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Why We Should Indulge in Childhood Fantasies Like Santa and the Easter Bunny

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For the past few semesters, I’ve taught my students how to write an argumentative research essay. I use Santa Claus as a simple example to show them how to consider opposing arguments. “Should people allow their children to believe in Santa Claus? Why or why not?” I ask. Then, I write the words pros and cons on the board, including their arguments for or against Santa underneath.

And what about the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy? If people reject Santa, they’re likely to reject them too.

Most of my students are pro-Santa, citing reasons like Santa promotes good behavior and children should enjoy the magic of Christmas. Those who vote against Santa have solid reasons — the main one being that many children come from poor families, and their caregivers often can’t afford to buy many presents to place beneath the tree. If Santa is supposed to visit all well-behaved children, how do we explain these disparities?

A few years ago, a social worker’s message to parents about Santa Claus went viral. Stop telling your children expensive gifts are from Santa, she urged. I agree. This is one way to close the gap of inequity. Each year, my boyfriend and I label a few of our son’s gifts from Santa; the rest are from us.

Another issue my students often point out is that when children find out there is no Santa, they may develop trust issues.

One of the most encouraging articles I’ve read in support of Santa explains Santa as a concept, not just a person. Once children begin to understand there is no Santa Claus, caregivers can use that knowledge to reinforce the idea that Christmas is a time for selfless giving. Children who no longer believe can keep the magic alive by becoming Santa themselves — giving anonymously to someone less fortunate than them.

My four-year-old son is creative, funny, and imaginative. He’s fascinated by volcanoes, stages elaborate rescues with his toy cars and trucks, and tells me stories about scary and silly monsters. This past Christmas, he wrote a letter to Santa, which we addressed to the North Pole, stamped, and placed in the mailbox. For Easter, I donated to a school fundraiser. Easter Bunny helpers will be coming to hide eggs full of candy in our yard. And there is nothing my son loves more than finding eggs — he hides plastic ones in our house all year long.

Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy leave the door open to a fantasy world full of creativity and magic.

Adults still enter this world all the time — using it as an escape whenever they read a novel or watch a movie. They embrace the magic of Disney, dress up for Halloween, and participate in events like Comic-con. Many of us couldn’t do our jobs without imagination. Architects use it to design buildings, advertisers rely on it to send messages to their audience, chefs and bakers use it to create unique and elaborate foods.

My son’s imagination is a magical place. I know he can’t live there forever, but allowing him to explore it now may lead him toward future happiness and success.

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