So... What's The Deal With Santa, Then?

My 3.5 year old has started picking apart the Santa story.

"Why," she wants to know, "does the boy in Rudey's Windy Christmas [as dire a book as it sounds] hang a stocking at the end of his bed but on THIS Christmas card the stockings are hung by the fire? Why does Peppa Pig get a present from Santa but not a stocking? Why do WE get stockings from Santa but not any presents? Is it be​​cause we're still little? Why does Aurora-Jasmine-Twinkletoes-Belle at nursery get ALL her presents from Santa but I don't get any from him? Why does Marmaduke's mum get a present from Santa but you and Daddy don't? Why did Santa at the shopping centre ask me to write him a list if he doesn't bring me big presents?"

Why, indeed?

When did Santa start playing favourites with the kids?

I remember becoming aware of this when I was about seven or eight years old. I remember being confused as to why grown ups were so interested in "what Santa brought" me when, frankly, it was a bit rubbish compared to the toy I'd been given by my granny. I remember that I got a stocking with an apple, an orange, some chocolate coins and some felt tip pens from Santa, and that Sharon next door got a pillow case with a telly, a VCR and a fine selection of Rainbow Brite dolls in it. I remember thinking this didn't seem very fair.

And I remember that that inconsistency was what convinced me that Santa wasn't real.

Steve and I fully expected the same inconsistencies to bring our kids to the same conclusion. Just... not at three and a half.

We don't have any particularly strong feelings about our kids believing in Santa Claus. We go along with the whole him existing thing because it's a fun and magical story and neither of us was ever traumatised by finding out the truth. We don't believe that kids need to believe in Santa in order to fully enjoy Christmas, any more than they need to believe in witches and ghosts and goblins to fully enjoy Halloween.

Kids are masters of make believe - show them a yoghurt pot and they'll turn it into a roundabout for their Playmobil; give them two plastic giraffes and they'll name them Anna and Elsa and have them act out the entirety of Frozen; tell them a flimsy story about a man coming down the blocked up chimney and leaving them presents and they'll fully embrace the magic. They don't have to BELIEVE it's real - they just have to wonder "what if...?"

So, if our kid asks us straight out if Santa's real, we're inclined to tell her that he exists in our imaginations and isn't that magic enough?

But still... three and a half seems so very, very young to be asking anything other than "How many sleeps until Christmas?" and it saddens me that it's happening because we grown ups can't get our stories straight.

How do you explain why Santa spends a fiver on one kid and £500 on another? Or fills stockings in one house and places piles of presents in another?

Some parents tell their kids it's means tested - but then, surely, he should be bringing less for the richer kids and more for the kids whose parents can't afford big gifts?

Some say the parents pay for the gifts and Santa just delivers them but, frankly, describing Santa as a glorified parcel delivery worker is even less magical than describing him as a lie.

And the only other explanations I can come up with involve an extremely judgemental tone of voice.

So, in the interests of simplicity, can we all just agree on what Santa actually does? 

Let me make the case for him filling the stockings only: if Santa doesn't fill the stockings, why do they exist? Simple as that. We have them because that's the tradition: hang socks by the fire for Santa to fill. They're not just a quaint old decoration like a nutcracker or an angel made out of a toilet roll tube and a doily - they're functional items; they're part of the story.

And the proper presents definitely don't come from Santa. 

They don't come from Santa because family and friends deserve some credit for knowing the kid so well that they chose the perfect book/Lego/stuffed walrus/whatever-the-hell-a-LOL-doll-is. 

And they don't come from Santa because presents are where the massive discrepancies are. There's only so much that even the wealthiest grown ups can squeeze into a stocking; it's when Santa starts gifting an Orchard Toys mini game to one kid and a complete virtual reality, voice controlled gaming system to another that the magic sours. Kids feel hard done by. Parents get into stress and debt. 

Three year olds wonder whether Santa's even real.

Can we get our stories straight and save the magic, please?

What does Santa deliver in your house?

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