How do you explain why Santa discriminates?

The Jolly Man Doesn't Visit Everyone, Does He?

I was a firm believer in Santa when I was a child, as most kids were in my neck of the woods. But then when I grew up I had to explain him to a child who had lived in poverty until she was 8. That child was my daughter.

As a child, I couldn’t wait for Christmas morning to find out what the jolly man had left after sneaking in somehow (we had no fireplace in our small, rented apartment). We never had a huge amount, but there was always something there. Years later, I learned the truth and moved on. I couldn’t wait to pass this on to my kids. We adopted our first daughter as an infant and began the tradition of presents from Santa on Christmas morning until she was 3. Then it became a little harder to explain. No, she didn’t ask questions, but her sister did.

We adopted our 8-year-old daughter from an orphanage in China that year. And try as I might to explain the wonders of Santa, that’s a difficult thing to do to a child who hadn’t had a full meal in 8 years, let alone a gift from anyone. When I tried to explain the wondrous tales of Santa, how he sneaks into your house in the middle of the night bringing gifts to good little boys and girls, she stared at me in disbelief. Where had he been all those years? Is this really true? Am I that bad? Looking into her face, I just couldn’t do it. It was then that I realized that Santa discriminates, in a big way! So I told her the truth.

Santa isn’t real, I told her, he’s a figment of everyone’s imagination…just another reason to give gifts to children. No, he doesn’t go to orphanages or visit homeless children in the street. No, he doesn’t travel to Africa and drop food for them. Why does he only bring gifts to the kids who live in a nice house with money? I didn’t have an answer for that, so I told the truth.

Yes, she woke up every year on Christmas after that and looked for the gifts from Santa under the tree. We continued the tradition with a wink until she moved out two years ago. Her little sister is a teenager now and she’s known the truth from the day we told her sister, but it’s just fun to find an extra gift on Christmas morning (even I still like that).

But along with those gifts, we play Santa all year by donating to the orphanages of our children, selecting a Christmas angel from the tree in the mall and volunteering our time to feed the homeless and help raise money for stray cats and dogs. And that’s what being Santa is really all about…caring, sharing love and helping others. So until Santa stops discriminating, I refuse to perpetuate the lie. It’s a story and that’s all it is.

Merry Christmas to you all and my Santa bring you what you truly want this year.


2 thoughts on “How do you explain why Santa discriminates?

  1. I’ve often wondered how this was explained to children who have less. How do you explain it to a child whose family had been flush with cash but now struggles to pay the basics, without extinguishing that little flicker of hope. You’ve done a marvelous job of explaining this in a way that did not diminish the meaning of the season.

    I think this is one reason why my Jewish family donates Christmas Angel gifts. Because kids who have hope should not wake up on Christmas day and feel they did something wrong.

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