Christmas, Mailbag

The Mailbag: My kid knows the truth about Santa. What if he tells his friends who don’t?

Originally published December 3, 2018

We have raised our five year old to know that Santa Claus isn’t real. Now that he’s getting old enough to have conversations with his little friends, how do we explain to him what to say to them when they talk about believing in Santa? I don’t want him to crush their dreams but I also don’t want to teach him to perpetuate the lie for his friends.

This is a great question, and one my husband and I also had to address with our own children, since we raised them to know that Santa Claus isn’t real.

Before I tackle your question, I’d like to address Christian parents who tell their children Santa Claus is real, that he is the one who brings their presents, etc.:

I’m sure you have the best of intentions and only want to make Christmas fun for your children, but when you tell them these things about Santa Claus, you are lying.

Santa Claus isn’t real. If you tell your children he is, or that he is the one who brings their presents, or that he knows whether they’ve been naughty or nice, you’re lying. The Bible says that lying is a sin, period. There’s no exception for jolly old elves who pass out toys (or for tooth fairies or Easter bunnies, either, for that matter). And not only is lying a sin, it is extraordinarily hypocritical to lie to your children about Santa Claus and then turn around later and punish them when they lie about something. Lying to your children about Santa Claus teaches them that it’s OK to lie (i.e. sin) when you want to or when it would be to your advantage.
Excerpted from: The Mailbag: What should we tell our kids about Santa Claus?

And this reader has raised another ripple effect of your sin of lying. You’ve now put your brothers and sisters in Christ in the difficult position of figuring out how not to blow your cover when their child (who knows the truth) interacts with yours. Do they teach their child to take part in your lie, or do they risk their child telling the truth, disappointing your child and possibly angering you? And think about the pressure on a five year old child to try to keep something like that a secret, knowing someone will be disappointed if he doesn’t. You’ve created a no-win situation for people you are supposed to self-sacrificially love, encourage, and edify.

Our sin always negatively affects others.

We did our best to thread the needle by teaching our children to stay out of it. Every year, we reminded our kids – before family gatherings, play dates, etc. – that some kids believe Santa is real. If a friend inquired, “What did you ask Santa for this year?”, our kids could reply, “I asked my parents for a bike.” If any of their friends asked them if Santa was real, we told our kids to tell their friends to ask their parents.

You might want to give something like that a try, or maybe you can come up with a different solution that’s helpful to the situation. Don’t fret about it, though. Most kids learn the truth about Santa between ages 5 to 10, and most of them learn it from their friends. If you have a friend who freaks out at you because your five year old told the truth about something, it could be time to reevaluate that friendship, or at least the level of intimacy of that friendship. (And if it’s a family member, well…this, too, shall pass.)

However you teach your child to handle the situation, be sure you’re not conveying the idea that we cover up the sin (the lie that Santa is real) of others. We tried to go at it from the angle of our kids telling the other kids, “That’s a topic that should stay between you and your parents.” It’s pretty much the same way we later handled the situation of what to do if your friends ask you where babies come from (“You need to ask your parents about that.”)

Also keep in mind that, even though it may feel like you’re the Grinch if your child spills the beans about Santa, you’re not, despite the fact that others may treat you that way. If you’re humbly doing what is right in God’s eyes and the other person is doing what is wrong, you’re not the problem in that situation.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

9 thoughts on “The Mailbag: My kid knows the truth about Santa. What if he tells his friends who don’t?”

  1. Our family totally experienced the “truth” about Santa sharing by our son. We taught our son that Santa is just make believe, that we can have fun with it, but he isn’t real, just pretend. My son has cousins that are very close in age to him and I nannied one that was 3 months older than my son that was completely sold on the idea of Santa. My son was determined to make sure his cousin knew the truth about Santa (even though I explained that his family had different traditions about Santa and we could keep the truth to ourselves for now). Being 5, it didn’t matter what I told my son – he told his cousin the truth! In the end, it was fine because the cousin was so determined to believe in Santa he decided that my son was lying to him!

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  2. I was beaten pretty badly for telling a neighbourhood kid that… I think it was the Tooth Fairy, icr … wasn’t real.

    It was VERY confusing to me. I was saved, knew lying was a sin, but was severely punished for NOT sinning. If you think a 5 year old cannot understand the wrongness of this sort of thing, you may be right, but you may also be very, very wrong. I didn’t have the vocabulary to discuss it, but I knew.

    I made the decision long before ever having a child to never do the Santa thing. Here’s why:

    I wanted my children to be able to trust me.
    If I lied to them – even for ‘a good reason’ – what would happen down the road, when they had doubts about God? I would have already set a precedent for being a liar about some big things. How would they be able to trust me 100% about what I’d taught them re: God?

    Another factor I’ve not heard addressed is this – I believe that teaching little kids that strangers break into your house, BUT NOT TO HURT YOU!!!, to leave PRESENTS!, is setting them up to more easily be abducted. You’re starting them out on a severe case of “Magical Thinking”, and the child molester in the van offering presents/candy/puppies may not be all THAT bad, b/c hey – Santa. Easter Bunny. Tooth Fairy. Elf on the Shelf.

    Don’t lie to your children. Period.

    But if you do, don’t you DARE get mad at them, or punish them when they turn around and follow your example.

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  3. Years ago a friend from church shared that her 6 year old daughter wrote a letter to Santa asking him to heal her of the flu. She had prayed for Jesus to heal her but didn’t get a quick enough response I guess. It was very disheartening that she put her trust in Santa. This is also a “friend” who made it known that she could not stand when people like myself would pray for the Lord’s will 😦 Very dangerous and sad.

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    1. Absolutely dreadful. And yet another reason to not lie to your children.

      From my own experience, praying for the Lord’s will can be a terrifying thing, b/c He allows some hard-to-understand stuff, that we may not understand this side of eternity. It also requires killing your flesh, which is very difficult, at times. So when you’re asking people to pray that your husband gets saved, or the cancer is cured, and the response is ‘I’ll pray for the Lord’s will’, that can be very scary, if not just riling up the flesh. idk. Everything is hard. haha

      Happy Hanukkah / Merry Christmas to you & yours.

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