The Tooth Fairy, The Easter Bunny, And Santa Claus

Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, right? Many parents tell kids about these myths, and many don't. Many parents say it's a way of adding magic to childhood. Others say that it's just lying to kids.Which is it? Is it okay to lie to kids about fantasy characters? Is it encouraging imagination and indulging childhood fantasies to teach kids about this motley trio? Before I answer those questions with my highly opinionated feelings on the matter, let's find out the facts behind the myths.

Santa Claus

He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake. That is kinda creepy. But, the kids love him. During the Christianization of Germanic Europe, this figure may have absorbed elements of the god Odin, who was associated with the pre-Christian midwinter event of Yule and led the Wild Hunt, a ghostly procession through the sky. The modern figure of Santa Claus was derived from the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas, which, in turn, was part of its basis in hagiographical (biography of saints or venerated persons) tales concerning the historical figure of Christian bishop and gift giver Saint Nicholas.(Thank you, wikipedia).

The Easter Bunny

Crap that gets EV-ER-Y-WHERE.
A giant rodent comes to my house with plastic eggs filled with candy to hype my kids up and baskets full of this crap that gets all over the house? Gee, where do I sign up? The Easter Bunny is not a modern invention. The symbol originated with the pagan festival of Eastre. The goddess, Eastre, was worshiped by the Anglo-Saxons through her earthly symbol, the rabbit.  The Easter bunny has its origin in pre-Christian fertility lore. The Hare and the Rabbit were the most fertile animals known and they served as symbols of the new life during the spring season.

The Tooth Fairy

May possibly be the creepiest of them all: some chick (or dude) flies around looking for body parts under pillows and leaves money afterward. Yikes. Unlike Santa Claus and, to a lesser extent, the Easter Bunny, there are few details of the tooth fairy's appearance that are consistent in various versions of the myth. A 1984 study conducted by Rosemary Wells revealed that most, 74 percent of those surveyed, believed the tooth fairy to be female, while 12 percent believed the tooth fairy to be neither male nor female and 8 percent believed the tooth fairy could be either male or female.When asked about her findings regarding the tooth fairy's appearance, Wells explained - "You've got your basic Tinkerbell-type tooth fairy with the wings, wand, a little older and whatnot. Then you have some people who think of the tooth fairy as a man, or a bunny rabbit or a mouse." One review of published children's books and popular artwork found the tooth fairy to also be depicted as a child with wings, a pixie, a dragon, a blue mother-figure, a flying ballerina, two little old men, a dental hygenist, a potbellied flying man smoking a cigar, a bat, a bear and others. Unlike the well-established imagining of Santa Claus, differences in renderings of the tooth fairy are not as upsetting to children. (Again, thank you wikipedia.)

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.