How Much Santa is Too Much?

The yearly dilemma for atheists this time of year:

Do you tell your children about Santa? (It’s irrational to believe in mythical beings… so isn’t it hypocritical to teach them to think critically about God but then spoon-feed them the myth of Santa?)

If you do, how much detail should you include? (That Santa eats the cookies and drinks the milk? That Santa sees you when you’re sleeping? That Santa knows if you’ve been bad or good?)

If you don’t, are you denying them a cultural milestone? All the other kids in their classes will know the Santa story — and believe it if they’re young enough. Your kids won’t be able to avoid it. Similarly, they’re going to eventually find out Santa doesn’t exist from their classmates, too. (At least I prefer that it happens that way. It would suck if the teacher was the person who broke the news.)

Should you be the one to break the news to them that it’s all an elaborate hoax?

Julie at Rational Moms can’t find the right solution:

… “But of course,” I said to my husband, when we discussed how to approach the Santa issue, “we shouldn’t go into such detail, with, you know, the cookies and everything.”

He looked like I had taken away dessert forever and ever. “We did that when I was a kid,” he said, “and I loved it.”

So I guess we’re doing that, too.

Their son is only six months old, so it’s no biggie this time around. But give it a year or two and the problem will rise again.

What are you telling your children?

  • Nancy

    It’s much more fun to go along with it. (cookies, reindeer, sitting on his lap, etc.) And it’s really no biggie once they learn the truth (from their own logic, as I recall. I am the mother of two college kids.)

  • Aj

    Treat it as any other fictional character, talk and act as if they’re real up to a point. Children should be allowed to have an imagination, but they should also know that somethings are real and somethings are imaginary. Don’t lie to them or use it to coerce them, that’s what religion is for.

  • http://merkdorp.blogspot.com J. J. Ramsey

    Why not treat Santa as a fun imaginary friend, and treat the cookie ritual, or something sort of similar, as part of the fun?

  • PrimeNumbers

    Santa is “just for entertainment” according to our 4 year old.

  • http://www.davidkspencer.com Dave Spencer

    My intent is to go along with the overall game, but not use it to try and drive behavior.

    I prefer not to link the volume of material gifts received to good/bad :) .

  • N

    Well, I never technically lied to my daughter about Santa, and therefore she figured it out on her own.

    She knew that the Santa that flies around the world with reindeer was just a story; but, she also knew that “Santa” was someone who knew whether she was good all year, read the letter of wishes she wrote, tried to get all or as many as possible of the presents, and ate the cookies and drank the milk she left.

    Santa was me; all those things were true. She’s 12 now, and the jig has been up for a few years, but she still gets Santa presents and surprises in her stocking.

    She doesn’t leave me cookies anymore, though. We don’t want a fat Santa. :-)

  • http://www.purduenontheists.com Jennifurret

    While I’m not a parent (and don’t plan on being one for a long time), I don’t think it hurts to have the Santa story. If anything, it may help kids learn rational thinking. I know when I was about 6 I had it figured out. I didn’t understand how a fat man come come down a chimney, how he could magically know what we want, how he visited every house…and then I noticed how he used the same wrapping paper as us and had my mom’s handwriting when putting our names on the gifts. Maybe my mom just wasn’t that good at tricking me, but I put two and two together. I still had fun at Christmas and played along with it for a while, but I didn’t actually believe in it. I grew up in a non-religious household, so I sort of used the Santa experience as my original explanation for why I didn’t believe in God either. Granted, that was my argument for atheism back when I was 10, but it’s a good starting point for understanding myth vs. reality.

  • recorderjoe

    I’ve often thought of Santa basically as training wheels for belief in God and haven’t wanted to encourage this kind of belief in my step son. But I tend to lean towards tradition and go along with the St. Nick for now.
    I’m hoping that my answers to his questions (i.e. “Some people believe in Santa”) will draw a parallel to God someday too.

    Hopefully he’ll make this connection on his own as I don’t want to ‘make’ him believe in anything, but just show him the logical road:

    Some people do believe in Santa.
    Some people do believe in God.
    Santa turned out to be a myth.
    God…is really no different than Santa.

  • NeuroLover

    I’m 20, have always been an atheist, and still love Santa! My brother and I haven’t “believed” in 14 years, but we still set out cookies and read The Night Before Christmas every Christmas eve. It’s one of the traditions my family has had since forever and the whole ritual is just a fun way to bond. We all know it’s not real, but it’s fun and does no harm. In fact, our parents used the “Santa’s not real” discussion as yet another opportunity to promote rationality over magical thinking.

  • N

    One of my best friends, my daughter, and I were talking not long ago about the Santa issue. We were each relaying our memories of when we realized Santa was our parents, and he said “I remember that after I figured it out, I held on to it for a while, because it made me feel good.”

    We all three kind of looked at each other in silence, and knew that we were all thinking the exact same thing.

    Finally he said what we were thinking…

    “Kind of like God, huh?”

  • sc0tt

    My 8-year old daughter still totally buys into the Santa story. She knows the mall Santa is fake though and understands about not spoiling it for other kids. In fact, she knows there’s a whole bunch of apocryphal Santas and only one real one.

    On one hand it bothers me that she’s not more skeptical, but when she does find out I think she’ll have a better foundation for doubting other myths.

  • http://trainbiggermonkeys.com/blog Yuri Nalarm

    I was never raised religious. But I was raised in “Believing in Santa Claus”. It was a lot of fun as I remember, and my Mom probably had more fun pretending than we did believing. There is one fundamental difference between Santa and Religion though. Once you are old enough you will question Santa and eventually stop believing it, and gain a whole new outlook on learning to question what people tell you. The instance I found out about Santa, I no longer believed in the Easter bunny or Tooth Fairy. It’s inevitable.

  • Christie

    My six-year-old just broke the news to my friend’s five-year-old daughter, who wept bitterly and then demanded to know why her parents had lied to her.

    THAT is exactly why I didn’t raise either of my kids with the idea that Santa is real. We don’t do Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy — the holidays are still fun, and I am glad that my kids don’t have to wrestle with questions like:

    1. Why doesn’t Santa visit their Jewish/Hindu/Pagan/Muslim/Atheist friends? Is it because they’re bad?
    2. How does Santa get into apartments since there’s no chimney? And wouldn’t he get stuck in a chimney? If there’s no magic, how does that work? Is only Santa magic? Wouldn’t there have to be *something* else that’s magic if he is?
    3. Why didn’t Santa give me what I asked for? It can’t be because it’s too expensive, since he makes everything himself…

  • http://www.beginningwithi.com/comments/ Deirdre’ Straughan

    In Italy, extra presents may be left for Christmas morning by “Baby Jesus”, then there’s yet another round of presents on Jan 6th (the Epiphany) by a witchy old crone called La Befana, who flies around on a broomstick and gives coal to the kids who were bad. It always seemed to me that the kids took this as one last way to extort loot from their families, and didn’t seriously believe the presents ever came from anywhere else.

  • http://mattcbr.wordpress.com/ Matt

    Over on my blog, I covered a story about a teacher who got fired for indirectly saying that Santa wasn’t real. So be careful what you say to your kids in your home environment.

    Personally, I’d be in favour of dropping the entire thing altogether.

  • Siamang

    I don’t think it’s within a 5-year-old to weep bitterly.

    When my daughter (age 5) cries, her pain is real of course, but she doesn’t have the depth of emotion or experience that her tears could be called bitter.

    Yes, she thinks santa is real… but she’s testing the question. I think at this point Santa is both “real” and “not real” to her, like Peter Pan.

  • absent sway

    I believed for as long as I did because I was convinced that my parents wouldn’t lie to me. I refused to accept that he wasn’t real until I heard it from my parents’ mouths. I cried and got over it and helped lie to/trick my younger siblings. I’m leaning toward practicing the Santa thing with future children for the social and cultural value but am still uncomfortable about the concept.

  • Ramon C.

    I never believed, don’t know why, when I was a kid I felt like I “had” to lie to my mother.
    With my kids, this was the year I told them, mostly because the oldest one is 12 and I assumed kids in junior high would be mean to him if he told them he still believed. And I told the 10 years old and the 5 years old, because I knew if I told one they will share it immediately.
    Anyway, now they know, and there is no difference in this holiday and others, except the arguing about “time freeze” when you travel at light’s speed :)
    Every time they talk about magic, I tell them there is no such thing, they reply “right, but if it would how would it be?”…and that is ok with me, I love Sci-Fi and we begin imagining this fantasy world.

  • Harknights

    I understood that it is part of a childs developement to believe in imaginary things and that the understanding the difference between makebelieve and reality is an important step in the development of a child. The awaking of a childs mind to what is reality is a great turning point in their life. Why withhold that?

    Now telling a child that they will burn forever if they don’t believe in Santa…that’s another thing.

  • Ron in Houston

    I don’t think we poison our children if we let them use their imagination. When I was younger I would see all sorts of things in the clouds in the sky.

    In a way, I think a vivid imagination when younger makes you more rational when you’re older.

  • http://www.godlessevangelist.com Doug Stewart

    The only problem I have with religion or the supernatural is that people that believe it can adversely affect my life. The place it affects my life the most is when people enter the voting booth. Santa is a ‘religion’ or belief in the supernatural that for me and my three kids was totally harmless; harmless because kids don’t make those kind of decisions. So, until there’s a presidential election with a Santa Clause/Frosty the Snowman ticket, he’s got my vote.

    Furthermore, I can’t imagine life as a kid without the joy of this season, primarily due to Santa. I can remember once looking at a calendar in March and saying to myself, “just 250 day’s ‘till Christmas”. This is an issue that can be the worst PR for atheists. We’re stereotyping ourselves as stuck-up miserable liberals. Unlike religion, Santa is harmless. Are the mental hospitals full of young adults that have been traumatized by Santa? No. Are there millions and millions of adults that have nothing but fond memories of their belief in Santa? Yes.

    My youngest daughter who is now 12 is a firm disbeliever in Santa, and calls herself a ‘confident agnostic’ about religion. (She’s had arguments and lost “friends” over it.) But when she was of that age I can remember her saying, “Anyone that doesn’t believe in Santa is a “stinky-butt-poopy-head.”

    I agreed with her then, just as I agree with her now.

  • RobL

    I don’t see the danger of letting kids use their imagination and believe in fantasy worlds. It only becomes irresponsible when the child reaches mental maturity and the parent keeps insisting that the fantasy worlds (and beings) are real. I would be more concerned that by keeping a child from believing in fantasy you would be limiting their creativity and imagination as an adult.

    I have played the Santa game with both my kids to no ill effect. My 15 year old figured it out when she was about 8 but my 7 year old still believes. The 15 year old is leaning towards atheism but social pressure is keeping her from admitting it to her friends – belief or non belief in Santa has played no part in it. The one thing I don’t do is blatantly lie about Santa – it’s easy enough to obfuscate with a 7 year old that you don’t have to. At some point she will figure it out and I’ll use it as an opportunity to let her know that I feel the same way about Santa as I do about God.

  • http://www.otmatheist.com/ hoverFrog

    I’ve been telling my kids stories since they were in the womb, some more elaborate than others. The Santa story is just one more.

  • Sandra

    I never told my son about Santa, he got plenty of information from others. I don’t put name tags on gifts so when he was little he would assume that some of them were from Santa.

    Last Christmas we went to his grandparents and they played out the Santa thing for all it was worth. He figured the whole thing out after that. He is 7 and chose to not say anything to his grandparents so they will still get him Santa gifts (smart little bugger).

    I am happy with the way I handled the issue because I never had to lie to him, and he still got the Santa experience.

  • http://www.limetwists.com Cole

    I have a hard time comparing God to Santa.. Nobody prays 5 times a day to Santa, nobody starts wars in the name of St Nick, The Jolly ole Fat Guy in a Red Suit has never tried to get laws passed to oppress people based on race, religion, sexual preferences, etc… So I see no harm in playing along with the whole Santa gig. It’s harmless fun. And the whole “But you’re lying to the kid” arguement is just being a scrooge, man. Kids like to pretend. My almost 5 year old thinks that there’s an off chance there might really be care bears living in the clouds with a care-o-meter making sure everybody plays nice. As long as folks aren’t waging war or using the care-o-meter as a means of oppression, who am I to not oblige? There’s nothing wrong with fostering an imagination.. in fact, it builds thinking skills. And raising thinkers is what I’m going for over here.

    One day, my girls are going to realize that it’s daddy on the roof, not Rudolph. They’re going to realize that Mommy puts the carrots in the bunny’s cages to get them nibbled down on Easter so it looks like the Easter Bunny ate them. One day, they’re going to realize that this world is cruel and really sucks some times. But right now? They’re kids.. and I see no reason not to let them see the magic of life for a little while. Even if it’s not real.

    /novella-style-comment.

  • Carlos

    We consider Christmas a secular holiday, and Santa is part and parcel of that. Though there certainly are parallels between the concept of Santa and the myths of Jesus as messiah, the critical point of departure between the two is that all kids wise up at some point and realize the truth about Santa. We all know that is not necessarily the case with religion.
    Yes, incorporating the concept of Santa condones a belief in the supernatural, but the adverse affect of it is minimal, and it is relatively short-lived, and when it comes down to it, so what? Just as I don’t make it a habit of denouncing Barney, The Backyardigans, or Transformers for being products of fiction, I don’t see a real reason to eschew Santa. I mean, who wants to be that much of a Scrooge?

  • http://starseyer.blogspot.com Mikayla

    I don’t think parents should lie to their kids, but hey, reasoning out the truth about Santa helped me learn critical thinking. So I’m a bit torn about it. I think telling the very young ones about Santa and then slowing breaking it to them that Santa is a game and not really real is the way to go about it.

  • Pustulio

    I don’t see a problem with the whole Santa thing as long as you don’t go out of your way to deceive them. Once they’re old enough to comprehend the difference between fantasy and reality come clean and tell them the truth, but stress that other kids still believe and they shouldn’t ruin it for others.

  • http://mylifeintheblender.wordpress.com Laurie

    Ironically, I think this is the one parenting area I can agree with my right wing conservative parents on. They didn’t want to teach me about Santa, because they thought if they did, I would later think they were lying about God. (That turned out well for them, haha.) So they didn’t teach me about Santa at all. They let me hear about him from others, then decide for myself what I wanted to believe. They decided if I ever asked, they would tell me the truth, but they would not be the ones to broach the subject. I think it is a good plan, really: it was the one area they allowed us to decide for ourselves what to believe. After all, isn’t that our goal as parents–to not be like others who force religion and beliefs down their childrens’ throats, but to raise children who think for themselves? I think I will raise my daughter like this around Christmas–if she wants the magic, she can have it, but it is something she will have to choose for herself.

    I have a teacher friend in Houston who is lamenting the fact that her elementary school students no longer believe in Santa. It is perhaps a cultural milestone that is going by the wayside anyways.

  • anna

    just to weigh in the the santa issue: my parents never tried to convince me to believe in santa. I knew who santa was, read books about santa, knew all the christmas stories. I just was never told that he was real. we even visted santa at the mall. i just thought of it as a fun story. i was cautioned not to mention that santa wasn’t real to any of my friends, “because some people believe in him.” i just thought he was a nice story. maybe it says something that that was also how i thought of jesus. odd that the same parents taught me to believe in one but not the other.

  • http://yangandcampion.googlepages.com Margaret Y.

    I think it’s really interesting that among children I know, the kids who tend to hold onto the Santa belief the longest are also the most religious. It’s as if you have to believe in the Santa thing because if he’s not real, then…

    I remember my daughter asking me at age 5 if Santa was real. I said, “No, but it’s fun to pretend.” That seemed to satisfy both of us.

  • weaves

    I never believed in Santa as a child. My parents never told me he was real or entertained the joke of Santa. (They considered Santa to be a joke about the real reason of christmas – Christ’s birth).

    I never felt that I was missing out on anything. By the time christmas arrived, school was over so there was no children to get confused with. i knew my gifts were from my parents, which was oh so fun.

  • http://bornagainblog.wordpress.com Justin

    The difference is the implicit assumption that the kid will figure out the Santa game. And they do figure it out, usually with no bad consequences. (Or not that I’m aware of.)

    Theism, on the other hand, is expected to continue until death. This is quite a different matter in tone and substance.

    Viva la Santa!

  • drdave

    I remember figuring out Santa wasn’t real. But it took another seven or eight years to put the nail in god’s coffin.

    And there is this from Dr Free-Ride’s sprog blog – the Dependent Claus . Its the fourth comment.

    Really cute.

  • Beijingrrl

    My kids are 8 and 4 and believe in Santa. I’ve never told them that he is real and if asked directly, I say, “What do you think?” My kids have really active imaginations. They want to believe in super heroes and pokemon and imagine that dinosaurs might somehow return. They do have some sense that none of these things are real, but they really like to have fun believing they are. I wouldn’t dream of spoiling their fun. I remember after reading The Polar Express the first time with my oldest that she asked me if Santa was real. I pulled out the “What do you think?” and she said yes. When she asked me what I thought, I told her I didn’t think he was real, but it was okay for her to think differently from me. That’s really the lesson I want my kids to grow up with – that they should think for themselves and come up with their own beliefs regardless of what other people think, including me.

  • http://mylongapostasy.blogspot.com ATL-Apostate

    My 2year old loves the Santa stuff. Yes, I indulge her imagination and belief in the imaginary. Just like we “cook” dinner for mommy on the kitchen play set. Just like we went looking for Ariel (The Little Mermaid) while at the beach this summer…

    Make believe is an important part of childhood development. If my two year old asked me if Santa was real, I’d tell her no. Likewise, if she asked if Ariel was “real,” I’d have to tell her it was just a story. She’s not old enough to formulate such questions yet, but I think honesty with your children regarding these matters is the best policy.

    I plan on using a similar strategy when it comes to God / Jesus.

  • http://mrskalal.multiply.com/photos/album/39/Our_winter_solstice_decorations Lauren

    When I was growing up, my family never treated Santa as real and I never felt as if I missed out on anything. In fact, I always thought it was odd that other kids believed. So it’s just been a matter of course that we’re not doing the whole Santa thing with our daughter. *shrug* I’ve never understood the big deal, really.

  • http://liberalfaith.blogspot.com/ Steve Caldwell

    My daughter is now 21. When she was in 1st grade elementary school, her way of testing if Santa was “real” was to ask Santa for a limousine. When she didn’t receive a limo for Christmas, she figured that Santa was only capable of getting gifts her parents could buy (and we certainly couldn’t afford a limo).

    So — she figured if Santa had the same limits her parents had with respect to gift-giving, it made more sense to her to assume Santa didn’t exist and her parents were doing the gift-giving.

    A few years after this, I had read about the Jewish religious scholar Martin Buber and how he thought the divine existed not in concrete form but rather god existed in the relationships between people.

    I mentioned this to my daughter and asked if we could view Santa Claus the same way — Santa isn’t “real” in the sense that a person is real. But Santa and the seasonal spirit of generosity that we associate with Santa at this time of year exists in our sharing and our relationships with others.

    My daughter didn’t think too much of this idea but it may be useful to some parents who are grappling with Santa and raising their kids with a non-supernatural worldview.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    My family never really did the full Santa thing. They did it rather half-heartedly, mentioning Santa at many points but didn’t push it. I was never even aware that I was supposed to believe Santa existed. I never seriously believed that anyone truly believed in Santa. I certainly never felt as if I had missed out on an important “cultural milestone”. IMO, it’s not harmful to not convince your children Santa is real.

    Personally, I would never perpetuate the myth myself; I don’t get off on acting.

  • Miko

    I’ve always been a fan of myths. The fact that they aren’t true detracts very little if anything from their allure. Since unlike religion Santa is something that (almost) everyone outgrows believing in, I can’t see to much harm in it: while you believe it, it’s fun (unless you have crazy lump-of-coal style parents), when you stop believing it, it’s still a nice story. I wouldn’t armtwist kids into believing it, but why not make a game of it?

    If you insist on treating children as fully rational adults, your view of reality will be even more skewed than if you insist on treating adults as rational.

  • The MoUsY spell-checker

    I never believed in Santa. My parents still gave me Christmas presents. Christmas was still fun. I don’t think I missed out on anything.

    Then again, I was very quiet as a kid and so I was never the one who told the others that Santa isn’t real. It might not work so well if you have a more outspoken kid who might get in trouble for doing that.

  • http://www.otmatheist.com/ hoverFrog

    Beijingrrl,

    That’s really the lesson I want my kids to grow up with – that they should think for themselves and come up with their own beliefs regardless of what other people think, including me.

    Excellent answer. I wish I’d thought of that.

  • JakePT

    I haven’t thought about it in much detail, but it seems to me an argument can be made that letting the child believe in Santa, and letting them lose the belief or eventually telling them it’s wrong could be an important lesson in critical thinking, and teach them the problems with believing in what people tell you, and allowing them to use critical thinking to see the problems in the myth.

  • Tony Boling

    Do you tell your children about Santa?
    When my son was born I was not planning on having him believe in Santa. His mother on the other hand had her say though. To be fair my wife has a BS in Psychology (Behavioral Analysis) and clued me in to Piaget’s Developmental Theory. You can Google that for more details but basically the age when a kid believes in Santa or God or whatever is between 2-7 years old. It’s called the Pre-operational Stage. 7-11 is the Concrete Operational stage at which time logical thinking really starts (these are guidelines, not steadfast ages).

    With no reinforcement at around 8 or so your kid will figure Santa out for him/herself. Also if your kid has a notion of a god, the same logic they use to not believe in Santa anymore will apply as well. This means you aren’t guilty of forcing your kid into atheism as they’ll do it naturally.

    So we go all out and do the cookies, milk and carrots. We even set out a video camera to capture Santa doing it all but the camera mysteriously fizzles out right before you see his face (me). It adds to the magic and he’ll naturally grow out of it and become a more critical thinker in the process.

  • http://www.rekounas.org rekounas

    Do you tell your children about Santa?
    Yeah, we play along with the whole tree and santa bit. I even threaten to call santa from time-to-time. I know he will grow out of it and it is all about being a kid and having an imagination. Besides, there is nothing less Christian then Santa.

    If you do, how much detail should you include?
    I include all the detail about the north pole and mrs. claus. I did tell him last night that not everyone believes in Santa, the same way that people don’t believe in Jesus…

    If you don’t, are you denying them a cultural milestone?
    I don’t know if you are denying them anything, but it would be like all the kids on the block having the same birthday as you and their parents throwing them a big party and getting all the presents, and you not getting squat. I child may interpret that is being deprived of something. How do the Muslim children feel about it? I know many Jews that participate in the whole gift giving and even sticking up a tree… which is not Christian at all, so why sweat it.

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  • http://www.shadowmanor.com/blog/ Cobwebs

    Lawsey, if I didn’t have “Santa knows when you’re being bad” to fall back on, I’d have sold my four-year-old to the Gypsies by now.

    I don’t see anything wrong with childhood belief in mythical beings; I think it might actually encourage a child’s imagination. I remember being fascinated by stories of fairies and goblins and whatnot as a child. (And look at how influential the “magic” in Harry Potter is.)

    I think the crucial difference is that when my son gets a little older and comes to the conclusion that Santa isn’t real, I won’t insist that he is. And I certainly won’t claim that there are any negative consequences for Santa Apostasy.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    My wife has already told my three-year-old that Santa is “just a story”. Personally I would have waited a little longer, but whatever. The problem is now she’s telling all of the other kids and spoiling it for some of them.

  • http://blargen.com/blog/ postsimian

    This marks the second year I’ve been at odds with my wife over the issue. She sees it as harmless fun, which is a point I can certainly understand. However, I just don’t feel right about lying to my kid, who I’d like to raise to be a fellow rational secularist. I don’t think we should avoid Santa at all costs–he’s going to notice the red man eventually. But it’s hard to discern what is enough and what’s too much.

    Any help on this?

  • JSug

    I posted on this over at Rational Moms, but I’ll summarize what I wrote here. My son will be 3 in February. This is the first Christmas he’s really aware of what’s going on. We’re going with the Santa myth. I grew up believing in Santa (until I figured it out around age 5) and enjoyed it. My wife, on the other hand, was never allowed to believe and resents the fact. Ditto the Easter bunny and tooth fairy.

    That said, as soon as he starts questioning things, I’ll be honest with him. Consider it a lesson in questioning authoritative sources of information.

  • Grimalkin

    I plan on treating Santa like any other game of pretend-play. It will be clear that Santa isn’t real, but isn’t it fun to pretend that he is and to leave out cookies? Isn’t it even more fun to wake up in the morning and have some cookies laid out to eat while we open presents?

    I see no harm in pretending that Santa exists, as long as the kids are in on the game as well. I absolutely hate the idea of lying to a child, convincing her that there’s this supernatural being who spies on her and judges her every action.

  • Grimalkin

    Cobwebs: You don’t have to BELIEVE in myths to have fun with them. When I was a child, my garden was full of fairies, the lakes were full of mermaids, and pretty much every room in my house had a ghost. I even went to church and pretended that Jesus was my friend (that’s right, my invisible friend was Jesus).

    At the end of the day, I knew it was all make-believe – but that didn’t diminish the fun at all. If anything, it made it more fun because I felt like I could control the game. The ghosts were scary, sure, but when I made myself too scared, I could just end the game.

    So no, I don’t think that you would stunt your child’s imagination by encouraging a secular view of the world.

  • http://www.shadowmanor.com/blog/ Cobwebs

    Grimalkin: I think you misunderstand my definition of “belief.” I didn’t mean it in the sense of, “This thing is absolutely the truth,” but more in the sense of, “This kind of thing might be possible.” If you completely reject the notion that it’s even possible, then there’s not really much for the imagination to feed on.

    I don’t think there are fairies at the bottom of my garden, but when I was a child it was fun to think that there might be. That doesn’t make me any more supportive of adults who insist that fairies definitely exist.

  • Maekern

    When I was a small child, my father told me all about Santa Claus, but made it clear that Santa was a fun story that people liked to pretend was true. He was careful to tell me that if I went around saying it was just a story to people who liked to pretend, I would spoil their fun.

    I even got presents from “Santa”, but at no point did I ever think Santa was anyone but my father. It worked out well enough.

  • Lyz

    When I was little, I loved helping wrap presents. So I pretty much knew that all the presents under the tree came from somewhere, and saw Santa in places like the shopping mall, and knew that my favorite characters on TV were played by real people out there.

    So I asked my mom “Who’s Santa?” in the matter of fact manner I often had for my questions. I think she gave me the best answer in the world –

    “Everyone who gives someone else a present is Santa Claus. We’re all Santa to someone, and everyone out there is Santa to us.”

    I plan to tell this to my children and anyone else who asks me. I can’t come up with a better way to explain the myth behind something and keep it so wonderful!

  • http://atheistlibrarian.blogspot.com Adam

    I’m one of 5 brothers, all over the age of 17. My mother just decided a few years ago that we were too old for stockings. All the brothers go home for Christmas and this year (being the brother with the only real job) I’m planning to fill the stockings with all the usual dollar store brand crap just to see what they say. I’m, of course, not going to admit it was me… it was obviously Santa. Kids will eventually realize it’s not true, there’s nothing wrong with the story. Unless, of course, this happens!

  • Sam

    Don’t worry about it. I’m 16 years old, and figured it out by my own logic years ago. I am also an atheist by choice, yet I have a Christian mom. I see no logic in the existance of Santa or God, so I believe them to be nothing more than myths. Not to mention Santa’s status as a pervert (“sees you when you’re sleeping”? “knows when you’re awake”?)

    Just don’t spoil it for the little ones. Santa is fun.

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