At some point, any parent who celebrates Christmas will be asked that dreaded question: Is Santa Claus real? There is no right way to answer. If you say he doesn’t exist, you’re messing with the magic of the season. If you say he’s real, you’re telling what some might call a little white lie. These are all thoughts that ran quickly through Kristen Bell’s mind when her oldest daughter, Lincoln, confronted her about Kris Kringle at the age of three.
“She said, ‘I’m just not buying this whole Santa Claus thing. There’s no way he would be able to make it to every single house. You said there’s billions of people on the planet,’” Bell recalls in an interview with Woman’s Day. “At that moment, my heart kind of sank.”
Bell realized she had two options: lie to her little girl and send her out to play, or use this moment to teach her daughter that “when you feel in your gut that something stinks, question it.” She chose the latter.
“I pictured her in a more adult situation where she had a sinking feeling in her gut and wanted to ask the question,” Bell says. “Was I going to pat her on the head and go ‘Stop thinking about that, I already told you, it’s fine, believe me? Or would I want to produce the kind of person who goes ‘I’m sorry, I really do need more information on this?’”
After telling her daughter that she would “be honest with you if you’d like me to,” Bell revealed the truth about Santa. But she didn’t just throw up her hands like a criminal caught red-handed. Rather, she eased her child into the truth by telling her Santa Claus is “an imaginary game we play because it’s really, really fun.”
Her approach was simple, sweet, and still kind of magical. If the questions keep coming, take another tip from Bell and enlist the help of The Wonderful Truth About Santa Claus. The book tells the story of Saint Nicholas, a Christina bishop who is the basis for the modern-day Santa Claus. The book emphasizes how Saint Nicholas inspired people to give others gifts without asking for credit or putting their name on a tag. This, as Bell says, teaches people that “anyone can be a Santa Claus,” which she thinks makes her child less likely to spoil the myth for other kids.
As for her younger daughter Delta, Bells says she has “heard the rumors” that Santa Claus is merely a game, but still believes in the magical narrative.
“But when she says to me “Is this person a real human being?” I will have the same conversation with her as I did with Lincoln,” Bell says.
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