Is Santa Claus Real or Not?
A philosophical and social perspective: A more scientific approach to questions posed so often and long, they have earned the right to be respected to this degree. The questions "Is Santa real?" and "What should I tell my kids about Santa Claus?"
So many articles take a humorous approach to argue for or against the existence of Santa Claus, and I think that is great. But this article takes a more scientific approach because a question that has been posed so often and so long, simply put, has earned the right to be respected to that degree. The questions we will address are "Is Santa real?" and the closely related sister question "What should I tell my kids about Santa Claus?"
This article will assemble the thinking of authors and recognized experts in various capacities to provide a few tools and resources so we can make our own decision. And because I can�t resist, in summary I will share my personal opinion, but not try to impose it upon you, just provide food for thought: "Santa myth cookies and milk" so to speak...
Before we bake the cookies, lets grab some ingredients:
Shari Kuchenbecker, PhD, a research psychologist and author of "Raising Winners", says when her children were young, she told them Santa Claus was a symbol of loving, giving, and hope. "I never said Santa Claus was a real person," she said, stressing how important it is never to lie to children.
Tad Waddington, author of "Lasting Contribution: How to Think, Plan, and Act to Accomplish Meaningful Work" offers a solid foundation and formula for working out solutions to our question in an article he wrote that appeared in Psychology Today. He sites several clever examples. Here are two:
1. "A broken clock is accurate twice a day, as when the clock says it is 1:05 and it is, in fact, 1:05. Although at 1:05 when this clock is true (in that there is a one-to-one correspondence between the broken clock and everybody else's clocks), this clock is useless. On the other hand, a clock that is reliably fast or slow--by minutes or hours--is useful. All you have to do is know how much to add or subtract to what's on the clock to get the correct time."
2. "Whose love has had a greater effect on the world-the true love of some real but obscure farmers married for fifty years or Romeo and Juliet's fictional love? Whose love has inspired more love? Measured by the effect on others, whose love is more real, the real love or the fictional love?"
Tad Waddington explainss that the exercise is to establish the definition of "truth". "This observation suggests that people's intuitive definition of truth may not necessarily take them where they want to go. That is, an idea may be true but useless, or untrue and useful..."
Yvonne M. Vissing, PhD , Department of Sociology at Salem State College wrote a paper on "Psycho-Social Implications of Believing In Santa Claus" Vissing says Santa Claus has become a controversial character within both families and communities. While he is a beloved figure across time and cultures, he has often come under attack by many different factions especially religious leaders for not promoting Christian doctrines enough and/or for being promoted to children as a substitute for Jesus. Conversely, Santa Claus is also under attack by secular leaders for promoting materialism as well as a Christian based ideology. In this day of cultural diversity and heightened political sensitivity, families and communities are not sure quite how to deal with the presence of Santa Claus.
Now let me mix some ingredients and get these cookies into the oven... The fact that the Santa dilemma has become so emotional and important and why he has become so controversial is in and of itself an answer to our question: Is Santa Claus Real? Even if for no other reason, the fact that "Santa" is considered to be such a "real" and powerful threat needing to be reckoned with, is all the proof we should need. And ironically for those who would prefer to see the legend rubbed out, the attacks are like shooting with a backfiring gun: The more you strike at him the more legitimatize his existence! No one shoots at an enemy unless they believe it to be real!
Maybe the debate over the relevance of Santa has little to do with Santa himself. Rather, that he is being used as a vehicle for different factions to promote their own political agendas. But to be realistic, what real popular figure has not been exploited in such a way? But in this country, at least, we are not in the habit of "erasing" a person because we don't agree with his or her message.
Vissing feels that the argument about whether to allow children to believe in Santa isn�t about Santa at all; rather, she says, it is an argument that is far greater, much more philosophic. (Santa Claus) is the misplaced focus of a debate about the importance of faith, and a vigorous attempt by believers and nonbelievers alike to vie for the definition of reality - a definition that can shape children�s views of themselves and the future. This is no small thing.
Well all of the above in defining "truth" and "real" establish that Santa Claus is certainly real! We don�t attempt to define Santa Claus himself above, just verify his existence. And I think we have succeeded. But in fairness and in his defense I pose another question: Why are so many people so afraid of Santa Claus?
Perhaps if we take Vissing�s statement above and we substitute "selflessness" in place of the word "faith", it would illustrate that Santa Claus is a an effective yet positive and harmless metaphor, just like Pinocchio, that helps teach positive values to children. Yes, admittedly merchants sell Pinocchio books and make money, studios make Pinocchio movies and make money. And I am sure toys, puzzels, clothes and games are all in on the plan. But if people can make money doing something beneficial, isn�t that better than the other way around.
So the goal may be to stop trying to deny the existence of Santa Claus, and instead treat the power of this established icon and legend with reverence. Simply put: Sell the Pinocchio books, but don�t change the moral of the story!
Now I put on my chef hat:) As the author I have an option and opportunity to summarize everything above in a prejudiced way and make it sound like fact. But instead I will come right out and tell you that everything below is my own opinion and nothing more.
Many parents, by rote, follow in their parents' footsteps and teach their children that Santa is the one brings boys and girls presents on Christmas Eve, and what and how much you get depends upon if you're on Santa's "good" or "bad" list. But it seems more and more parents are starting to ask if telling children that Santa Claus is real is, in fact, a lie and ultimately may contribute to diminishing the trust between the parent and child. If you present Santa�s Stories as legend, and the Santa character as the embodiment of what the Spirit of Santa represents, then it�s a story with all the needed details to depict the character and the moral of the story.
Shari Kuchenbecker told told her children Santa Claus was a symbol of loving, giving, and hope. She never said Santa Claus was a real person. I personally have done the same. I detest lying to children. A still have a couple of young children who will be asking the same question soon, and I will continue to take the same approach.
Free advice: Perhaps it is better to decide how YOU feel and only then share it with your child in an honest and age-appropriate manner. Is Santa Claus only real if he is a man of the flesh who walks the earth and sometimes literally flies in a magic sleigh? Does he have to be able to pinch himself and say "ouch" or else have all his storybooks pulled off the shelves and burned? Or, on the contrary, is Santa Claus not only real but bigger than life because he is powerful and popular metaphor for teaching really important values. And maybe because, as parents, we all know that flesh and blood role models always fall short of the 100%-mark, we should look to fiction that is based upon life�s real truths to sometimes do the stuntwork for us as rolemodels so we don�t fall and get hurt!
I smell smoke! Almost forgot... Here are the cookies. They�re done and below is my own personal recipe: As Waddington illustrates fictitious characters often succeed as "real" teachers where "real" teachers fail. So around the holiday season when there is extra money to be made let us consider this approach: If shopkeepers make money from increased seasonal business sales but in the process don�t betray or invert the message and the spirit of Santa Claus, and the end result is an investment in keeping financially solvent an institution that by design teaches our kids to have empathy, compassion and generosity, then that�s not too shabby!
For a completely unscientific perspective, I welcome you to read a poem I wrote: "Is Santa Real?"
Lasting Contribution: How to Think, Plan, and Act to Accomplish Meaningful Work by Tad Waddington
Raising Winners by Shari Young Kuchenbecker, Ph.D.
Psycho-Social Implications of Believing In Santa Claus by Yvonne M. Vissing, PhD , Department of Sociology at Salem State College
Is Santa Real? Scientific Proof