Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tradition or Truth: Is Santa Claus Real?

As Christmas fast approaches here in the Western world, it moves me to ponder tradition once again, and how traditions can affect our mental health.  In particular, I was brought to thinking about Santa Claus.  I realize there are other names for him around the world, but the premise remains the same for the most part.  The question I ask myself is how does it affect children once they find out that their embedded tradition is all based on a lie?

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed Christmas as a child and felt the excitement waiting for Santa Claus to come down the chimney.  I can also recall the devastated feelings of finding out that he is not real and that it was all some sort of fairy tale  I would have to consider that there is a small amount of trauma that comes with the new realization.  Should we be lying to our children as well?

Although we carried on the tradition as parents, but I always felt apprehension because in all essence, we were lying to our kids.  We believed that it was the right thing to do because everyone else was doing it as well.  We are all conformists at one time or another.

I was talking to a friend a little while ago and she has chosen to tell her kids the truth about Santa early in their lives.  This is a difficult thing to do, but I believe it is the right thing.  Unfortunately the children still go to public school and likely feel somewhat alienated at Christmas time when all their friends are feeling the excitement of the coming holiday.

Either way, she has chosen to be truthful to her children and I don't see anything wrong with that.  So is there any difference between children that learned the truth early and those who believed it for many years of their childhood?  There is no general answer I can provide because everybody's reaction will differ.

I am glad that I have the memories of 'believing' and I certainly enjoyed Christmas much more when I did believe in Santa Claus.  I think that when I learned the truth I became much more cynical unfortunately.  I started to ask more questions and tried to learn where the tradition came from in the first place.

I ended up learning a lot about Christianity at this point in my life since I wanted to learn the true meaning of what Christmas was all about.  I gained some excellent information that helped me to better guide my own life, and to find purpose.

Learning the truth did not traumatize me, but it does not mean that it does not have traumatic effects on others.  Does the good of the tradition outweigh the dishonesty of it?  I can't say for sure, yet I do know that children need inspiration to grow, and fairy tales help them dream and use their imaginations.

Once the business world got a hold of Christmas, the tradition began to die.  It has become completely commercialized and the reason and meaning for the tradition is no longer important.  Maybe it is time for a new tradition to be started, one that brings us back to the original values on which it began.

Should we continue to lie to the younger generation in regards to Santa Claus?  I would love to open this question up to discussion because I only have my one-sided answer to that question.  I don't believe that lying is ever the right thing to do, especially when it comes to our children, but I also would not want to take something as special as the Christmas holiday away either.

I think it is time to get back to the deeper meanings of our traditions and use them as the positive tools they were designed to be in the first place.  Teach the lessons and underlying meanings of the tradition to our young people while allowing them a sense of wonder and hope.

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