We are not far removed from the Christmas holiday and the last couple of years I have wondered about why kids believe in Santa Claus. Let’s be honest Santa Claus might be the biggest lie with the most people complicit in the history of mankind. T.V. reporters, radio show, non-believers, those who don’t celebrate all help carry out the lie of Santa Claus for the joy of those who believe. One of the main reasons children believe is because their parents tell them it is so. For the most part children are trusting, but also incredibly curious. I find my three daughters level of curiosity about Santa Claus isn’t on par with their curiosity about the rest of the world.
At a certain age children will mostly believe what they are told. My five year old falls into that category and my seven years old is probably right on the edge of that. However, my ten year old, who questions everything and wants to know how everything works, strangely doesn’t push for answers about Santa Claus. She will ask how telephone’s work? What do elephants eat? What does a water tower do? How do we get plumbing into our house? Where does the water go? These are all questions that parents with kids get; even my seven year old is full of them. And they want answers, which leads to my inevitable response, we will look it up when we get home (What did parents do before the internet? Should I be worried I don’t know anything?).
But when it comes to Santa Claus? You tell them he fly’s around the world on a sleigh, goes down your chimney all in one night and they seem satisfied with it. When I was a child we were in the process of moving from Missouri to Massachusetts. I remember vividly the Christmas before my parents sitting us down, telling us times were tough and that Christmas wouldn’t be like it was in years past. They just didn’t have the money to have a big Christmas (side note: Christmas came just like it always had before). At the time I believed in Santa Claus and was sad that I wouldn’t get a lot for Christmas. But wait, Santa brings presents, how do my family’s financial problems have anything to do with it? I never made the connection, in fact it was years later that I remember the conversation and wondered why I didn’t put two and two together.
In my case I would just assume it was because I was a dumb kid. However, my daughters are all very intelligent. My oldest is in the advanced program and scored a perfect score on her math portion of the NJ Ask test (think Iowa Basics), which leads me to believe it’s not an intelligence issue. Not every child who believes in Santa Claus is unintelligent. Which brings me back to the question why do kids believe in Santa Claus?
I think it has to do with the concept of suspension of disbelief. The concept was introduced in literature and continues into film and other story telling art forms. Basically to a certain extent you put aside logic in order to buy into the premise of the story. I think as kids get older they use this concept to continue to believe in Santa Claus. The logic they apply into trying to satisfy their other curiosities about life are put aside when it comes to Santa Claus.
Whenever I tell my daughters that Harry Potter is fiction and nobody can really do magic or nobody can fly like Superman, they never counter with the Santa Claus argument. How can I tell my daughters that the things they see in movies or cartoons or read in books are impossible yet continue to tell them that a fat guy in a red suit can do the impossible and not have them question it? Trust me I mess with my daughters all the time, they expect it and have become a bit cynical because of it. Yet everything I tell them about Santa Claus or the Elf on the Shelf for that matter, they buy hook, line and sinker.
They believe in things they normally wouldn’t because let’s face it; it is awesome to believe in Santa Claus. Even as I get older I think Christmas is a magical time and it was never more magical when I thought Santa Claus was making his late night deliveries. At a certain point I think we aren’t fooling them into believing in Santa Claus, they are fooling themselves because they want to believe. Once you admit to yourself there is no Santa Claus there is no going back, there is a little part of Christmas that is never the same. Why wouldn’t you want to hold on to it?
The Santa Claus lie is one of the great things about being a parent. I get that little bit of magic back when I wait to my kids are in bed to put the presents down, and eat all the cookies but half of one and leave just a little bit of milk left. When they find out Santa isn’t real, their disappointment won’t be great because they will just be confirming what they already know. The person who probably will be most disappointed will be me.