IS HAVING THE SANTA TRADITION LYING TO MY CHILD?
So, is it really lying to your child to perpetuate the Santa myth?
Before my children were born I was writing and illustrating letters from Santa.
I’d met a woman who wrote letters to her boys each year, inspired by the Father Christmas Letters JRR Tolkein wrote to his children. Lois loved writing adventure-filled stories from the North Pole, but wasn’t much of an illustrator. She noticed my simple drawings for an office publication one day and asked if I’d embellish her latest Christmas letter.
The combination of writing a story, illustrating and painting it to bring magic to a child captivated me! That year I started writing and illustrating letters from Santa to my nieces and nephews, children for whom I babysat, and children of friends. Five years later, I started offering them for sale.
Eventually I attended juried shows along the East coast. I was lucky enough to have my sisters and parents and many friends help out. The shows were exhausting and fun, and we sold lots and lots of letters from Santa.
Various groups of talented ‘elves’ helped with hand-painting letters and hand-lettering envelopes, while others kept detailed accounts of which letters had been previously received so no duplicates were sent to my little customers. I had elves going to the post office to pick up orders, deposit checks, and send completed orders out. I continued to write and illustrate the stories and draw hundreds of North Pole stamps over the years.
Doing this when my children were too young to understand Santa was no problem. As they grew older and became aware of Santa, they learned that I was one of many people who worked for him; I helped Mr. Claus with his mail. My children’s friends would bring me their letters to deliver to Santa, knowing I had connections, and, of course, they all received letters back. It was kind of a prestigious position to hold.
Eventually, as children do, my oldest began to question. She really wanted to know: Is Santa real, Mom?
I couldn’t get by with the line I’ve heard many people use, “Well if you stop believing, you won’t get any gifts.”
And so I told her.
She was mad. She accused me of lying to her, and not only to her, but to children everywhere who’d received my letters from the North Pole.
It was heart-breaking to get this reaction, but it was real and honest.
I’ve come to realize that not every child needs to have a black and white answer to this question. Many children somehow morph their way to adulthood not expecting a jolly red-clad man with reindeer to show up on Christmas Eve and leave surprises—even if they haven’t had a serious sit-down-to-discuss-Santa-talk.
But my oldest really needed to know.
And then an interesting thing happened.
Long before Elf-on-a-shelf was a thing, we had an elf who left notes around Christmastime for our family. My daughter started writing and illustrating notes from the elf for her little sister. She was clearly experiencing a taste of the same joy I felt spreading the magic through my letters, and her enthusiasm was sparked, especially when she saw her sister’s excitement.
She got it. This was truly what the Spirit of Christmas is about: love and surprises and letting people know they are cherished.
As the years have gone by, I’m delighted to say, she has asked me to send Santa letters to children of her friends, and most recently, even to her husband.
And so my vote is, Yes, it is okay to ‘perpetuate the Santa myth’. It’s an opportunity to fan creativity and imagination, to create and cultivate family traditions, and stir up a little magic and whimsy across the generations.