Every year, a new group of children become initiated into the magic of Santa Claus. But for every group of newcomers, there is also a batch that finds out that Santa doesn't actually exist…for those children, a mix of emotions ranging from disbelief to betrayal can wreak havoc on their worldview. Make no mistake - for some children, finding out this truth is a traumatic experience - indeed, I have yet to meet a person who can actually recall when they were told this truth, or how they reacted to it, which in my medical opinion would suggest repressed memories due to a psychological implosion caused by perceptive dissociation, exacerbated by parental nostalgic projection, which when combined with a child's weight and age, and coupled with the fragility of a young developing mind, engenders intense trauma. So the question becomes, does believing in Santa warrant the upheaval that results when children inevitably find out that he's not real?
Well what exactly are the benefits? I suppose for children, Santa represents a world full of enchantment… that there is more to reality than meets the eye, and that good things come to good people. All compelling and desirable things in my opinion, which ironically enough, would seem to get undermined by the eventual disclosure of Santa's lack of reality. Perhaps the pervasive bleakness in our society stems from this disclosure, as well as the cynicism held by so many…people who have been fooled once before and won't be fooled again; people who were taunted and jeered by their peers for believing in something so foolish, and who valiantly insisted upon Santa's veracity, championing his existence to the absolute end, until their parents had to step in and finally stop the charade, thus scarring the child with the severe embarrassment of being the last kid in his/her grade to finally learn the truth (no, I am not describing me for those that enjoy reading into everything).
I suppose parents also benefit from the leverage that Santa provides, in virtue of gift giving being contingent upon good behavior, which seems to be the only thing that can reign in Danny's terrorist behavior. Of course, such leverage can obviously be maintained without Santa, but Santa does afford the luxury of the parent not having to be the bad guy when Tracy doesn't get that Power Wheels 6 Volt Volkswagon she's been begging for.
All in all, I can't help but question if this dog and pony show is worthwhile. Maybe Danny is better off knowing that his parents don't negotiate with terrorists. Maybe Tracy is better off knowing she didn't get the Power Wheels because her parents don't appreciate her attitude. Maybe parents need to own their role as behavioral enforcer and just lay down the law for the sake of their children's growth and humanity. Conversely, maybe parents need to take all the credit and praise for bestowing such generous gifts on their well-behaved offspring, making it clear that their children are receiving them because they are kind-hearted and considerate - fuck Santa. And maybe if we really want our kids to grow up with a sense of wonder and awe at the world they find themselves in, we shouldn't sabotage that very effort by setting up such a masquerade.
Yet despite such considerations, in the end I come to the conclusion that it's in everyone's best interest to continue the myth of Santa…not because of the benefits, but precisely because of the detriments. Because maybe it's good for our children to learn that not everything is as it seems. That you shouldn't take everything given to you at face value. That not all "facts" turn out to be true. That you should question what you're told, be it from your parents, the government, the media, that gossipy neighbor, or your fluffer. That it's okay to make mistakes and to have judged wrongly. That there's no shame in taking a leap of faith. And that sometimes our most fervent beliefs turn out to be fallacious. Maybe this is the real benefit of Santa Claus, and maybe if parents take the time to responsibly guide their children through the transition from Santa's reality to mythology, we can get all of the benefits with none of the detriments. But worst case scenario, hopefully the shock and incredulity of the truth will be mitigated by the knowledge that at least elves do actually exist.