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Merry Christmas! Santa is The First Conspiracy (of the nice kind) Kids Encounter
Even NORAD is On It
Merry Christmas, my dear readers. Stay healthy and successful in the new year!
I enjoyed your company tremendously. I hope that we will not run out of things to discuss. Thank you for your Christmas presents to me (subscriptions from the post yesterday). I am very grateful to each of you who subscribed to the paid version — even if for just a month - and I hope to write something that will interest you next year. I am grateful for everyone’s company here.
Christmas is when families get together and celebrate being close to each other. Kids anxiously await presents. Even the official agency of the US Department of Defense, NORAD, is tracking Santa in real-time.
Tomorrow morning, the kids will wake up relieved that Santa has made it to their home through the chimney and left presents for them! Kids are excited that their letters to Santa were acted upon, and the parents are taking pictures and smiling at each other knowingly.
It is a good custom in every way!
My family, even though both of us parents originally came from a country where Santa Claus was called Grandfather Frost and showed up on New Year, had our kids born in the USA, and always had Santa visit us on Christmas.
One year, I remember asking my older son quietly, “what do you know about Santa.” “Santa is fake,” was his answer.
I told him nicely to keep his mouth shut and not tell the younger son. When doubts surfaced in the younger one, I remember telling both that Santa only brings presents to those who believe in Santa.
That kept the game going for a few more years, which brought us many happy moments. Letters to Santa were written, with make and model numbers of things desired, etc. We, the parents, passed the letters to Santa and the kids received the requested goods. Did my children sincerely believe in Santa when making those requests, or just pretended to believe? Every year, it seemed more and more like they were pretending.
That was quite some years ago, but last year I started having second thoughts about this whole thing. Is there some hidden cultural element here that needs to be explored?
Adults pretend that something exists that does not exist.
The industry makes plenty of money.
Kids are taught to pretend to believe in Santa to receive presents.
Everybody is happy.
The third point is very important. As adults, many of us pretend to believe in things or values we do not necessarily believe in: to receive job promotions, be admitted to certain inside groups, etc. If pretending to believe is too painful, we at least keep our mouths shut and let other people signal their virtue.
It is much easier for grownups to do that if we were taught to do so in childhood.
Humans are social. We cannot coexist peacefully if we express every thought at every moment or never pretend to believe in something to get along, and so on. I get it. At what age did we learn these social graces in the first place? Quite early! What helped many of us learn these social ropes is showing belief in Santa and receiving presents for displaying such belief.
Adults, together with the industry, pretending that Santa is real, display the element of group pretense inherent in conspiracies. The kids, after a certain age, pretend to believe in Santa to receive rewards. Many winks and nods are exchanged, especially in families with kids of different ages.
We are taught that conspiracies must be sinister. Some are. However, the perpetrators of conspiracies usually think of themselves as the good guys and consider their pretenses necessary to achieve important goals and save humanity from something. The Santa conspiracy is very nice and healthful, but it also involves a secret agreement of adults to tell kids something that is not exactly true.
Santa is always the first conspiracy (the pleasant kind) kids encounter. It is, fortunately, a very loving and healthy custom that harms nobody. Still, it also teaches kids to go along with conspiracies peacefully, show “pretend belief” in Santa past the age of doubt, and receive presents in exchange for such pretenses.
The “Santa conspiracy” is also good for those kids who will grow up as skeptics and critical thinkers. Their early experience teaches them that just because all adults keep saying that “Santa is real” does not make Santa real.
Children learn that things that do not make sense, such as the idea that Santa would know the desired toy’s make and model number for all kids of the world, are not necessarily true simply because all adults say so. So, the Santa experience is especially useful for forming future critical thinkers.
I hope to have grandkids someday. If that happens, I would gladly contribute to making their winter days happier and will talk about Santa, and would secretly bring wrapped presents, track Santa via NORAD with them, and so on. And yet, we need to understand that this custom has a lot of social implications for children growing up to be adults:
It conditions people to function in a society where pretending to believe in something is a crucial part of fitting in.
It teaches us that just because everyone keeps saying “XXX is real” does not make it real.
Christmas is also a way for good families to celebrate being families and enjoy being together.
What do you think?