How Did You Find Out?

Santa Claus and his reindeer

Image by Rafael Marchesini.

This time of year I hear a lot of people arguing the merits of letting your kids believe or not believe in Santa Claus. I’m not interested in getting worked up over other people’s choices—I mean, seriously, I have seen people be total dicks over this, and be all like, “Why do you want to LIE to your CHILD?!?!?!” and I don’t think that’s appropriate at all. But I do wonder about people’s experiences growing up, whether they believed or not. (And I’m aware I’m coming from an exclusively Christian-oriented framework in even asking the question. I don’t assume everybody grew up celebrating Christmas, but that’s what I grew up celebrating.)

I never intended to go out of my way to make my kids believe in Santa, but they picked it up without any help from me, from school, other adults, and popular culture, and I didn’t bother fighting it. I played along, and I figured if they ever asked me point blank, I’d tell them the truth, and until then treat it like we were all pretending together. Right choice? Wrong choice? No choice? Whatever. It’s what I did. (They actually never did ask point blank, and eventually my wife spilled the beans.)

I believed as a kid. Eventually my mother went out of her way to let the truth “slip out.” To be fair, I was going out of my way to be obtuse about it, because I didn’t want to stop believing in the magical dude who traveled at more than a thousand miles an hour, giving gifts to children. For me, the myth made me happy. I don’t feel damaged one way or the other.

What about you? If you grew up celebrating Christmas, was Santa Claus a part of your holiday? How did you learn the truth? Did you feel betrayed? Angry? Amused? Did you get over it?

And because Neil De Grasse Tyson is awesome, here’s a link to him giving an explanation of the science behind Santa Claus that’s different from the one you’ve probably seen floating around online.

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6 Responses to How Did You Find Out?

  1. Jonathon says:

    I honestly don’t remember any sort of big reveal or heartbreaking discovery. I think I just had a harder and harder time believing and eventually stopped. I couldn’t even say what age I was.

    We decided last year not to teach our kids about Santa. We even told our oldest flat-out that Santa was just pretend and that the presents came from us. Maybe it was cruel, but we didn’t feel comfortable with the whole thing. Anyway, he seemed to get over it pretty quick.

    But this year he seems to have forgotten all about it and apparently believes anyway, even after a conversation with my wife in which he said he thought Santa was just pretend. I guess that desire to believe can be pretty strong sometimes.

  2. Niki says:

    Trauma. Betrayal. Heartbreak.

    I found out one day when snooping in my mom’s dresser drawers, which was strictly forbidden. I found out why I was not supposed to snoop there. Her top drawer contained my baby teeth (no, the Tooth Fairy did not take them, after all) and every letter I had written to Santa. My mom found me sobbing on her bed with the evidence. Of course, the Easter Bunny’s identity was also revealed that day.

    Rough day. Needless to say, no Santa/Easter Bunny/Tooth Fairy fantasies in my house.

  3. Joe Iriarte says:

    Wow. O_O

    I wonder if the age at which you discover it, and whether you figure it out through reason or by stumbling across evidence, makes a difference.

    (Um, just so you know, you don’t *really* get a pony for commenting.)

  4. Jonathon says:

    First Santa’s not real, and now I don’t get a pony? I’m going to be scarred for life.

  5. I can’t remember how old I was exactly, but I remember a letter I’d written to Santa getting returned to me when I was little. When I opened it, he’d written a very thoughtful response on the back of the letter. I was so excited, I chose not to acknowledge the fact that his handwriting very closely resembled the Easter Bunny’s. (And, coincidentally, my mom’s.)

    Also! Between the “hoopy froods” comment I see in the sidebar, and your Catholic school recovery comment on your About Me page, I sense we have a lot in common, Joe! :)

  6. Joe Iriarte says:

    “Choosing not to acknowledge” is a perfect description for me when it came to Santa Claus. My mother had to work really hard to “accidentally” spill the beans!

    Thanks for dropping by my site!

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