SPOILER ALERT! In a time when many are feeling austerity, is it still a good idea to perpetuate the myth of Santa Claus – a man outside the reality of economics who brings free gifts to children around the world?
Many will instantly say I’m killing the magic, yet do hear me out. Having taken Scrooge flak for my ‘Ban unnecessary Christmas presents’ campaign – which I strongly believe in – I’m far less concrete on this. These are initial mullings – but I’d love your views.
This all started when someone tweeted me the intriguing question:
"Why does Santa give more expensive gifts to rich children?"
Indeed, it’s a puzzling one. The legend of Father Christmas states that the better behaved you are, the better the presents you get. However the reality doesn’t live up to that. Saintly little Sally from a struggling family gets less than nasty Nick, whose parents are wealthy. This risks moral hazard.
Now, I’m not a Christian, it’s not my faith, so it wouldn’t to be right to discuss the practical celebrations of those of that faith. Instead, please see this as a dialogue about those celebrating Christmas who are primarily secular.
Would it not be better to give hardworking parents the credit?
The fact that mummy and/or daddy are paying, not a mythical being, could actually be an important lesson for children.
- It lets you manage expectations when times are tight.
- It lets children understand money is a scarce resource and cost matters.
- It explains why other children may get more or less.
- It shows parents care – and allows gifts to be seen as deserved, proportionate and done out of love and caring – rather than letting a mythical being take the credit.
A neat halfway house many use to spin this with their children without busting the reality of Santa, is that they contribute to Santa to help get the presents. On balance, I think this is the way forward.
I put this issue to my Twitter and Facebook followers. Here are some of their comments:
- "I had a conversation with my son the other day, he asked why Santa didn’t give children in Africa presents, it made me feel sad"
- "Mummy buys and wraps the presents and sends them by magic airmail and Santa delivers them back on Christmas Eve! She’s nine years old"
- "I use a photo of you photoshopped onto Santa, so the kids think Santa is tight ;-)"
- "Terrible idea. Where’s the magic in that!"
- "It’s become particularly difficult this year, stockings will not be as stuffed! Told seven-year-old Santa’s feeling the recession too!"
- "Mine are nine and seven and this Christmas will be the start of Operation Phase Santa OUT!"
- "Nope, we build up the magic of Christmas and why not? Christmas spirit costs nothing!!!"
- From a rabbi: "More complicated for us! Nursery gave gift from Father Christmas. Toddler told it was from nursery for Christmas/Chanukah."
- "My parents used to say that Santa bought stocking fillers, whereas they provided the rest."
- "So Santa is basically running a protection racket? Pay for these presents or your kids will cry?"
- "How about educating your children to be grateful for whatever they receive rather than spoiling the magic?"
- "I tell them I contribute. I take on an extra Christmas job to pay for it. Kids need to be realistic in what they ask for"
- "Single parent here and I don’t want someone taking the credit for my hard work!"
- "No! Money is not mentioned! How cold! Let innocent kids stay innocent. Can’t believe how selfish people are taking the credit."
- "Rich kids may get more because their mums and dads may of worked harder to get where they are."
- "Junior is nine and this year I have tried to break the Santa myth (we’re in an IVA) and made clear that we supply the presents. Harsh?"
So do help me out here. Is it time to end the ‘Santa as present-giver’ myth – or perhaps at least tweak it? Do let me know your thoughts…