Fariha Naqvi-Mohamed had a problem. The Montreal-based journalist and mother of two had received a call from her daughter Marian’s* school. At the time, Marian was in kindergarten and the class was in the midst of holiday excitement. Christmas was around the corner and the anticipation of Santa’s visit was palpable.
Marian, however, had no illusions about the existence of jolly Ol’ Saint Nick. She knew the truth: that there was no Santa. Her mother had told her and her younger brother this fact early on because, as practicing Muslims, the Christian tradition of Christmas – and the secular addition of Santa – was not part of their belief system.
Not receiving gifts from a fictional yet benevolent stranger wasn’t a problem for the young girl. She was used to it. The problem was with the other kids. And that was why the teacher was calling.
“We had a number of issues with our daughter when she was in kindergarten,” Naqvi-Mohamed, who asked for her daughter’s real name not to be used, told HuffPost Canada.
“To be truthful, we did receive a phone call home from her teacher asking us to please ask her to refrain from telling other kids that Santa Claus is not real. It wasn’t our proudest parenting moment but it happened and we dealt with it.”
Slideshow: these kids are having NONE of Santa. Story continues below.
Naqvi-Mohamed, whose daughter is now 14 and whose son is now 10, is not alone in having to navigate what is arguably the biggest, most anticipated holiday in North America.
Santa is problematic for some kids
Santa is alive and well in plenty of households. In 2018, a U.K survey found that almost three quarters of parents polled admitted to continuing the Santa façade for the sake of their children.
This can be problematic for kids who are raised in homes where the Santa myth does not exist.
As multiculturalism continues to be one of the foundational benchmarks of Canada’s identity, the growing number of families with children who don’t – and never have – believed in Santa Claus will continue to rise. How do parents of these kids navigate the tricky politics of how to not spoil Santa for other kids?
“I don’t lie to my kids,” Mara Rubinoff, a 51-year-old yoga teacher from Toronto, told HuffPost Canada.
Although her Jewish sons and daughter are now adults, she hasn’t forgotten the experiences of navigating Christmas and Santa Claus for all of the years that her kids attended public elementary school. Rubinoff never found a reason to overtly lie to her kids about Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy or any similar cultural myths.
“I think people need to get a grip on what’s important in life,” she said.
“The fantasy of Santa is fun but not to the exclusion of teaching your kids to lie ... I think the world is so full of dishonesty already.”
Still, she counselled her kids not to correct those who did believe in Santa, adopting the philosophy that “If you believe you receive.”
“It doesn’t really matter if Santa is real or not,” she’d tell her kids. “We’re Jewish and we don’t celebrate Christmas, [but] if those kids want to believe that Santa’s real, let’s just let them believe it.”
For some, Santa is everything
Tracy Spence, a daycare supervisor from Scarborough, Ont. and the mother of two grown sons, had different reasons for perpetuating the Santa myth.
“I have two kids plus a brother with Down syndrome who is like a third child,” she told HuffPost Canada. Though her children are now 25 and 23 respectively, her brother John, who is 64, still believes in Santa Claus.
WATCH: Canadian photo series goes beyond Down syndrome stereotypes. Story continues below.
“John has always made Christmas special and kept the magic alive because he continued to believe in Santa,” Spence said. “My kids loved that. It made Christmas fun.”
One of Spence’s sons was around nine or 10 when he had questions about Santa. Because she still had a child in the house who believed, as well as an older brother who did as well, she had to think hard about how she would answer.
When her son expressed doubts, Spence offered some compassionate yet sage advice.
“I said he was correct [about Santa] and then talked about the secret of Santa and the magic about being part of the secret. I also told him that as long as he kept the secret and allowed his brother and uncle to still believe, Santa would continue to come.”
Don’t be unkind
Sara Dimerman, psychologist and author, cautions parents not to underestimate their kids, but to remind those who don’t believe to be kind to those who do.
“At some point in time, children begin thinking for themselves, not accepting everything their parents tell them as gospel,” she told HuffPost Canada
“If your older child finds out before your younger one, or if you have a child that knows the truth, help him or her understand that because Santa [is] magical and special for some, it would be unkind to burst a friend’s bubble. Help them understand that each child comes to know more at a different time and to have sensitivity towards that.”
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