A whole lotta parents with young kids seem to be hatin' on Santa these days. There are various veins of thought around this, 1. teaching kids about Santa is a lie and lying is always bad/truth is always good, etc., 2. Teaching kids about Santa encourages rampant commercialism and doesn't reflect the 'true meaning' of Christmas, or 3. the Santa story conflicts with the Little Baby Jesus story (henceforth referred to as LBJ for brevity).
I have some opinions about the aforementioned business of being down on old Santa.
Kids will, all too soon, be confronted with all kinds of shitty, shitty 'truthes' this world has to offer them. Far too soon, in my not-so-humble opinion. I'm not in any rush to invite that shit in. Moreover, I don't actually agree that lying is always wrong. The ins and out of truthing and lying is mostly about grey area and very little about black and white, so to speak. Which brings me around to the fact that I don't actually see encouraging a belief in Santa as lying, at least not in a bad lying sorta way.
I believe that Santa is about far more than presents. Santa, his reindeer and elven pals, his work, his journey, his belief in the intrinsic goodness of children, is about believing in magic, suspending disbelief, choosing possibility over impossibility. (This may get me into hot water here) but I believe that our old Santa story isn't really all that different than our cultural LBJ stories (though I'm not even remotely Christian, a girl can still appreciate the good bits an LBJ story has to offer now and again). Both Santa stories and LBJ stories can be used to encourage the good in people, kindness, and love for one another. Both Santa stories and LBJ stories encourage the belief in magic, and in possibility. Both can be used to instill wonder and excitement about life. And for me, that wonder and excitement about life is every bit the 'true' meaning of Christmas.
(As an aside here, both Santa and LBJ stories can be used in sucky ways too. I can't get behind using Santa to control kids' behaviour - in much the same way I can't get behind using LBJ for controlling people's behaviour. We don't and won't ever tell our kids that Santa only comes to children "that are good." For starters, I believe, (and so should Santa, dammit!) that all children are good. And I think using the magic of Santa to punish kids is kinda sucky. To each their own, I suppose, but you're not going to catch me threatening that "Santa won't come" if the kids don't do x, y or z.)
I also don't think that Santa has to be about rampant commercialism. Boy-o wrote a letter to Santa this year, and there was no long list of "I WANTS". He asked for dress-up clothes for himself, and for Girlio, so they could play together. I hope that in part, this is because we're trying very hard to create a family culture that runs contrary to that kind of me-me-me-ness. This is something we make every effort to continue emphasizing throughout our kids' lives.
So all you Santa-haters - say what you will. But I'm going to choose MAGIC. I'm going to help my kids believe in that magic. I'm going to feel as excited and as giddy and as giggly as they do, heading downstairs on Christmas morning (even thoughlike most mornings around my house, it's likely going to come far too early), finding the note from Santa, and the dress-up clothes they asked so sweetly for and likely a few surprises they didn't ask for.
And if I'm really lucky, I'll get to tap back into that amazing time in my life, when I too wholeheartedly believed in magic. That time was nothing short of a gift.