Ho, Ho… Oh, No! My 3 Year Old Knows Santa’s Not Real… And That’s Okay


Right off the bat, let me put your worst suspicions to rest. I don’t hate Christmas. The kids are getting gifts and have been merrily eating from the jumbo box of candy canes I bought at the start of the month.

Santa’s not banned and I don’t harrumph a Bah Humbug at the mention of his name… though in the interests of full disclosure I will tell you that I do get a bit grumpy around this time of year. I like small, simple family occasions and big holidays give me the hives. Christmas is as big as it gets, holidaywise.

Back three and a half-ish years ago when my wife had little Victor, we had a small tiff over the issue of Santa Claus. My poor long-suffering wife was talking about the fun of telling a kid that Santa is coming and leaving gifts, and I spoiled her dream by saying, “no, I’m not telling a kid that Santa is real.”

She had, at first, those worst suspicions. She already knew that the holidays make me a grumpy-butt, so her suspicions, while not justified, were completely and totally understandable.

Here’s my issue with Santa: I’m an atheist-y sort of person. While I like and practice the principle of extending optimistic trust toward my fellow humans, I don’t much care for anything that involves believing in something without some sort of tangible reason to do so. I view faith as something that leads folks into trouble — trust and compassion, for me, is where the real good is at. So Santa isn’t going to be ‘real’ for my little ones.


Santa is a lot of fun. After my wife and I talked things through, she understood that I wasn’t against Santa. I was just against telling a child that something fictional is real. So I have told little 3 1/2 year old Victor that Santa is pretend, like Thomas the Train or the dinosaurs on Dinosaur Train. Santa’s fun, and the story of Santa is fun-pretend, a good story that we tell each other because it tells us what Christmas is all about.

Christmas, to 3 1/2 year old Victor, is not about Santa coming for real. It’s not about Santa bringing presents in the middle of the night. It’s a time when we share presents, and more importantly love, with our family and friends because we love them. It’s a special time of year when we take care to make sure that the people we love know that we love them.

It’s a time for family, and a time for hugs, and a time we do things like tell stories about Santa Clause because it reminds us of all the good things in our lives and the good people we share our lives with.

And if Santa is fiction to little Victor and his littler brother Cuinn, so what? We have a home full of books, their big brother Erik writes graphic novels and comic storylines, mom writes poetry, I write fiction.

We’re a family who knows the value of a good story, and knows that a story doesn’t have to be real to have a real meaning and a real, positive impact.

So, Santa: sorry I’m not playing along. If it’s any consolation, the kids still love you, even knowing you don’t exist.

A LATE ADDITION (about an hour after first publishing): ran across a relevant story: a woman whose seasonal depression apparently stems from the shock of being told Santa isn’t real at age 10.


One thought on “Ho, Ho… Oh, No! My 3 Year Old Knows Santa’s Not Real… And That’s Okay

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  1. Awwww. Actually, I think that teaching your kids that caring people give each other gifts at Christmas is beautiful. They’re getting the real meaning of the holidays right from the start.

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