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← When the magic of reality collides with the magic of childhood

When the magic of reality collides with the magic of childhood - Comments

Niqi's Avatar Comment 1 by Niqi

That is the reason we chose years ago not to play the Santa game. We didn't make fake evidence, or tell the stories as though they are current. We explained it as a historical person who gave secretly to the poor - and in that spirit we have the kids each choose a gift to donate to a charity of their choice - sometimes it is a local family, sometimes it is livestock for a third world family. In this the joy they receive from giving is real and the spirit of father christmas is cherished and celebrated. No tears from not getting the gift they asked for, no questioning the "evidence" or trying to figure out the science of the supernatural.

Hope your child will not resent you for this hoax you played on him for years. Granted one that even NASA and the news perpetuate with false stories each year. The magic of the season need not be packaged in a red velvet suit with white beard.

Happy holidays to you and yours!

Fri, 09 Dec 2011 21:26:16 UTC | #897278

InYourFaceNewYorker's Avatar Comment 2 by InYourFaceNewYorker

Well, if he's already on the path to reason, he'll see how silly the idea of Santa Claus is once he's outgrown it. When I stopped believing in Santa Claus I started questioning the idea of God.

Fri, 09 Dec 2011 21:48:59 UTC | #897282

InYourFaceNewYorker's Avatar Comment 3 by InYourFaceNewYorker

Also, my parents didn't "introduce" Santa to me. They basically did the whole "don't encourage it, but don't forbid it either," which is the way to go.

Fri, 09 Dec 2011 21:49:44 UTC | #897283

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 4 by Alan4discussion

There's also the question of motivation - do children really want presents.

Personally I think a bit of make believe, gives children a chance to critically work it out for themselves as they mature. It's a bit like conjurers at children's parties. By the time they reach teens, most have reasoned that only gullibles think the conjuring tricks are real.

Fri, 09 Dec 2011 22:23:33 UTC | #897295

I'm_not's Avatar Comment 5 by I'm_not

This is not only brilliant but tells you why going along with the Santa story is not only OK but helps children become good skeptics

Rebecca Watson Skepticon 3 "How to Ruin Christmas"

Fri, 09 Dec 2011 22:39:36 UTC | #897302

78rpm's Avatar Comment 6 by 78rpm

Mark, your son will be OK, and pretty soon at that. Decades ago when my daughter was about that age, she lost a tooth, and my wife and I told her to be sure to put it under her pillow, and the Tooth Fairy would come and leave her some money. She eagerly put the tooth under her pillow that night. Later when my wife and I had gone to bed and turned out the lights, we remembered that we hadn't put anything under her pillow. I volunteered to get up and do it. I tiptoed in and saw that the kid was asleep, and put a few coins under the pillow. In the morning we asked her, "Well, did the Tooth Fairy leave you anything?" She answered, "No, but her husband did." She grew up fine---in fact it was she who gave me a copy of that hot-off-the-presses book, The God Delusion.

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 00:08:37 UTC | #897329

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 7 by QuestioningKat

I hated Santa Claus as a child.

My very first memory of Santa was traumatic; I was only two and a half. My father's friend knocked on the front door wearing one of those rubber Victorian Santa masks. My sister and I screamed and cried hysterically and hid behind the couch.

When my mother first took me to sit on Santa's lap in some dark arcade of a shopping center. I screamed again; I was terrified. His beard was obviously fake and I did not understand why I was supposed to sit on this stranger's lap. Another Christmas, my Mother tried again with the same results. She never took me to see Santa again. Of course, I was fairly young when I figured out the truth.

I never believed the stories about Santa. We didn't even have a fireplace. So one year I decided to hide out behind the couch and watch....

Here's my advice. You set up the evidence, now you need to teach him how to see through it. Just stop planting fake evidence.

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 00:23:01 UTC | #897334

chris 116's Avatar Comment 8 by chris 116

Comment 1 by Niqi

Hope your child will not resent you for this hoax you played on him for years.

My feeling is that he won't. I'm basing this on the fact that even the people I've known who blame their parents for most of their own shortcomings, have never mentioned Santa being an issue. I guess that some on this panel will contradict me but I'm going to stick my neck out and declare that the vast majority of kids grow up with fond memories of the deception.

The magic of the season need not be packaged in a red velvet suit with white beard.

This may be true, but most kids seem to love it, which is the main point of Christmas.

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 06:23:59 UTC | #897410

Mark Ribbands's Avatar Comment 9 by Mark Ribbands




78rpm: Your daughter sounds delightful. Isn’t it lovely when one’s children answer back like that? You can relax in the sure and certain knowledge that you have taught them the importance of irony. Your work is done. No harm can ever befall them now.

(Love the nickname BTW: I still have a wind-up ‘Dog and Trumpet’ gramophone and always play Spike Jones and other such esoteric ephemera at Christmas.)

Niqi and Julie: Yes, I understand your points. No offence please ladies, but it’s all a little too earnest for a facetious Englishman like me.

I make no apologies for the fact that I love messing about with my children (primarily to discover who is the more childlike), and if that includes teaching the important life skills of lying, deception and planting evidence, then so be it :)

QuestioningKat: I’m appalled to hear of your traumatic experiences with the bearded bloke in the red suit. I do hope you’ve got over it by now! Or do you still experience a strange feeling of unease when encountering one of his avatars? For me, it’s Headmasters’ studies: I can never pass one, or, heaven forfend, have to go into one, without experiencing an adrenalin rush and hearing ghostly swishing noises.

My Father Christmas story is that I once set a trap for him, at age seven, across my parents’ fireplace, using (incredibly by today’s standards) exposed live cabling wired to a 13A socket. (I was not hugely supervised in those days, and persistently played with mains appliances and power.) Sadly, the trap didn’t work.

Thanks, Chris 116: I concur. I’ve never come across any adult who has anything but fond memories of their parents’ childhood deception either.

Possibly the important distinction is that children are allowed to lose their belief in the story without parental or societal disapproval, and are certainly not expected to henceforth base their entire life on the ridiculous construct.

Although, that said, I have been known to write to Father Christmas requesting certain ‘presents’, but , outrageously, my girlfriend discovered the content and interrupted the Royal Mail, just in case. This year I’ll emulate Charles Darwin and use carrier pigeons instead.

But, say, a forty-year-old who still genuinely believes in Father Christmas would probably be judged in need of psychiatric help.

I look forward to the day when such a diagnosis would be applied to all adults who still believe in fairy tales.

Happy Christmas!

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 08:52:52 UTC | #897448

Marcus Small's Avatar Comment 10 by Marcus Small

In a way I still believe in Father Christmas, and lets be clear Father Christmas is a different person to Santa. Coming from a German family on my mother's side Father Christmas used to visit us on Christmas Eve. We would eagerly await his arrival gathered around the Christmas Tree, listening to German and and English carols. He would arrive, and after a brief ceremony which involved reading the Christmas story and putting figures in a crib, he would give out the presents.

There he was in front of my eyes. Later in childhood I twigged that Father Christmas was really Mr X from up the road.

So I know that Father Christmas is not real. However in my late teens I took part in a mummers play in which one of the characters was Father Christmas. He was very different to the red coated figure of popular culture. This character was almost a nature spirit, dressed in green and evergreen foliage, a spirit of mid winter. Then of course there was the green knight in the Gawain Poem, perhaps another kind of Father Christmas.

When I put together the magic of that childhood Christmas, with the magic, myth and feel of our northern midwinters, there is Father Christmas again, personifying it all.

Do I believe Father Christmas exists? No.

Do I believe in the ' magic' of Father Christmas? Maybe. If by magic I mean the enchantment I used to feel as a child. The enchantment I found in the stories and myths of midwinter. The enchantment I still receive from the landscape at this time of year.

What would it take to disenchant me? I cannot think that I would want to be disenchanted.

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 09:28:05 UTC | #897458

Geoff 21's Avatar Comment 11 by Geoff 21

Hi Mark, I'm charmed to hear it! and a scintillating Saturnalia to you!

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 10:44:00 UTC | #897480

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 12 by Schrodinger's Cat

Beta Reticulan #1 : " Hmm, do you think we should tell the Earthlings that that story we made up 2000 years ago was make believe ?"

Beta Reticulan #2 : " I'd say so. The galactic council says it's quite unusual for a species to still be believing that story in adolescence"

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 10:53:46 UTC | #897481

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 13 by Alan4discussion

Comment 10 by Marcus Small

Do I believe Father Christmas exists? No.

Do I believe in the ' magic' of Father Christmas? Maybe. If by magic I mean the enchantment I used to feel as a child. The enchantment I found in the stories and myths of midwinter. The enchantment I still receive from the landscape at this time of year.

We need to recognise that young children do not have the mental capability to understand the complexities of the universe, so need a certain amount of make-believe, until they mature enough to grow out of it.

It is unfortunate that due to determined retardation by indoctrination, some never develop a mature adult view, and then go on to inflict their woo on future generations.

We all like a bit of fantasy for entertainment (Hence Hollywood, TV and literature), but the ability to distinguish fact from fiction, and blurry areas of uncertainty, comes with maturity and experience.

Yule-tide greetings!

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 10:59:15 UTC | #897482

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 14 by AtheistEgbert

Comment 11 by Geoff 21 :

Hi Mark, I'm charmed to hear it! and a scintillating Saturnalia to you!

Ah yes, well researched Geoff. Although we atheists throw off God, it still seems that we are cultural Christians in celebrating Christmas. Personally I can't stand it, the commercialism and superficiality, but if it makes people happy, then so be it. It is funny that no matter how militant the atheist, the culture we've grown up in is far more difficult to shrug off.

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 11:41:04 UTC | #897490

Woodworm's Avatar Comment 15 by Woodworm

AtheistEgbert: Why do we need to shrug off the culture we have grown up in?

I have, through marriage, an Italian surname and I tend to say that Christmas is about as Christian as I am Italian - it has the name but most of what most people do for the festival has nothing to do with Christianity. Trees, misletoe, wine and food, red and green etc. are all relics of celebrations more to do with the shortest day of the year in a cold climate than the Middle Eastern import that currently gves the celebration its name. I love Christmas, not least because I think it is a festival intrinsically linked to where we live (the northern hemisphere and north enough to get cold and short days) and intrinsically part of the culture of where we live and in which I was brought up. I like to think of the peoples way, way back who celebrated at this time of year, and think of how they must have needed to, when they were about to enter the harshest time of the year when perhaps their livestock would die and their old and weak would die. Through it all, though, the days would get longer reminding them of the fact that that awful time would come to an end - and the heat would come back. An analogy for many things in life and a reminder that we should celebrate the good and remember to enjoy ourselves, even when things look bleak.

And just as I use my Italian name, I have no problem with the name "Christmas"!

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 12:21:50 UTC | #897498

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 16 by AtheistEgbert

Why do we need to shrug off the culture we have grown up in?

Because It is a superficial and unethical culture of self-destructive consumerism that ignores the plight and suffering it creates and surrounds it.

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 13:25:56 UTC | #897511

Marcus Small's Avatar Comment 17 by Marcus Small

Speaking of Fairy tales.

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 13:32:41 UTC | #897514

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 18 by QuestioningKat

Comment 10 by Marcus Small :

Coming from a German family on my mother's side Father Christmas used to visit us on Christmas Eve.

Yes being part German we would celebrate Christmas Eve by having dinner and opening gifts. This never added up because Santa supposedly delivered gifts on Christmas Day... Another reason to hide behind the couch and wait.

comment 9: Considering I rejected the idea of Santa very early on, there is no lasting trauma. A local department store had a character called Mr. Jingaling and I much preferred him. He was a character and you knew he was a character. Good Fun

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 16:57:34 UTC | #897547

paulmcuk's Avatar Comment 19 by paulmcuk

Comment 15 by Woodworm :

And just as I use my Italian name, I have no problem with the name "Christmas"!

I not only have no problem with the name, I have no problem with other contributions made by christians. I love a few christmas carols, for example, and knowing this is because of associations made in my youth doesn't diminish my enjoyment. It's certainly true that christmas wouldn't be christmas if the christians hadn't co-opted ancient mid-winter celebrations. It's even arguable that those old celebrations would have simply died out without the christian input.

Religion is part or our cultural history and I see no need to deny all the aspects of culture that it had a hand in. I like catherdral architecture, I like "The Spanish Inquisition", I like my chocolate advent calendar...and I like christmas.

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 17:30:55 UTC | #897561

maria melo's Avatar Comment 20 by maria melo

Children can and be "arrogant" I guess, but they have to deal also with the "imagination" of myths and their own "arrogance", and I think it as game of imagination (not that it collides with the magic or reality). I never encouraged "arrogance" in my child showing her as much as I could about toys, games, and art made by people who never attended to a school (I hope it will not reverse but inspire). Most interesting is to know why do people then can draw a line between their fantasy and reality, and I have an autist child as niece that had "fantasies" and her mother reported it worried to a doctor but the doctor told her with accuracy what happened: she would give up of those fantasies, because would draw a line. I wonder did she draw a line, what line ? Do we all draw this line, so before we can draw the line, we need to know about stories made up by our human imagination ?

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 17:34:27 UTC | #897562

Woodworm's Avatar Comment 21 by Woodworm

Dearie me Atheist Egbert (comment 16), you are a jolly soul!

You don't have to do the consumerism bit - have your neighbours round for drinks; enjoy the Christmas carols sung on the street; cook a filling meal and eat it with good company; give the tramp on the corner a mince pie; remember how b***** lucky we are to live in an age where the rationality and determination of our fellow humans has given us heating!

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 17:53:21 UTC | #897566

maria melo's Avatar Comment 22 by maria melo

I am also pleased that I can offer "The Magica Of Reality" this Christmas to my nieces full with stories of imagination and, hopefully, I bet a "line" will be drawn sooner or later, but it is an enriching book that presents myths in an equal manner, not only the judeo-christian.

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 18:00:33 UTC | #897570

6thsense's Avatar Comment 23 by 6thsense

Do I believe Father Christmas exists? Yes. He exists in our stories and through the power of our imagination and my 5 and 6 year old wholeheartedly agree! I can see him flying through the air with his magic sleigh and reindeer right this very second.

Do I play the Santa game? Of course. We have giant fluffy stockings, reindeer head attachments and Santa hats for starters, the kids are having a ball.

Is Santa a real person? Don't be silly, do you really think he'd fit down our narrow chimney?

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 19:44:54 UTC | #897599

maria melo's Avatar Comment 24 by maria melo

lucky we are to live in an age where the rationality and determination of our fellow humans has given us heating!

I agree, and as RD sometimes reminds us: if God inspired cathedrals, imagine how much can science inspire.

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 20:53:07 UTC | #897619

InYourFaceNewYorker's Avatar Comment 25 by InYourFaceNewYorker

Enjoy this episode of TaleSpin! Little Molly is skeptical of Santa, so Baloo sets up fake "evidence" for her. Louie dresses up as Santa, and Baloo takes Molly to see him at Louie's Place, which has been "transformed" into the North Pole.

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 21:23:28 UTC | #897630

billzfantazy's Avatar Comment 26 by billzfantazy

You've totally fucking made that up mate. Well done for getting a reaction, but I've got kids, they don't talk like that.

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 01:14:43 UTC | #897689

debaser71's Avatar Comment 27 by debaser71

We simply PRETEND Santa is real. All the fun. None of the lies,

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 04:49:37 UTC | #897713

Quine's Avatar Comment 28 by Quine

We simply PRETEND Santa is real. All the fun. None of the lies,

That is my choice. Adults forget that playing PRETEND is just as good, if not better, than reality for children who do not yet have that great a hold on consensus reality.

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 06:13:39 UTC | #897720

maria melo's Avatar Comment 29 by maria melo

Comment 5, nice suggestion, that´s a nice presentation by Rebecca ( that kept my attention for 51 minutes).

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 10:46:03 UTC | #897746

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 30 by Alan4discussion

Comment 24 by maria melo

I agree, and as RD sometimes reminds us: if God inspired cathedrals, imagine how much can science inspire.

True,- but the ones which relied on faith, without scientific/mathematical calculations, and evolved structures based on experience, fell down centuries ago!

Some have more recently acquired heating, lighting, and PA systems.

Sun, 11 Dec 2011 11:17:30 UTC | #897751