Child Psychiatry and Human Development

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 67–84 | Cite as

Encounter with reality: Children's reactions on discovering the Santa Claus myth

  • Carl J. Anderson
  • Norman M. Prentice


Fifty-two children who no longer believed in Santa Claus were individually administered a structured interview on their reactions to discovering the truth. Their parents completed a questionnaire assessing their initial encouragement of the child to believe in Santa and rating their child's reactions to discovering the truth as well as their own reactions to the child's discovery. Parental encouragement for the child to believe was very strong. Children generally discovered the truth on their own at age seven. Children reported predominantly positive reactions on learning the truth. Parents, however, described themselves as predominantly sad in reaction to their child's discovery.

Key words

Santa Claus Myth Fantasy Christmas Childhood 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Doll EA:Measurement of Social Competence: A Manual for the Vineland Social Maturity Scale. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service, 1953.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Gesell A: Human infancy and the ontogenesis of behavior.Amer Scient 37:529–553, 1949.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Craddick RA: Size of Santa Claus drawings as a function of time before and after Christmas.J Psychol Stud 12:121–125, 1961.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Craddick RA: Height of Christmas tree drawings as a function of time.Percept Motor Skills 17:335–339, 1963.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Samuelson S:Christmas: An Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing, 1982.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Barnett JH:The American Christmas: A Study in National Culture. New York: Macmillan, 1954.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Coffin TP:The Illustrated Book of Christmas Folklore. New York: Seabury Press, 1973.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Adler B: (Comp.)Children's Letters to Santa Claus. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1967.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Belk RW: A child's Christmas in America: Santa Claus as deity, consumption as religion.J Amer Cult 10(1):87–100, 1987.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Boyer LB: Christmas neurosis.J Amer Psychoan Assoc 3:467–488, 1955.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Eisenbud J: Negative reactions to Christmas.Psychoan Quart 10:639–649, 1941.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Bettleheim B: Dialogue with mothers.Ladies Home Journal, 88(12):14, 16, 1971.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Proctor JT: Children's reactions to Christmas.J Oklahom St Med Assoc 60:653–659, 1967.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Sereno R: Some observations on the Santa Claus custom.Psychiat 14:387–396, 1951.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Wedemeyer D: The Santa Claus myth: Even the experts can't agree.Houston Post, December 2, 7AA, 1972.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Duncombe FE: Children's ideas about Santa Claus.Northwestern J Educ 7:37–42, 1896.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Benjamin LT, Langley JF, Hall RJ: Santa now and then.Psychology Today, 13(7):36–44, 1979.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Blair JR, McKee JS, Jernigan LF: Children's belief in Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, and Tooth Fairy,Psychol Rep 46:691–694, 1980.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Prentice NM, Manosevitz M, Hubbs L: Imaginary figures of early childhood: Santa Claus, Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.Amer J Orthopsychiat 48: 618–628, 1978.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Anderson CJ: On discovering the truth: Children's reactions to the reality of the Santa Claus myth. (Doctoral dissertation, Department of Educational Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, 1987).Diss Abst Internat 48:3701-B, 1988. (Ann Arbor: University Microfilms Order No.: DA 8728507).Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Hollingshead AB:Two factor index of social position. New Haven: Dept. of Sociology, Yale University, 1957. (Mimeo.)Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Dunn L(loyd) M, Dunn L(eota) M:Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test—Revised: Manual for Forms L and M. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service, 1981.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Prentice NM, Gordon DA: The role of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy for the Jewish child and parent.J Genet Psychol 148:139–151, 1987.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Prentice NM, Schmechel LK, Manosevitz M: Children's belief in Santa Claus: A developmental study of fantasy and causality.J Amer Acad Child Psychiat 18:658–667, 1979.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Coyle FA, Eisenman R: Santa Claus drawings by negro and white children.J Soc Psychol 80:201–205, 1970.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Ginott A: The annual dilemma: Should a Jewish child celebrate Christmas?Ladies Home Journal, 95(11):94–95, 1978.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Bloom DH:Bubbie and Zadie Come to My House. New York: Donald I. Fine, Inc., 1985.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Stark E: Yes, there is a Jewish Santa.Psychology Today 17(12):84, 1983.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Wells HG:The First Men in the Moon. Indianapolis: Bowen-Merrill, 1901. (Original work published 1900).Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Forbush WB:Guidebook to Childhood. Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs, 1915.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Boss JA: Is Santa Claus corrupting our children's morals?Free Inquiry 11(4):24–27, 1991.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Boss JA: ‘No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus. Someone's been lying to you.’Free Inquiry 12(2): 52–53, 1992.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Manosevitz M, Prentice NM, Wilson F: Individual and family correlates of imaginary companions in preschool children.Develop Psychol 8:72–79, 1973.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Bettleheim B:The Uses of Enchantment. New York: Vintage Books, 1977.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carl J. Anderson
    • 1
  • Norman M. Prentice
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TexasAustin

Personalised recommendations