There are songs about him. Games about him. Traditions that revolve around him. Around this time of year it seems like you can't swing a cat with out hitting one and all this without mentioning the fact that he's always available with a chocolate coating and rich, nougat-y center.
Santa is a touchy subject for many. For some he's the embodiment of a child's pure and simple holiday delight and for others he's just the tip of the iceberg of what's wrong with the Christmas season. Tackling the Santa issues is not something to be done lightly and it's not a "one-size-fits-all" answer. There are some children who can easily accept the "truth" about Santa and move one, some children won't care that they never wrote a letter to the Jolly Fat Man or sat on his lap, some might be shaken to the core at the realization of the truth and in some families there's just no room for another sleigh. The long and short of it is that only a parent who truly knows his or her children can make the call.
I feel smack dab in the middle of the whole debate. As a child I never remember believing in Santa 100% and when I found the hidden presents that later turned up in my stocking it just wasn't that big of a deal. I do remember that it was fun to make a list "for Santa" and turn it into my parents and I remember going out of my way a few years to make sure I set up the "traditional" milk and cookies, which I had just learned was a traditions that we had overlooked for years. In the end, when my Santa years came to an end, it was okay - my faith and belief was not shaken to the core and I did not spend restless hours pondering what else my parents were "lying" about. To me it was never a lie they were exposing me to, but rather just a long lived game of make-believe.
Make-believe and imagination are two essential parts of childhood in my humble opinion. The games, the stories and, yes, even the belief in fantastical things give the mind room to develop and flourish. I believe that allowing children to daydream and believe in dragons, ogres and fairies gives the mind the elasticity needed to comprehend intangible subjects like philosophy and quantum physics. It is part of the scientific method to whittle away fallacy to discover truth and I believe that as we grow and discover that which is not true, no matter how disappointed we might be, we can become that much more driven to discover that which is True. As the great, fictional, detective Sherlock Holmes states "... that when you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
I don't plan, in the future, to necessarily promote Santa. We will focus on the real "reason for the season", but we will have Christmas stockings, at some point Santa will probably be the answer to how those stockings get filled. I have some beloved books from my childhood I cannot wait to share and the Jolly Man is in them. If my children look at me and say "No way!" then we'll drop it; if my children say "Wow!" then we'll play along and support the fantasy as long as they feel the need to believe in something so magical the same way we would play tea-party or aliens vs. zombies.
Eventually we will segue into the stories and traditions of St. Nicholas instead, we will teach them the joy of being "Santa" to others and then tackle the bigger teachings that come with a deeper understanding of the mysteries of our faith. These religious ideas, just like any teachings on moral philosophy, require a certain stage in logic development that young children (for the sake of argument, let's say under the age of five) rarely possess to the fullest. So until those milestones have been past I can prepare them for the deeper questions in life by allowing their minds to believe in goblins, fairies, and Santa. I can allow their imaginations to run rampant as they experience anticipation, wonder and joy in the Christmas season as they collect the memories and emotions that will carry them into adulthood and if Santa is part of that, so be it.
When I find the right time to approach and tackle mind-blowing ideas like the Trinity, Heaven and the Soul I hope to find minds that have already begun to gather evidence and test a hypotheses. I hope to find minds that are used to accepting fantastical, mysterious and improbable Truth. I hope to find minds which have been stretched to the further most limits of a galaxy far, far away, to the top of tall towers, the depths of the earth and even to the North Pole.
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