My daughter Lauren wrote a letter to Santa in which she asked him for nothing - just a letter to say what a cool guy she thinks he is. It has a few misspellings and a grammar error or two and it's not written with the greatest penmanship. And it's completely adorable. In it she asks Santa to write her back and she handed it to me with the request to see that Santa gets it. I reassured her that I would fly to the North Pole and hand deliver it if I had to. She's nine years old, ten in May. She's on the cusp of disillusionment with the harshness of the world. I'd like her innocence to last forever but accept the inevitability of it all. I'll write a return letter from her good friend Santa but worry that when she shows it to her friends that they'll be unkind about it - tell her she's been hoodwinked or worse, lied to. It kinda breaks my heart.

Ten Replies to How Old Is Too Old For Santa Claus?

Jackie Mason | November 29, 2009
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Lori Lancaster | November 29, 2009
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Scott Hardie | November 29, 2009
Santa always wrote in my mom's handwriting on the gift tag, so I knew where the presents under the tree came from, but I still went along with the apparent existence of Santa because kids don't question what's all around them. Adults don't really do it either – the man we know as Barack Obama could be a complete fiction, but it would never occur to you or me to question his entire existence – but adults are more critical of things like how Santa could personally deliver presents to millions of houses in a matter of hours. The realization of that mathematical impossibility is what made me first question Santa's existence. (The realization that I was being a boastful little snot upon figuring it out was what helped me become more humble today, I hope.)

I would really love to see Americans become a more critical people, and start asking harder questions about the lies and distortions they're fed regularly. That kind of thinking needs to be taught in childhood. And yet, even I'm not quick to dismiss the comforting illusion that Santa provides. You can't believe in that kind of magic when you're older, so it's nice to enjoy it for a little while, and to be part of a rite of passage shared by kids everywhere.

I knew of a man determined not to lie to his kids about Santa, but who couldn't bring himself to spoil the magic either. When they asked him whether Santa was real, he answered, "Do you believe in him? As long as you believe in him, then he's real to you." That didn't work forever, but it worked long enough.

Scott Hardie | November 29, 2009
And for the record about my Obama example: Yes, there are some who question the validity of his birth certificate or legal qualifications for office. Those people are treated as conservative wingnuts grasping at straws, and that's probably fair. In my hypothetical, I'm not talking about where or when he was born, I'm talking about his entire existence being pretense, about there being no such man. It's a stretch, but I hope it illustrates my point.

Steve West | November 29, 2009
My dilemma is not in her continued belief in a fictional character but in her loss of faith in the world. What kind of society are we a part of that deliberately lies to our children and justifies it by romanticizing it into a nice story? Santa stories aren't unique to the USA, of course. I just dread her reaction to the notion that she was lied to for the longest time. I'll go through the explanations that Santa is a concept that every parent aspires to be etc., and I don't have great fears of any long-term emotional scars or anything dramatic like that. She's just so sweet. I'm really just mourning her soon to be loss of innocence.

Scott Hardie | November 29, 2009
You're on to something. Even if it's part of innocent holiday cheer and a rite of passage that everyone goes through, there's still something fundamentally damaging about lying to children.

Growing up, I sometimes felt like there was something odd about our family that others knew and weren't telling me, but I figured that everyone questions the possibility of skeletons in the closet and I didn't worry about it. Then when I was 18, I learned that I had a brother that no one had told me about. After learning this secret and others, I developed a recurring paranoia that leads me to doubt, even if only a little, everything that loved ones tell me. Normally I wouldn't think that my mother was capable of re-marrying without telling me, but she and her boyfriend dance around the subject when asked, and there is that new ring on her finger...

This strays kind of far from what you're saying about Lauren, and I agree that she probably won't suffer any significant harm from learning about the lie. But that she should suffer any at all is unfortunate and unnecessary.

Steve West | November 29, 2009
That's it exactly, Scott. Lori and Jackie offered good advice and support, thanks, but I wasn't clear enough at first. I'm more like "Cue, Mr. Henley. Mr. Henley to the set, please."

Amy Austin | December 23, 2009
Maybe these friends of mine can help you feel a little less guilty about your little lies...

It's a little hard not to lie when it's this entertaining, lol.

camera one

camera two


Tony Peters | December 23, 2009
wait a minute santa's not real?

Jackie Mason | December 24, 2009
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