Whimsical Identity Theft


WARNING—to any young children reading this, stop immediately! Major adult stuff coming up.

Now that this “life spoiler” notification, so to speak, is out of the way, let’s talk about Santa Claus, and the belief in him.
Growing up, I don’t think I was either unusually fantasy-prone, nor extremely skeptical about supernatural or imaginary things, but when it came to holiday figures, I was a one-character person. I can’t recall ever believing the Easter Bunny was a real and literal entity—a giant, super-intelligent rabbit always seemed far-fetched, even when I was a preschooler. Also out was the Tooth Fairy—I didn’t think that fairies existed in general, so why one obsessed with collecting body parts? (I do remember my father possibly affecting or confirming this by promptly paying me after a baby tooth fell out, so there’s that.)
But Santa, who appeared human, seemed reasonable, so I did believe in him.
My parents dealt with some of the details surrounding this belief in some intelligent ways. All the many, many guys we saw dressed up as Santa on commercials, on television programs, or collecting charitable contributions on street corners were explained as being Santa’s helpers, and not the actual man himself. My home didn’t have a chimney, but that was okay, according to my folks. St. Nick had a skeleton key that could open any door in the world, so everything was fine.
Because many people in my family had significant allergies, we used an artificial Christmas tree, but no matter, we were told, Santa knew our reasons and accepted the faux fir. Finally, and arguably most importantly, Mom and Dad said that while Santa obviously gave us gifts, he didn’t give all of them. Parents, siblings, grandparents, etc., all did too, so it was important to tell them what we wanted to receive as well.
So, everything went well. Christmases came and went, with me none the wiser, happy in my ignorance, but then things started to change. As I aged, I began to get an inkling of just how big the Earth is, and how many billions of people live on it. How could one guy possibly visit every single house in the country, never mind the whole world, in a single night? And, why were there no other reindeer that could fly, or other, non-gift manufacturing elves? As well as countless other logical problems with the overall story.
However, the key bit of evidence was right in front of me. I had inscribed books from previous Christmases on hand, some from my parents, and some others from Santa. It was clear to even an eight-year-old that the handwriting was identical for both. I confronted my mother with this evidence, and she admitted to the whole well-meaning, celebratory ruse.
As it turns out, my story is fairly typical. In 2019, House Method surveyed 4,500 families across the U.S., and they found the average reported age of learning the truth about Santa was 8.4 years old. There were some discrepancies state to state, such as, Oregon kids averaged 7 years old, while those in Mississippi averaged 10.
A professor at the U.K. University of Exeter, Chris Boyle, asked the same question, but broadened the scope to a worldwide audience. The 1,200 responses he received also had an average age of 8. He also learned some other relevant statistics:

Read the entire article in the Dec/Jan 2022-23 issue of InD'Tale magazine.

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