Believing in Santa Claus remains one of the most defining elements of childhood, just as the creeping or sudden realization that the story of Father Christmas is simply a story can be one of the most demoralizing moments of childhood.

Though the tradition of telling children about the large-bellied, white-bearded man who shimmies down the chimney to stock the stockings and pack the presents under the tree is literally centuries old, a sense of guilt has been growing among parents.

“Are we outright lying to our children?” they ask. “And will that hurt them?”


Perhaps not. To wit, science to the rescue.

A 2008 article published in Science Daily detailed two Canadian psycho-education professors’ findings about the manner in which children most frequently discover St. Nicholas is not delivering their presents on Christmas Eve.

Comparing two studies-one performed in 1896 and the second repeating the original’s methods in 1979-the Université de Montréal professors observed that the majority of children gradually saw through the story themselves.

A lesser percentage was told by parents and other children. A great boon for parental anxiety, the evidence suggested that only 2 percent in 1896 and 6 percent in 1979 felt hoodwinked by the Santa Claus ruse.

As Chattanooga dives headfirst into the holiday season and parents help their children write letters to Santa, do you remember how you unraveled the story of St. Nick?

Did you have your sneaking suspicions from a young age? Were you terribly surprised when an older sibling spilled the beans? Did your parents shoot straight with you from the get-go?

Share your memories-good and bad-in an email to [email protected].