Burning Bosom

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The Case for Outing Santa

Posted by Andrew on December 18, 2007

When a child reaches an appropriate age, should parents reveal the truth about Santa before that child learns it from outside sources (e.g., classmates)? Here’s why I ask:

I’ve heard a few people who discovered historical information that they felt undermined Mormonism say that their resulting disillusionment was like finding out the truth about Santa. Set aside the endless debate we could have over whether such historical information actually exists–that’s not what I’m getting at. What I am getting at is that for many people, learning the truth about Santa was a somewhat traumatic experience because they discovered the people they trusted most (e.g., parents, grandparents, etc.) had been lying to them for years. And even when children are able to understand the lying has all been in good fun, they still can’t help but wonder what other aspects of their long-established “reality” are just another fairy tale their parents have fed them. Regardless of any justification for the deception, the trust has been breached; children learn that sometimes their parents will lie to them “for their own good,” and they must therefore look to other sources, (i.e., their peers at school), to get the truth.

So what do you think? Is there a good case for pre-emptively revealing the truth about Santa to your children once they’ve reached an appropriate age? (I’m not sure how old that is, but eight years of age seems to be the magic number in the Church).

4 Responses to “The Case for Outing Santa”

  1. kerrykane said

    I literally just had the Santa conversation with my oldest daughter two days ago. She is nine years old, and had been making “non-believing, near apostate” comments about Santa over the last several weeks. Certain ideas had been planted in her mind at school about the non-existence of Santa.

    So i initiated the conversation with her to clear the air and prevent her from ruining it for her little brother and sisters.

    It went very well, as I explained that Santa may not be a real person, but in reality, he does represent what I would call the magic of Christmas. No, there is not a real dude flying light-speed on the backs of reindeer, but i did explain to her that each of us acts as a Santa when we surprise people with gifts, help the unfortunate with food or money, or in other ways act in the spirit of kindness for the benefit of others. That is what Santa means to me, and I don’t really feel like I am lying to my kids.

    In essence, the magic of Christmas (or Santa) is equivalent with the spirit of kindness.

    By the way, my daughter understood my reasoning completely and exclaimed “I knew it!” when I told her that Santa is not “a real dude flying light-speed on the backs of reindeer”. She is now excited to help setup the gifts on Christmas Eve when the other kids are asleep.

  2. Shawn L said

    To tell the truth, I think there’s something sweet about propagating the Santa myth. My girls (ages 6, 4 and 2) are all still young enough to believe it wholeheartedly. At the same time, I’ll likely break the news to my oldest daughter in the next year or two. In the meantime, I keep digging myself into a deeper hole all the time. For example, I did tell my 6-year old this year that the Easter Bunny isn’t real. She was not too surprised, and said she had always wondred how a rabbit got ahold of so many eggs. However, she ended the conversation by saying, “but Santa’s real, right?” My answer: “of course he is, honey. Don’t worry.” I’m sure that will be thrown back in my face sooner tather than later.

    Or you could go about it this way. A buddy of mine has a 10 year old son (going on 11 soon). The son had some questions about things he’d been hearing at school about s-e-x. So, my friend sat the boy down for a full-blown “facts of life” discussion. My friend concluded the 90 minute conversation by telling him, “oh, and Santa is fake” (or words to that effect). My friend’s thought was, if the kid’s old enough to know how his nether regions work, he’s old enough to know the truth behind the Great Santa Lie. Hard to argue with that.

  3. Loralie said

    i have to say that i don’t think we should tell kids that santa is real. it really does bring up many problems. and where do you stop? elves, tooth fairy, easter bunny, the stork? we decided not to ever lie to our kids about those types of characters, and it hasn’t ruined the holidays at all. our 4 year old knows santa and flying reindeer are just pretend, for fun. we’ve never said anything different. “oh look, there’s a man dressed up in a santa costume!” kids look to us to figure all this stuff out, and need to know what is real and what is fake. and know that they can always look to us to tell them what is true. jesus christ and the scriptures are real. christmas is about jesus being born. i think as mormons we need to focus on that.

  4. Shawn L said


    Your comment triggered a memory regarding my oldest daughter’s Santa questions last year. After saying her prayers one mid-December night, she said, “Daddy, sometimes it’s hard to believe in Santa.” When I asked her why, she said “because I can’t see him.” I chalked it up to her starting to unravel to truth about Santa by herself.

    The very next night after prayer (I swear), she said “Daddy, sometimes it’s hard to believe in Jesus.” Again, in response to my inquiry, she said “because I can’t see him.” We had a chat about faith, but it made think me twice about the influence I have on my kids and their worldview.

    By the way, thanks for coming aboard!

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