Debate: Should children be told that Father Christmas isn’t real?

Santa Claus: a commercialised symbol of Christmas (Photo: PA)

This week an archbishop in Argentina said that children should not confuse Christmas with “a fat man dressed in red”. He said that, “in reality, the gifts come from the efforts of their parents and with the help of Jesus”.

William Oddie, Herald blogger, is appalled. “I hope the archbishop enjoys his plate of gruel on Christmas day,” he writes. He argues that we should try to reclaim pagan traditions, to re-Christianise the wonder of the Christmas season, not just cancel them entirely.

Fr Ray Blake, on the other hand, is sympathetic to the archbishop. Although he says he never wants to be the Father who ruined Christmas, he explains:

“I think we Catholics ought to avoid implicating ourselves in deliberately deceiving children, just in case they see the Incarnation as being equally untrue.”

Parents, too, are in a delicate situation. Andrew M Brown wrote in the Catholic Herald print edition last week that, while he tries not to tell his children elaborate fictions about Santa, he does not want to be a killjoy either. Here’s his compromise:

“Our children are clear that at Christmas we celebrate the birth of Christ. I’ve told them the bare minimum about Santa – that he gives presents to children who’ve been good and that he’s connected with St Nicholas. Anyway, our five-year-old son is already showing signs of scepticism: all he bothered to produce by way of a ‘letter to Santa’ was a crude shopping list of items.”

So, should children be told that Father Christmas is a fraud, or be told very little about him? Or does that lessen the wonder and magic of the season?