Defending Santa

How do parents respond when their child questions the existence of the jolly old fellow?

My little girl came home from school in tears this week after a classmate said to her Santa Claus isn't real. To my fantasy-immersed imaginative 6-year-old, this was the worst thing someone could have said, and when she told me the story of the conversation she just couldn't stop crying, so of course I cried, too. To top it all off, our Elf on the Shelf, Buddy, didn't move over night, and that added to her distress that something was terribly wrong.

Amidst the sadness, I internally panicked. Was I going to end her childhood by saying the wrong thing? In an effort to stall a definitive answer, I gave her a hug and told her that many people do not believe in Santa Claus, and muttered something about how the magic of Christmas is part of what makes the holiday so fun and special. After settling her down for an after-school snack and TV show, I ran to Google how to discuss Santa with your kids.

I sought wisdom from several sources:

A Ministry-to-Children.com Think Tank where several children's ministers chime in on a particular topic every publication.

1. If parents might by putting too much weight in Santa "watching to see if you're naughty or nice" make him sound like a deity. Be wary of giving Santa Jesus-like qualities.

2. Let the child take the lead, and find out what he or she thinks about the opinions of their peers before addressing the topic.

3. Pastor Wayne Stocks shared, "I never want to leave my kids in a position where they can say ‘Dad said Santa was true and I don’t believe that anymore so maybe I shouldn’t believe what he says about Jesus either.’” I think the key to avoiding this is living Christ out in front of them as much as possible. Santa drops off some packages once a year and brings temporary happiness. Christ changes lives and brings us eternal joy."

"Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus", an editorial in New York’s The Sun, written by Francis Pharcellus Church—while the article was originally written for an 8-year-old girl in 1897, the message still warms the heart:

“Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.”

The Truth About Santa- A letter that mom Martha Brockenbrough wrote to her daughter, gently explaining the reality of Santa's identity and tradition. It has since been shared online and gone viral:

“Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe: in yourself, in your friends, in your talents and in your family. You’ll also need to believe in things you can’t measure or even hold in your hand. Here, I am talking about love, that great power that will light your life from the inside out, even during its darkest, coldest moments.”

When I returned from my Santa cram session, my daughter had already written a letter to Santa telling him what happened:

"Dear Santa,

My friend thinx you do not exist.
I thinx you do.
And my elf Buddy did not moov today. Why?

Love, Cailyn"

She brought it over to the shelf where Buddy had been sitting and asked him to hand deliver her note to Santa Claus. That night, armed with advice from my Google experts, and a few cookies for inspiration, I wrote what I thought the big man would say. The next morning, lying beside our elf, in his new location, there was a letter waiting. It read:

My Dear Little Sugar Plum,

I am so sorry to hear that you were upset yesterday when your classmate told you what she thought about me. I never want a child to cry, especially because of me.

It's hard to know what to believe when you hear opposing stories from different people. Here is what I can tell you about believing: Belief has kept me alive. I'm just a jolly old man who has lived well beyond his years delivering toys without any aches and pains of age, except maybe a bigger belly from years of eating Christmas cookies. Without belief from families around the world, I would be no longer.

Believing in something you cannot see is magical. It makes the world full of possibility, where fairies can live unseen in our gardens, angels can protect us, elves can report to the North Pole every night and be home by breakfast, reindeer can fly around the world, and we can live happily ever after with our family in heaven. Believing gives us imagination, hope, and faith.

But Cailyn, believing in something or someone is a personal decision. I am very proud of you for standing up for your beliefs when your classmate challenged them. You are a strong little girl, and that pure heart will serve you well in life. Stay true to what's in your heart, no matter what others might say; it will always tell you the truth. So above all, believe in yourself.

Oh, and about Buddy the Elf; everyone needs a break once in a while. He just needed a night off, so I told him it was OK to stay put. He'll be back on his regular traveling schedule now that he has rested a bit. He says you and your sister have been very good girls, but just need to work on helping out your mother when she asks. She needs a break every once in a while, too.

With love,


I wish everyone could hold on to the magic in my child’s eyes when she read the letter. Seeing her face light up fuels my belief in the power of giving, and the spirit of Christmas. As long as my daughter believes, I’ll do my part to keep the magic of Christmas alive and well in our household. When she grows wise, I hope she understands my reasons for carrying on the tradition and joins me in creating the magic.


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