TW Viewpoint | The Truth About Santa Claus

December 13, 2017 | Jonathan Riley

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Should I tell my children the truth about Santa Claus? Let me tell you a story. Every year a man wearing a red suit flies through the air on a sled pulled by magical reindeer. He comes from the icy land, known as Lapland and he hands out presents to every good boy or girl. This is a lot of work for one man and so he relies on tiny elves to help with the fulfillment of gifts.

You probably teach your children this story and just like any other bedtime stories you want to fill your child's mind with good dreams and cause for excitement. The only difference between this story and that of the Cat in the Hat or Paddington Bear is that you tell your children this story is true. Child psychologists tend to recommend perpetuating the story of Santa and encourage parents to keep the magic alive for as long as possible. You may have considered the pros and cons of this and came to the conclusion, that you want for your child the same joy that you experienced on Christmas morning... does this still apply even if your joy was based on a lie?

Ironically child psychologists also separately warn that lying to your children, even in the smallest of matters, has the damaging effect of teaching them to lie. How can a child learn the value of honesty when from their earliest memories their parents have been lying to them? Writing for the Huffington Post, Psychotherapist Dr. Kerry Malawista describes the dangers of using lies in order to prevent conflict, disappointment, or an attempt to escape the reality of a situation. She writes "Whatever the reason, when we lie, we are depriving our children of the opportunity to grow and the resilience that develops from overcoming adversity." "As parents we all want our children to trust us - sadly, if we lie to them, we are telling them they cannot trust us, or themselves."

Examples of small white lies or our efforts to conceal the truth can vary widely. Telling your child that the ice cream truck outside is just a music van coming to spread joy to the neighbourhood or that you're all out of their favourite treat when the reality is that you don't want them to have any more. These may seem on the surface to be harmless but if, or when, the truth is found out you are perpetuating immoral behaviour.

Do you know what else is a lie? Christmas, if you're an atheist you are going against your core values and observing an event of religious origin, despite its secular nature in western culture today. If you're a Christian you're believing the lie that churches have been spreading for almost two millennia. Baby Jesus was not born in the winter and nowhere in your bible is there instruction to celebrate someone's birth or decorate trees. There is no mention of mistletoe, yule logs, wreaths or many of the other traditions associated with Christmas. All of these and the story of Santa Claus are directly taken from pagan practises of old. You only need to check Wikipedia to learn that "Christmas as a festival includes elements of the Roman feast of the Saturnalia and the birthday of Mithra as described in the Roman cult of Mithraism".

By teaching your children the Santa Claus lie and observing religiously corrupt festivities you are also potentially ruining their ability to have faith in God. Pause for a moment and consider the striking similarities of belief in an all knowing, supernatural old man with white hair who bends time and space to deliver gifts to good children. Now consider the potential damage to a child's faith in God when they learn that Santa isn't real.

You may not believe in God but as a parent responsible for the healthy development of that young, fragile mind in your child, what values, character traits and qualities would you prefer for them?

I'm Jonathan Riley for Tomorrow's World Viewpoint.

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