This article contains spoiler alerts and / or trigger warnings about Santa. I’m not sure what a trigger warning is, but there seems to be a lot of them about. So if you’re thinking of shooting Santa,
or anyone for that matter, please don’t.
It has taken me a few days to masticate and digest reports about an article published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal that parents who lie to their children about Santa Claus could wreak havoc with their offspring’s moral compass. This could apparently lead to a Bermuda Triangle of floundering lies, tinsel, and disgruntled kiddies.
With all due respect to the learned psychologists who penned the report, I call bullshit.
The report suggested that by lying about the existence or otherwise of the big bloke in red, parents can irrevocably damage the trust their kids have in them, resulting in “abject disappointment” when said kids discover the “truth” about the Christmas Eve nocturnal visitor. “There is potential for children to be harmed in these lies,” said clinical psychologist Kathy McKay, one of the report’s authors. Calm down Kathy, I know you’re looking out for the kids, but it’s ok.
Christmas is a time of innocence, magic and wonder, and sure, a few creative porkies. Don’t overanalyse or destroy this charming story for kids. They’re fine. Parents lie to their kids all the time in varying degrees. We all survived the great reveal of Santa. I can’t recall a mass shooting occurring with young Trevor, tears streaming down his face, screaming “WHADDAYAMEANTHEREISNOSANTA!!??” while at the business end of an AK-47.
The Lancet report’s authors did raise an interesting point, “If adults have been lying about Santa, even though it has usually been well intentioned, what else is a lie? If Santa isn’t real, are fairies real? Is magic? Is God?” The God bit caught my eye, I know Christmas “should” be about a certain baby blowing out his birthday candles, but not being the most religious chap, I’ll stick with the Santa narrative, it’s more believable.
I love the whole Santa story, it’s wonderful. Suspending disbelief of the North Pole workshop, the elves, the reindeers, the transport logistical issues, the leaving out of Santa’s beverage and food of choice, so excited and not being able to sleep, but forcing yourself in case he didn’t come, then waking up on Christmas morning, racing out to the tree, and the unbridled joy of “SANTA’S BEEN!! SANTA’S BEEN!!”
Parents, let kids enjoy the Santa experience for as long as they can. Sure, if they’re 41 years old and still a believer, you may have a slight issue. Just chill out, have a quiet drink or a nice cup of tea, and depending on what hemisphere you’re in, spray some fake snow on the windows, and listen to Mariah Carey warbling about making her wish come true for the three millionth time.
PS Santa, I’ve been a good boy this year.
©Steve Williams 2016
*This piece also appeared in The Huffington Post Australia: Lying To Kids About Santa Is A Gift