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The Santa Clause Lie

Oct 13th 2012 new
Tonight while reading some blog posts by Catholic philosopher Edward Feser (yeah, my Saturday nights are pretty rowdy), I came across a post he did about the sinfulness of lying. Of course we all know that lying is always a sin, but I was sort of caught off guard when Feser applied this even to parents telling their children about Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny. In view of the Church's teaching on lying, Feser's position certainly makes sense.

I'm curious as to what other people have to say about this. Were you told that there was a Santa Clause as a child? Do you intend to tell your children the same?

Here are some of the relevant blog posts. A quick Google search will show that many other Catholic thinkers have posed this same question.

edwardfeser.blogspot.com

edwardfeser.blogspot.com
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Oct 13th 2012 new

Great post, Charles! As a child, I never recall that my parents specifically told me about Santa Claus, but the story was there (school, classmates, Christmas Carols, the shopping mall Santa and so on). As for Santa’s non-existence, it’s something I figured out eventually. I did wonder about the lying part though, and whether that meant that the whole thing was morally wrong. (I was a deep-thinking child.)

I’m not sure that all lies are morally wrong. If you think someone looks atrocious with a new hairstyle, but she asks you if it looks good, is it morally correct to tell her that she looks terrible and should get it dyed back to her original colour? Or is it morally correct to tell her that she looks “years younger” or “wonderful” just out of Christian charity and not wanting to hurt her feelings? Or how about the famous man-trap question “Does this dress make me look fat?”

I’m not sure that the Santa Claus lie is told to children to hurt them or lead them astray. It has generally been used as a sort of bribe to get them to behave, do well in school and not fight or call other kids names - all morally admirable lessons.

But, I must admit, I am not comfortable with the Santa Claus lie. If there are children in my future, (in cooperation and discussion with their father) I plan to tell them the true story of Santa Claus. St. Nicholas is a Saint who lived in the third century … St. Nicholas is the model for Santa Claus (who is referred to as “Jolly Old St. Nick”) and there are popular stories about how he rides through the air on a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer on Christmas Eve to deliver toys to good children throughout the world. It can be turned into a lesson in charity. Good children donate some pennies to charities during Advent and lo-and-behold they get gifts “from” St. Nick (Santa Claus) on Christmas Day. It can also be a way to teach the real Christmas story. You get gifts in commemoration of the Wise Men bringing gifts to the Baby Jesus.

LOCKED
Oct 13th 2012 new

A lie is intrinsically evil. Santa Claus is an example of a very insidious lie. My parents told me the Santa lie. I think what parents say when they lie to their children as such that children cannot trust or have faith in what the parents have to say.

A lot of people tell me that I over-react in this regard, but it really sets up a child at a disadvantage...and is a violence against him, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church says any lie is.


There is no moral reason to lie ever. However, most people confuse the legitimate use of mental reservations of truth with lying since most don't know what mental reservations are or how to use them morally. Santa Claus is an example of a positive commission of lie, which is the breaking of the primary purpose of speech (i.e., to convey the truth with certitude). To speak as if Santa Claus is real is to do violence upon the mind of a child, since it is to speak a falsity as if it were certainly true.

If parents are going to tell their children that Santa Claus is real, but that he cannot be seen, and then the children grow to find that Santa Claus does not exist, what are these children going to think of His Divine Majesty, Jesus Christ, who cannot be seen in an ordinary physical sense when their parents teach them of Christ? That Our Lord is another silly myth that parents talk about because it makes them feel good at the sake of lying to their children?

I find it unconscienable, and will never lie to my potential children, or anyone else's children for that matter.

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Oct 13th 2012 new

Angela, why would you not rather celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas on Dec. 6, rather than confuse the children regarding the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord on Dec. 25?

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Oct 13th 2012 new

(Quote) Charles-512043 said: ...I was sort of caught off guard when Feser applied this even to parents telling their children about...
(Quote) Charles-512043 said: ...I was sort of caught off guard when Feser applied this even to parents telling their children about Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny. ...
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I assume the same would apply to the birthday squirrel. smile

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Oct 13th 2012 new

(Quote) Chelsea-743484 said: Angela, why would you not rather celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas on Dec. 6, rather than con...
(Quote) Chelsea-743484 said:

Angela, why would you not rather celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas on Dec. 6, rather than confuse the children regarding the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord on Dec. 25?

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Read my post again. I did not say that I would not celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas.

And you can be sure that my children will be taught about Dec. 8 as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception also. Dec. 26 is the feast of St. Stephen, Dec. 27 is St. John, there's the feast of the Holy Innocents, and so on. The Epiphany will also be celebrated. Mass will be attended. Don't try to make someone sound un-Catholic because the story of Santa Claus will be told in their house from a Catholic perspective. Read the story of St. Nicholas. The roots of the Santa Claus story are not secular legend.

I don't think it is "confusing" to children to teach them Catholic doctrine and history to try to explain the story of Santa Claus. The Santa Claus story is out there. Children will learn about it whether their parents specifically tell them about it or not. I think it is far better for parents to reinforce the Catholic elements of the Santa Claus legend than to leave it to them to figure out for themselves who Santa is or isn't, and how "St. Nick" is the basis for Santa. However, everyone is free to raise their children as they wish. I'm not dictating to others how to raise their kids.

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Oct 13th 2012 new

No offense was meant. I see I didn't choose my words well. I misunderstood the reception of gifts from "St. Nick" on Christmas day, I imagine.

Santa Claus as the phantasm is known now is not St. Nicholas, however...and St. Nicholas doesn't fly around in the sky with reindeer or caribou or whatever.

I'm not opposed to children being taught of St. Nicholas, I think it's praiseworthy.

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Oct 13th 2012 new

Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, all these things that come into the night, unseen, to bring joy and rewards to those who believe...a lie, really? Ironically, our goal as parents is to teach them to have that same unconditional faith in Jesus. Telling young children these things brings excitement, joy and anticipation - all the things we want them to find in their faith. I used to worry about the lie, until an Easter homily put it in this perspective. These childhood fantasies lay the groundwork for believing in things unseen. They open the gateway for a child to feel loved and cared for by someone other than their parent. They make believing in Jesus real. Why would anyone want to take that connection away and deem it as evil? All good things come from God. Seeing the joy and surprise on your child's face Christmas morning is the epitome of pure joy.

The first Easter after my husband's death, I couldn't find the eggs to hide. This was our tradition and I always related the story of those looking to find Jesus in the tomb. I had gave up trying to make our Easter the same as usual when I thought I had donated all of of the plastic eggs I had and resorted to hiding the real ones we had colored. My son, upon finding one held it out to me with pure disappointment. I couldn't let the Easter Bunny take the hit, so I explained that it was me who hid eggs and baskets all those years. We were sitting in church and I could see his wheels turning. He leaned over and whispered, "Santa Clause, is that you?" I nodded. He leaned in again and said, "And the Tooth Fairy?" I nodded again. He sat back, listening to the homily and I could still see those gears turning, so I leaned into him and said, "But I'm not God, he's for real." And since that day, even though we laugh about it now, his faith began to grow. Call it a lie, I don't see it that way. I see it as a path to the truth. One that a small child can wrap their brain around.

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Oct 13th 2012 new

I forgot about the birthday squirrel! LOL

I know several people who do not want to give these false messages to their children. They don't go trick or treating or buy into anything Santa during the holidays because they want only one message to be given to their kids. That is their choice. I can tell you that neither their children or my own have turned into heathens or devil worshipers regardless of our traditions. Each family needs to decide how to handle the challenge of raising kids. I'm glad I belong to a faith community that acknowledges what I've done. Father is always asking the children if they found their baskets or if Santa came. Raising kids is not always easy. Why not make it fun?

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Oct 13th 2012 new

(Quote) Charles-512043 said: Tonight while reading some blog posts by Catholic philosopher Edward Feser (yeah, my Saturday nights a...
(Quote) Charles-512043 said: Tonight while reading some blog posts by Catholic philosopher Edward Feser (yeah, my Saturday nights are pretty rowdy), I came across a post he did about the sinfulness of lying. Of course we all know that lying is always a sin, but I was sort of caught off guard when Feser applied this even to parents telling their children about Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny. In view of the Church's teaching on lying, Feser's position certainly makes sense.

I'm curious as to what other people have to say about this. Were you told that there was a Santa Clause as a child? Do you intend to tell your children the same?

Here are some of the relevant blog posts. A quick Google search will show that many other Catholic thinkers have posed this same question.

edwardfeser.blogspot.com

edwardfeser.blogspot.com
--hide--


Well, I still believe in Santa Claus, so I don't think my parents lied.

As I got older and realized that my Dad had something to do with all those presents, I learned that he was Santa's helper.

Later, I realized that he was in fact Santa Claus for me and my siblings. I love him for that. Santa did exist, and he still does, in the spirit of all the parents who give their children something nice to celebrate the birthday of the Saviour.

Eventually, I became Santa Claus myself, and I loved being him. That's when I really knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he exists.

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