July 19, 2019

Santa and His Discontents

“In 2018, the measures parents can take to protect a child’s belief in Santa are impressively sophisticated. In addition to the old “Leave a note signed ‘S.C.’ alongside some half-eaten cookies” trick, and the slightly more advanced Oh-look-a-tuft-of-red-and-white-fabric-caught-on-the-fireplace! maneuver, parents can now also set their kids up to follow @Santa or @OfficialSanta on Twitter, quickly doctor webcam footage so that it appears to show Santa in their living room through an app, and make “video calls” to Santa through another app. They can even enable a Google Chrome extension that filters out any pages that might reveal the truth about Santa while kids browse the internet. (This article, I assume, would be detected as a threat, but let’s just make sure it gets filtered out: KIDS, SANTA ISN’T REAL.)

Still, even as the ways parents can shield their children from the truth evolve and multiply, perhaps the biggest threat to kids’ belief in Santa Claus is what it always has been: other kids. Two facts that find themselves perennially at odds during the holiday season are that (1) Santa Claus isn’t real, and (2) little kids love to announce when something is wrong or a lie (try asking a 3-year-old whether a puppy says “meow”). In other words, the very beneficiaries of parents’ painstaking efforts to uphold the myth are the same people most likely to spoil it. Add to the mix the popular notion that kids’ belief in Santa is integral to the magic of Christmas, and you’ve got one of the biggest headaches of the holiday season for parents.

Every December, Meghan Leahy can practically set her watch by the anxious moms and dads who write in to her Washington Post parenting advice column, desperately worried that their kids will have their Christmas spoiled—or that their kids will spoil other kids’ Christmases.”

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