“George didn’t move,” Zacharie pouted when he came downstairs one morning this week.

He was talking about George, our Elf on the Shelf. The one my wife and I had forgotten to move during the night. “Did you touch him?,” my son continued.

Zacharie is 9 and a half. He should have had this figured out by now. We had an Easter Bunny talk 18 months ago, I know he knows. At least, I think he knows.

“You know. ..  Right?,” I asked him trying to subtly reference the Elf in our conversation.

“Know what?,” he asked, as honestly as I’ve ever seen.

I dropped it right then and there. ‘He has to know,’ my mind tells me. ‘He absolutely still believes,’ his words and actions say.

It’s a tough dance, this Santa thing, isn’t it? Do you make a pre-emptive strike when you think they’re old enough? Do you let them figure it out on their own, risking they blurt ‘the secret’ out at the wrong time? Do you allay their worries when kids at school provide spoilers?

How do you tell your kids the truth about Santa?

Do you need to? Eventually it clicks. I mean, the physics, the math, the stories, they eventually just all add up in the mind of a child that sometimes leads to heartbreak that a story they have put faith in their entire life is not real.

It gets even more complicated when you weave Easter Bunnies, mischievous leprechauns, Switch Witches, Elves on Shelves, and Tooth Fairies into the mythology of childhood.

In the past, when pointedly asked by our boys we have offered the political non-answer of “Santa is real if you believe he’s real.” The question slides by and they don’t pay it a second thought. Still, I don’t want my nearly 10 yr old to be ridiculed by peers should he stand on the playground and proselytize as to the veracity of the jolly old elf.

So, do I burst the bubble on my own or let him approach me when he’s ready?

For the past few years, we’ve stoked the fires of belief with The Portable North Pole app. It’s a wonderful tool to check in on Santa at the North Pole, and to see if the boys were on the naughty or nice list:

The Portable North Pole also lets you get personalized phone calls from Santa, watch him work at the North Pole, and new this year, parents can choose the Reaction Recorder (mobile app only) that lets you capture the moment of joy and surprise when Santa Claus reveals whether your child is on his “naughty” or “nice” list.

It has been an integral part of our family Christmas for a few years now.

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Next week I’ll fire up the app and monitor Zacharie’s reactions intently. Is he just playing, or is there an ember of belief still stoking his fire? Whatever it is, the truth is close to being revealed – I know it is.

So how do you tell your kids the truth about Santa? We spend so much time weaving the story, how do you pull the loose thread to unravel it all without crushing them?

There are many letters floating around online people have written their kids upon the occasion of discovering the truth about Santa. All of them very sweet, and well thought out so as to celebrate the spirit of the season and explaining how that spirit lives inside all of us.

It’s really no different than the answer we’ve been giving our kids all along. “If you believe in Santa, he’s real. And that’s all that matters.”

I’ve got our version of these letters adapted from here ready and waiting should the bubble burst over the next few weeks. Here it is, in case you need help crafting one for your children:

Dear Zacharie,

We know you’ve considered the answer to the question of Santa for a long time, and we’ve had to give it careful thought to know just what to say.

The answer is this — there is no one Santa.

We’ve long told you that “Santa is real as long as you believe he’s real,” and that’s still true, just not in the way you might think.

Yes, Mama and Daddy fill your stockings with presents. We also choose and wrap the presents under the tree, the same way our parents did for us, and the same way their parents did for them.

One day you will probably do this for your own children, and we know you will love seeing them run into the room on Christmas morning amazed at the magic that brought the presents. You will love seeing them sit under the tree, their small faces lit with Christmas lights.

This won’t make you Santa, though.

Santa is bigger than any person, and his work has gone on longer than any of us have lived. What Santa helps us do is simple, but it is powerful. Santa helps us teach children how to have belief in something they can’t see or touch.

It’s a big job, and it’s an important one. Throughout your life, you will need this ability to believe: in yourself, in your friends, in your talents and in your family. You’ll also need to believe in things you can’t measure or even hold in your hand. 

Santa reminds us that spreading happiness and love and sharing is what Christmas is all about.

And now you know the secret of how he gets down all those chimneys, and all around the world on Christmas Eve: he has help from all the people whose hearts he’s filled with joy.

People like Mama and Daddy take turns helping Santa do a job that, yes. would otherwise be physically impossible. When people work together, magical things can happen, magical things like Christmas all around the world.

We are not Santa, no one single person is. Santa is a team of people powered by love and magic and hope and happiness. We’ve been on his team for a while, and now, as long as you believe, you are too.

We love you and always will.

Mama & Daddy

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