Santa Clausbiography of saints or venerated persons) tales concerning the historical figure of Christian bishop and gift giver Saint Nicholas.(Thank you, wikipedia).
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So, why encourage kids to believe in these myths? Well, I think the obvious reason for the first two is to get kids interested in religion. Let's face it: kids are really self centered and have no attention span. Trying to sit a kid down and explain to them the idea of Christ's birth (or the idea of the winter God having a wild hunt in the sky) is almost impossible. First, they probably won't get it. Second, if they do get it...why would they care? It doesn't really involve them and the holiday doesn't really impact them in any way. UNLESS you add candy and presents! Just ask a kid when Santa comes they automatically know it's for Christmas which comes once a year in the middle of winter. Then ask the kid why Christmas is so important. They'll probably then tell you about Mary and Joseph needing a place to sleep and a baby being born. That's about as far as most kids can go into the theology of Christmas. But you can see why the myth of Santa can help begin to teach kids about Christmas.
The Easter Bunny...well...I'm not entirely sure how he is supposed to help kids learn about how Christ died and was risen three days later. Maybe it's while they kids are pigging out on chocolate that you're supposed to teach them how Christ was crucified (which is a horrific way to die), buried, then three days later turned into a zombie and then vanished. Maybe the chocolate is meant to soften the blow? But using a bunny to explain to kids the idea of spring and the rebirth of nature in plants and animals is rather spot on, I think.
The Tooth Fairy seems to be the one myth that doesn't fit with the whole "teaching kids about religion" thing. So, why tell kids some creepy flying bug is coming to your room while you sleep, taking your teeth, and leaving money behind? A lot of kids have a hard time letting go of things: poop, hair, teeth, etc. So I can see why rewarding them for letting go of something is a good idea. Speaking of, that is what spurred this whole post: The Imp FINALLY lost a tooth that has been loose for several months. She's been afraid to pull it out and wouldn't let me or The Hubby do it. Then today the adult tooth that had fully erupted behind it pushed it out and it just popped out on it's own. She was very excited about it and put it under her pillow in a little box to await the infamous swap later tonight.
As you may have guessed: yes, I did tell my kids about Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. Am I lying to my kids? Yea, okay, I am. But I'm okay with it in this form, I guess. I'm not really Christian (we practice the more Pagan-side of the Christian holidays) but using these icons has helped to teach my kids about our religion. So if I'm lying to my kids or damaging them in some way for encouraging a fantasy that will one day pop like a bubble...then I guess I'll deal with it when it happens. My kids are happy. They love the holidays and they understand why we celebrate them. And while I don't judge others for not telling kids these stories or indulging in childish fantasies I would ask them same of them: Don't call me a liar. Call me a story-teller. Call me a weaver of magic. Call me a mom who loves her kids. And I'll do the same for you.