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Santa is a MMORPG

December 26, 2012

The first time the Knox County Gay-Straight Alliance was approved to march in Mount Vernon’s traditional holiday parade, the one where red and green dressed Rotarians and farmers toss candy to the children lining the streets (and their parents let them pick it up from the muddy pavement), we asked the parade organizers: What is the dress code? We just wanted to fit in, to avoid upsetting anyone (aside from our one three-letter word). We were told: There is just one rule–don’t dress as Santa Claus. It would confuse the children.

Out of all the children-confusing stories in our town — “There were dinosaurs on the Ark” — “The schools need no money” — “The therapist will turn you straight” — Santa is the one that the media rush to defend. Psychiatrists who spend most of the year advising parents to level with their kids take vacation to urge the opposite. “Let go of any guilt you have about duping your kids. Santa belongs in the “good lie” pile because parents invoke him for their kids’ sake.” Um, is there any other kind of lie parents admit to telling?

Occasionally a contrarian story comes out, but such is generally brushed aside as Scrooge. No one wants to hear that a child discovering “the truth” behind Santa might lose their trust in other “truths” about God and love. But is the Santa myth really that different from other convenient American myths–that there will always be enough food and energy?  That fracking in Ohio will bring unlimited gas to the pump? That we can vote down all the taxes and still have Medicare?

Why not tell children the truth–the real truth: Santa is a MMORPG. Santa is the ultimate world-wide role-playing game, played by parents, NORAD trackers and parade-marchers alike. We all play the game of giving and receiving. And the Santa story–like schools and Medicare–actually requires a lot of hard work by a lot of real people.

Doesn’t that make it even more fun?  What provides more unending hours of fun–a MMORPG, or a single player game where you’re not the player?

We told our children Santa was a game, along with Noah’s ark. Noah’s ark was actually their favorite game, with all those animals to save. Today the seas are rising, with animals ever more at risk. And Santa still needs helpers, more than ever, especially at the schools and hospitals.

We told the truth–and when our sons hit on hard times, I said, “You can trust me–I never lied about Santa.” How many parents can say the same.

  1. December 26, 2012 12:13 pm

    I wish this ended with “a lot of hard work by a lot of people.” Because at my house, we all believe in Santa. The word “lies” is about as relevant as it ever was to novels; there is a third thing in between truth and fiction.

  2. December 26, 2012 12:19 pm

    Then you believe in the game. If it’s a game, like playing Star Wars, then nobody gets “confused” by seeing multiple Santas or Wookies. But confusing a game with facts–that is what gets us in deep trouble.

  3. December 27, 2012 4:27 am

    Santa is a loa, a spirit that you summon into yourself through an act of holiday generosity. Dressing up in a white beard and a red suit to consume cookies and milk is part of the ritual to briefly become Santa.

  4. December 27, 2012 12:32 pm

    Yeah – I’m okay with whatever other parents want to do, but I do Santa and don’t consider it a lie. I believe in Santa with all my heart and hope my children do, too, though their beliefs will doubtless never completely match mine. Different parts of the Spirit speak to different people.

  5. December 27, 2012 8:10 pm

    As an atheist I have the luxury of lumping Santa in with all the other myths that tempt parents to ‘get them through this’ with minimal heartache–afterlives, heaven, being watched over by entities of some kind. But that does not lessen the temptation.
    In our children’s very first few years, we felt that going along with the Santa thing saved our tots from confusion, especially when talking to their friends.

    But we didn’t go past that first period of learning orientation–when they were old enough to question anything, we immediately switched to honesty. It’s a messy compromise, but our kids had to live with Truth and other People–two things that don’t always go together. We have always stressed the concept of ‘understanding others’ as a part of being good people.

    All those white-lie issues are a pain in the caboose. But they are important choices in parenting.

  6. December 27, 2012 8:23 pm

    If you have a certain “tradition,” you can respect other traditions. Kids have no trouble “playing along,” but they should not be forced to believe something.

    Here is one of the few reports documenting how children have been harmed by being forced to believe in Santa Claus (sorry, the ad has to play through):

    We discovered through one of our sons that some cult religions play on this, by telling vulnerable young adults that the Santa myth was “proof” that their own parents are wrong.

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