A parent doesn’t feel jolly about Santa


Dear Amy: I live in a country that celebrates a tradition that I am, at best, uneasy with. It involves a bizarre ritual by which parents of small children routinely lie to them about the existence of an elderly domestic intruder who supposedly brings small chocolate statues of himself along with toys and gifts once a year (spoiler alert: the parents buy this stuff).

These are otherwise reasonable people who do their best to teach honesty, good communication, integrity and good values to their children.

I’ve assimilated well to the point that I, too, am complicit in this charade, along with almost all my neighbors, friends, colleagues, and all their relatives.

I want to teach my kids about the shamanic origins of this intriguing but overly caricatured figure, instead of fat-shaming him with cookies and milk (seriously).

It’s important for me to keep (or at least regain) my kids’ trust despite this betrayal.

How do I come clean to my kids, who are 7 and 4 and have grown to embrace this tradition?

— No Gaslight

Dear Gaslight: You seem to be saying that in addition to everything else that’s wrong about the Santa story, offering cookies and milk to a fat man who doesn’t exist is part of the problem. Sigh.

And the “shamanic origins” of the Santa story? An internet search that I can now never erase from my brain offers up this idea: That early shamans tripping on hallucinogenic mushrooms imagined flying reindeer racing across the night sky.

You are aware that MANY children and families in Western cultures do not celebrate Christmas? And that other children from families that celebrate Christmas leave Santa out of it? And that some who don’t celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday do the Santa Thing anyway? My point is that no one is zip-tying you to Santa.

But one aspect of parenting that you might not understand is that lying is baked into the deal. We tell our children, “I loved your recorder solo!” “Tired? I’m not tired; I just need to rest my eyes.” “Sure, I’d love to play another round of Candyland!”


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