Is Santa Claus Real?
on Faërian Drama & the End of Enchantment
My husband and I must have been careless.
Christmas morning, while we were still sleeping off our annual all-nighter and the kids were fidgeting to go downstairs, our son John announced, "I woke up last night and looked downstairs. It was just Mom and Dad wrapping presents. There is no Santa Claus."
"I wasn't really surprised," Helena said afterwards. "When you're one of the youngest, somebody always tells you there is no Santa Claus. I just liked pretending." She sighed. "But I remember feeling sad afterwards whenever I watched The Polar Express. I thought, 'Now I will never hear the bell . . .'" In The Polar Express there is a sleigh bell that only those who believe in Santa can hear, and Helena knew she didn't believe in him anymore.
But somehow she still believed in the bell.
The Santa Controversy
Santa Claus, that peculiarly American avatar of Saint Nicholas, remains surprisingly controversial for a character who promotes good will and generosity among children. Some secularists think he is too Christian—and ban him from public schools—and some Christians say he is too secular—and ban him from church. But there is another dividing line between Santa's supporters and opponents that cuts across religious lines: 85 percent of American children under five believe that Santa Claus is real. Is this good or bad? Is telling children about Santa Claus passing on a tradition, sharing a fantasy . . . or telling a lie?
Our friend Vicky and her husband decided not to tell their son about Santa Claus for this very reason: her husband considered it a lie. Instead, they told him about Saint Nicholas. This worked until their son came home from kindergarten and told his parents that all his friends said there was a Santa Claus.
"We said that, no, there wasn't, and he stopped and thought about it," Vicky remembered. "And then he said that he didn't believe us."
Parents can never completely control outside influences on their children.
Or even inside influences, like older brothers.
Rebecca Sicree writes from Boalsburg, Pennsylvania. She and her family attend Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in nearby State College. She and her husband Andrew have ten children, six of whom are now adults.
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