White Lie

By Tawny Maya McCray

November 15, 2016 4 min read

The idea of a Santa Claus -- a jolly man in red who flies a sleigh pulled by reindeer delivering presents to all good children of the world in one night -- delights and fascinates kids of all ages. But is this age-old story simply a harmless tale or a hurtful white lie?

"My mom told us she had an elf friend named Jingle who would tell her what Santa was doing," says Angelina Franco, 39. "She would tell us that if we didn't clean our rooms or behave Santa would not bring us presents."

Franco says her mom would tell stories about Santa and they would also watch movies and read books about him.

They wrote their Christmas lists every year and mailed them to him, took yearly pictures with him, sat on his lap and told them what they wanted, and left milk and cookies out for him on Christmas Eve.

"It was fun, it was a big part of my childhood," Franco said.

Joanna Brown, who grew up in a neighborhood near Franco's, says her family was quite the opposite.

"We didn't play Santa in my family," she says. "My parents are religious and it was important that it be about Jesus. My mom was quite prickly about it."

However, Brown says that two of her siblings who now have kids let them believe in Santa.

"I can't tell if my sister's boys actually believe or not," she says. "The older one is pretty logical and makes comments such as, 'Santa can't make all the gifts, so he probably goes to Costco or Target to help out.'"

Michelle Breier says that even though her family is Jewish, she told her two kids that Santa is real.

"One, I didn't want them to blow the secret for their friends," Breier says. "Two, I wanted them to realize and accept that they are different and that's OK, they don't always have everything that others will have. We have our own traditions and that's good and we can share."

Another mom, Tristen James, says she thinks Santa is a fun tradition and enjoys continuing it with her young daughter. She says when people ask her what she'll tell her daughter when she finds out Santa is not real, she'll say that Santa is a concept and not an actual being.

"For me, Santa is the spirit of giving someone a gift that they truly desire with no expectation of getting anything in return," James says. "When my daughter asks me if I still believe in Santa, I tell her I do because I do believe in the spirit of selfless giving."

Kat Anderson, who lives with her husband and two young kids, ages 6 and 2, says she was raised believing in Santa and she's raising her kids the same way.

"We tell them that there are so many children in the world that Santa asks for the children's families to help him out," Anderson says. "There are always special unwrapped gifts left from Santa by the fireplace on Christmas morning."

Anderson says that when her kids are old enough to realize the truth, she will explain that while he is not a physical being, the idea of Santa and his magic is very real. She emphasizes the significance "that now they are grown up enough to be a part of that magic and help create it for the little ones in our lives."

Franco says that she was about 11 when she learned the truth about Santa, but she didn't let on to her parents because she feared she would no longer get his extra presents.

She says that while finding out he wasn't real was a disappointment, she was happy living with the fantasy for a while.

"All the fun things we did and memories that I have from those innocent days make me happy when I think back on them," Franco says. "I don't believe any of the 'lies' about Santa my parents told me growing up has affected my adult life. If anything, it has helped me remain a kid a heart."

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