Is it a sin to "lie" about Santa to your kids?


The other night, I got into a discussion about Santa Claus with a fellow Catholic. He asked me how I can justify pretending there is a Santa Claus when the CCC states that it is always wrong to tell a lie and that you can never do evil, even if good comes from it. My kids still believe in Santa and I personally never gave it too much thought, but I didn’t know how to answer him. I mentioned it to some other friends and they also didn’t know how to answer it.

I then posted the question in the Ask an Apologist forum:

I have to say that I don’t find the answer to be too convincing. While I feel that it probably isn’t a sin (and not really a lie), Michelle’s answer just doesn’t do it for me. If these figures don’t exist and we know it, then isn’t it lying if we tell our kids that they’re real? The person that I’m dealing with is not going to accept that we’re telling myths, not lying. As I said, I agree that it’s probably not a sin, I just can’t explain it well.

I’d appreciate hearing others opinions about this.



That’s a tough one, and I read the answer on Ask an Apologist and, honestly, never thought of it that way. My parents always said that they just didn’t see it right to tell their children to believe in Santa and then say “Santa doesn’t exist” later or have them find out that he doesn’t. To them, it’d be like “God exists even though you never see him” and then what are they to think after they find out Santa doesn’t? I know many people who say that’s taking it way too far and say that that logic doesn’t happen with children.

Whether it’s a lie or not, I’d rather have them focus on the positive aspects of what Santa represents anyway, which are those that are found in St. Nicholas. Why not tell them about St. Nick (CCC has a WONDERFUL video on him!) and get them in the spirit of giving? Just because one doesn’t tell their child that Santa exists, doesn’t mean that the children don’t get presents. I like the idea even more of the children knowing you gave them the presents because then that teaches them to have a grateful heart toward their parents as well.

I know this isn’t exactly answering your question. I think it is a lie, but I can also see how it can be explained to not be a lie as well. I never felt leftout or deprived, so I’m choosing to raise my children the same :).


I wouldn’t call telling children about Santa lying, either. Some of our greatest Catholic writers loved fairy tales and myths, such as G. K. Chesterton and especially J. R. R. Tolkien. And they are right to “believe” in them for they open for us a part of our hearts and souls that mere reality cannot.

Santa represents the fun and joy of Christmas as well as generosity and kindness. This is what we are really teaching our children by telling them stories about Santa, and other fantasy characters. To many good, intelligent people Tolkien’s elves and hobbits are just as “real” as Santa–they are for me.

When your children are old enough to understand, this is what you tell them–that Santa represents the spirit of Christmas, all the while telling them about the real person, St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children.

We shouldn’t squash creativity and imagination in the name of “truth” when in fact, creativity and imagination are what make truth come to life for us. And as a parent only you can know what is good for your own children. Some children benefit greatly by belief in Santa while others only want to know what is “true,” in the ordinary sense of the word. I always believed in Santa, and in a way I still do. I think it a harmless thing to pass on to children and a good way to introduce them to the virtues of giving and kindliness.


OK, the Tooth Fairy is easy for me to explain. I have never described the Tooth Fairy to my children in any way, and we have never talked about her attributes and there is no prolonged “myth” story about her. They put the tooth under their pillow and the “Tooth Fairy” gives them money. Just as I am their mother, their playmate, their nurse, their teacher, etc, I am also the Tooth Fairy, they just don’t know it yet.

As far as the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus goes, it’s a little bit stickier. Personally I believe that as children we believe that a fat jolly man loves everyone so much that he gives them all presents for being good little boys and girls. When we’re old enough, we find out the truth that it’s our parents who love us so much that they give us presents. So Santa Claus goes from being a real person to being the “Christmas Spirit” in all of us.

And yes, as a child, I didn’t tell my parents that I knew the truth about Santa, cause it was just too much fun.

But, I always try very hard to keep Jesus as the supreme focus of both the Christmas and Easter seasons. The other stuff is fun, but Jesus is the focus of the celebration. We have more Nativity decorations then Santa in the house during Christmas, and more crosses than Easter Bunnies during Easter.

I know that I didn’t really answer any questions, but I’m not sure there is an answer. Either you think it’s ok or you don’t. I don’t think anyone from either side of the debate can defend their position to the extent that it would change the other side’s mind.

God bless,



Trish, I think you said it well. I think that either you think it’s okay or you don’t, but you’re not going to change the other side’s mind. And I don’t think that this is a “salvation issue” as a friend would say :). I really don’t think it’s wrong either way. I don’t know of anyone who was scarred on either side of the tracks, with the exception of parents not telling their children early enough that Santa as a person doesn’t exist. My mom found out in 7th grade and was traumatized, which is another reason why she didn’t raise us that way. But that, I believe, is the exception.


Lying about Santa is not a grave matter, thus not fulfilling the requirements for sin.


I consider Santa Claus to be in the realm of fantasy play… a good and healthy thing, especially for children of that age. Now, given, some would go on to question whether the whole idea of “God” is also just imaginitive and suggest that you shouldn’t offer Santa as a concept if you want to offer Jesus, too. But I think that with time children ought to be able to sort these things out fine. I mean, “everybody knows” that Santa Claus is basically a communal, societal play. And play is good. It’s a fortaste of the joy of heaven!


I figured that if I lied to my kids about Santa or the Easter Bunny, then how do they know I’ve been teaching them the truth about more important matters, like God?

We told our kids that Santa and the Easter Bunny were nice stories, fun stories, but not true people. We also told them about the “real” Santa, Saint Nicholas, and how he was a Saint of God worth of emulation.


Lying about Santa is not a grave matter, thus not fulfilling the requirements for sin.

It’s not grave matter or whatever that makes a lie a sin. Grave matter is one of three conditions that make a sin mortal.

I think in this case it has to do with intent. Is it the parent’s intent to deceive the child, make her feel bad or foolish, put one over on her? No, probably not. I think most parents do this to entertain and amuse the child.

That said, I think that since it is myth-making, as Michelle suggested, that the reality is conveyed to the child early on. Talking about Santa Clause being something the whole family pretends together, just for fun.

I have strong feelings aobut this after hearing about the reaction of a friend’s brother. He was sad and embarrassed. Even more so was another child who was encouraged to believe waaaay too long. I watched as she accused her mom of lying to her, yelled it actually, and whenever her mom told her something shortly after that she would ask “is that a lie, too?” I felt bad for the mom and the girl. I tried to explain that I still pretent to believe in Santa (and I was old to her;)) and talked about how St. Nicholas was real and that’s where people got the idea.


That was what I struggled with regarding the family I mentioned above. Belief in Santa was a mission with cautions to older brother not to spill the beans. But belief in God? Gods (little “g’”) was more like it. Other gods were moderately acceptable. Maybe not taught but not discouraged either. It’s too confusing for kids.


My sister’s husband is all about not letting his kids believe in Santa, and they in spite of him think Santa is real. It’s just the nature of children to be drawn to imaginary things. Are you going to squash all your children’s fantasies to the point of “Honey, when we go to Disney World that’s not really Mickey, just a guy in a silly suit.” That’s the same principle. I mean, I really thought Big Bird was real when I was little. It’s just part of what makes childhood magical, and they grow out of it fast enough.


I would answer honestly if they would ask but I wouldn’t go busily about pointing out each and every thing. A little perspective, please.


He’s NOT???

(Don’t go telling me Kermit is fake too, now!)


Jesus told parables. They included characters about people. Were those people real? Were the stories true? Was he lying if they weren’t? “Santa” is nothing more than a wonderful parable, based loosely upon the real St. Nicholas and Christian giving.


Trish I agree with you. My kids also believe in the Tooth Fairy but my son now is figuring it out but his little sister still thinks the tooth fairy has given her the money. What is the harm in letting your kids be kids. Why spoil their fun. When they grow up they figure it out for themselves that Santa, Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny are not real but they enjoy it as young kids.

What is the big deal?What is the harm in letting kids be kids and enjoy the stuff that kids like. I will not allow my kids to grow up before their time. They will be kids and enjoy the things that I has a young child enjoyed. Today kids are growing up before their time. Whereby parents drop their kids off at the Mall unsupervised and this kids stay there for hours on end while their parents do their own thing. These young kids not even 15 yrs old have credit cards, cell phones, ipods, money etc. And watching MTV and all these hectic music video’s which are just to much to handle. But letting them believe in Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Barbie etc is such an issue. That which is so innocent that could not cause the damage that other things do.

I do not think that I am lying to my kids by allowing them to believe in childhood fantasies. They grow out of it eventually. My kids prefer to be at home reading, watching Cartoon network, playing card games together, watching fantasy movies together playing games that I did as a child and also reading Bible Stories together. With a result my kids are not growing up before their time by wanting worldly things. When my kids are at the right age they will get a cell phone. Today kids are so anti-social all they want to do it busy with Mixit on the cell phone, listening to their ipods or mp3 players wanting to wear expensive brand name clothing and wanting to be adults long before their time.


Has anyone else noticed just how many kids admit to faking a belief in Santa so they can continue receiving extra presents? I worked with children in the 5 - 12 year age range for years and practically all of them confessed to stringing their parent’s along way after they had discovered the truth, because “you get more presents”. So much for Santa teaching the spirit of giving. :rolleyes: While we may wish to teach this to our children with Santa stories this is not the message kids are picking up. The god of television has taught these pupils well. Today’s Santa is all about the spirit of getting. :frowning:

The thing that really bothers me about the Santa myths are the attributes he is credited with. He sees us when we’re sleeping. He knows when we’re awake. He knows if we’ve been bad or good… and rewards us accordingly. If the Santa myth was just an extension of the story of St Nicholas why is he taking on the characteristics of our omnipotent, omnipresent God? :hmmm:

And don’t get me started on the easter bunny. Our Lord lays down his life for us by dying on a cross, even while we are yet sinners, to allow us a way back to our Holy Creator … and we say “hey look kids the easter bunny has left you some chocolate eggs”. :frowning: Why? :confused: Why bring this ridiculous mythical creature in to take our children’s attention away from the most amazing event ever. It’s not exciting enough for them? :rolleyes:

The tooth fairy myth is a harmless myth in itself because it doesn’t seek to obliterate a Holy religious holiday. The Santa myth and the easter bunny myth do. In fact in many ways they already have. :frowning:


There really are a lot of opinions on this topic.

Here’s how we see it. St. Nicholas, as I understand it, did secretly leave gifts and/or money for those in need. We, as Christians should follow the examples of the saints. Gift giving also ties in nicely with celebrating the birthday of our King.

We tell our children, when they reach “that” age, that St. Nicholas does indeed exist. We tell them about him. We explain that we are continuing his mission of gift giving. It is done secretly to keep it in the spirit of giving with nothing expected in return- as St. Nicholas did. We tell them that yes, the north pole and flying reindeer were made up to make the story fun for children (and adults too).

So far, this hasn’t been too hard on the kids.

I don’t tell them that “Santa” doesn’t exist. He does. When you meet him in heaven, he’ll tell you so. I do explain to the kids that his image has changed over the years.

Now, to my knowledge, the tooth fairy doesn’t exist:eek: . Sorry.


Thanks for all of your replies. You have all really helped me with this one. My kids are at the point where they will probably start asking questions about Santa. My wife and I will tell them the truth at that point, and I now have some ideas about what I will say.

I can see where this isn’t lying as much as it is pretending. I also reread Michelle’s answer in the Ask an Apologist forum and it now makes more sense to me.

Also, I have to agree with Aboverubies about the Easter Bunny. Who ever came up with that idea? I have no regrets about Santa, but I wish I never told my kids about the Easter Bunny. It just gives people a reason to remove Christ as the center of attention. We make sure our kids know why we celebrate Easter, but the bunny and candy is a distraction (even though I really like candy:D )

Thanks again … and Chicago, I hate to be the one to tell you, but Kermit isn’t real either!

God Bless,


The candy is part of the celebration - we have been fasting through Lent - the candy is part of the Easter feast!


I believed in Santa when I was a child until a kid in my class told me he didn’t exist. I went home and asked my mom, and she confirmed it. Finding out he doesn’t exist didn’t bother me at all. However, my mom told me that when my older sister found out the truth, she bawled and told my mom that she’d never believe my mom about anything again.

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