No Virginia, There is No Santa Claus

No Virginia, There is No Santa Claus November 28, 2008

Now that the turkey is digested and the Christmas season has begun in earnest, I would like to make a request of whoever reads this that I hope will not seem naive, or sentimental, or overly moralistic. The request is this:

Please don’t lie to your children about Santa Claus.

Lying is repeatedly condemned in Scripture (Cf. Psalms 5:7; Proverbs 6:17; Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:9). And section 2485 of the Catechism says that “[b]y its very nature, lying is to be condemned.” Yet every year millions of Christian parents choose the occasion of our Lord’s birth to lie to their children about the existence of a jolly old fat man who lives in the North Pole.

There are, I know, serious disagreements and arguments about whether a lie is ever justified. But those arguments are about situations (typically involving Nazis) which are a matter of life and death. Nothing like that is at stake here. Christmas is a time when we celebrate the birth of he who is the way, the truth and the light. We should not honor his memory with a lie, especially a lie that is likely to distract attention from Christ. I highly doubt that Saint Nicholas would approve of such use of his name.

It is argued that, if children were told the truth, that it would take the joy and magic out of Christmas. I am living proof, however, that this is not true. I was told by my parents that Santa Claus like Superman; he wasn’t real, but sometimes it was fun to pretend like he was. My childhood Christmases were as happy as any other, I suspect.

If treating the whole thing as make believe is insufficient, why not introduce your children to the real old Saint Nick? Say a prayer to him as a family, and tell how his generosity in times past has inspired others to give and share down through the ages.

Telling your children that Santa is real is sometimes justified on the grounds that it helps teach your children about faith, by teaching them to believe in the things not seen. I can only hope that it doesn’t. If a person did learn anything about faith from the experience, it would probably be that people will lie and pretend that such things exist when in fact they don’t. That only children believe in them, and that authority in general is not to be trusted. Based on the fact that many children grow up to have a profound faith despite having been lied to, I can only conclude that most people don’t learn much of anything from the experience. But there is something about the dogged insistence some atheists have on comparing God to Santa Claus that makes me wonder.

Even if lying about Santa Claus does no harm, not doing so may be a great benefit. When your child grows up, he will realize that you did not lie when others did, even on a matter which (as it may then seem to him) is quite trivial. And he will take from this that honesty is very important.

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