DON'T KILL SANTA FOR THE REST OF US!
I don't know what you should tell your children. I don't know what I plan to tell my child. Right now, she seems to be uninterested in the idea of Santa, but that could change. Last week at a kiddie party, Santa made an appearance and she avoided him. Thus, I expect that if we decide to take another mall photo this year, we might not do much better than this --->
Yet, I don't plan on shattering her innocence by telling her not to believe. Because I don't want her to be that kid whom everyone remembers years later as the killjoy whose parents thought it blasphemy to cede credit to a mythical fat white guy who somehow never gets arrested for breaking and entering.
Yes, I know that it means I have to devise a credible cover story with various contingencies for the inevitable questions that will come as she gets older. Maybe I can sell my version as a children's book to help parents explain why Santa Claus is depicted as white in popular culture, but is Black at the mall.
Until the Kid was born, I had never given much thought to what children thought of Santa. My nieces and nephews accepted whatever explanation their parents offered, even if it didn't account for the fact that the big family gathering occurred on Christmas Eve and lasted well past midnight. They woke up the next morning to the same excitement that I did without any doubts that Santa had come at some point while they were asleep.
Honestly, I didn't intend to give it this much attention, but in several of my parenting groups, this topic has arisen as a point of contention between the believers and the non-believers. There are folks who are insistent that Santa doesn't deserve to exist because their children ought to know how hard Mommy and/or Daddy work to provide for them. Then there are the true-believers who feel that children should be allowed to maintain a willful ignorance about the ways of the world because real-life will disillusion them soon enough. There are the hard-line Christians who fault Santa and Frosty for X-ing out Jesus, which has led to teen pregnancy and red disposable coffee cups. And then there are the ecumenical secularists who gave us Festivus and Chrismahanukwanzakah.
You know what, this generation of kids is much smarter than we were. They know how to use technology. They will just ask Alexa or Suri. They will quickly realize that the Santa on the Coke bottle looks very different than the Santa in those Rankin-Bass specials or in every modern cartoon. Or they will come across one of those lame made-for-TV movies that offers an inconsistent back story. Or like me, they will figure out that something is off because there is a bunch of random stuff under the tree like puzzles and books that weren't on my list.
Until that day, why spoil the fun?
Your children can still believe in Jesus and the Elf on the Shelf. Or if you are Jewish, then they can go with the Mensch on a Bench (which really seems a lot like the Hanukkah bush, but I'm not judging you). The Black Santa at the mall is not there to acknowledge Kwanzaa, so do not tell your kids to greet him with Habari gani?
Just go with it because there are children in this world who would love to believe in everything Santa symbolizes. Those bins that collect Toys for Tots and those Angel Tree projects go to children who do not the have luxury of magic in their lives. The children who have lost everything to massive wildfires or whose families are still trying to rebuild after devastating floods. The migrant children who have been separated from their families. The homeless children and those caught up in the foster care system wish they could believe in Santa.
I'm not trying to bring anyone down, but Santa Claus is harmless. If you need to receive appreciation for being a parent, then I sincerely hope that works out for you come Mother's/Father's Day because kids who get everything rarely appreciate anything. I have no idea how this is going to unfold for my daughter, but I hope she chooses to believe in Santa because I did and still do. In spite of all my complaining about Christmas, I derive great joy from giving, which is the essence of Santa Claus mythology and the point of the season. There is some guy who selflessly chooses to bring joy to children once a year. Why be cynical about that? Why not just believe?