Life in Poland

Santa and our little atheists


I am pretty sure I used to believe in Santa Claus. I used to believe in god too – thanks Catholic school. I believe in neither now.

I am pretty sure my belief in Santa was short-lived. I have no memory of believing, but I do remember not believing. Plus my sister is four years older than me, and she probably filled me in. We moved to a new house when I was in kindergarten, and I distinctly remember my parents talking about Santa coming down the new fireplace, etc. and I didn’t believe then. That’s young, I think. I was 5.

This year I have a student who still believes in Santa. He’s 9. I haven’t had such a young student in ages. It was such a pleasure to listen to him describe how Santa brings him and his brother presents on Santa Claus Day at the beginning of December and how the magic star brings them presents again on Christmas Eve. He had magic and wonder in his eyes. It was sweet.

I wonder how he’ll feel when he figures it out.

I don’t recall any traumatic moment of finding out that Santa did not exist. I mean, I went to Catholic school, so I knew all about the Saint Nicholas part of the story and the Jesus part of the story as well. Santa in the red suit never visited our school, and I only remember one time I sat on Santa’s lap after the local Christmas parade. In fact, a successful Christmas means you don’t see Santa. He comes to your house when you’re asleep.

Misiu played Santa this year for the village Santa Claus Day party. Last year it was one of the moms. Two years ago it was the least drunk guy from in front of the local shop. Rosie cried that year and said Santa smelled bad. I am happy to report that Misiu did a wonderful job. He talked to the kids, danced with them, sang some songs, gave them their presents, and posed for pictures. Only one child cried, but it is understandable for a one-year-old. We told our girls that Santa was Daddy, but Rosie was still a bit scared. She said with tears in her eyes, “That doesn’t look like Daddy.” She cheered up when she heard Santa talking with Daddy’s voice. Misiu said it was a million times better than the last time he played Santa 20 years ago at college when he had a massive hangover.


We didn’t introduce the concept of Santa to our kids, and for the longest time I wasn’t even aware that Poland celebrated Santa Claus Day as a separate day. When our nanny found out that the kids didn’t get anything under their pillows, she took Santa Claus Day into her own hands and surprised them each year. Then they went to pre-school and the fascination grew. I tried to limit discussions about Santa, you know, to limit how much I had to lie to them. I still feel guilty about it and a little underappreciated as well, as it wasn’t Santa who went to 3 stores to find “Beautiful Hair Barbie” or whatever her name is in English, but me, Mom –without extra assistance from any magic reindeer.

I hope that my children don’t experience any long-term damage from the web of lies surrounding the childhood magic of Christmas. I find it fascinating that my children are interested in mythology and religion as legend, don’t believe in god, but yet believe wholeheartedly in Santa Claus. Every year we watch a cartoon which states explicitly that there is no Santa Claus and that we each honor the spirit of Saint Nicholas every time we do something nice for someone or give someone a present. They have noticed that the presents are wrapped in “our” wrapping paper and that they get the presents they asked for after writing letters to Santa.


When my kids ask me something, I usually give it to them straight. They know how babies are made, they know where meat comes from, they know that their friend’s dog didn’t go to live on a farm, they know that Mommy isn’t too busy to play Barbie, but that mommy simply doesn’t like playing Barbie. My friend said that it was cruel of us to tell our kids that god doesn’t exist. I never told them that god doesn’t exist. I just didn’t tell that god exists. I tried to do the same with Santa but it just didn’t work out. Oh well, they’ll figure it out sooner or later.

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    December 28, 2014 at 11:46 pm

    You reminded me of Christmas I scared my sister almost to death :)She's 11 years younger and was told by her schoolmates that year (they must have been 7-8 I suppose) that there had been no Santa and presents were laid under the tree by the parents. One day in December she came back from school with this very mature look in her eyes, accusing us all of lying to her all these years. But she was still waiting for Christmas Eve to catch the parents with presents.When she had gone to her room to get dressed for the dinner, not thinking too much of it I took a glass bell from the tree, went outside and started ringng the bell just outiside her window. She sprung to the kitchen with her thigts on one leg and the rest of it in her hand still, so I sneaked back into the house.The rest we found from our not-knowing-a-thing mama, how my sister appeared in the kitchen crying out loud and screaming: \”What now?!? He exists! He knows everything I've said and I won't get presents now!\”. When mama – busy and in a hurry with last minute dinner preps – was trying to comfort her, we managed to lay the presents under the tree, so when they eventually emerged from the kitchen, with my sister still sobbing, the boxes were already there and she settled.Every time we recall this evening, we laugh like mad about her Santa disbelief delayed smartly for another Christmas. The next year she knew Santa didn't exist for 100%, but there was no fuss about it at all.I consider the whole Santa thing as another coming of age milestone, same as the moment you realise how children are made or that your parents also do \”this\” thing, or that they're not immortal, etc.

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    December 29, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    What a wonderful family story. I wonder if our girls realization will be so memorable.

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