I pride myself on telling my daughter the truth about almost everything. She’s known the right names for all her body parts since she could talk (there’s no “foo foo” or “nonny” in our house). I’ve explained carefully that – while others have different beliefs that should be respected – in my opinion there is no God, and I’ve even tried to normalise death as a sad but inevitable part of living.
But when it comes to Father Christmas, okay, I’ll admit it. I’m conflicted.
There’s just something about the magic of it that gets me. The delight in her eyes when she talks about what toys she might find on Christmas morning, the way she places her handwritten list (which, among other things, contains the heart-melting wish for “everything in the whole wide world to be made out of sweets”, for her baby brother “to sleep well” and “to meet Santa in real life”) in the fireplace, the letters she writes, asking if he’s “busy in his werk shop”. It’s just so… adorable.
And it’s brief. Just the other day one of my daughter’s classmates came over for tea, and talk turned to Santa. “Santa isn’t real,” the classmate scoffed. “It’s just your mum and dad.” My little girl turned her big eyes on me and went quiet. Then her face brightened. “No, it’s not,” she retorted, triumphant. “Santa delivers presents at night-time. My mum will be asleep in bed!”
Saved by child logic, for now. But I know it won’t last – and perhaps that’s why I’m clinging on as long as I can. It feels precious, the illusion that someone is out there, giving every child their heart’s desire. If only real life were that magical.
It’s not hard to see why we’re so sold on Santa. We’re surrounded by him: in ads and songs and films, in grottos and pound-shop accessories and shopping malls. And when reality is so grim – with Brexit and austerity and one million children in the UK facing…