Money Mic: Why I’m Glad My Dad Told Me Santa Didn’t Exist


Money Mic: Why I'm Glad My Parents Never Let Me Believe in SantaIn our LV Moms’ Money Mic series, we hand over the podium to people with controversial views about money and parenthood. These views are theirs, not ours, but we look forward to opening up the floor for discussion. 

Last time, we introduced you to two moms who shared their views on working while having children and being a stay-at-home mom. This time, one writer shares why her dad came clean about Santa from the beginning, and why she’s so glad he did, now that she’s an adult.

Aside from the financial burdens of the holiday season, it’s a cheerful time of year. I love the smell of Christmas trees and gingerbread, the sound of children laughing and playing with new toys, and the authentic joy that comes from being surrounded by the people you love most. I find it all magical.

Well, all except for that magical creature parents everywhere tell their kids about: Santa Claus.

In fact, in a recent poll, 69% of parents said that children should believe in Santa.

My dad would beg to differ.

The Truth Comes Out

The first year I was able to understand the concept of Christmas I was about 4, and my mother tried valiantly to sell me on the idea of Santa. She pointed to our non-working fireplace and said, “Santa is going to drop down from there with presents for you.”

My father stood quietly behind her, shaking his head. That night when he tucked me in, I asked him how Santa would fit down our broken chimney. “Yeah, your mother seems to like that story,”  he said, simply.

I didn’t have to ask what he meant—from then on we both knew that I knew the truth.

Would You Tell Your Kid Santa Doesn’t Exist?

What side of the Santa debate are you on? Would you consider telling your young child the truth?

Dad wasn’t a Grinch or a Scrooge, but he did have a no lying policy that he took very seriously. I was glad that my dad’s policy extended to telling me Santa didn’t exist. That way I never had to deal with the disappointment of finding out that he didn’t. Knowing from the very beginning actually made Christmas mornings even better. And, a year or so later, we let my mom in on our little secret, too.

The year I was 6, I remember waking up to find a big, beautiful dollhouse—and I didn’t labor under the delusion that it had been constructed by elves, or express-shipped via sleigh. I knew my parents had stayed up all night making it just for me … and all that effort on my behalf made me feel loved.

Why No Santa Made Sense to Me

And there was another reason not believing in Santa hit close to home.

I grew up in the Bay area, and we didn’t have a lot. What my parents did have was divided amongst me and my three older brothers—but, even so, we still had more than some of my friends.

One example was my friend Jason. He lived just down the street from us, and our parents were friends. Jason’s mom worked at the local corner store and his father was disabled, so the family really had to scrimp.

To keep him in line throughout the year, his mother used to say to Jason, who was a nice, well-behaved boy: “Santa knows if you’ve been bad or good!”

The same year I received my big, beautiful dollhouse, Jason got a puzzle and some clothes his mother had sewn by hand. After returning to school from break, I watched as he watched our classmates show off all the things they’d asked for and received from Santa.

I don’t know how he rationalized a biased Santa in his mind—one who gave him more meager gifts than his wealthier classmates, even though he was a good boy—but it did teach me something: I was glad I knew that what arrived on Christmas morning had little to do with a mythical man deciding whether I was bad or good. I think Jason might have had a different picture of Christmas if he knew, too.

A Different Take on Christmas

These days, I look around and see parents nearly killing themselves to buy all the things they want their kids to have, then turning around and giving the credit to a guy who doesn’t exist. I’m left wondering: Does this minimize a child’s ability to connect gratitude to where it belongs, with their family?

My experiences with Christmas growing up gave me an understanding of the value of a dollar, and the amount of work that goes into making it. Sure, I wished my parents had had more money so I could have had more stuff (what 6-year-old doesn’t want more stuff?), but I appreciated their sacrifices and was grateful for what we did have, and especially all the effort they put into making me happy.

We may or may not be actually harming our children by letting them believe in some highly materialistic fantasy, but especially in this economy, reality is a much-needed thing. Being realistic about the sacrifices being made in order to celebrate is a gift in itself.

I believe there’s great value in placing the focus where it belongs during the holidays—on charity, love and family. When I have children, I intend to debunk any myth that suggests otherwise, whether it’s Santa … or the Easter Bunny.

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Aja Cooper is a 30 year-old publicist from the San Francisco Bay Area. She works at a social marketing and education firm located in Oakland, California and is a Graduate of San Jose State University.

  • MomOf2

    Thank you for sharing.  We’re going against mainstream in what we teach our children about Christmas, and Santa.  We hate the funny (and sometimes demeaning) looks that we get sometimes, but our hope is that one day our girls will also appreciate our honesty, and the true meaning of Christmas.

  • Rita

    My Boyfriend’s parents never told him there was a Santa Claus either, his mom didn’t want to lie to him. I thought it was the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard. 

  • Anonymous

    You make a VERY good point when you say that parents are “nearly killing themselves to buy all the things they want their kids to have, then turning around and giving the credit to a guy who doesn’t exist.”  Parents do deserve the credit for buying gifts and children should know that their parents love them enough to give them something extra special at Christmas.

  • Sharon

    I, too, skipped Santa in our holiday traditions.  My youngest thinks she is SO COOL because she is in on the secret and the other kids aren’t.  One of my bigger problems with the Santa concept was letting my girls believe that less fortunate kids woke to a wonderful Christmas just like them.  If we want others to have a nice Christmas too, we have to be willing to give and help out.  Not everyone is fortunate enough to get presents this time of year.  My girls and I try to change that fact for one child every year, thereby becoming Santa’s ourselves.

  • Shin5katori

    I believe in Santa even now, but I also knew Santa didn’t bring my presents from as far back as I can remember.  I believe in Santa as the editor of the Sun advised Virginia; as a symbol of good will and generosity.  My grandmother wrote “from Santa” on presents at her house and of course I recognized her handwriting and I guess the logistics of the whole thing didn’t add up but my mother never sat me down and told me “Santa doesn’t exist.”  She also never told me “Be good or Santa will know,” either.  She did eat the cookies we left out as well as the carrot for the reindeer and always left us a note.  That was magical and it was fun and it in no way lessened my appreciation for the presents I knew she and my father made and purchased for us.

  • Denise

    When my nephew was little, he told the children in his Sunday School class that Santa is dead.  I guess that upset the others, but it shouldn’t have for children raised by Christian parents.  There was a Saint Nicholas, but he was just a man.  Jesus is what Christmas is really all about.  I didn’t grow up believing in Santa either, but Christmas has always been my favorite holiday anyway because of Christ’s birth.

  • Suziem85

    I echo the sentiments of Shin5katori. I believe in Santa as a symbol of kindness, goodwill, and generosity. There is nothing wrong with believing in that beautiful ideal. I think some people truly miss the point. Maybe the physical Santa doesn’t exist. But for me, Santa isn’t just a jolly fat man with a white beard who brings presents every year and has eight reindeer pulling his sleigh. Those are just his symbols. Anyone can embody the principles or spirit of Santa. Believing in Santa is like believing in Krishna. On some level, both of these entities DO exist. They are archetypes that speak deeply to the human psyche. I believe both Santa and Krishna are avatars of a higher power, being mythologically reincarnated and adapted into a new era and culture. But those ideals are still alive and well. The story of Santa Claus was taught to us as children because it was an easier way for us to understand the ideals of goodwill and generosity at a young age. This is partially why we read fairy tales to kids. Even if we as adults cannot properly show children what it means to be generous, we have a tool to help us. Fairy tales are myths, but they contain important concepts that children need to learn in order to grow into psychologically healthy individuals. The author says that she’s glad her dad told her the truth at a young age because as a child, she didn’t have to rationalize a biased Santa as she imagined her classmate did. I don’t think you give your old classmate much credit in his reasoning abilities. I didn’t have to rationalize a biased Santa either because by the time I had that level of rationalization skills, I knew my parents were buying my gifts and I was grateful for & cherished every gift, whether it was marked From Santa or From Mom & Dad.

    All that being said, I have a slight bone to pick with some who pride themselves on telling their kids “the truth” about Santa. The author of the article writes: ‘These days, I look around and see parents nearly killing themselves to buy all the things they want their kids to have, then turning around and giving the credit to a guy who doesn’t exist.’ That’s all well and good and I understand that sentiment. However, it could just as easily be said that people are nearly killing themselves at their jobs so they can buy a lot of stuff they don’t need, attain wealth, prestige, promotions, etc., all the while wondering… “who and what am I doing this for, and who is getting the credit?” For a spiritual or religious person, many believe in some form of God or higher power and many give God the credit for what comes from their hard work and dedication, yet some say God doesn’t exist either. So where do you draw the line at telling kids what’s real and what’s not? (If the author is an atheist, that would explain a lot.)

  • Allison

    I also never believed in Santa Claus and I’m so grateful to my parents for that. In addition to all the great points the author makes, I would add that I think people underestimate the repercussions of lying to their children. I know in this case it’s done in the spirit of making the holidays more magical, and that is a noble goal, but if I had found out when I was 8 or 9 that my parents had been lying to me over and over again for years, I would never have truly trusted them again. Maybe some kids get over it just fine, but it would have changed my relationship with them entirely.