Thorns says:

Santa myth? Santa myth?!

December 6, 2007 at 5:21 pm
(5) Telperil says:

Santa, like all benign deceptions, ought to go the way of the dodo. Why do a surprising number of adults find deliberately taking advantage of a child’s trust-prone nature to be cute?

December 6, 2007 at 5:54 pm
(6) Swatch says:

I dunno – at some point, parents either a) finally tell their children the truth about Santa or b) they find out on their own, and the parents admit the whole thing.

Theists, on the other hand, will NEVER admit (or agree) that gawd is imaginary.

December 6, 2007 at 6:02 pm
(7) Child of Thorns says:

“Santa, like all benign deceptions, ought to go the way of the dodo. Why do a surprising number of adults find deliberately taking advantage of a child’s trust-prone nature to be cute? ”

Would it not teach them the kinds of arguments against organised religion, that they could use for themselves later in life.

December 6, 2007 at 8:13 pm
(8) Australian Atheist says:

Great article.

I’m undecided as to whether Santa encourages or discourages scepticism but, regardless, I think the importance of minimising the amount of lying to children is enough reason to do away with him.

December 6, 2007 at 11:12 pm
(9) tracieh says:

>Why do a surprising number of adults find deliberately taking advantage of a child’s trust-prone nature to be cute?

I don’t know if I find it cute or funny. There is something humorous to me about young people and how you can really amaze them with the stupidest crap. Every adult I know has stories about stupid crap they believed as a child, and usually they laugh about it–and others laugh about it as well.

To be fair, I don’t know what makes it funny. Just like I don’t know why I laugh when I see someone take a nasty fall (someone I know calls it “the Three Stooges Gene.” I guess on some levels I can’t help what I find humorous…?

But some of the funniest comix I recall reading were in Calvin and Hobbes where Calvin’s dad would tell him an absolute load of crap–and you could just imagine some kid believing all this garbage.

Part of it, I think, is perhaps novelty. Kids don’t stay at that stage for very long–so you only have a limited time to sort of pull the wool over their eyes before they get wise to such simple ploys. I think that’s why they refer to it as a “magical age”–because, quite literally, your head is very open to magical thinking.

I think most of us outgrow these things. Those who don’t likely go on to be fantasy writers or fantasy film directors. Some may go on to be Tarot Card readers, and take it really seriously all their lives.

But Xianity is a bit scarier because it does employ all the features of the Santa lie. And it does it on such a larger scale and with such broad appeal, that it’s really unnerving. It makes me wonder how susceptible I am to nutty ideas–and what beliefs I might still be clinging to that are wholly irrational (but I just haven’t identified it yet…?)

December 7, 2007 at 3:53 am
(10) Katie says:

If I ever have kids, they shall not be told the Santa story. Or, rather, they shall, with the point added that the story is simply a story.

Personally, my oldest memory of Santa is of doubt, and my second oldest is of recognizing “Santa” written in my dad’s handwriting.

I did intentionally milk it for a few years, though, in the hopes of squeezing extra goodies out via good behavior. It did not work, however, and I ended up just mostly pointing out my revelation to other kids at school, in a manner that would have gotten me spoiler tagged on Wikipedia.

Anyway, it would be irrelevant. I do not celebrate Xmas as such. My family mostly does, and they have a tendency to give me things even though I never participate in the gift-giving, admittedly primarily because I cannot afford it.

But, living on my own (I currently live with my mom to cut college expenses), I would not celebrate it. I am fond of capitalism, but Xmas is a celebration of consumerism.

Instead, I mostly just celebrate New Years and sometimes request the time period between the winter solstice and Jan 1st off of work to relax and gear up for the spring semester.

December 7, 2007 at 11:09 am
(11) nal says:

Maybe the Santa myth has a benefit. After the children learn that authority figures have been lying to them about the supernatural Santa, they may be more skeptical about other claims regarding supernatural beings.

December 7, 2007 at 3:25 pm
(12) Gerald says:

tracieh writes: Kids don’t stay at that stage for very long… before they get wise to such simple ploys. I think that’s why they refer to it as a “magical age”–because, quite literally, your head is very open to magical thinking.

Not so fast, tracieh! :-) There’s a current occupant of the White House who lives in a world full of magical thinking! Also, I’m able to “pull the wool” over the eyes of far too many of my high school students (sadly). Example: I have one of those replica 1930s tombstone radios with a hidden tape player, and sometimes I play a tape of really old music and tell students that, since it’s such an old radio, all it picks up is old music. Invariably, I get a few students who nod along as if that makes perfect sense (of course, most of their classmates are soon on the floor in laughter).

December 9, 2007 at 2:21 pm
(13) John says:

It’s a tough choice. My daughter said she was “heartbroken” when she found out the truth about Santa and the Easter Bunny, but the alternative would have been for her to be the only child in our neigborhood and in her school who knew the truth. It’s one thing for me to personally take on the role of warrior against modern cultral norms, it’s another thing to ask my child to do it. She found out eventually that the big purple dinosaur at her second birthday party wasn’t the real Barney, that the fireworks in the summer weren’t all for her birthday (she was born in July 7th) that the Snow White she met at Disney World was a person dressed up to play a part and despite all of this pretending and play acting and more, she is growing up to be a critical and independent thinking young woman.

December 9, 2007 at 6:01 pm
(14) Austin Cline says:

My daughter said she was “heartbroken” when she found out the truth about Santa and the Easter Bunny, but the alternative would have been for her to be the only child in our neigborhood and in her school who knew the truth

Is “we’ll be different from everyone else” really a good argument? I’m sure you wouldn’t send your daughter to church on such a basis.

December 9, 2007 at 6:50 pm
(15) John says:

“I’m sure you wouldn’t send your daughter to church on such a basis.”

It’s hard to say. Belief in Santa is nearly unanimous amoung kids under nine in our area. On the other hand, despite the dozens of churches in our little town, the majority of people don’t attend Sunday services. When my daughter was a little older, she had several friends who were active in their churches. She thought it would be fun to go and have an additional chance to socialize with her friends, so I took her to the churches several times. Once the churches started trying to separate her from her friends so they could try to indoctrinate her, however, she quickly lost all interest.

Belief in Santa is also different from belief in Jesus. Going to see Santa is more like going to see “Elmo on Ice.” I didn’t feel it was necessary to explain to her that Elmo isn’t a real monster.

“we’ll be different from everyone else”

I think it’s a question of whether of not it’s okay to set up a five year old to be a social outcast. She’s old enough now to reach her own conclusions and defend her own beliefs, but that wasn’t true when she was in pre-school or in the first years of elementary school.

November 29, 2008 at 3:40 pm
(16) Sherry says:

My kids are 19 and 21 now. We celebrated xmas at our convenience when they were little because my husband was a Sheriff’s deputy and I worked for an airline.
We didn’t push “Santa” but he did bring gifts. However, the gifts weren’t all from Santa. I made the “from” tags from celebrities like Scooby Do and the Ninja Turtles and Raffi.
The tradition goes on, because the kids are still excited to see if they got gifts from Batman or Harry Potter or Hallie Barry or Shaun White or Venus Williams or Edward Cullen. (You get the idea)
It’s fun. It’s the way the apatheist Sobieralski family marks the Solstice holiday season.

November 29, 2008 at 6:56 pm
(17) Skeptic1 says:

I truly believe that the Santa/Easter Bunny/tooth Fairy have outlived their usefulness…perhaps they should retire in Unicorn/Pixie/Leprechaun Land…

November 29, 2008 at 7:29 pm
(18) Erick says:

It seems as if much of this debate is about a false dichotomy.

It is easy to argue against lying to children and against promoting comsumerism. However, the trappings and symbols of X-mas or Yule are basically whatever we choose to make of them. I think it would be a mistake to dispose of all the beautiful traditions and imagery just because we disapprove of negative associations. We can stop the deception and the commercialism without robbing ourselves of all the good things. Just as Christians coopted Yule and changed the meanings of the symbols, so modern secularists are capable of coopting X-mas. In fact this is already happening, it seems.

November 30, 2008 at 12:05 am
(19) Don Pope says:

OK, let me answer point by point:

Parents Have to Lie About Santa Claus – Kids can tell the difference between this kind of fun lie (make believe) and a malicious lie. The Santa Claus thing doesn’t seem to erode any trust between the parent and child.

Parents’ Lies About Santa Claus Have to Grow – Not really. Once they got suspicious I didn’t try to cover it up.

Santa Claus Lies Discourage Healthy Skepticism – I think it’s the opposite. It’s taught them to use their brain, connect the dots and follow their reasoning. The experience will be useful figuring out religion and other poppycock in the future.

The Reward & Punishment System of Santa Claus is Unjust – My kids get their presents whether they’ve been good or “bad”. And really, how bad can little boys be?

The Santa Claus Myth Promotes Materialism – That’s the gift-giving, not Santa Claus.

Santa Claus is Too Similar to Jesus and God – In our case, Santa Claus is just the guy who brings the presents. But if there are similarities, much the better! They’ll be able to make the connection between one fake guy and the other.

The Santa Claus “Tradition” is Relatively Recent – Why does this matter? Is this an “argument from antiquity”?

Santa Claus is More About Parents than Children – Perhaps, but my kids have known that Santa Claus is not real for some time, and they say it’s fun to make believe he brings the presents. BTW, following Spanish tradition, my kids also get presents from the Three Kings (the three wise men) on January 6th. They like that even more than than the Santa Claus thing (and yes, they know).

Finally, if you want to read about an extraordinary Christmas tradition, check out the Catalonian “caga tio”.

December 1, 2008 at 10:45 am
(20) An atheist says:

I don’t know how my parents did it but I am one of 5 siblings who believed in Santa and all of us learned the truth without any problem. In fact, we are the biggest “baby” adults at christmas. We just love opening our stockings and our gifts still read “Love, Santa & Mrs. Clause”. I treasure those gift tags.

I don’t have children so not sure what I’d do but I will say I imagine it would be very hard for the sfew children who know santa is not real but must play along with their young friends and classmates.

December 7, 2008 at 1:30 am
(21) GM says:

One of the real fallacies in this article certainly seems to be the premise that there is a single educative technique appropriate for all ages and at all times of life; that is, if the parent manipulates the pleasure principle as a disciplinary technique in childhood, the child will “internalize” the reward/punishment system, thus ostensibly stunting their capacities for altruism or (delayed gratification, perhaps) as an adult.
There are several problems with the argument. First, there is no evidence to suggest that internalization of the reward/punishment discipline precludes the higher forms of moral reasoning. It strikes me rather as a necessary preparatory stage, the neglect of which usually stunts rathers than aids the capacity for ethical development. Second, one does not use reward/punishment in order to teach that good should only be done for a reward, but rather because small children do not generally possess the capacity to understand the higher forms of moral reasoning. Thus, it is the only way to instill the habits of self-control necessary to useful social functioning. And if Austin, you would dispute that, I challenge you to explain to my three year old why she can’t throw temper tantrums purely on the grounds of altruism. I am still going to tell her that the elves are reporting back to Santa, and I won’t lose any more sleep over it than the candy I used to potty train her or the grounding I will do when she breaks curfew, hopefully years from now. Finally, reward/punishment is not just about an ethical system, it’s also about teaching kids how the world really works. You do bad things, you can get into trouble, unpleasant things may happen. You don’t have to believe in God to see the plain truth in that. Ironic, Santa’s most useful function may just be that he teaches us about how the world really works.

December 14, 2008 at 7:25 am
(22) Quid Quintessa says:

I have a problem. I refuse to tell my kids (aged 4, 6, and 7 mos.) this stupid story about the fat guy in the red suit. I take every opportunity to remind them that it’s just for play and that there’s no such thing as Santa. It is important for me to build a relationship of trust with these people who happen to be my children, and as with other relationships, that means not lying to them and making fools of them.

The problem is this: my daughters insist that there IS a Santa Claus. They don’t believe me because this idiot story is reinforced at every turn. Quite a study in the power of collective (non)thinking. How many other stupid myths do we believe wholeheartedly simply because we are insulated from reality by those around us?

December 25, 2008 at 11:55 am
(23) peter says:

Without God your lives are EMPTY.

December 25, 2008 at 12:40 pm
(24) Austin Cline says:

Peter: Prove it.

December 18, 2009 at 3:09 pm
(25) Darwin Finch says:

I’m not a parent but I think I would take a fictional approach to Santa. It is possible to embrace cultural figures in a fictional way without literally lying. I think children are actually more open to this kind of make-believe than most adults, so long as you give them the right cues to understand that you too are “in” on the make believe (whereas the current model suggests putting Santa forth as literally real).

Example: My niece pretends to be a server at a restaurant. She takes orders on a little pad. (Scribbles.) It is obvious to her that I don’t really expect the food I “order”, so she’s comfortable bringing me random blobs of play-doh, etc. The game is “open”. Neither views the act as literal. I think you can treat Santa (and leprechauns, and unicorns, etc.) in the same manner. You don’t have to lie about it, just make him another of the many fun characters in their world (Spongebob, etc.). Tell them early on that Santa’s not real and there will be no trauma… nothing to “get over”. And most importantly, no dishonesty. They will get it. I guarantee it won’t ruin the fun.

But then, I would understand if a parent decided to avoid the character alltogether. The fellow does come with a lot of controversial baggage.

December 18, 2009 at 5:45 pm
(26) AtheistGeophysicistBob says:

peter (23). Please don’t use your life to access mine.

December 18, 2009 at 6:36 pm
(27) Yossarian says:

I think it’s a great way to introduce children to skepticism. My oldest duaghter is 8 years old and I finally told her the truth about Santa Claus. She was asking alot of questions and I think she was in the agnostic stage about the Fat Man. So when her brother who is 5 years old went to bed, we had “the Talk”. I ask her if she believed in Santa ,and she said (unconvincingly) “yes”. I knew she didn’t believe but was just covering her bases.( you know…just in case she was wrong and there really was a Santa Claus.) So I told her there was no such thing as Santa , that it was all in good fun. I told her to think about how impossible it would be to visit every house with a sack of toys , all in one night. She seemed to really like that line of reasoning. I heard her tell her mother it later that night. Ah yes ….another little one who won’t be falling for anymore fairy tales. I just ruined any chance the Jesus Freaks have of getting her. All thanks to Santa.

December 18, 2009 at 7:06 pm
(28) Jane says:

I’m a librarian and storyteller. Children LOVE to hear stories and pretend. To become independant thinkers and responsible citizens, children need to learn to be able to distinguish between Non-Fiction and Fiction. They also need to have some fun. One year, my library was inhabited by an invisible “shelf-elf” who listened in and left little notes and surprises. Some of those students, now grown, come back to tell me how much they “got into it” and enjoyed that year. I did not “lie” to them.

As my own children were growing up, I had the following sign on our refrigerator: “Question Authority”. I also had games and art supplies, etc. all over the place. Sharing stories (from many different cultures, gifts from Santa, and creating other family traditions had nothing to do with lying.

As a child I figured out that traditional Santa was my father–which made the game even more meaningful. I laugh with the child who said, “There must be a Santa because my parents would never spend this kind of money on toys.”

Hey, I raised two free thinkers and daily encourage hundreds of children to ask questions and use their brains. I stay far away from any religious indoctrination (their religious beleifs or lack there-of are not my business and visa-versa). But if anyone asks me about Santa? Ooooh, there are great stories and lots of fun to be had…

January 4, 2010 at 6:54 am
(29) Eupraxsophy says:

In response to Eric (#3) about; is there any evidence that being told about Santa Claus is wrong
or harmful? Yes!

It just so happens that when I was about 4 years old I had shut the flew in the fire place because I didn’t what Santa to get burnt because of the embers that were still burning, and the house started to fill with smoke. In other words my entire family could have died from anoxemia (carbon monoxide poisoning) simply because I believed in Santa. Fortunately my dad discovered what I did and I received a vital lesson about there not being a Santa Claus after all. So see even what might appear as being an innocent lie is still just a lie.
That’s why it is wrong, because we can not predict the outcome of any lie or deception once someone believes it’s the truth. Which is exactly why I don’t believe in any superstition no matter how many promises it might offer, how many threats it might make, or even if it appears to be innocent, the truth has no weakness and integrity is it’s strength.

It’s important for parents to tell their children
the truth and to be honest with them, so that they
can have the integrity to be honest with themselves.

January 4, 2010 at 7:31 am
(30) Eupraxsophy says:

In response to Peter (#23),

Without God our lives are empty?

With God our MINDS would be empty and our lives would be void of any meaning except to please some superstitous, irresponsible, arrogant god’s pride.

Face the truth, accept the truth, and respect the truth for what it is and move on with your life, or remain idle with your life and base your truths on beliefs so that those that believe the same way you do will be impressed.

Belief in the supernatural is better known as superstition.

December 4, 2011 at 5:47 pm
(31) Andrew Hall says:

Atheists should hale Santa as the fifth column which is secularizing Christmas into Giftmas.

December 5, 2011 at 8:49 am
(32) Liz says:

More important than the final decision that parents come to with regards to Santa are the reasons, rationale and thoughtful deliberating that leads to that decision. There are many interesting comments here supporting the maintenance of the Santa myth while there could be solid reasons for eschewing it. Ultimately, it seems more important to me that people come to a reasoned decision than that they decide one way or another. It’s a good question to ask so that people are not just blindly adhering to a convention or a tradition without understanding it.

December 5, 2011 at 12:57 pm
(33) Grandpa_In_The_East says:

(31) Andrew Hall Said:
“Atheists should hale Santa as the fifth column which is secularizing Christmas into Giftmas.”

First: Atheists have no general consensus on any matter. We are individuals. So, I can only speak for myself. And, I find no good reason to ever lie to a child. Ever wonder why youngsters often trust their peers more so than adults?

Second: There must be a great demand for Tom Flynn’s “The Trouble with Christmas.” I paid only about 20 bucks for my copy. Now it is going for well over a hundred dollars. The truth be told.

Happy Holidays (but, don’t look any “kid” in the eyes),

Grandpa

December 20, 2011 at 9:46 am
(34) GrayLion says:

After a lifetime of confusion and questioning, I’ve finally come to realize that this whole “Do what the giant invisible daddy in the sky says, (and contribute to my IRA) and everything will be fine”, thing is THE biggest scam in human, oh heck, ALL of history.The last time I heard a sermon, I was disgusted to hear a recruitment speech for the church. This is the first . . .I can’t even bring myself to say the word. This SOLSTICE is the first time I saw a stores commercial and heard the words,”Let’s go into debt for jesusssss. He would have wanted it that wayyyyyy”. Apalling ! Maybe a global calamity Should hit the earth again, and maybe leave just a couple thousand of our species to start over. (Sigh). Happy Solstice to all, and a hopeful New Year.

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