We play Santa at our house. We love him and enjoy him and talk about him and sing songs about him. We watch tv shows about him and talk about our gifts from him. We sometimes take our children to see the Santa at the mall and have their pictures taken with him.
But we do not lie about him.
My kids know that Santa is a legend, and they love the legend. It's fun and (generally) benevolent. And who doesn't love presents on Christmas?
I know some parents pretend Santa is real and then let their kids figure out the mystery. I don't do that because it would involve lying to my children, and lying only for the reason of tricking them so I can watch them think Santa is real. It seems unkind, and runs contrary to my policy of modeling the virtue of honesty for my kids by being honest with them.
There is lots of fun in Santa, and letting kids in on the truth doesn't make it any less fun for them. The magic of Santa is still there, even if you acknowledge that it is indeed . . . only magic.
In 1897, Virginia O'Hanlon wrote to the editor of The New York Sun:
Unfortunately, that popular answer represents and advocates an utterly mystical worldview -- one where man is low, little, helpless -- one where the universe of science is barren, while what is really real and truly valuable is hidden behind the veil of the supernatural, accessible only by faith and feelings. It is a sustained attack on reality and reason, including the genuine spiritual values important to human life.
Several years back, after seeing the Sun's response printed yet again, I thought about my young nieces and nephews and wondered what better answer to Virginia I might send their way if the issue ever arose. Looking around the web, nothing I found fit the bill. Everything was either not focusing on the positive orientation to reason and reality that would be healthy, or was downright mean-spirited and sometimes even destructive (as with those that urge Virginia to nurture thoughts of Santa as a vicious myth and to sue her lying parents for deep psychic wounds caused by such child abuse).
So I decided to try my hand at an answer: Same length, similar style and language, equivalent unapologetic advocacy of a worldview (but a healthy one this time) -- ostensibly directed to a child in that age, but really designed to spark adult understanding in any age.