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I believe that the most important aspect of human morality is honestly. So I've always been... reluctant... about telling my kids Santa is coming.
On the one hand, I want them to enjoy the anticipation I did as a kid; on the other, I feel very strongly about not lying to or otherwise misleading (ie. staying silent) my children.

Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I've gone along with the cultural norm of telling my kids that "Santa is coming" when Christmas time rolls around. Though usually when the oldest asks or talks about details like coming down the chimney or living at the North Pole, or who were Santa's parents, I just stay quiet and let someone else do the answering, which is admittedly a moral cop-out.

Given that

  • My kids already believe in Santa,
  • I want them to enjoy the anticipation and mystery of Christmas,
  • I am not open to lying to them
  • They may have heard someone else tell them something false about Santa.

How can I honestly answer when my kids ask questions or make comments about Santa?

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    I'd strongly suggest reading through this incredible answer on Parenting. It does a better job than probably any of us here will be able to do of explaining the pro's and con's of "lying" (though I know it's not what you asked, it may answer what you're looking for). – scohe001 Sep 10 at 15:52
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    The goal in this question seems impossible to achieve under the constraints listed. There's a fundamental issue because Santa Claus is not real, you are aware of this, and you don't want to contribute in any way to your children believing the opposite (including by omission). But the children have already been "allowed" to believe, so deceit (by these standards) has already occurred and is ongoing. As written the question may as well be "how can I have my cake, and eat it too?". Extant questions are about continuing the existing pattern or stopping, and I don't see IPS components to those. – Upper_Case Sep 11 at 16:09
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    @DanAnderson I'm certainly glad that you've found something useful here, but the answers to this question (as of this writing) all violate the constraints in the question by advocating behavior which you classify as deceitful. That may be just fine (I'm not judging your positions or choices), but it's neither an answer to the question as asked nor is it a frame challenge. That's problematic for SE, especially IPS, whether answers are valuable or not. I sympathize with your situation, but I feel that this question can't be answered as written while conforming to SE guidelines. Edits may help. – Upper_Case Sep 11 at 16:36
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    @Upper_Case . I disagree I feel like the answers were effective frame challenges. For me at least. – Dan Anderson Sep 11 at 16:57
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's more of a "what should I do" as discussed in here. – Ælis Sep 13 at 8:56
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You have given the answer to your question by yourself:

I want them to enjoy the anticipation and mystery of Christmas

Christmas is a mystery!

In general: You do not need to have an answer to all of your children's questions. Children gets stronger, if they know mum or dad do not know everything. They learn it is okay to ask new questions, sometimes like in science with no answer yet.

If your child asks you "How does Santa came to me?" You can ask it "What do you think how he does?" So you do not lie, but additional you could look inside your child, its fantasy and imagination. You can learn about subjects that are very important for your child, interests/dreams/wishes it has.

For me it is like that: If you do not have searched at all (really ALL) places in the world, you can not prove there is no Santa Claus. Every time it is more easy to prove something's existence, than its non-existence! And at this line I do not lie, if I tolerate the (less smallest) possibility there is a Santa-Claus-like being somewhere in this big world. I do not pretend to know something about it, can only tell my child "the people say he has a slide" but if it do pretend it is a bathtub... who can prove?

This principle the big cousins (8 and 11) of my child learned last Christmas, because they want to tell my child (4) "there is no Santa Claus". I have talked with them about it in such a way, that they could laugh with me about this "not provable-Santa-Problem". I do not expect the cousins believe in Santa now, but I want them to tolerate believing in something you can not prove.

At the end you do not need to lie, you only have to think about this: can you prove that there is no Santa?


Additional: In Germany, there are three persons who come in the Christmas time: "Sankt Nikolaus1" (Saint Nicholas), the "Christkind" (baby Jesus) and the "Weihnachtsmann" (Santa Claus). Especially Weihnachtsmann and Nikolaus the children merge most of the time. Nikolaus "real" wears a bishops clothes and has a long walking stick, against Weihnachtsmann who wears the red cloak and so on.

In the end every child has its very own image of this mythical creature which brings the presents...


1. Saint Nicholas is also celebrated in Europe (whole country or only part of it): Belgium, France, Luxemburg, Austria, Italy, some Nordic and Central countries, on December 6th, and some others (Central Europe / Russia) on Decembre 19th.

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I feel the same way as you do. This is how my parents did it and I'm doing the same with my kids.

The goal is to tell your child when they find out Santa is not real, that it wasn't something you told them but something they came up with it on their own and from their friends and society. You didn't lie to them, but society (friends and media) led them to believe in Santa and you let them do it. The reason you let them do it is that there was no harm in it. You could make it a teaching moment but that's for another post.

Regarding questions, be as vague as possible. Avoid statements like 'Santa is coming' or 'Santa's watching and is going to be upset'. Instead, turn them into questions like 'Is Santa coming?' or 'I hope that doesn't get you a piece of coal in your stocking'. In fact, being vague, and the unknown makes their imagination even more vibrant and makes it more intriguing.

Remember we're not dealing with deep morality here so if you don't weigh in, it's not immoral. As you say, the older kids have taken over, as have mine. I've told my older kids what the end goal is, and they have more fun with it than I did.

This way, when they find out, you can tell them 'I never told you there was a Santa. This is something you came up with on your own. Hope this helps.

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