Sensing my confusion, she offered a helpful suggestion: “You can Google ‘Is Santa Claus real?’.”
“Well, I could, but it’s a mystery and no one really knows for sure,” I said, trying to buy myself some more time.
I respect children’s intelligence and their right to know the truth, but of course the problem is deciding how much truth is appropriate. To see the wonder in their eyes when they think of Santa is to see something real and precious. This is magic at its purest, and it just feels wrong to end it casually. Plus, they’re growing at an incredible rate. They’ll be too busy vaping and scrolling TikToks soon, and I hope she believes that for a little while longer.
I remember when I found out. One Christmas morning, I woke up to find that the big guy had left me and my brother with a $1 coin and a Minties lollipop. He left it in an old white bucket. As for his notes, Mother made no attempt to disguise her distinctive cursive handwriting. No kind old man will give me a dollar and a mint, I thought. case closed.
I don’t want my kids to have to deal with that at six.
A complicating factor was her father volunteering to be Santa at a community event. My kids will recognize him from a mile away and no amount of white beard can change that. This would send her the message that Santa is not real, but if he is, he is your father and he doesn’t believe in himself.
In desperation, I searched for the truth.
“Santa’s real name is Saint Nicholas and he lived many years ago. The Santas you see outside the Woollies are not actually him, but they represent the real Saint Nicholas.”
Naturally, “tell me more” kicked in, so we did some online “research” about Saint Nick. “Facts” are on my side. He is the protector of children. He generously helps a poor family who cannot afford a dowry by throwing bags of gold from their windows at night. Gold will fall into a sock that has been dried by fire.
He travels on horseback, gives sweets and presents to well-behaved kids (gosh, maybe he’s with Minties after all), and kids leave carrots for his horses.
St. Nicholas also brought three children back to life after an evil butcher murdered them and left them to pickle in barrels (I badly censored that story).
As we learn more about this superhero, I can see the mythology, history, and magic starting to feed into my daughter’s mind. She was disturbed and curious. We think of Saint Nicholas as a real person who helped people with his special powers, and maybe his magic is still with us in some form today. Strange and amazing things happen, but we can’t explain why.
I could see that she wanted to believe, and the explanation was satisfactory.She even went back and wrote some letters to Santa (had to hedge her bets): “Dear Santa, my wish is a little pig [guinea pig]. If you say no, that’s okay too. “
Easter is fast approaching and my partner and I need to make sure we are pulling together. But in fact, he only admitted to me because he thought I would deny the existence of Santa Claus.
But at least this Christmas, we’ve managed to keep the magic going.
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