Growing up, I did not believe in Santa. Not because I was a particularly skeptical child, but because my family didn't celebrate Christmas. I understood he was a story and that I was not to tell other children he was pretend. I might have even shaken my head sadly, in all my childish wisdom, and wonder at what adults will tell their children. While my childhood was happy, magic was not a part of it.
Fast forward a couple decades. I'm an adult raising my own children in decidedly difference circumstances. My views have expanded to include the magical and fantastical. I discuss the Loch Ness monster with them. We stare at the night sky and wonder about aliens. We imagine we might just see fairies flitting about our garden. Most of all, we believe in Santa.
While my upbringing helps me to understand why parents might choose to exclude that portion of Christmas for religious reasons, when I hear people claim they are telling their children the "truth" about Santa because they do not want to teach them a lie, I have to scratch my head and wonder.
I'll freely admit I lie to my children all the time. What parent doesn't? The lies are whistles in the dark. They're ways to ease fears and worries. I kiss them on the top of their heads and tell them they'll never get sick the way the little boy in their class did, that nothing bad will happen to me, that there are no monsters in the shadows, and of course their father and I will always be best friends.
Sometimes the lies are wishes and hopes seen through adult eyes and experiences. I tell them no one will make fun of them for being themselves, that math isn't really that hard, and they can accomplish anything they want as long as they work hard enough.
And, at times, the lies are silly. If they keep swallowing cherry pits, a tree will grow out of their tummies. If they keep making that face, it'll freeze.
For me, Santa isn't a lie. It's a magical belief in the impossible, in goodness, in holding tight to an idea. When we track him on NORAD, I cheer along with my children when I discover he's in North America. I tuck them in bed on Christmas Eve and whisper dreams of candy canes and reindeer. I find myself sitting up late, tracking Santa even as my children fall asleep. And, I will freely admit, I race outside as he flies overhead and search the starlit sky for a glimpse of the man in red. Some time during my twenties, I discovered what Virginia and hundreds of thousands of others have realized. Santa is real "as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy."