Santa Clause is one of the most popular figures of our childhood. With Rudolph, his plucky outcast reindeer by his side, he flies through the night and visits every home, rich or poor with gifts aplenty. This year children all over Ireland will set out a plate of cookies, a carrot and a cheeky glass of Guinness on Christmas Eve, and repeat the ritual every year till the dreaded one of realisation. The famous figure of charity based on Saint Nicholas has been around for years, though self-righteous Scrooges will take great pleasure in telling you that Coca-Cola invented him.
So why is it that anyone wants to get rid of such a wonderful character, full of whimsy and magic? Well for one thing, Santa Clause pressurises parents into spending large amounts of money on things they would otherwise be able to say no to. While your child understands that your family might not be able to afford something, present them with a mythical North Pole workshop and a crack team of elves, and suddenly the task of dissuading them from a PlayStation 4 becomes a lot trickier.
Other parents believe that consistently lying to your child, even to create a more magical time of year is morally wrong. This has long fallen under the heading of what Irish people refer to as ‘notions’. Never a very successful philosophy, at least in rural Ireland, this kind of parenting usually results in the morally correct child storming the primary school with disastrous announcements of Santa’s non-existence in the manner of a medieval town crier. This child is also usually the one to spread the facts of life first, due to the same nonsensical ‘truthful’ parenting.
Of course the choice to tell children about Santa is a personal one. As someone who forever resented the fact that the Easter Bunny “didn’t visit my house” I plan to create a traditional festive atmosphere that would rival Home Alone 2 in sheer extravagance. To me, Christmas includes a jolly round figure, and more importantly, thinking you might have just heard hooves on the roof of your house as you try to sleep on Christmas Eve.
The problem with Santa Clause is that eventually the moment will come that your kids realise you’ve been lying to them. They might be eight years old, and discover your secret stash of presents, or they might be eleven and realise only when other children enlighten them. Eventually it will happen, and the real dilemma around the myth of Santa Clause is whether the years of magic and wonder live up to the sickening disappointment at the end of it. Or you could dither helplessly between the choices, and just allow the television to do your parenting for you.