Believing In Santa Claus….Or Not

by admin on December 19, 2013

This particular story occurred about 8 years ago. My daughter “Allie” was about 4, and was excitedly discussing at an extended family dinner what she had asked Santa Claus for.  My husband’s brother “Mark” jumped into the conversation, asking some pointed questions about what she had said. It quickly became clear, to our utter disbelief and horror, that Mark was trying clue Allie in to the fact that her parents were in fact Santa Claus.  For example, “Well, don’t you find it strange that Santa Claus uses the same wrapping paper as your parents?” and “Don’t you think it’s pretty impossible that Santa Claus is able to get to ALL those houses in one night?” My husband and I were livid, but were able to hold it together long enough to refute his not-so-subtle points, put a stop to his line of questioning and quickly change the subject.

Turns out, Mark (who was childless at the time) was against children believing in Santa Claus. He felt it was misleading and cruel when the child found out the truth. So, he felt it was his place to fill Allie in. I might add he completely blindsided us with this. We had no idea he felt this way, nor did he ever discuss our decision with us. I had some choice words for him later in the evening when Allie was out of earshot.

Fast forward several years…My sister and Mark now have 3 beautiful little girls. They changed their tune about Santa Claus, and all of their children look forward to Santa coming each Christmas. The mature side of me has chosen to take the high road and not bring this particular incident up to him now and point out the irony, tempting as that is! Although, I must admit part of me (OK, a large part!) would like an apology, which was never forthcoming.

I believe every parent has the right to raise their children in whatever traditions they see fit. I do understand his point completely, and raising your children to not believe in Santa is certainly a viable option, but don’t tell me how I should or shouldn’t raise my own children! 1229-11

I raised my children to not believe in Santa Claus and I experienced the reverse with people trying to sabotage this by insisting to my children that Santa Claus was real.   So, disrespecting other parents’ choices does go both ways.

My thought on the OP’s submission is that while parents may choose to follow a tradition of Santa Claus with their own children, other people are not under an obligation to disregard their own convictions to support yours.   In other words, I won’t lie to children when asked if I believe in Santa Claus nor will I play along with verbal games meant to fish from people their wish list for Santa or pledge an allegiance to a belief in Santa Claus.   I may say nothing or beandip like crazy which is awkward but a lot less awkward than bluntly stating my own truthful beliefs.

{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

AnnaMontana December 19, 2013 at 5:28 am

I’ve been bought up to believe in Santa…..and I’ve NEVER been told any different! (Yes, at 24, I am aware of the ‘truth’) However, my parents were never exposed as liars and my brother and I have never had to be forced to accept the truth versus the lie. Plus, we’ve never thought of it as a lie. Just a lovely myth, like Peter Pan, that fades as you get older. There was one year when I was around 8, when I questioned the story of Santa Claus, but my parents said ‘You believe what you want. We know the truth.’ I’ve never questioned them since.
‘Finding out’ the truth (as I grew up) has never felt hurtful or painful to me and I’ve never thought of it as lying, more, making Christmas Magical for Children. I will do exactly the same with my children.
I have never come across anyone who would ‘question’ my parents in front of them. It’s incredibly rude and can ruin the parents’ choice to ‘tell or not tell’. It’s simply wrong and rude. People should keep their beliefs to themsleves. (Including religious beliefs, Vegetarianism and any other form of ‘belief’) Frankly, I’m not religious, I’m not a vegetarian and nothing you say will change it, so keep quiet, unless I ask!
I think the brother was incredibly rude and obnoxious in this story and should have been taken out of the room and told to shut up. If he thinks ‘it’s his job’ then I would ask him – nicely – to leave.
The Santa Claus myth doesn’t harm anyone and if you tell it the way my parents did, you wont be left with bereft children crying!


Louise December 19, 2013 at 5:29 am

I agree that no-one should be obligated to ‘disregard their own convictions’ but that is not what happened here. Mark wasn’t asked to lie about his principles: he deliberately set out to sabotage the OP’s wishes (that her daughter be allowed to believe in Santa Claus). That he is now perpetuating the same myth that he wished to destroy makes it more painful and hurtful for the OP, as the principles he felt so strongly about then have clearly been abandoned when it suited him.


MJ December 19, 2013 at 5:29 am

In reality this seems to be a non-issue. I am 52 and even as a child I did not have a single friend that actually believed that Santa Clause came down our chimney (which we didn’t have) to leave us presents. We all knew that our parents, siblings and other relatives and friends were giving us the presents. I guess in this day and age where every child is exposed to multiple ads on TV and every other media that are pushing their favorite wish it is pretty odd to believe that any child over about 2 would really believe in Santa Clause. Call me cynical but sorry, just not buying that any child of the age of reason is actually believing this but is rather going along with the fantasy for the sake of following tradition.


Ryo's girl December 19, 2013 at 6:15 am

Now that our eldest is almost 2, my husband and I are trying to find a compromise on this. I was against telling our children about SC because I recall how I felt lied to when I found out the truth (and because, as a Christian I’d like the focus to be religious primarily). He on the other hand is a firm believer in the “magic os Xmas and SC” thing. I have no idea what to do and honestly we won’t really have to decide until next year but it is a thorny issue. That being said, I agree with Admin’s stance of beandipping like crazy when asked but trying not to interfere with another family’s choices because that’s how I’d like to be respected as a parent.


Kirsten December 19, 2013 at 6:16 am

“I must admit part of me (OK, a large part!) would like an apology”

Eight years on? Wow. He was really wrong but talk about holding a grudge.


Lex December 19, 2013 at 6:25 am

Wow this is a thorny issue. Personally, as far as I can remember my parents used to try to convince me Santa was real but being quite analytical and sceptical I never really believed it and always found Santa’s grottos and things vaguely creepy. Eventually my parents gave up trying to convince us and I wasn’t shocked, traumatised or otherwise affected – I think you are overthinking how ‘sensitive’ your child is.

As I’ve matured into an adult I’ve adjusted my perception of a lot of things and have come to view ‘Santa’ as more symbolic than anything else and this will be the belief I share with my children. I want my children to understand where their gifts come from – I want them to understand that they couldn’t have the latest expensive games console because their parents couldn’t afford to buy it, not because some ‘magical man’ that lives in the north pole thought they didn’t deserve it. I want them to understand that we work for the money we have and that sometimes things cost more than can be afforded and when that happens they have to compromise. I’m not saying they will be denied everything they want but to deprive your child of understanding the costs and consequences of asking for a gift is doing them a disservice in the long run (not to mention the consequences of bad behaviour – the kid that threatened to put his sisters kitten in a blender if he didn’t get an X-box One made me feel sick – my children will learn that they can’t just behave however they want and still be rewarded). If they grow up believing they can ask for whatever they want because ‘magically’ it just appears, then they will not learn to appreciate the value of the things they have.

To me, Santa is an expression of the gift giving spirit. Different people and different religions feel differently about Christmas and as an atheist some people say to me ‘why celebrate a Christian holiday’ – Just because I don’t believe in all powerful deities doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate the moral and social values of the festive season and to me, this is what Santa represents.

At the same time though, I do believe that it is inappropriate to go out of your way to force your opinions on someone else’s child. By all means if you don’t want to lie to a child or perpetuate the lie their parents are feeding them then disengage yourself from the topic of conversation, but to deliberately try to ‘clue them in’ to the ruse is inappropriate.

Take the moral high ground. You can’t change the past and your daughter is probably well aware that Santa doesn’t exist by now. Doesn’t mean you can’t joke about it though…


PM December 19, 2013 at 6:26 am

A relative of mine tried to pull this once with me, and then again with my sister, then brother. Not because of moral beliefs about being dishonest with children, but because he was sort of a jerk and enjoyed messing with my parents, who stepped in every time to shut him down.

I contrast this now with my BIL and SIL who do not play Santa for their toddler daughter, because they believe it takes away from the spirituality of the season. Also, they don’t want their daughter to think Mommmy and Daddy lie for any reason. BUT, even when we had children, almost ten years before they did, they never questioned our reasons or wisdom in playing Santa for our kids. They never told our kids not to believe. And they always played along when our kids talked about it. Because they love us and want to support the way we choose to parent.

Now that they have a daughter, we don’t insist she believe in Santa, nor do we give her gifts from Santa or encourage our children to talk about Santa around her. Because we love them and want to support the way they choose to parent.

Choosing to use a child to “make your stand” about Santa, particularly in a situation where it is socially awkward for the parents to jump in and stop you, is cruel and manipulative.


Janos December 19, 2013 at 6:28 am

Mark had no right to try and “clue her in” She wasn’t asking him about it, and he was trying to underhandingly push his way of thinking on a 3 year old, he “Jumped” into the conversation so she wasn’t bothering him with it, what a Scrooge trying to squish a childs fun like that!


admin December 19, 2013 at 7:26 am

Correct. Mark had no business taking the initiative to express his opinions on Santa Claus when he was not asked for them.


Marie December 19, 2013 at 7:01 am

This time, I disagree with OP. This concerns children, not grown-ups. If you are an adult, you can handle other adults to not believe the same things you believe in – whether is be religious beliefs, politics or other things.

But a child? Is it really so much to ask to play along if a child believes in Santa Claus? The child loves Santa, is excited and if you feel you are morally obliged to tell the truth about your own opinion, you might ruin their Christmas. Is believing or not believing in Santa really such a moral issue that you have to stand your ground against a child’s believe in something that precious to them?

Seriously, let a child hold on to that magical thing before they grow-up and lose that forever.


admin December 19, 2013 at 7:24 am

Why should I lie to a child? I’d rather not be put in the situation of feeling compelled to support telling children a fable as if it were real. I’d much rather bean dip but I was often not given that choice by people who just assumed I would go along with their Santa Claus storytelling and pulled me into the conversation in ways that made it very awkward to avoid answering the question.


Marie December 19, 2013 at 7:02 am

*I meant I disagree with Admin, not with OP.


Lo December 19, 2013 at 7:02 am

I’ve seen a lot of discussions about this in recent years about whether we’re obligated to keep up the Santa facade if we truly don’t believe it’s important.

I don’t believe in teaching kids about the secular Santa Claus. To me, Christmas is a religious holiday and Jesus is the central figure. St. Nicholas may have his place in history but the idea of Santa coming to your house at night is a tradition I’m interested in joining. Even when I was a kid I didn’t believe it, though my parents tried to entice me to. And the last thing I would want is for kids to associate the birth of Christ with a mythical figure like Santa Claus.

On the other hand, I truly believe that what parents do is none of my business when it comes to teaching their children and I don’t see the harm in deferring to their traditions. The belief in Santa is so important to many parents that I think it enters the realm of the religious and should be treated and respected as another faith, honestly. I wouldn’t dare clue someone else’s child in to the fact that Santa isn’t real and if asked outright I would probably tell a child that Santa is real for those who believe. Much as I would hope an Athiest or Agnostic friend would tell a child raised religiously who asked if God was real, “Well, some people believe that,” or “I can’t say.” rather than “No, your parents are wrong. It’s all a lie.”

The essence boils down to; I may or may not believe something but you believe it and it’s okay for you to believe it. The modern Santa Claus may be a myth but I wouldn’t dare push my faith on another person’s child and I think this falls into that catagory. It’s not an unreasonable lie. It’s a cultural one. And it’s not as though I’m being asked to betray my convictions by allowing a child to keep theirs.


SV December 19, 2013 at 7:03 am

This submission is about actively subverting parental rights and ideas, not about a belief in the tradition of Santa Claus. Brother in Law was the worst kind of relation – the one who thinks you are raising your children wrong and who feels the need to correct you. Especially charming is the fact that he, himself, did not have children at the time. Hats off to you, OP, for not sweetly bringing the incident up to him now that he has his own family of little ones – although I would never have done so in front of his children, the urge to remind him of his past actions privately, with a little sardonic smile, might have been too much for me .


Sarah Peart December 19, 2013 at 7:12 am

I had a class of children ranging from 6 to 12 years of age and I definitely took preventative action. The children who no longer believed I brought to an empty classroom and we discussed the subject. First what it was like to be about 6 and still believe, how they had found out, it was agreed that no child was going to learn in school from them that Father Christmas does not exist. They signed my prepared contract – similar to the one they signed to use the internet positively – and that was the end of that! We already had as one of our rules – “We do not hurt another person – mentally, physically, emotionally or psychologically” but of course they do not always know what that means in practice!


Anonymous December 19, 2013 at 7:59 am

I wouldn’t actively lie to a child, but the answer to “Does [Insert Mythical Figure of Childhood Here] exist?”; from a child who’s not your own, is always, “What do you think?”


Julie December 19, 2013 at 8:04 am

We are planning on not passing the Santa myth of as fact to our son, but still worry about his disabusing other children whose parents have decided to. How did you deal with that with your children, Admin? We’ve considered telling him that at this time of the year everyone pretends to believe and he should only talk about the truth in our own home, but we’re not sure if that will work.

He is nearly three this year and so far we’ve just never said anything about it to him, but we recently got a Christmas card with Santa on it and he definitely recognized him (“That’s ho ho ho!”) and other adults keep asking if we’ve visited Santa, etc.


Cough December 19, 2013 at 8:15 am

Admin, whenever I’m asked a question or drawn into a conversation I’m uncomfortable with, I just say, “We’ll see.” with a smile. It is usually enough to satisfy prodding people without really answering anything.

“So, when are you gonna start having kids?”
We’ll See.
“I wonder what santa *wink wink* has brought little niece… what do you think?”
We’ll see.
We’ll see.


Miss-E December 19, 2013 at 8:32 am

The issue is not about Santa. The issue is that the OP and her husband made a decision about how to raise their child that was disrespected by the OP’s BIL. And he wasn’t being asked to play along, he volunteered that information.
I’m an atheist but I would never loudly hint to a 4-year-old that God isn’t real. And if I did, people would be highly offended. This an issue that comes up often: you cannot tell a parent how to parent. You just can’t.

But, honestly OP, it’s been years and I think you’re going to have to let it go. Chalk it up to new life experiences. I bet your BIL has changed a lot since having kids, not just his opinion on Santa. Keep the family peace and let it go.


Angela December 19, 2013 at 8:35 am

“I may say nothing or beandip like crazy “…and if “Mark” had done either, this submission would never have been written. He’s not just holding to his principles but actively undermining something that is apparently important to the parents. Not cool. I’m an atheist but I would be persona non grata if I took it upon myself to tell all the small children in the family that there is no God and that Christmas is actually a Christianized version of Winter Solstice.
Having said that, Mark is far from the only parent who finds that he or she thought that they knew all about raising children before actually having them. The OP would be well advised to silently say “told you so!” and let it go.


Abby December 19, 2013 at 8:41 am

I agree with admin that putting someone in a position to lie will result in some pushback from one side or the other. Though things like this can be approached with sensitivity (like the admin mentioned).

For example, I’m not Christian. The children in my house are not raised Christian. But when one of their friends talks about the blessings of Jehovah, I say “Oh, yeah?” and certainly don’t try to ask leading questions to convert them, as the OP’s relative did.


Mer December 19, 2013 at 8:44 am

I’ve had this same problem with Jesus. I have a friend with family of few children, and they are rather more religious than I am. Of course the children believe in Jesus (while I really don’t). But I have to say, that while I don’t outright claim that I believe in Jesus and thus disregard my own believes if the children ask about if from me, I do try to take the bean dip course and not actively seek out to claim that Jesus is not real. And I can and will support the children in their believes, if they feel like praying or other stuff, even if I think it is a lie. But it is something that the parents seemed to want the children have, a belief for Jesus, and I wont be the one trying to take that away.

And frankly, there is no difference between Santa or Jesus when it’s about belief.

For MJ: Actually around here most children believe in Santa about until they enter school around age 6 or 7. Of course they might be filled with doubt before that, but there really is no believing without doubt, so it really does not matter. Of course the different culture may affect. Here Santa does not come down the chimney during night, he comes in the Christmas Eve to your home and divides the gifts to you and your family. It’s much harder NOT to believe when you sit on the knee and Santa knows your name and hobbies and all.


admin December 19, 2013 at 10:11 am

Jesus is a historical figure whereas the modern Santa Claus is solely the product of Clement Clarke Moore’s imagination. Even St. Nicholas, the 4th century bishop of Myra, bears no resemblance to modern Santa Claus.


Knitterly December 19, 2013 at 8:56 am

I was not raised believing in Santa. However, my 2 year old daughter believes in Santa quite thoroughly. We weren’t sure she would take to him, as she seemed to think he was a terrible idea last year. But she was too young for “santa gifts” last year, so Santa never came.
I agree with SV, who said “This submission is about actively subverting parental rights and ideas, not about a belief in the tradition of Santa Claus.”
I personally really like the tradition of Santa Claus. We use it to teach our daughter about the joy of giving to people you don’t know, and she helped me pick out a lovely gift for a 2 year old in another needy family. I explained to her that sometimes Santa needs our help getting toys to all the boys and girls around the world. She is just mature enough to really love this idea and kept exclaiming “I helping Santa!!” to everyone, including the cashier.
But, my mother especially is very strongly opposed to the idea of Santa Claus and has actively threatened to tell my Little Knit the truth if she ever talks about Santa around her. The idea of that absolutely boils my blood. It’s fine to believe or not believe or like or dislike a tradition, but subverting the parental right to play Santa falls under unauthorized hair cuts, ear piercings, and feeding kids foods you know they aren’t allowed to have. It’s a subversion of parental authority and a parent’s right to conduct their household the way they choose and impart the beliefs they feel strongly about.
Mark was out of line. I expect he understands this now, but I think there is nothing to be gained by bringing it up, as I don’t expect you’d receive an apology.


The Elf December 19, 2013 at 8:56 am

I’m childless, so my theory on the whole thing is “They’re not my kids”. Parents want to play the Santa game, fine. Parents want to tell the truth, fine. I’m more apt to listen to the kid tell me about Christmas and just follow along with what they’re saying rather than push any particular point. Honestly, I can think of so much more important things to get worked up about. Besides, if I’m going to instruct kids on Christmas, forget about Santa. Let me tell you about Krampus…..

I can understand the point about not wanting to lie to a child. To me, this falls into the “social lie” category and is acceptable, but I can understand the point. If that’s the way you feel, admin’s strategy is perfect: beandip like crazy. You should never undermine whatever the parent is teaching, unless you think there’s something dangerous going on. It’s just not your role. I do not believe in the village raising a child. I believe in the parents raising a child. I’m the village; my job is to play along.

I’m glad OP took the moral high road here, but if you are fairly close I’d drop a little comment after the kids went to bed about how the tables have turned. Say it jokingly and good-naturedly and he’d probably agree ruefully.


GEna December 19, 2013 at 9:04 am

I never told my child there was a santa either. My reasons – it’s a lie, it takes away from the true meaning of Christmas, and I’ve seen too many parents go too far to keep the story going. (with one lie on top of another!) Including buying things they couldn’t afford or rushing out on Christmas eve to buy last minute gifts so the child wouldn’t suspect there was no Santa.

Now, that said, I would NEVER tell another parent that they were wrong. However, it seemed that every other parent felt fully justified in telling me how awful and cruel I was. Politeness kept me from justifying my actions (after all, I didn’t want to accuse them of lying).


DGS December 19, 2013 at 9:05 am

Disclaimer: I’m Jewish, have a Jewish family, do not celebrate Christmas but do appreciate the spirit of the Christmas season.

That being said, while Mark should not have deliberately attempted to sabotage Allie’s excited gushing about Santa Claus, it is excessive that OP holds that grudge against her BIL 8 years later and hints at larger issues between her and her BIL and their families. Certainly, everyone is entitled to their beliefs, and while we have the right to our own, in polite society, we have zero right to tell other people what they should believe, or to try to convince them to believe otherwise. There are also certain issues (e.g. is Santa Claus/Easter Bunny/Tooth Fairy real; where do babies come from, etc.) that should be deferred to the child’s parents, unless previously addressed. If Allie came to Mark and asked if Santa Claus was real, the appropriate response would have been, “What a good question. Why don’t we ask your Mommy and Daddy?” Deliberately trying to tell Allie that Santa Claus is in fact Mommy and Daddy was mean-spirited on Mark’s part, or at the very least, misguided.

Respectfully, modern Christmas traditions, including the decorated tree, Santa Claus, etc. have little to do with the Christian holiday; it’s a mish-mosh of traditions borrowed from the Roman festival of Saturnalia that fell around December 24-25 and of pre-Christian Celtic and Norse pagan traditions, that have nothing to do with the birth of Jesus Christ (I recall from a college Western Religions class that his actual birthday is estimated to have been around May). However, isn’t that what makes modern traditions beautiful – the evolution of various religious and cultural festivals, myths, tales, traditions and faiths that incorporates the diverse roots and rich history of human kind? And that is something that everyone can get behind.


Powers December 19, 2013 at 9:10 am

It’s not a lie, admin. It’s a game. Do you use your imagination? Do you play pretend? Or are you a stick-in-the-mud who, when a child hands you a toy phone, you don’t pretend to answer it?


admin December 23, 2013 at 6:51 am

If it is a game then it is one that is designed to manipulate children into good behavior so that the reward is more material possessions. And when children play pretend, they know it is pretend.


Stacey Frith-Smith December 19, 2013 at 9:13 am

I think parents have some duty to help their kids by having an answer. Whether it’s “you know, Santa was actually a bishop long ago” or “some people don’t believe, but WE do!”. It gets the discussion back to being between the parents and the child- where it belongs. I don’t think it’s a great idea to amass a list of fictions with your child which you will then have to disabuse him of or see him deprived of. But that’s my opinion.


Mary December 19, 2013 at 9:20 am

It is one thing to not take part in the Santa tradition. It is another to try to deliberately sabotage it. What the brother did was mean and while I would never turn the tables on him, I would have no problem reminding him (away from his children) of what he did.

I have a friend who was completely crushed when she found out about Santa. She refused to do it with her own children. However, she also told them that they would definitely be punished if they ever told another child the truth. They are fourteen now and I’m pretty sure they never have.

By the way, Santa never wrapped his gifts at our house growing up. Now at my house, gifts from Santa are never wrapped either. My mom says he is environmentally friendly plus there is no need for a secret roll of wrapping paper!


PhDeath December 19, 2013 at 9:23 am

I’m also not one for playing along with things in which I don’t believe. But, I’ve found it’s relatively easy to have conversations about Santa with little ones without pretending to believe or stepping on their beliefs.

Typically, they’re just excited to talk about Santa/Christmas, not get into fact-checking. So, I would answer “What do you want Santa to bring you???” from a child with, “Hmmmm…I’m not sure. What do YOU want for Christmas?”


Raven December 19, 2013 at 9:29 am

BIL was out of line.

OP should stop holding her breath for an apology.

Don’t use kids to push your own agendas.


catherine December 19, 2013 at 9:40 am

AnnaMontana, I couldn’t have summed up my feelings better or more eloquently! 🙂


Devil's Advocate December 19, 2013 at 9:44 am

While I rarely do, I have to agree with the Admin on this. I grew up with Santa and always received presents from “Santa”. However, like a previous poster wrote, with my children I have chosen to focus on the reason we have Christmas (birth of Jesus). To me Santa is also a little creepy “he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake” And I don’t want my kids to feel that their gifts come from some guy who has subjectively decided whether they have been “good” or not. To me it’s important that my kids learn that my husband and I work hard, budget, and put forth effort to provide them with their gifts on Christmas.

Also the reason we are one of the few of our circle of friends that does not do Elf on the Shelf. Again I think it takes away why we celebrate Christmas. Thought I have seen some pinterest ideas to include biblical references.

Having said all of this, my niece’s parents are big Santa fans–wrapping presents from him, elf on the shelf, etc. Should there come a point where I was aksed directly by her about Santa I would also, as admin said, beandip like crazy. I feel its important not to lie to children for any reason–that way they know they can always trust their parents–but I would hate to ruin Santa from someone else’s kids.


Kiki December 19, 2013 at 9:53 am

I can see both sides here. Admin is right in saying she shouldn’t have to lie if she doesn’t believe. She tries to beandip instead of hurting a child’s feelings, but sometimes that doesn’t work. She shouldn’t have to compromise herself in order to uphold someone else’s beliefs.

On the other hand, I understand that parents who want their children to keep their beliefs would feel hurt by someone not “playing along.” However, you are the one with the belief and it would behoove you now to begin teaching them that not everyone has the same opinions, thoughts, or beliefs. Some people don’t believe in Santa and that’s ok, too. You believe in Santa and that’s enough. It’s a good lesson in respect for others.

Whenever a child asks me if I believe in Santa, I always turn it back on them. For example, if a child asks, “do you believe in Santa?” I’ll reply, “That’s a great question, do you believe in Santa?” It allows the child to keep their belief and then he/she can tell me all about their belief. Another example, if a child asks, “how does Santa fly/get to every house/come down the chimney/etc?” I’ll reply, “I don’t know, how do you think he does that?” I’m not lying, but I’m not confirming their belief, either.

However, all of this opinion is moot because it’s not a matter of Uncle lying to the children or affirming their beliefs. He offered his opinion when it wasn’t asked in order to force his beliefs on someone else’s children. If he didn’t believe in perpetuating the Santa “myth” he should have beandipped and moved onto another subject. He took it upon himself to absolve someone else’s children of their beliefs. The parents did the right thing by changing the subject and speaking to him later.

A note to the OP…get over it. You got the last laugh in this situation and now you can move on. No more holding a grudge or waiting for an apology that will likely never come. Just have a laugh and forgive already.


Betsy December 19, 2013 at 9:54 am

I agree with you that Mark has no right to take the initiative. However, if he were directly asked, I also am not sure he should offer his opinion and neither should you. As someone who works with young children on a daily basis, I get asked these important questions a lot. (Santa, sex, God – you name it – kids will ask it.) My response, as long as it does not involve a child’s personal safety, is that they should ask their parents. Because in most cases it is not my place to intervene even if asked. And even if I don’t like – and I often do – the parental position.

With my own children, we avoided this whole issue, but still had the fun of Santa arriving each year. We called it the “Santa Game.” Each year, we played the game. Kids love to pretend, love to play a game and get involved. When asked the usual questions “How can there be a Santa on every corner?” we could always reply that they were helping play “The Santa Game.” As they grew older they understand the concept of playing a game and pretending and the shift over to a new reality was not difficult.


AMC December 19, 2013 at 10:02 am

I would be livid if I were the OP. Mark crossed the line by deciding to interfere with how the OP chose to raise her own child. It was absolutely not his place to try and reveal the truth about Santa to someone else’s kid. I have a 2-year-old, and we talk to her about Santa as though he is real because I want her to experience that magical part of the holiday season. If and when the time comes when she begins to question the existance of Santa, I will tell her the truth (and about the true story of St. Nicholas of Myra which inspired the legend of Santa Clause). But it is up to me and my husband to decide how and when to reveal the truth to her, not anyone else.

PS- Here is a link to the St. Nicholas Center, which tells the true story of St. Nicholas of Myra:


Cat December 19, 2013 at 10:12 am

I love it when parents state with great firmness, “I would never lie to a child!” When a little girl asks, “Am I pretty?” I will tell her yes. When a lad is being taken to the doctor, I shall not inform him that shots really hurt until you get a lot older; I shall say, “It won’t hurt!”. Guess I am a born liar.

My parents told me Santa was real; and I never told them that I knew it was a charming story. As an astute child, I knew that once Santa was gone, so were all those nice Santa presents. Far it be from me to dash my parent’s illusions.

Fairy tales of witches, goblins, elves, fairies, et al are part of childhood. The monsters under the bed and in the closet told me that my parents were there to protect me, but that I had to also be aware that bad things are out there.

I lost my faith in the Easter bunny, Santa, the Sandman,and the Tooth Fairy. I retained my belief in Christianity because I knew what it taught about redemption and love that conquers even death were true to my heart.


MsDani313 December 19, 2013 at 10:25 am

Admin (and others), you don’t have to lie but you don’t also have to crush a child’s beliefs.

I grew up believing in Santa and only found out because one Christmas Eve I found my mother pulling gifts from the closet that I had asked Santa to bring. She sat me down and told me that it had been her all those years. My concern was if I still got gifts. We also started the tradition of opening gifts at midnight since we no longer had to wait for Santa’s delivery.

For those who don’t believe children should grow up believing in Old St. Nick that is fine. But you shouldn’t go around telling children the big jolly guy isn’t real. And for children who know they should be reminded that they should not reveal that information to those younger than they. It is a parent’s job to decide how to raise their children and that is what this post is about.

I have not been blessed with children so I have no decided if their gifts will be from Santa or not. But when I do I would hope no one would try to sabotage my efforts because of what they believe.


PJ December 19, 2013 at 10:37 am

Mark could have dropped it. He could have kept his mouth shut. He did’t have to engage in that conversation and try to ‘convert’ his niece away from what her parents have taught her. That’s major boundary-trampling. I’d also be irked by his change of heart now that he has kids of his own. He doesn’t sound like the type to every apologize for bad behavior, though.

It doesn’t matter if it is about Santa Claus or any other fantasy. If my daughter announced she was a princess with a castle in the clouds made of glass, no adult really needs to make it their mission to convince her she’s wrong. I’d expect that from a grade-schooler who is still developing his social skills. An adult should be able to say ‘oh, how nice’ and move on, or find a way to bean dip and just let a kid have her make-believe. I don’t buy “moral high-ground” as an excuse for being manipulative to a child and rude to her parents as one tries to undermine what they’ve taught their own kids.


Angel December 19, 2013 at 10:40 am

The big difference here is that the little girl did not ASK. The uncle took it upon himself to force his beliefs on her. On a 4-year-old, no less.

I’m glad that the OP decided to take the high road when the uncle started having his own children. In your position I’m not sure if I would do the same. Or perhaps I would look the other way if your own daughter lets it slip out.

I have strong feelings about keeping Santa real in our household for as long as I can. I equate believing in Santa with innocence and childhood. Once the child stops believing in Santa, there are other things they stop believing in as well. Why rush it? 4 years old is not too old to still believe in Santa. I was about 10 when I found out. Was I disappointed? Of course. But I didn’t think of it as my parents lying to me, even at the time. When I approached them with my findings, they told me that Santa Claus was part of the Christmas spirit, and if you believe in the Christmas spirit and giving and helping those in need, Santa will always be in your heart–even if he wasn’t a real person. That has always stuck with me and has helped to make it easier to keep Santa going for my 5 and 8 year old. The older one has started to think critically about it–99 percent of her friends still believe and I’d like to keep it this way for a couple more years.


Lilac December 19, 2013 at 10:52 am

I’ve always thought that it was an incredibly beautiful thing that the adults in our culture collude (for lack of a better word lol) to create and maintain the magic of Santa Claus for children. Our collective agreement to do this wondrous thing for our community of children has always been one of my favorite traditions in American culture. It brings almost all of us together and is an experience most of us share. As children grow out of the belief, they become part of the magic on the other side of the tradition. Older siblings, cousins, etc. reinforce Santa for the younger children. Becoming part of the grown up side is a rite of passage. I saw this happen with my own son. He helped his sister believe and was happy and proud to be “in the know.” Most children do have a good memories of Santa. It’s why the vast majority give the Santa gift to their own children.


vanessaga81 December 19, 2013 at 10:57 am

I hate to dispel YOUR beliefs MJ, but I absolutely believe in Santa Claus until the age of 8, as did many of my friends. I have to take issue with the admin’s response as it seems less about the OP ‘ S situation and more about her own experience. I couldn’t care less if other parents don’t perpetuate the myth of Santa Claus anymore than I would object to any other beliefs their household may uphold, nor would I disrespect them enough to try to tell them they were wrong. Also, I have to laugh aat not wanting to lie to a child. I have to lie to my child all the time. Not about anything of extreme importance but it certainly happens. Maybe some of you are honest 24/7 but when my 3 year old is singing along to the radio and asks me what Afternoon Delight is, I lie. Guess I’d better start saving up for those therapy bills!


Library Diva December 19, 2013 at 11:03 am

What Mark tried to do was incredibly out of line. There’s not lying to a child, and then there’s actively trying to undermine a child’s belief. This girl was four at the time and all Mark had to do was stay out of the conversation. Instead he chose to be a jerk. OP, I can understand why you still feel that you’re owed an apology, but I don’t believe you will ever receive one.


flagal December 19, 2013 at 11:06 am

My parents went with Santa until I asked them for the truth. Now I view it as a spirit of generosity and giving. I respectfully disagree with the admin- if my little nieces asked me when they were 2- 5 years old, I’d say I saw Santa at the beach (they live up north) getitng in some R and R right before his big trip, or say “we’ll see.”

In the OP’s story, her BIL was deliberately trying to bait the child into finding out the truth. He has no place doing that. Admin, I’ve seen comments in some of your wedding stories about “who does this serve the most?” BIL was certainly not doing the parents or the child any favors- he was acting purely out of self interest to inform the child who Santa really is, and it was not his place to tell her, despite his convictions otherwise. I do agree though, OP has let the grudge go on long enough. Perhaps in the spirit of the season, (and Santa), OP should just let it go.


TheCatLady December 19, 2013 at 11:18 am

My son point blank asked me about Santa Claus when he started going to Kindergarten. My parents-in-law completely sold the whole Santa thing, and I was polite (we lived across the street for years) and didn’t bust them out. I did not talk about Santa, but my MIL was a spaz about it. When my son asked me if he was real, I asked him why he was asking, hoping he would already sort of not believe in Santa to make the truth easier.

His answer was a surprise, he did believe in Santa, but he wanted to know why Santa didn’t like his new best friend “N” at school. “N” came from a poor family, and my son asked me many sad questions… was “N” naughty, is that why he didn’t get many presents, were his parents Naughty? Whose fault was it that Santa didn’t like them. I was completely floored. I finally told him “Sweetheart, there is no Santa, he is a game the whole world plays. We like to play make believe with all of our children… I am on the grown-up side of the game, and you are on the kid side of the game… do you want to be on my side?” He thought about it and said yes. I asked him if he was ok, and he said “I’m glad my friend isn’t bad.” He had no ill effects for the truth, because he was ready for it.

My MIL was DEVASTATED that I told him the truth. It has scarred her for life.


OP December 19, 2013 at 11:21 am

Thank you for posting my submission and for all the great comments! I would like to clarify just one point — By no means am holding a grudge against my brother in law. Perhaps I came across too strongly? It was upsetting that evening, but I never mentioned anything to him, even after he had his own children. Ever. Nor do I intend to. He is a great dad now who is doing his best for his children. It is certainly not in my thoughts on a daily basis by any means. I submitted the story last Christmas because I happened to remember it and thought it would make a good story for this site. I am now raising teenagers and obviously there are more pressing issues at this point – college visits, school activities, etc. Many years have passed, and we all have a great relationship. I am happy to report that our whole family (including Mark) gets along very well, and have no other stories to report to e-hell!


Politrix December 19, 2013 at 11:22 am

Let it go. Embrace the spirit of the season, and welcome Mark and his family into your circle of love and holiday goodwill.
Oh, and when his three beautiful daughters start talking to twelve-year-old Allie about the gifts they want from Santa Claus, by all means DO NOT interfere when she turns to them and asks: “Well, don’t you find it strange that Santa Claus uses the same wrapping paper as your parents?” and “Don’t you think it’s pretty impossible that Santa Claus is able to get to ALL those houses in one night?”


Wild Irish Rose December 19, 2013 at 11:30 am

Sorry, Admin, but I disagree with you as well. I cannot remember when it was that I came to the realization that Santa Claus was fictitious, but I’ve never felt traumatized by that and I never felt that my parents or grandparents “lied” to me. It was all part of the fun, like a lot of other imaginative things. Do you discourage kids from reading fiction? Because THAT’s not true. Would you keep your kids from going to movies based on, say, Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales? Because we all know THOSE aren’t true. Insisting that telling kids about Santa Claus equates to lying to them is just mean-spirited. Bah humbug to you!


babaran December 19, 2013 at 11:33 am

Years ago, when I had an after school program, a young girl came in off the school bus in tears. She had been told on the school bus that there was no Santa Claus and asked us if there was. None of the staff felt it was right to outright lie to a child and while we tried to bean dip she cried and cried and cried. Anyway, the mother comes in a day or two later and tears into the staff about how we had told her daughter there was no santa claus and how it was ruining their entire family’s christmas. She was pacified somewhat when I assured her that in fact it was the girl’s classmates that had told her. My question is, should we really lead children into a wholehearted, blanket, unquestioning belief and faith in a mythical person because for some children it IS horrendous to find out it’s not true and ruins a family (if I am to believe this mom). That’s why we have always led our kids to have “fun” with Santa Claus but he was no more real than Cinderella or zombies. BUT having said that, OP’s BIL was out of line. It’s up to the parents to decide this.


EllenS December 19, 2013 at 11:59 am

BIL was being a self-righteous prig. Nobody should be expected to lie, or express belief in anything that goes against their convictions, but he could just as easily kept his mouth shut or asked her to tell him what *she* thought. He was going out of his way to actively spoil the little girl’s fun. Not OK.

We are raising our children in a Santa “lite” tradition. We are pretty churchy people, so in our house Santa’s “job” is to remind children about Jesus’ birthday and help them be excited about it. They are at an age where fantasy and reality are very fluid, and I would no more squash their belief in Santa than I would punish them for telling me fairies live under their pillows.

Our kids are 6 and 5, and when they ask directly if Santa is real, I either say “what do you think?” or I talk about the historical Saint Nicholas, or I tell them “the way I always heard it is ….”. I think we maybe have 1-2 years before the penny drops, but I hope the elder helps us keep the magic going for the younger.

Knowing my kids, the idea that “now YOU get to BE Santa for someone else” will be very appealing to them, rather than disappointing.


Rod December 19, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Well, thorny issue. My daughter is 2.5 years old and I had this discussion with my wife recently.

I am a fierce skeptic. I will raise my kids to question things, and look for the truth of the matter. And I expect her to find out that a large amount of things we are told are complete fabrications (politics, media, and even some social conventions and rites).

Her argument? Lets keep Santa in because it is a harmless social convention. Furthermore, she also celebrates Dec. 6th (St. Nicholas) since she’s of Dutch descent. In contrast, I have a deep commitment towards the Day of the Death which comes from my Mexican upbringing. It does get a bit sticky since neither of us is religious, and in fact I’m very much in favour of a secular society (meaning you’re free to worship whichever god or gods you want to, but these items are not to be mixed up with political or legal issues).

As for “not lying about Santa to the kids of others” – well, just reminding you that I don’t go around telling everyone that Jesus Christ was probably born in the summer, that the Christmas tree is an adaptation of the Yggdrasil of the Norse (where Odin hung himself in order to become all-seeing). In fact I would argue that there are no Christian (or Jewish, or Hindu, or Muslim) children – they are merely children whose parents subscribe to a particular set of tenets.

None of that rant makes for a polite conversation with a child or his parents. Since we’re dealing with etiquette here, I’d steer away from trying to change the beliefs of others (especially children) during the social gatherings typical of the holiday season.


Harley Granny December 19, 2013 at 12:10 pm

I did the Santa thing with my kids and they aren’t scarred for life.

Personally I don’t care if you do the Santa thing or not and I really couldn’t care less the reason why but never ever would I butt my nose into someone else’s traditions or tell them how they should raise their child.

There are ways to sidestep the Santa question without lying…Our answer during the “transition” years was “Seeing is Believing” or “Believing is Seeing”.

The happiness of a child during the Christmas season matters more than any one else’s “stance” on the subject.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: