The Santa Con

Will Wilkinson recently shared why, as an atheist, he plans to teach his son to believe in Santa. Rob Stennett, a man of faith, also weighs the pros and cons. He argues that believing in Santa is good for kids, but notes that “many of my Christian friends don’t look at it this way”:

They think teaching about Santa can damage your child when it comes to believing in God. It’s not a stretch to see why. We teach our kids to believe there is a bearded man in the sky who knows you by name and cares about how you act. I think that’s why it’s so important to be careful about how I talk to my kids about Santa Claus. But I’m just never sure what to say. This year, I’ve decided to say nothing at all.

This morning, my daughter asked, “Dad, how does Santa get in our house when we don’t have a chimney?”

I was searching for the words when I decided I didn’t need to answer. I asked, “How do you think he comes in?” She gave me an elaborate answer, and I said, “That’s a very good theory.” It was a good theory. I didn’t lie to her — I just gave her room to discover the answers on her own.

Meanwhile, Michael Brendan Dougherty calls himself “unpersuaded by the more principled anti-Claus chorus.” He suggests that “there is something too flatly literalistic, even Puritanical, about their arguments”:

Radical Protestants of an older stripe thought holy days like Christmas were offensive because God is with us every day, and because they hated the “mass” in Christ’s Mass. How this translated in practice was that around the time other people began making merry, the dour low churchman marked the time with especially strenuous sermons against holy days.

Similarly, just as parents are conjuring a model of abundant generosity and joy, today’s killjoys make it a season of rote sermonizing against materialism. This misses the point entirely. A materialist looks under the tree and sees the year’s economic surplus, badly invested. It takes a spiritual person to see it as the work of St. Nick, as a recurrence of the Magi, or an imitation of the great generosity of the God-child born to us. Only the devil wants your Christmas to be just like all the other days. Save the mortifications for Lent. …

There’s also something to be said for a light touch with magic and myth. For “letting the faeries out” of your soda bread, and for what Chesterton called “creative credulity” in another defense of Santa. This doesn’t mean accepting fantastic stories cravenly and literally, but inhabiting them with zest.

Scores of Dish readers share their stories of Santa disillusionment here.