Spoiler Alert! If by chance any little kids are about to read this article, please stop and go play — Santa Claus is real … until further notice!
Santa will be making his usual rounds this Saturday night, delivering to children all over the world on Christmas Eve, just in time for kids to wake up on Christmas Day to open all their gifts from Old Saint Nick.
If that were true, and if Santa were really real, that first paragraph would be the story of the century. But don’t tell little children, who mostly believe that their Christmas gifts come from Santa versus mom and dad, Aunt Sally or Grandpa Joe.
It’s a perplexing predicament for parents — do I tell my kids Santa is real, and at what age do I tell them otherwise?
“My son thinks he’s real,” says Oak Park parent Robin Funk about her 6-year-old. “He has no doubt. When he sees him he gives him a hug. It’s not a question at all. He’s all about it.”
But her family is Jewish and doesn’t celebrate the Santa tradition. During Hanukkah, her family gives presents to each other.
But when they visit her in-laws, the Santa tradition is in full swing, thanks to her father-in-law dressing up as the jolly old fella. And Funk’s son doesn’t seem to notice that grandpa isn’t in the room when Santa shows up to hand out gifts. But Funk’s 8-year-old daughter last year noticed.
She still thinks Santa is real, Funk says — he just doesn’t come to their house. This year, though, Funk said her daughter already is planning to pay closer attention to see if grandpa is there when Santa arrives. But the family has that covered — a neighbor is going to dress up this year and drop off presents instead of gramps.
Growing up, Funk also believed in Santa, but she always knew her presents came from her parents, and understood that Santa skipped coming to their house on Christmas Eve.
“I was pretty sure he was real because he was everywhere. You saw him at the mall, but I just knew that he didn’t come to our house,” she said. “I don’t know when I knew he wasn’t real. I just found out on my own.”
Funk said she’s going to let her kids find out on their own, too. Her daughter’s friends at school are already planting seeds.
“She says, ‘Some of them said they don’t believe in Santa.’
“It’s not that they said they don’t think he’s real; they just don’t believe in Santa. I think it’s neat that they believe in this magical thing,” Funk said.
Funk has also decided to let her kids discover on their own the truth about the Tooth Fairy — her daughter recently lost a tooth and found a pleasant surprise under her pillow.
Carrie Summy, who’s not Jewish, also grew up believing in Santa. She recalled seeing Santa with her mom in the kitchen. Looking back, it was very likely her dad dressed up, she says.
“I woke up, came downstairs and saw something. Maybe it was Dad. I was still kind of sleepy and ran upstairs.”
But Summy’s belief in Santa was dashed when kids on the playground started telling her that Santa wasn’t real.
“My mom assured me that Santa was real and that she knew he was. She promised me that she actually saw him,” said Summy, an Oak Park parent of four kids. “You believe whatever your parents say is gold. That was the first time I learned that parents don’t tell the truth.”
Summy said she didn’t want to do that to her kids, so for them, Old Saint Nick is — so far — very real. To keep the appearance up, she and her husband buys gifts for their 1-year-old too.
“It becomes very expensive,” Summy said, who’s not so sure if her inquisitive older daughter isn’t putting one over on her.
“I think she’s pulling me along this year,” Summy said with a laugh. “I think she knows that I know that she knows he’s not real — if that makes any sense.”