Dec 22, 2009

Philosophical Phun - The Santa Myth

Many people teach their small children the myth of Santa Claus: that a magical being who lives at the North Pole brings presents on Christmas Eve. Secondary aspects of the myth are that whether one receives presents is a function of one’s behavior, and that you can communicate with Santa about your preferences. Not only parents, but retail establishments, local governments, and public schools collude in perpetuating this myth among children of a certain age.

Perpetuating the Santa myth has at least these moral reasons against it:

1. It involves a lot of lying and deception practiced on credulous people. The lies get bigger as natural skepticism sets in.

2. It tends to foster greed in children and contributes to their false impression that one’s happiness is determined by one’s material possessions.  The whole Santa thing has been relatively recent, mid-19th century. 

3. In telling children that the quantity and quality of one’s gifts are a function of one’s behavior, when actually they are a function of one’s socio-economic standing and parental temperament, it induces moral complacency in well-off children and false feelings of moral inferiority in less well-off children.

I had never really thought about it in this manner. I remember staying up late Christmas Eve, chomping carrots and putting them out in the snow, spreading baby powder around the tree and putting footprints in it, taking bites of the cookies, and putting the Santa presents under the tree. 

Once the magic of belief is gone, the traditions and expectations you established when they were young become perpetuated into late adolescence and the teen years. I think that it is best to practice minimalism from the get-go, even though that is not easy to do when they are filled with wonder and innocence.  The key is to instill early that the true spirit of Christmas is expressing the joy of giving and your love for those who you give to. 

What are your thoughts regarding this topic?


  1. When we were kids, Santa brought ONE gift, usually a special gift, but only one. Anything else under the tree was a gift from Mom and Dad or family.
    We never got boatloads of stuff from Santa, so i never thought of it as some sort of "payday".

  2. Growing up, the deception involving Santa disappeared early. We knew that our Mom was working hard to make our Christmas for us and it was an opportunity to show one another how much we cared for another.

    My Mom wasn't big on pagan celebrations. I don't think I really was allowed to 'opt out' of XMas in church until I was 10! And I agree that there is a chance for the continued practice allows for the perpetuation of distrust in authority figures to take root. When a child reasons out the truth and you force them to participate in something that is patently false, it preps them to be deceptive as they grow older.

  3. I do not like the holidays anymore. However I kind of like when kids talk about santa and about getting presents. The way I see it is a great day to honored love ones, even if there is a little bit of fantasy and subrealism.

  4. I totally agree with you.

    I remember being devastated when a friend told there there is no Santa! As a child, it was an unpleasant experience to find out the truth.

    But, Christmas is still magical as an adult.

  5. I found out there was no Santa from older kids. It was pretty traumatic and it made me reluctant to trust for a short time afterward. I think all three pints are valid, but they can be counteracted by creating a new, realistic celebration that doesn't include the damaging elements. Although I believed in Santa and didn't turn out too bad.

  6. I still believe that Santa makes Christmas a very special time for Christmas and adults as well! I was raised a Christian but we were not religious or churchy, and I have to say I believe in Santa every bit as much as I believe in Jesus! I know that my mom and dad helped Santa get the presents under our tree when we were kids, becuase they could. But I do think that Santa is still there to deliver Christmas miracles- he just has to prioritize and get them to the people who need them the most!


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