When I was a child, Santa was so real to me. When my brothers trumpeted the information that he wasn’t real, I was crushed. It was like Santa had died—indeed, it was the death of an illusion and it was very painful to me.
When we married and our family started arriving, we did the Santa thing. However, we never made too big a deal about it—perhaps because of my distressing experience. At that time, it wasn’t “the thing” to get your children’s picture sitting on Santa’s lap. In fact, I don’t really remember making it a point to take my children to see Santa so they could ask him for stuff. I didn’t think it was all that important.
There came a time, however, when my fourth child was getting to the age where children begin to figure things out. Somehow, I knew I needed to make a decision about what I would say about Santa if he should ask me about it. As I pondered my dilemma, I realized that there are many myths we carry on in the world today—the main ones are Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the tooth fairy. If we make a big deal out of these myths and sometimes even lie to our children when they ask, what happens to our teachings about God and our Savior? I wanted my children to learn to love our Heavenly Father and our Savior, who are very real, though they cannot be seen. I wanted my children’s hearts to be touched whenever I bore my testimony about their reality. I wanted them to gain testimonies of their reality for themselves.
If we tell them Santa Claus is real, and he is not; if we tell them the Easter Bunny is real, and he is not; if we tell them the Tooth Fairy is real and she is not; then we tell them Heavenly Father and the Savior are real--and they are--I ask you, what are they to think? What conclusion can they draw? I didn’t want to take any chances in leading my children away from the truth, even a little bit.
I decided if I were to be asked point blank, I would tell the story about St. Nicolas in Holland—how it was the custom for the children to leave their wooden shoes on the doorstep of their homes whenever they entered. On Christmas Eve, good old St. Nicolas loved the children and would go around and leave little gifts in their shoes to surprise them. When the old man died, the parents carried this fun annual tradition forward.
It wasn’t long before my son asked me the big question—is Santa Claus real? Because of my ponderings, I was prepared with my answer. I wondered if I had been prompted by the Spirit. I answered his question with my story and he accepted it and went on his way. I thought that was the end of it—but no, it wasn’t.
Shortly afterward, he had lost something—I think it was some money, but I’m not certain. I remember suggesting to him that we pray to Heavenly Father and ask His help in finding his lost item. He shocked me when he answered, “You’re Heavenly Father!” How grateful I was when I could honestly reply to his astonishing statement, telling him that I relied also on Heavenly Father myself when I needed help. So, we prayed together. When we were finished, I headed for my bedroom and got down on my knees and begged the Lord to answer his prayer. It was a testimony to me and to my son, that he immediately found what he had been looking for.
We continued to do the Santa thing, but as before it wasn’t greatly stressed. I don’t think my children have been deprived in any way. The most important thing to me is to teach the truth about Heavenly Father, the Savior, and about the gospel that has been restored anew to the world. It may not be “politically correct”, but that is my sacred duty.