Why it's still okay for kids to believe in Santa
Spoiler alert: The following commentary contains information that Santa Claus may not be real.
Child psychologists today generally believe that perpetuating a myth about someone trying to make people happy is not a bad thing and that imagination is a normal part of development that also helps develop creative minds.
The Santa Claus story – after all – is grounded in truth. Santa Claus is patterned after St. Nicholas who was a real person.
St. Nick became famous for helping the poor, and those are values that are important.
Santa Claus is just one of the mythical figures that children believe in, along with the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, for example.
Christmas brings people together and the Santa myth reinforces those important bonds. The Christmas tradition also reinforces some positive habits – like writing letters to Santa.
Next week, The Recorder will publish hundreds of letters to Santa from local third graders, so the tradition of writing letters to Santa is alive and well around here.
Like many good things, however, the Santa story eventually comes to an end. Kids stop believing at different ages. Often, a friend at school will break the news.
Kids usually figure it out for themselves, when they start to realize that the story does not quite add up.
Questioning what is real and what is not is also a normal part of mental development, experts say.
The best way for parents to handle the “Is Santa real?’’ question is to ask their child if they still believe in Santa. If they say they do, then it might be too soon to tell them.
When parents do break the news to their kids, they can also tell them that the spirit of Christmas is real and that there was a real St. Nicholas.
The spirit of giving to the poor and the needy and the spirit of family being together is universal.
In the photo that accompanies this commentary, that’s me with Santa when I was a little kid.
The photo was taken at the Western Auto store in Garnett. The photographer snapped the photo just after Santa had turned to me and said, “What do you want for Christmas, David?’’
First of all, I was impressed that Santa knew my name. Second of all, I recognized that Santa’s voice was the same voice as my best friend’s father.
When I looked Santa in the eye, I realized that John McDonnell (my best friend Mike’s father) was playing Santa and that there really was not a Santa.
The photographer, I think, captured the revealing “aha’’ moment quite well.
Today, of course, this is a treasured photo of me and Mike’s dad, who died at a relatively young age from leukemia.
My mother said she cried when she was a little girl and found out that there was no St. Nick. She said she knew her parents did not have much money but at Christmas they always made sure she and her five siblings received some basic gifts like clothes and shoes, some peanuts and other nuts and some hard candy.
If the Christmas traditions in your family include Santa, you might also be able to remember when you figured it all out or were told the Santa truth, too.