The Bell Still Rings For Me, As It Does For All Who Truly Believe

As a parent of young children, I am interested in stories about when children stopped believing in Santa Claus and how they reacted to the news. I am particularly intrigued by the “cost-benefit analysis kids” who conclude that believing (or at least acting to your parents as if you believe) is free but has utility because of the extra “Santa gifts” (presuming that these benefits are not actually paid for by an unreported decrease in the parental gifts you would otherwise get). Kind of cold I suppose, but they probably grow up to become successful economists.

A more romantic outlook is expressed in this sweet song from “The Year Without a Santa Claus”. The comments are worth reading, particularly the one by the daughter of one of the singers.

Our government very definitely believes, they even track the jolly old elf all night.  Here is the story of how they got into this Yuletide business.

James Joyner and I had an exchange about this regarding the Easter Bunny, and I nicked the above picture from him. He tells his childhood story and describes his parenting strategy here, and it sounds wise to me. Merry Christmas to James and his little ones.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

10 thoughts on “The Bell Still Rings For Me, As It Does For All Who Truly Believe”

  1. My daughter and I always treated the tooth fairy as a game. Me steadfastly maintaining her existence, wink, wink, and her trying to catch me out. Once on an extended family trip to Disneyland, I positively astonished her Uncle Tom who could not figure out how I got that Susan B. Anthony under that motel pillow.

  2. This is sorta like spam, but not quite. But since I don’t get to post directly on the blog, this is the only way I know.

    I grew up in a Jewish family. When we celebrated my Bar Mitzvah, I asked my parents why we have a Christmas tree every year. My dad explained that irrespective of our religion, we should all recognize that Christmas is a time when people of good will wish each other well, and believe, if only for a day, that giving is at least as good as getting. We didn’t go to church, he said, because that’s for Christians, but the spirit of Christmas is for everyone.

    That was an important lesson for me. My parents are gone almost fifty years now, but I still remind myself each year, and it makes me feel good. So I still have a Christmas tree in my house, and I still have a visit from Santa on Christmas Eve.

    And for all the friends and acquaintances I’ve made here in the last year, including the ones I disagree with on some of the details of this world, I say “God rest ye merry, gentlemen and ladies, and be of good cheer. And may Santa visit you tonight, so tomorrow you will believe.”

    1. Oh, I don’t think that is spammy at all. It’s a slice of Jewish American history, one that I think is in danger of being lost, in part because of embarassment that one ever did anything so out-of-place. But there was definitely a time when American Jews were trying to figure out the balance between being American and being Jewish, and where to put the secular aspects of Christmas was still up for grabs. In the 1950s in my Jewish family, stockings (well, actually, our regular socks) were hung in our fireplace-less Bronx apartment for Santa. Who always managed to find us. I guess he took the elevator.

      Since then it’s evolved that no trappings of Christmas, no matter how secular, are permitted (except maybe in certain precincts of the descendents of German-Jews in Cincinnati I’m told).

    2. I so wish I could spread that idea of disinterested goodwill toward all through humanity! Or at least through the subset of it with whom I deal on a daily basis. That’d be a start.

  3. All “Buffy” fans know that Santa exists:

    Dawn: Um, guys, hello, puberty? Sort of figured out the whole no-Santa thing.
    Anya: That’s a myth.
    Dawn: Yeah.
    Anya: No, I mean, it’s a myth *that* it’s a myth. There is a Santa Claus.
    Xander: The advantage of having a thousand-year-old girlfriend. (to Anya)Inside scoop.
    Tara: There’s a Santa Claus?
    Anya: Mm-hmm. Been around since, like, the 1500s. But he wasn’t always called Santa. But with, you know, Christmas night, flying reindeer, coming down the chimney, all true.
    Dawn: All true?
    Anya: Well, he doesn’t traditionally bring presents so much as, you know, disembowel children. But otherwise…
    Tara: The reindeer part was nice.

    And for Easter Anya can explain bunnies.

  4. I was a child in the 1950s, and the key moment in my recantation occurred when an uncle (presumably, well-meaning) told me the Russians had sent up a satellite to shoot down Santa Claus. I reacted by disbelieving in Santa Claus, perhaps as a defensive measure against believing that someone would do something so mean and horrible. Satellites were new and a bit scary at the time, so Santa’s soft bubble popped on contact with the real, modern world in the form of hard technology.

  5. My daughter was about five when my husband and I separated. He bought all sorts of lovely gifts for her and because I was getting my degree and very poor, I wanted her to think they were from Santa. I added a couple small ones and stocking stuffers.

    She was grief-stricken on Christmas morning because my now-ex had shown her all the gifts from him so she knew they weren’t from Santa.

    Santa thought she had been bad!

    Happy New Year!

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