Lying to children is never OK. Even about Santa.

Christmas is for children and those with children. Those of us who are too selfish, irresponsible, selfless or responsible to have children just get a bit of time off and an excuse to eat and drink a bit more than usual. Everyone is a winner and Christmas is great. 

As an atheist it’s a bit uncomfortable to see all the Jesus stuff get thrown around but thankfully there is enough crass commercialism and obvious pagan symbolism to balance all of that. There is one elephant in the room that really gets to me though. Santa. 

This is the point where I will lose most parents. “It’s just a bit of fun” or “lighten up, it’s part of the innocence of childhood” they’ll say to me. Innocence, indeed. And that’s the problem. 

Children are essentially hard-wired to believe every word that their parents tell them. This makes perfect sense from an evolutionary perspective and indeed explains why something as illogical as religion persists into 2017. Children have absolute trust in their parents. This is the crux of the Santa problem. 

If a child grows up believing that their parents will never lie to them and then one day they find out that Santa isn’t real, this has a deep effect on them. The faith that they had in their parents as Oracles of absolute truth is shattered. Suddenly they learn that it’s not just bad people who are dishonest; the people they love and respect the most in the world are capable of bare-faced lies. What does that mean for the adults who develop from these children? 

Perhaps it’s overly dramatic to blame the impending collapse of western civilisation on a seemingly harmless white lie but I’m going to give it a go. If a child learns that it’s normal to lie, even to the people you love the most, the adult will deceive their way through life and everyone will suffer as a result. 

There seems to be an axiom that some lies are necessary. Being polite when people ask awkward questions about whether they look fat etc. but to me truth is incredibly important. It’s the only hope we have as a species. Without truth we only have lies or post-truth which is a stupid way of saying lies. 

So please stop lying to your children about Santa. The other parents will probably hate you but it’s a small price to pay to save humanity. 

2 thoughts on “Lying to children is never OK. Even about Santa.”

  1. I agree absolutely with the sentiment and with almost everything you wrote – but I wonder if there’s a way to still “do” Santa, in a way where kids know it’s just pretend. We let kids watch Finding Nemo and Toy Story, and they don’t feel lied to when they discover fish and toys can’t speak. Can we have all the Santa tradition and fun and costumes and silly beards, without pretending that it’s actually real?
    Ho ho ho and Merry Christmas to you!

  2. I watched “The Gruffallo” on TV this afternoon, so I get you, Joe.
    Education is the answer though, mate, not telling parents not to teach their kids to lie.

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