I’m pretty sure this is the year…the year my daughter will look me in the eye and ask, “Is Santa real?”
I managed to narrowly avoid the topic last holiday season, but making it through this December would be a true Christmas miracle. Having a big speech or explanation ready to go would probably be to my advantage, but I can’t seem to find the right words. I’m in denial that we’re already here.
Tackling the concept of Santa’s identity is something many parents dread. But for me, it feels like I’m saying goodbye to a member of the family. For the last 34 years, Mr. and Mrs. Claus have been far more than a Christmas tradition. They’ve played steadfast characters in my life, bringing joy into my home each and every holiday season.
You see, “my” Santa and Mrs. Claus are very much real. Santa is my former high school English teacher, and Mrs. Claus is my aunt.
For longer than I’ve been alive, my aunt and Mr. K have taken on alternative personas during the holiday season. They frequent homes, musical performances, and events, big and small. (If you’ve ever attended the downtown tree lighting, you may have seen them. They are the Columbia Club’s resident Santa and Mrs. Claus during the Circle of Lights.) Each year, they share joy, music, and the magic of Christmas with thousands of Indianapolis families.
I grew up believing that there were two different kinds of Santas in this world: helper Santas, like those found at the mall or at the end of the Macy’s Day Parade, and the real deal. As a child, Santa routinely came to my grandparents’ house at Christmas. We’d sit on his lap, and he’d recall details that only the true Man in Red could possibly know. One year, when my sister began to question the duo’s authenticity, Santa even pulled an antique sleigh bell from his bag. My sister may have suspected the truth, but it sure felt like a real-life Polar Express moment.
When I learned about Santa and Mrs. Claus’s identity, the magic was kept alive through stories of other children and families. My aunt would tell of her adventures, the excitement of the season, and it continued to make Santa feel real. The tradition was completely restored when my children were born. Christmas visits, musical performances, and even personalized video messages during COVID. I watched as “my” Santa became theirs.
My children are growing older, and so are the people behind Mr. and Mrs. C. There’s been no discussion, but I suspect that their “Santa-ing” days may be coming to an end. I think that is what’s causing the heaviness. This time, the answer behind “is Santa real” feels final. When I reveal the truth to my daughter, I’m afraid it will completely dissolve the magic.
So how do I divulge their identity without crushing her spirit or mine? Do I front-load the conversation or continue to wait it out? There are hundreds of creative and genuine suggestions online. (I feel like I’ve read them all.) But our family’s unique closeness to Santa and Mrs. Claus sometimes makes them feel inapplicable.
I guess my goal is just to be as sincere and honest as possible, to help her recall fond memories so she can reflect on the special moments she has experienced. Santa and Mrs. Claus may no longer hold the same reality, but I hope to remind my daughter that she can keep Santa’s spirit alive by spreading her joy and love to others.