It happens almost every year during the week before Christmas.
Someone sends an email to a list of friends (usually veteran parents and grandparents), or posts an item on Facebook that raises this old question: Is anyone else getting uncomfortable with the whole Santa drama?
There is always a second question that flows naturally out of that: What is the purpose of this elaborate and dramatic lie? What are we trying to teach our children by doing this and what do we say to them once the charade is up? After all, in families with many children the old ones have to help sustain the lie for the little folks.
A confession from me: My wife and I, even before converting to Eastern Orthodoxy, decided -- primarily based on my work in mass-media studies, with a lot of reading about advertising -- to skip Santa Claus and tell our children that St. Nicholas of Myra -- as in the 4th-century bishop -- was a real person. The also noted that people have long honored him on his feast day (Dec. 6th on the Gregorian calendar) with gift-giving traditions that eventually, in culture after culture, morphed into something else. We told them not to play that game with other kids, but not to mock them or, well, tell them the truth, either. The key: In our faith, saints are real.
Journalists, if this subject interests you -- especially the secular, materialistic side of this equation -- then you should read and file an essay at The Atlantic by Megan Garber that ran with the loaded headline:
Spoiler: Santa Claus and the Invention of Childhood
How St. Nick went from “beloved icon” to “beloved lie”