What if Santa died? Childhood myths and development
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 02 January 2018
Disenchantment with Santa Claus is a rite of passage that usually signals the adoption of an adult-defined reality. The ethics of the custom, which has been described as misleading, have recently been debated and there are suggestions that it is less well maintained than in previous years. This short article explores some of the sociocognitive benefits of promoting the Santa Claus tale and its associated customs. Sociological theories suggest benefits in family bonding and pro-social behaviour, including sharing. Cognitive theories describe enhanced fantastical thinking, expansion of the internal object world and purposeful play. Children may draw parallels between Santa Claus and God, although there is no current evidence that finding out he does not exist impairs their subsequent capacity for religious faith. Whether or not the fable is a threat to the child's trust is to be decided by each parent. On balance, the tale of Santa Claus is a powerful tool that may serve to nurture social and cognitive development, particularly in a technological society where children mature earlier.
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