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(Do) We Need to Talk About Santa (?)

 I vaguely remember when it was that I found out Santa wasn't real. I was in middle school, probably about 8 years old. It was coming up to Christmas and I recall a classmate a propos of nothing saying: "You know Santa isn't real, don't you?" At varying levels, I instantly believed them and confirmed scathingly that of course I knew. I didn't know. Hadn't even suspected. But it wasn't exactly a life-shattering blow to me for a few reasons:

1) My parents did not make a huge thing out of Father Christmas. He wasn't held up as a figure whom you must appease or else be stricken of all your presents come December 25th. 

2) I had not thought a great deal about the logistics of a man traveling around the world in a flying sleigh in one night merrily chucking out gifts to all and sundry. Sure, his handwriting looked suspiciously like my mum's, but I wasn't interested in putting two and two together. I just took it as all as something that happened once a year.

3) I had actually seen Santa. One Christmas Eve I had woken up and seen him in my room! Why would anyone bother dressing up on the off-chance I'd wake up? 

So really, while it all did start to come together in that moment and I realized that Santa was, in fact, my parents, I also held on to a kernel of certainty that he was still real because I was convinced I had seen him. This lasted through another couple of Christmases until my mum started saying things like: "just leave your stockings down here, girls, I don't think Santa can be bothered going up the stairs" that I finally let go of my last vestiges of belief. 

When I became a parent, I looked forward to the new stage of the Santa myth - introducing my children to the worldwide communal lie / magic moment and basking in their excitement on Christmas morning. My daughter is now 8 and, while I am 90% sure that she still believes in Santa or, at least, hasn't had the story ruined for her yet, I am feeling increasingly guilty in maintaining the pretense. 

It started a week or so ago, when a community group set up a special postbox for letters to Santa. My children wrote their letters and deposited them in the slot. The extra special touch (which we kept as a surprise) was that Santa would actually write back. The people in charge of the box prepared responses for each letter. They were marked with a North Pole stamp and wax-sealed with a "Santa Claus" monogram. Great, I thought, how nice. My plan was to incorporate my kids' plush Elves on the Shelves into the theatrics by having them hold the letters when the kids woke up so they would think the elves had gone to the North Pole that night, picked up the letters and come back again. Sounds legit, I know. 

By the way - the plush Elf on the Shelf is my Christmas parenting hack. It costs under $20, the kids can play with it all year round if they want and you don't have to work out elaborate stunts and tableaux for them. Seriously, when my daughter first said she wanted an Elf on the Shelf I thought, OK. Then I went to the shop and was like "HOW MUCH??? And I have to do all the work mySELF????" Nothankyou. She has had her plush version for two years now and is happy with it being moved around the room a bit once December rolls around. My son got his elf this year and got freaked out when my husband moved it around in November so hasn't bonded with it as much.

The imaginatively named Elfie and Bob holding their letters from  the Big Man. No, not that one, the other one.

Anyway, I had a horrible pang of conscience when I thought ahead to how these letters would be guilelessly received this year and the ensuing fallout in the future when the Santa myth inevitably comes crashing down:
"But we got letters from him! Who wrote those then? YOU?"
"No! Of course not! It was a couple of guys from our neighbourhood!"
"You mean you LIED TO ME?"
"Well, you know, everyone does it."

I'm probably overthinking it. My daughter has started dropping hints that maybe she knows Elfie ain't exactly moving around by herself but I have issued mock-indignant denials that it wasn't me and she hasn't pushed it. Nobody suffers from life-long trust issues when they find out the truth about Santa as long as the presents are there on Christmas Day. So maybe it's not the fact that I'm lying to her about the existence of a supersonic immortal gift-giver who has similar handwriting to her mum that's making me feel bad. Maybe it's the fact that I don't want her to grow up and stop believing in the magic. 

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