(Spoiler alert: If you believe that ol’ St. Nick is real, then read no further. Oh, and don’t read the headline).


The Today Show and Parenting Magazine are teaming up to survey parents on Christmas traditions, including when to tell a kid that Santa isn’t real.

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My memory is vivid.

I was 6 when I learned the truth, living in Haltom City, playing catch with my friend Donald in his parents’ front yard on a cold December day. Christmas was just around the corner.

“I can’t wait for Santa to come,” I said.

Donald laughed and said, “Santa isn’t real.”

“What do you mean?” I said.

“There’s no such thing as Santa Claus, it’s just a story that parents tell kids,”  said Donald, who was 6 as well but apparently quite a bit smarter than me.


That “whacking” sound was me barreling into my best buddy and knocking him down, following with a torrent of punches. Donald cried and ran inside his house.


I was in shock. I couldn’t believe that my best friend had practically killed Santa before my eyes. I trudged home, sad I’d made Donald cry, but feeling justified nonetheless.

Mom noticed my gloominess and asked what was wrong.

“Donald told me Santa wasn’t real and so I beat him up,” I said.

“Oh, Jeff, you shouldn’t have done that,” she said. “You need to go apologize.”

“But he says Santa isn’t real!”

“He’s right,” she said. “Santa isn’t real. It’s time you learned that.”


I was shocked, disappointed, confused. I went to my bedroom, thought awhile, and came to terms with the situation. It was okay that Santa wasn’t real. Accepting it seemed like my first big step toward becoming a grown up. To celebrate, I went to the kitchen and made myself a scotch neat (just kidding about that last part).

Donald never got his apology. But that’s what’s cool about being a kid — you can beat up a friend and not apologize but still be friends the next day.

I’d be interested in hearing from you about how you learned Santa wasn’t real, and whether or not it prompted an aggravated assault.



  1. Around the time I was 5 or 6 reasoning began to kick in and I devised a simple test to determine that the tooth fairy was a fake. I let my parents know that I was putting the tooth under my pillow when I went to bed and that I was excited about what the tooth fairy would leave. Then I hid it in my dresser drawer, reasoning that a human being like my parents would assume that it had slipped out, give up looking and just give me the money. In the morning, I had a new dollar bill and the tooth was still where I left it, as a result of the depositor of the money not having supernatural powers. Soon after, I was able to deduce that, similarly, Santa was just another fairy tale. And, by the time I was around 15, finally figured out that was true of god too. We’re all a little slow on some things.

  2. I guess because Jesus was the focus at Christmas at our house it really didn’t matter to me who or what Santa was. I have heard my parents tell the story about when I was about four and saw two Santas at two different places on the same afternoon and mentioned to Mom that something was fishy about that. But no trauma.

  3. This isn’t exactly the same situation, but it’s similar. When I was a kid many years ago, at Easter time it was customary for parents to buy their kids little baby chicks that had been dyed various colors. Don’t ask me why they didn’t sell dyed rabbits, I dunno, maybe they couldn’t catch them. Nevertheless, each of us kids would recieve a newly-hatched baby chicken that was brilliant blue or green or red.
    Well the dye was apparently pretty strong, so the baby chicks usually didn’t live long. My brother John, at the time probably three or four years old, was the recipient of one of these chicks one year at Easter. Within a few days, the chick died. Distraught and crying, John ran to our mother,a resourceful woman, who told him to dig a hole in the backyard, bury the dead chick, and God would take it up to heaven. Feeling some measure of relief, John buried the chick in the backyard.
    First thing the next morning, John rushed out to the burial site, and dug. Finding the dead chick, he was crushed. By now beyond simple grief, he rushed into the house to our mother, crying and wailing. Mother sized up the situation, and offered young John the answer – God hasn’t had time to take the chick up to heaven yet. He should bury it again.
    So John did. During the night, Mom snuk out ouf the house, dug up the dead chick, and threw it in the trash can in the alley. The next morning, John awoke, rushed out the the chick burial site, and dug. Finding no dead chick carcass, a peaceful glow came over him, as he realized that indeed God had taken the chick up to heaven, and therefore everything was right in the universe.

  4. I don’t think my parents ever told me Santa was real or maybe my older siblings told me he wasn’t real. I don’t remember.

    My grandfather lived less than a mile from us and he was my real life Santa all year long so I didn’t need any make believe substitute.

  5. I consider all the problems I have today a direct result of my best friend Chris Farnum telling me that Santa was not real. A couple years later he really messed me up by telling me that my parents had/were having sex. I didn’t believe him in either case. My parents were Christian and would never tell me that something was real when it wasn’t.

    And as for the second thing…ewww! Dude…not cool.