Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
It is common practice in many Western families to tell children that Father Christmas will visit them and deliver presents if they’ve been good. However, this tradition has come under scrutiny for a number of reasons and is actually being phased out of households. But is Santa a necessary part of a child’s Christmas experience, or is it indeed just a jolly bunch of lies?
Childhood is known to be a time of wonder and hopefulness, something that pairs well with the mystical way in which children are told Santa works. They believe wholeheartedly in the merry man who can travel across the entire earth in one night, delivering gifts and Christmas wishes to good children. Parents usually tell their children thus, only revealing later in life that this is instead a slight mistruth but insisting to keep that a secret from others so that the legendary Christmas magic is not lost. It was certainly a highlight of my own childhood to try and work out how this was possible, trying to argue and cry over my lack of actual chimney, waiting patiently in the cold and crisp air for a sleigh to fly overhead while scattering oats for the reindeers to eat. Despite being mostly a Western tradition, the idea had spread throughout the Globe, with different worldwide companies such as Google entering into the façade with their Santa Tracker.
However, some psychologists argue that telling children Santa exists is actually dangerous for their mental health. Trust that has been built up is going to be destroyed, warning children early that they can’t believe what anybody says, no matter how much you trust them (though this doesn’t seem to be a horrendous issue, and will actually be a helpful skill to have given the current political climate). The mistruth itself is lie as white as Santa’s beard, meaning children can and probably will understand why it was told in the first place.
It also can be seen as another way to guilt trip children into behaving, making them worry about the consequences of their actions rather than the morality. This is a large philosophical debate in all contexts, about whether or not an act is good if it is done for a self-beneficial meaning. Encouraging children to behave with the subtext of Santa’s upcoming visit doesn’t change the fact that the children are behaving. Why someone does a good thing doesn’t erase the good thing they actually did. Using Christmas as a way to encourage good behaviour is not only an effective technique, but usually a highly necessary one. Santa becomes that extra helping hand when children are away from school and parents find it slightly harder to control their kids for the extended periods that they have to.
Father Christmas is still a huge part of Christmas. Many who swear they don’t believe in his current and incomprehensible existence still buy merchandise on which his caricature is plastered, still sing songs that praise him and request something special for December 25th. Whether or not Santa is thought to be genuinely believed in, the presence of a merry, magical man will still exist. Even the mention of him can send reminiscent memories to childhood, often a place with its own magic. Believing in Father Christmas is not essential to make a child’s Christmas special, but it certainly adds that little something that lets you remember pure belief is wholesome and doesn’t always end in eternal disappointment.