For a child who grows up with annual Christmas celebrations, believing in Santa is everything. I mean, what else really matters more than Santa? This dude is in complete control of the holiday gift haul even though he's never been seen in the flesh. And thoughts of the big man in red don't fade when the tree is tossed and the ornaments are packed away. Being "good" is a year-round effort. Everyone wants to make the "nice" list. Badly.
And then there comes a day when dreams are shattered because the truth about Santa Claus is revealed, and it feels like you've spent the majority of your childhood as a well-behaved fool. That realization sucks a whole lot. For most kids, it's probably the first major disappointment they experience in life. While it's also a good thing to officially become a big kid and enter each Christmas season with complete awareness of where Christmas presents actually come from, it's also pretty wonderful to hold onto that naive belief as long as possible. I certainly did.
I believed in Santa until I was a full-blown tween. I'm an only child, so I didn't have any mean older siblings to ruin it for me (aside from my imaginary older brother, but he would never do such a thing. More on him another time). I had friends and evil classmates who tried to reveal the truth before I was ready to hear it, but I either told them they were wrong, or I pretended to go along with it. It wasn't until I was outside one day trudging through the snow in my driveway when I saw a gift in the backseat of my dad's car that I would really question Santa's existence. The gift was given to my cousin on Christmas morning "from Santa," and I was forced into the mature understanding that the North Pole's jolly, Christmas-loving, toy-making inhabitants weren't real. I knew the day would come, but I guess I just didn't want to let go. When my parents took me out to breakfast a few days later and broke the news, I was definitely sad, but also prepared.
I was the oldest person to believe in Santa out of everyone I know. My parents don't have any regrets about keeping the lie going for so long, and I don't regret being a late bloomer. I don't feel like I was tricked, because I understand why they did it. Christmas, for Santa believers, is the most magical time of year. And here are all the reasons why it's cool to be a late Santa believer like I was.
1. Because who would really want to destroy that level of happiness?
I know how much my face lit up when the neighbors first started putting up Christmas lights. I know how excited I would get to write my letter to Santa, and how much fun I had listening to the same Christmas songs over and over. I was a pretty happy child throughout the year, but I was happy times infinity from Thanksgiving to Christmas. What parent wouldn't want to see their child happy? And what parent would choose to prematurely let that happiness fade?
2. Because life is filled with plenty of letdowns as it is.
I've heard the argument, "well, they might as well learn the truth now because the real world is full of disappointments and they should be prepared." I get it, I really really do. However, regardless of when a kid learns the truth about Santa, their life will contain setbacks because, well, that's just life. So why start early? For me, I feel like it was easier to absorb the blow as a tween than it would've been as a child. Especially if others around me still believed and I did not.
3. Because toys are powerful motivational tools.
In an ideal world, every kid would learn the difference between right and wrong, and they would behave in a manner that reflects that awareness, without the promise of a gift or punishment. Toys probably shouldn't be used as a way to make a child behave as they should anyway, blah blah blah. For me though? It WORKED. If I knew I could get a shiny new Matchbox car if I got to bed on time and not a few minutes late? I hustled to make that happen. Toys just make it easier to drive those lessons home. And those stick with people long after their belief in Santa has disappeared. I don't behave like a good human being in order to get toys anymore, because now it's just my natural behavior. But I will buy myself a shiny new toy if I feel I deserve it. So there's that.
4. Because sometimes it's just more fun to be naive.
I know, I know, I know. We should all be fully educated and aware of everything that's happening around us. But when I watch the news as an adult and I see the hate and the violence that occurs each day, I'm jealous of my younger self and how the only thing I had to worry about was avoiding a lump of coal in my stocking. The real world is so much scarier than a single lump of coal, you guys.
5. Because I want my kids to have the same cherished Christmas memories that I have.
I want to see my kid's face light up when he/she opens gifts from "Santa." I want to watch them write a letter to him explaining why they deserve a spot on the nice list. I want them to experience what it means to believe in something — because there's nothing stronger than hope. I want them to know that just because other people tell them something that hurts their feelings, that doesn't mean they need to listen. I want to see them learning the difference between right and wrong, even if the promise of new Matchbox cars is what gets them to do so. I want to be the one to tell them the truth, and I want them to be old enough and wise enough to handle it. I want them to enjoy the magic of Christmas as long as possible, because at some point this holiday becomes less about magic and more about money. But most of all, I want them to have fun every December for the rest of their lives, even if it's just remembering the days when they believed in old Saint Nick.
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