Whether or not to "do" Santa during the Christmas season is a common discussion point among atheist and non-theist parents. There are plenty of arguments to go around...
- Telling my kids that Santa is coming is lying
- Santa has too many religious connotations (ie. based on a catholic saint, imaginary figure that is judging your goodness or badness, etc.)
- It's fun!
- I don't want my kids to miss out on this mainly secular part of the holiday.
- It's part of the magic of Christmas
- It's an opportunity to see how humans are fully capable of falling for a socially-acceptable myth and figure out the truth on their own.
So, as I said, when I first left faith behind me, I thought I would go the no-Santa route. In talking with my mom and others about this over the past two years, I have seen some push back, but none-the-less I thought, given my values and personal belief,s that I could make Christmas special without Santa, and I think I still could.
However...my memories of Christmases growing up are powerful!!!! My parents put on a really, really good show at Christmas and I LOVED IT! Coming out of my room early on Christmas morning, being so tickled at the sight of a filled stocking, new presents under the tree, and feeling so mystified by how it all happened was pretty magical - and then it hit me!
Magic requires a magician!!!! My parents were magicians!
People who create an illusion without giving away their secret are magicians. We know people aren't really magic, but we still enjoy the illusion. And just like learning about how to do a magic trick - whenever we want to, with some effort and a willingness to let go of the "magic" in exchange for knowledge, can we figure out the trick!
So, I decided to never actually tell my daughter there is (or is not) a Santa, but there will be a filled stocking, a special present that wasn't there on Christmas eve, some eaten cookies, and a lighted, decorated tree on Christmas morning. Society will fill in the rest about who is leaving these gifts and how it is done. Whenever I am asked "how is it done?" "Can one man really fly around the world in one night?" and "is Santa real?", I will turn the question around (as Dale McGowan says) and ask "what do you think?" and give her a chance to take the veil from her own eyes. And hopefully she won't feel tricked or wronged by the illusion - hopefully I can help her understand how fun the game is and what we can learn from it.
And hopefully, she will take those lessons out into the world for her own use.