The question was: Do you tell kids Santa doesn’t exist, or not?

I have three kids. The eldest was the first one to notice something wasn’t adding up in the stories she heard. She was maybe four.

Now personally I don’t care for Christmas. The thought of my sweet little princess having busted Santa all by herself made her dad a bit sad, but not me. I was proud of her. Way to doubt and question authority. She was thinking for herself and challenging received dogma. You bet I beamed.

You’re right, I told her. Santa is a story adults invent for little kids to explain the gifts and make them see the magic of the season (I lied there; I don’t see magic in Christmas one bit). You’re big enough to understand that, but let’s keep it to ourselves so we don’t ruin it for you baby sisters, alright?

The youngest daughter also got a whiff that something was not quite right in the storyline early, like five years old or thereabouts. She got the same treatment from me. Middle daughter, who at that point was probably around seven years old, decided to continue believing in Santa even though at that point she kind of knew, too. But she likes magic, that one, and why not. It’s not because I’m a grinch that everyone has to suffer because of that.

They are 12, 10 and 8 now and of course they all get it. Not only why there is no Santa, but why adults pretend there is for little kids - and sometimes for themselves, too. Which I think is the best attitude to have. It’s sure better than mine. Mistletoe gives me hives.

So. When your kids first start asking questions (How can Santa come down our chimney when we don’t have one?), string it along juuuuuust a little bit but don’t outright lie. Whatever you do, don’t make them feel bad or guilty for asking tough questions. Foster that independent spirit, please. Use your creativity. Make them feel like they might be onto something but don’t rush to burst the bubble. They’ll get there soon enough. And if you burst it too soon you run the risk of upsetting them.

When the bubble is gone, ask them to think of smaller children, who may need more magic, and keep this big-kid story to themselves and people older than them. At least until January. Then it will all be mercifully over.