America is a diverse nation and only the naive person believes that almost all Americans share a ton of values in common. However, one of the very few things that almost all American adults have agreed to do is to lie to young children about Santa.
I do not mean to imply that almost all American adults approve of lying to young children about Santa. Many of us don’t. Yet, rather than become pariahs in our own homes or communities, we go along with the social demand that young children should be lied to about Santa.
For instance, this morning, Doug at Groping the Elephant, wrote about a news anchor, Robin Robinson, who was pressured by public outrage to apologize for having announced during a broadcast that there was no Santa Claus. Regardless of Ms. Robinson’s own views on the subject, it’s unlikely she’ll anytime soon try publicly debunking the myth again.
A surprising lot can be said about the custom of lying about Santa. Obviously, one can argue over whether it is morally right or wrong. But beyond that, one might speculate why such a hugely diverse nation is nearly unanimous in its support for the custom. One might ask whether figuring out that we have been lied to by our community is a rite of passage — one of the very few rites of passage left that nearly everyone goes through. One might ponder why no one has figured out a way to commercialize lying to Santa in a nation that seems able to commercialize everything else. Indeed, the ways of discussing lying about Santa might seem endless.
I can’t recall at what age I figured out there was no Santa, but I can recall what it taught me. That is, I can still even to this day recall marveling over the discovery that I had believed something — not because I thought it was true (I had suspicions it wasn’t true even before I confirmed it wasn’t true) — but because I so deeply desired it to be true.
That was an important life lesson for me. Over the years, I have benefited again and again from knowing that I am capable of believing something to be true simply because I want it to be true.
So, what lessons, if any, did you yourself learn upon discovering that your community lied to you about Santa? Were any of the lessons you learned especially useful to you? Did any of them stick with you?