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Christmas is coming, and that means things are about to get busy. There are cookies to bake, trees to decorate, gifts to buy, stockings to hang ... you know the drill! Of course, a big part of the holiday magic for many families is Santa Claus. And if you have curious children in your life, they might be starting to ask you questions about whether the Elf on the Shelf really reports back to Santa every night — or even if Santa Claus is real.
As kids get older, it's normal for questions to arise about how Santa's magic really works. Luckily, it's easy to prepare for the next time you have to answer when they ask "is Santa Claus real?" Here's how to share more information with your kids about Santa when the time is right.
So, is Santa Claus real?
Santa Claus is real, of course. The New York Sun even reported it back in 1897! But the current Santa Claus isn’t from the North Pole.
According to an article published in the Washington Post, a man from Long Island legally changed his name to Santa Claus in 2012. After spending years playing the role of Santa at Macy’s in New York City, Claus now continues to appear as Santa at community and private events. He told the Washington Post that legally changing his name made the experience a bit more enchanting. When a child asks if he’s really Santa, he has the documentation to back it up.
“I show them my driver’s license, credit card and insurance cards,” said Claus in the interview. “Now, I have proof that I am who I say I am. All of a sudden, it becomes more magical.”
Before that Santa Claus, there was Saint Nicholas. According to historical records, Saint Nicholas was a monk born in the third century in a village called Patara, now part of modern-day Turkey. He was known for his kindness and good deeds, and eventually came to be known as the protector of children and sailors. After his death, the legend and the magic of Saint Nicholas continued to spread throughout Europe. Eventually, Dutch, Swiss, and German immigrants moved to America and the tradition of Saint Nicholas evolved into the jolly, red-suited Santa Claus we know today.
How to answer questions about Santa Claus
If your kids are starting to ask questions about whether or not Santa is real, it might be time to think about how you plan to address the topic. If they’re young and you want to keep the magic alive, you can simply say "yes, of course" or redirect them from the question. If they’re a bit older, you might want to approach things differently.
“When a child says something along the lines of, 'Santa isn't real, is he?' it can be useful to reflect the question back to them to figure out why they think so,” she says. “When they're older and can think more critically, they'll tell you Santa isn't real, and especially when their peers are talking about Santa not being real. These are good indicators they're ready to hear the truth."
You can use this as an opportunity to think about what the story and tradition of Santa mean to your family, and how to keep good feelings associated with him alive in the future. Actress Kristen Bell spoke to WomansDay.com in 2019 about how she broached the topic with her daughter.
When her daughter started to have suspicions about Santa, Bell offered to be honest with her. Then, she shared with her daughter that Santa Claus is "an imaginary game we play because it’s really, really fun." She also used a book called The Wonderful Truth About Santa Claus which teaches kids that anyone can be a Santa Claus by being kind and generous with others, especially during the holiday season.
Similarly, you can focus on ways to keep the spirit of Santa going during your family holiday celebrations, like being generous with your time and money, and spending time reflecting on your faith. You can continue to partake in your favorite traditions, like visiting Santa Claus via video chat or at the mall and following the Santa tracker on Christmas Eve, or start a new Santa-approved Christmas tradition that keeps the holiday magic alive, like Christmas caroling, watching classic Christmas movies together, sharing funny Christmas jokes, setting up the advent calendar and decorating your home.
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