Every time Christmas rolls around stories pop up as to whether it’s healthy or appropriate to teach kids to believe in Santa Claus. Inevitably the question of lying comes up, and what it teaches children to start them off at a young age in what is, arguably a cruel hoax. When I have kids, I’m actually inclined to be pro-Santa with a scientific twist. I’ve talked about Barack Obama Wormholes, so it’s only natural that Santa use them as well!
Santa clearly uses wormholes, the tunnels through space and time that allow travelers to jump from one side of the cosmos to the other or—in this case, from one neighborhood to the next. But trying to give your kid a primer on relativity, gravity and negative energy would be pointless. Instead, take a piece of paper, draw a picture of your house on one half, then a friend’s home on the oppposite one. Trace a line from one side of the sheet to the other to represent the standard path—the route Santa would take in an airborne sleigh. Now fold the paper down the middle so the two houses are back-to-back, one on either side.
You don’t have to get into the curvature of space-time, but you can tell your kids that Santa uses deep scientific knowledge to see a different map of the universe, one that contains roads most people don’t know about.
When I was a kid, my belief in Santa came to a halt when I noticed that many of the gifts from him had Toys-R-Us stickers attached. It didn’t scar me in any way to realize he wasn’t real. Sure, it was a let down, but I’ll always have the memories of going to bed excited, wondering what Santa would leave under the tree.
The question at the heart of the Santa dilemma seems to be: Is it ever okay to lie? As with anything, it depends on what the underlying motive is. If you act in a way where the root motivation is to deceive another to benefit yourself, then it is wrong. A person who “lies” to their friend in order to buy time to set up a surprise party has done no wrong. A person who lies to their “friend” to buy time for a surprise party—knowing their friend has hormephobia (the fear of shock)—might be a really big jerk.
Kids today seem to have almost no window of time where they get to be a kid. They’re bombarded from the very beginning by a culture that seeks to strip them of their innocence, and to me the “lie” of Santa allows them to suspend disbelief, if only for a few moments each year. Thomas Hobbes said that life is “nasty, brutish, and short,” and he was right. I’d like to think that as long as the real meaning of Christmas is conveyed to a child, there is nothing wrong with a Santa charade.
Does the anti-Santa truth brigade stop the child who pretends to be a superhero or a princess and say, “Stop lying to yourself. That’s not real. That’s make-believe. It’s weird. Live in the real world,”? Of course not. It might be funny on some level…but no one says that. A child that dreams and pretends is healthy. They can have a sense of wonder about tall tales of fiction, and can glean very real, very practical lessons from them. Likewise, the child who realizes that Santa Claus isn’t real can be encouraged to figure out who Saint Nicholas really was, why he did matter (e.g., secret acts of kindness), and how the way he ran his life is important to their own.
I would even argue that when the Communist Chinese—openly unfriendly to religion—start to embrace the commercialized depiction of Santa they’re really just opening the door for millions of citizens to look into his origins. And when they look into who Saint Nicholas was, many of them will be led to that which China is notorious for stamping out—faith.
When I have kids, Santa’s tale will be told, but he’s generally going to avoid chimneys and opt for wormholes and advanced quantum mechanics. Hopefully yours will too!