The year was 1994. A 7 year old girl wanders into the storage closet in the family room to hide from her siblings. Just a little practical joke (though not terribly creative). Then she spots it. Tucked away in a corner leaning against a large bin was a ream of wrapping paper. The same wrapping paper that covered all her gifts from "Santa." And it was in that moment she realized her whole life was a lie! She screamed for her sister and demanded answers. Sure enough her big sister confirmed what she'd already worked out in her head. There was no Santa. There was only Mom. Quite obviously that little girl was me.

And from that moment I often wondered if I was going to subject my kids to that kind of heartbreak. One of my favorite childhood memories was my mom waking me up along with my siblings in the middle of the night to take a peek at Santa Claus placing gifts under the tree. My dad was in the bathroom so he missed it, but he did see the reindeer from the window. Of course that memory was quickly tainted when I learned the truth. My dad was in costume, not the bathroom. I recalled how many times I told that story to classmates and teachers and felt like a fool. How could I put my kids through that?!

But I grew up and had kids of my own. Before I could think twice, I was labeling tags with "From: Santa" and sharing that very memory I'd long resented as a warm and fuzzy Christmas story to foster the belief in Old Saint Nick. My son ate it up and the joy on his little face felt worth it.

This year he is 10 years old. And kids at school started making comments that Santa is just your parents buying gifts and wrapping them. I know because he asked me why his classmates were joking like that. For fear that he would be the dorky kid in school for still believing, I let him in on the secret and he was devastated. He was feeling the way I did 26 years ago.

Now I have a 3 year old who is just now understanding who Santa is. Do I nip that in the bud and explain that Santa Claus is a representation of the Christmas spirit and the magic of the holiday season but not an actual person in real life? Treat Santa like he's just a character in movies and TV. Or do I let him believe? If so, what age do I tell him the truth? Such a tricky situation How have you gone about it?

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