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There's a funny t-shirt for babies that says "Santa doesn't exist but I can't read, so it's okay." Do you lie to children about Santa Claus (or leave it ambiguous)? What are the benefits and limitations of the myths we tell children? How would you have answered Virginia? What do you think of this alternate reply?


How do you explain the concept of Santa Claus (or other characters such as the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, etc) to your kids? Do you tell them that he doesn't really exist?

In 1897, Virginia O'Hanlon wrote to the editor of The New York Sun: I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in the Sun, it's so." Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

And the Sun printed its famous "Dear Virginia" reply, the most-reprinted editorial of all time. I'm sure you've read it. Unfortunately, that popular answer represents and advocates an utterly mystical worldview -- one where man is low, little, helpless -- one where the universe of science is barren, while what is really real and truly valuable is hidden behind the veil of the supernatural, accessible only by faith and feelings. It is a sustained attack on reality and reason, including the genuine spiritual values important to human life... So I decided to try my hand at an answer: Same length, similar style and language, equivalent unapologetic advocacy of a worldview (but a healthy one this time) -- ostensibly directed to a child in that age, but really designed to spark adult understanding in any age.

Dear Virginia,

Your eagerness to know is wonderful! Have you ever scooped up a lost nickel, only to discover that it is a quarter? Santa is like that, a thousand times over. No, there is no Santa outside imagination, but learning about him is greater than any gift he would bring were he really real.

Santa is a playful fantasy full of hope and happiness, inviting you down the challenging path to true adulthood. Yes, he embodies good will and generosity and inspires children everywhere to appreciate the difference between Naughty and Nice. But there is so much more that you and your friends are just now glimpsing, hidden behind the tale's knowing wink.

Santa helps us to learn the crucial lesson that sometimes what we are told just isn't so, no matter how splendid it sounds, who says it, or how tightly we might cling to the idea. He invites us to push through the veil of a child's blind acceptance to join the grown-up world of facts, thought, and independent understanding. Just as nobody can breathe for us, nobody can think for us -- not even The New York Sun. You have to see the truth of something to really know.

Now, do not let slip fantasy and imagination, for even grown-ups love to play! There will always be costumes and paintings and stories to delight. But we have to distinguish between make-believe and reality, and use our intelligence and creativity to understand the world and make our place in it. This is how we sustain all those things that motivate and fulfill us: love, art, play, hope, romance, achievement, joy.

The most exciting thing you can discover is that reality itself is infinitely more rich and interesting than our wildest fantasies. And Santa brings each of us a priceless gift: help in learning to face the vast wonder and glory of the universe like a hero, seeing by a light that is brighter than the brightest star, shaping and reshaping our world with a boundless engine of creation.

No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus. But important lessons and a sweet tale that makes glad the heart of childhood live on, at least until our imagination creates something even better. So celebrate the flowering of your intellect and pass Santa forward to the next generation with love -- and a wink.

What do you tell your kids about Santa Claus?


Original posting by Braincrave Second Life staff on Dec 23, 2010 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=413

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