For those who celebrate, holiday myths can make the year magical

By Emma Reilly
Opinion Editor

Mythical figures play a part in several holidays that are widely celebrated in the U.S. For parents with young children, deciding whether or not to perpetuate these myths can be a tough decision to make.

I grew up celebrating Christmas, Saint Patrick’s Day, and Easter rather informally. Despite my family’s lack of connection to the religious and cultural origins of these holidays, I have fond memories of all three because of the magic I believed they entailed. Nothing caused me quite so much eagerness and anticipation as waiting to see what gifts Santa Claus would leave me for Christmas.

Even now, as an adult, I enjoy seeing my mom’s kindergarten class squeal with delight at the sight of leprechaun traps — constructed the day before using popsicle sticks and Elmer’s glue — tipped over and covered in green glitter footprints when they arrive at school.

Despite my positive encounters with holiday myths, my experiences are not universal.

According to Early Childhood Educator Chazz Lewis, widespread belief in Santa Claus, for example, can cause children who do not grow up with that belief to feel stressed or isolated.

Parents may feel “additionally pressured, to pressure their children to lie to other children about something that they know isn’t true — because they’re Jewish, or just don’t celebrate the same way,” Lewis said in an interview with Slate.

Concern related to this issue has led holiday-specific celebrations to be removed from some schools and even households, but truthfulness — rather than inclusivity — remains numerous parents’ main anxiety in relation to holiday myths.

Some people feel that encouraging children to believe in imaginary figures is harmful. By promoting such beliefs, trusting relationships between caregivers and children are threatened.

“The reason [children] grow into lying is that we parents show them how to with our own behavior,” University of Massachusetts Psychology Professor Robert Feldman said to Time.

By this logic, one could come to the conclusion that children who find out — either from their parents directly or by their own means — that their parents have been encouraging them to believe in a fantasy may be less truthful later in life.

However, for many children, coming to terms with the fact that mythical holiday figures don’t exist is a manageable process — though it may be uncomfortable at first.

In fact, a study conducted by psychologists Carl Anderson and Norman Prentice at the University of Texas at Austin argues that children are the least affected party when it comes to the revelation of a holiday-themed illusion.

“Children reported predominantly positive reactions on learning the truth. Parents, however, described themselves as predominantly sad in reaction to their child’s discovery,” according to the study.

This revelation demonstrates how vital it is to remember who these myths are constructed to please. While the decision to promote holiday myths is up to each family, parents should keep in mind that while it may be uncomfortable for them, their children’s enjoyment is what really matters.

Parents who are willing to have open conversations with their children about how to talk to other kids about holiday myths, and whose intentions are to add some magic to the holiday season, shouldn’t be concerned about causing lasting damage with the lie.

Instead, they should remember that while it may be hard, the time will come when the lie will have to be let go. Being realistic about that fact will allow for a painless transition from belief to reality for both child and parent when the time comes.

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