Last night my husband asked me, “Do you have an answer if we get the ‘Is Santa real?’ question?” I do, having addressed this last year with our eldest (come on, Dad, get with the program!). I’ve also fielded questions and comments from my kids about friends at school who celebrate different winter holidays and traditions. “Sam doesn’t have a Christmas tree!” “Why doesn’t Santa go to Morgan’s house?” “How come Claire gets to have Hanukkah AND Christmas?” These reasonable questions give us the opportunity to hit the library and find books about different faiths and cultures; learning about other traditions has helped me explain why our own non-religious-family celebrates as we do.
And because we celebrate Christmas, my husband’s question also reminded me of Megan Dowd Lambert’s Books in the Home column “O Christmas Books!” from the November/December 2011 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. As Megan shares some of her family’s favorite Christmas books, she talks about how she wrestled with “perpetuating the myth” about Santa. And how, when her oldest came to terms with the Truth, he found magic in helping make Christmas special for his younger siblings.
So, what was my answer to “Is Santa real?” When my then-seven-year-old asked, I said, “Do you really want to know?” My son thought for a moment. “No,” he said. He knew he wasn’t ready to give up believing in stories, and for me, that was a gift to us both.