Believing in Santa stops my daughter appreciating the needs of others

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images Photo: Getty Images

You'd think I'd be smug about the fact that I've already wrapped my six-year-old daughter's presents from Father Christmas. But instead of basking in the glow of PFS (premature festive smuggery), I am in turmoil, struggling to resist the urge to pull them out of the wardrobe and relabel them.

Why? Because when I suggested to my daughter that we donate her outgrown toys to a local charity distributing items to disadvantaged families at Christmas, it was apparent that she didn't see the need.

When pressed, she simply said Santa sorted out Christmas for children all around the world. She wasn't being narcissistic, she just couldn't understand why anyone would want her cast-offs, when the fella in red has everybody covered.

I was overcome with the urge to relabel all her presents from her father and me instead. Why not relegate Father Christmas to giver of tiny tokens of festive fun, and make the "proper" presents from us?

Would that help reset the imbalance of a world-view that believes no child goes without on Christmas Day?

How does one tackle a child's unshakeable belief in a kindly global benefactor who makes all children's wishes come true once a year? I'm no Scrooge, and gain no joy from bursting the bubble of childhood belief, but are we doing kids a disservice by encouraging faith in a festive fairy tale if it negates the need for taking care of those around us?

"We should do away with Father Christmas in the name of social equality," I muttered to my husband, swiftly followed by: "Am I over-thinking this?" Thankfully, he is too kind to answer that.

Of course, it has occurred to me that this is about as first world a problem as it gets, but that doesn't stop it being an issue that keeps me awake at night. I'm not the only one, judging by the number of blogs devoted to the Santa question.

I envy the easy certainty of those who see encouraging faith in Father Christmas as a precious parenting rite of passage. The mere possibility that I might deviate from the Father Christmas script is met with absolute horror at the school gates, along with a heavy hint that I won't be forgiven if my children are the ones "to ruin it" for others.


I'm not about to volunteer my daughter for a shift at our local soup kitchen on Christmas morning, but I just don't feel right about her belief that everyone's wish-list is met with the easy approval that hers, this year, will be. (On that note, I can't work out why she's asked for a metal detector instead of a unicorn, if she's sure he's so obliging...)

I'm not against believing in Father Christmas per se. My parents created a magical festival world for us where sooty footprints were still mysteriously appearing on the carpet long after we'd stopped believing.

I treasure the joy of conspiring with my teenagers to recreate for their little sister the traditions they loved.

I just don't want to knowingly indulge my daughter in a story that turns a blind eye to the needs of others - especially when we have some resources that could help.

I've tried a middle ground; casually mentioning our standing order to the North Pole to help Santa's efforts. She didn't buy it, so I decided this was not a battle I needed to fight just yet.

Or, at least, it's one I don't need to win with words. We're going to quietly donate her toys anyway, and keep explaining that she has more than she needs, but that not all children do.

We take part in a "reverse advent calendar", donating to the food bank every day in December, and we'll focus less on choosing a sparkly new sweater and more on supporting Save the Children's Christmas Jumper Day, which helps those in need around the world.

I'm doing what I can to prepare my daughter for what can be a harsh reality, but I'm not quite ready to ditch the festive fantasy entirely. Maybe the way she sees the world, too, is to be cherished.

Saying that, I can't promise that I won't have relabelled those presents come Christmas morning.

The Daily Telegraph, UK