Should I lie to my children about Father Christmas?

chocolate santa

Like most non-parents, before I had my children, I had some pretty strong opinions about how I was going to parent my future children. I remember sitting in my neighbour’s lounge, 9 months pregnant with my first son, saying to her:

“I will never let him watch In the Night Garden. What a ridiculous programme!”

Well ha bloody ha ha! By the time he was 1 year old, Night Garden had become a part of our bedtime routine. He wouldn’t commence bath and story time until CBeebies had actually told him it was time to go to bed. So much for my pre-parent parenting plans.

Another topic on which my pre-parent self had strong opinions was about telling my children the truth. I told anyone who would listen that I would never lie to my children. And that included “lying” to them about the existence of Father Christmas.

I saw an article on Netmums recently saying that researchers have found that “the lie of Santa can actually be damaging”. Now, pre-parent me would have been nodding vigorously to this. I had long conversations with my mother-in-law about how I wouldn’t be telling “the Santa lie” to my children because it would be a betrayal. She understandably disagreed with my thoughts on this.

I worried that if I lied about this one thing, then once they found out the truth they would never trust anything I had taught them. Especially if it was anything that needed to be taken on pure faith without any proof. However, post-parent me feels a bit different.

The thing is, I never truly believed in Santa Claus as a child, but I still went to his grotto every year. My family never went out of their way to convince me he’s real, but they still sometimes gave me gifts from “Santa”. I enjoyed playing the game. It didn’t matter to me whether he was real; it was just fun to imagine he was. I never told them I didn’t believe because I was afraid that would be the end of the fun stuff. I’m sure they knew that I didn’t believe, but none of us cared.

So as my eldest son grew old enough to understand the concept of Father Christmas, I found I couldn’t resist teaching him about the Christmas customs. Soon, I was shamelessly “telling the lie”. I’ve enjoyed getting family pictures at Santa’s Grotto. I’ve loved teaching my son Christmas carols. One of his faves is “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. Last year, on Christmas Eve, we even put out mince pies, brandy and a carrot for the reindeer. The brandy was large and the carrot was very, very small.

This year we’ve kicked it up a notch and he’s written his first letter to Santa, which we actually sent off in the post.

Letter to Santa

So, as with Night Garden, I’ve done a complete 180 degree parenting turn.

The thing is: I’m not sure if it’s really lying. How is it any different from telling any other imaginative story or playing a game of pretend? And importantly, my son hasn’t questioned it yet. The closest he’s gotten is, when listening to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, he asked how Santa can see him when he’s sleeping. I just said “magic” and he was happy with that.

The real test will be if he starts asking more serious questions about whether Santa actually exists. This is where I will draw the line. I don’t care to go out of my way to propagate the fantasy, but at the same time, I don’t want to outright say Santa doesn’t exist. If I told him this, he might ruin it for his friends, and no one is going to thank me for that.

So my plan is to explain that believing in Father Christmas is a game we all love to play in order to make Christmas more fun. That’s why we do it, right? Because it’s fun?

I’m going to tell him that nobody knows for absolute certain that he doesn’t exist, but that it doesn’t matter. The idea is that it’s fun to believe – just like when we pretend to be cats or Pontipines (oh yes, being a Pontipine is a popular pastime in my house). And I will remind him that it’s important not to tell other people if we don’t believe he’s real, because it will ruin the fun.

There may not be a literal jolly fat bearded man hanging out at the North Pole forcing elves to make toys. But the idea of it is a positive way to fuel our children’s imaginations. Just look at all the fantastic books and films that use this popular myth to create a new and different story. It’s a quintessential part of our culture.

So even if Father Christmas doesn’t exist in the real world, he will always exist in our imaginations. Without him, Christmas wouldn’t be half as much fun. And that’s the absolute truth.

Petite Pudding
Two Tiny Hands

Author: The Mum Reviews

Writing about women's health and wellness (especially for mums) as I try to stay sane in my crazy life.

22 thoughts on “Should I lie to my children about Father Christmas?”

  1. I’m similar. Not that I had planned to not tell my son about Father Christmas before I’d always assumed I would but then I did think again after reading the research. I think it misses something though. Sure it’s not the same as other pretend things, in that you aren’t acknowledging it’s pretend. But that’s the best bit about it. That the magic of Father Christmas might actually be real. I’ve never met anyone in real life who is disturbed by this “lie”. I’m pretty sure that’s not the deciding factor in if you trust your parents or not! #EatBlogSleepRT

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think you hit it on the head when you said it is a quintessential part of culture. My kids celebrate the Sinterklaas festival (Dutch) and Christmas as we are a bicultural family. This year my eldest 10 has discussed with me how he doesn’t believe anymore but he is keeping up the act for his little brother. I never said it was/wasn’t real but I said he has to make up his own mind! Thank you for linking up to #EatSleepBlogRT 🌟

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Really interesting – someone once mentioned to me about not doing the Santa thing and I just thought they were party poopers…now I can understand why they did it. Also the tooth fairy. I know its all harmless enough really but there is something slightly worrying about it all. Maybe it would be wonderful to tell our kids its us buying the presents because we love them – might teach more lessons about gratitude and appreciation also.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That has also been a factor for me. That kids should know parents work hard for all their presents! But I seem to be able to impress that on them at other times so I think I can relinquish the credit once a year 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I saw the same post on Netmums… I believe it was originally from The Telegraph maybe? I was talking about it with a fellow Mama today actually!! I think it is letting children be children and weaving magic and imagination into their lives… #letthembelittle springs to mind!! If it is a ‘lie’ where is the line drawn as you say with playtime and other fantasy genres of culture?! And religion for that matter!! Belief and hope and magic and mystery are all part of surviving humanity and being a happy individual! ❤ Bring on Santa!! X

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Im writing a similar post about the magic of Christmas as i had planned to anyway after reading the article in The Telegraph… can I tag your page in it so people can read your take on the subject too?! Its definitely a hot one right now! ❤


      2. I totally did not see this and have published but will amend fo sho and send you the link on Twitter! (Genuinely thought you might be mad for me posting a similar topic!) silly me ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  5. My daughter is too young to understand Santa yet, but I’ve thought about how I’ll handle it when she’s older – like you, I have mixed feelings about it, but I’ll probably encourage her to believe. The magic only last for a few years before they work it out, and it really does make the holiday so special. My parents left bits of carrot outside and said they were leftovers from Santa’s reindeer, and I remember that just totally blew my little mind.

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  6. so funny that I linked up after you with #familyfun as my post is on the same topic, it is about me telling my daughter Santa isn’t real. I agree though, my younger two still believe and it wouldn’t be half as much fun as a parent or as a kid without believe being in Santa #familyfun


  7. The thing we’ve discovered as our’s has got older is that Santa is such a massive part of our culture that it makes little difference what we decide as parents!

    We pretty much ignored santa until our oldest went to school and I don’t think we ever encouraged him to believe but he absolutely does! I think he sees it a bit like religion- some people believe and some don’t!



  8. I think it’s great to add a little magic into our children lives. Let’s face it, it’s going to be ripped away when they reach adulthood. #familyfun


  9. Yes it’s totally magical and fun all rolled into one!! I’ll be stealing this concept when I have to in a fair few (I hope) years time!! Thanks for linking up to #familyfun

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh interesting, I do think if thought about this in great enough detail. I never believed in santa and it was never a big deal in our house so I’ve always thought I wanted to do Christmas in over drive for my children. I want them to get excited about him leave the mince pies out etc the whole Shabang. They’re not old enough yet so we haven’t started all the traditions but you’ve certainly given me food for thought here. Thanks for sharing at #familyfun xx

    Liked by 1 person

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