All over the world there are kids having their hearts broken at this time of the year, as they discover a cache of wrapped gifts in the basement or closet, and their parents decide to tell them the truth about Santa Claus.
But that raises the question: When is the best time to let your children in on the secret? The answer will obviously vary from family to family, and even child to child. Yet the truth has to come out at some point - and as they say about sex - it's better your kids hear it from you than from peers in the schoolyard. There will be less chance of your little one feeling foolish and even betrayed by his parents. "Why didn't you tell me!"
You can offer your comments below, but here is my story.
I can honestly say that I never lied to my kids about Santa Claus. Now let me explain, before you accuse me of being like the misguided mom on "Miracle on 34th Street," who told her daughter that Santa was a myth. From the earliest years, my wife and I told our boys that Santa Claus was a nickname for St. Nicholas, who is now in heaven with God. As a saint, he is able to move around the world pretty quickly on December 24th and spread the Christmas spirit. When they got older and asked how St. Nicholas got down the chimney and knew what everyone wanted, we would simply say that God has a way of making every child happy on his own birthday. Jesus is really the one who gives the gifts.
OK, maybe we're a little legalistic and theologically scrupulous. But we come by it honestly. I distinctly remember, when my mother told me the truth about Santa Claus, that I felt I had been lied to. It took a while to get over, and I began wondering what else my parents had not been quite truthful about. Of course, my mom described it as a "white lie," meaning it was well-intended and harmless. But at 9 years old, I didn't see such distinctions.
So while I would not deny my children the joy of Santa and the hidden gifts, I also would spare them the shock of a "white lie." Thus, I told my 9 year old last summer because I didn't want him to be the only 5th grader who didn't know about Santa. I imagined I saw the "you lied to me" look in his eyes and I quickly explained that his mom and I had always told the truth about Santa and St. Nicholas. We never said he came down the chimney, and we always said it was by the love of Jesus that the gifts are delivered. My 6-year-old will hear the same story when he is 9 - if his brother doesn't tell him before then.
Are my kids better off for all my efforts at honesty? Maybe, maybe not. What do you think?
Write down your own "Secret Santa" story. What should we tell our kids, and when?