10 Holiday Controversies

What Do We Tell the Kids About Santa Claus?
Two kids wait for Santa to come down the chimney, circa 1950s. Some people think teaching children to believe in Santa undermines parents' credibility. George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images

For decades, people have been arguing over whether it's good parenting to tell their kids that Santa Claus comes down the chimney bringing presents for good little girls and boys. The naysayers assert you should never lie to your kids. It ruins your credibility and trustworthiness. It's fine to bring Santa into your home via movies, books and the like, they say, as long as you tell your tots that Santa is just a made-up character in a story.

Those on the "pro" side note that young children believe in many fantasy figures such as fairies, monsters and superheroes, so adding Santa Claus to the mix is really no different. Believing in Jolly Old St. Nick is also a tradition stretching back generations for many; if belief didn't harm them, their parents or grandparents, say the Santa supporters, why would it be harmful for kids today? Most kids realize Santa is a fake by the time they're 7 or 8 years old anyway, and walk away unscathed [sources: Brown, Johnson]. Plus, Santa is everywhere at Christmastime, and the source of much joy. Why would you want to deprive kids of that?

The public radio show "This American Life" did an episode featuring a family that somehow convinced their children Santa was real even into their early teens. Needless to say, the kids were a bit traumatized to hear the truth. But that's the exception to the rule, right?