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This really gets to me when I watch modern-day Christmas movies.

These movies usually present the notion that Santa exists and adults don't believe in him. From what I've seen, it's either because of one incident where someone didn't get what they wanted or they simply grew out of it.

This creates a paradox: people don't believe in Santa and yet he unquestionably exists.

How do you create a world where

  • Some (or most) adults do not believe in Santa, but
  • Santa exists and fulfills all of his cultural duties (in the US: giving gifts to good children and giving coal to bad ones, eating milk and cookies, riding on a sleigh, going down a chimney, etc.)

Points to consider:

  • People will notice a sleigh on their roof and extra presents under the tree or coal in their stocking
  • Santa could be tracked in the sky, perhaps even an app could be developed to pinpoint his location for irrefutable proof
  • He lives at the North Pole. He might even pay taxes
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    $\begingroup$ That's why I never believed in Santa when I was a kid! My mom would take me to buy the toys I wanted Santa get me! Plus, if you saw a man with a bag over his shoulders coming into or out of a home in my neighborhood he was going to be in trouble. $\endgroup$ – Len Feb 23 '18 at 20:38

15 Answers 15

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Santa is real and does exactly what he is supposed to do. He delivers gifts to good children and coal to bad; and he does it all in one night. This sounds like an impossible task until you realize how mediocre most of us are. None of us is really good or evil, and neither are our kids.

It is in the nature of every child to be selfish; it's a survival trait and any resistance of juvenile selfishness has been bred out of us centuries ago. "Because I want it!" is every child's battle cry and uttering it, even once, gets that child scratched off the Nice List.

But children are also inherently harmless. Very few of them pull wings off of flies or torture puppies.
Santa's standards are pretty high, so making it onto the Naughty List is also beyond the abilities of most rug rats.

So the reason that you never see a sleigh parked on a neighbors roof, nor find unexpected items under your tree, is that neither your children nor those of your neighbors made the cut to be on either of Santa's lists.

...and that's a very good thing!

For Saints grow up to be martyrs and serial killers go the chair; Happiness is available only in the space between both of those extremes.

Santa actually has a pretty good gig. Most years, he doesn't even have to saddle up the reindeers.

We should all be very happy that in place of roof-bound hoof beats each Christmas, we are blessed with a most silent night.

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    $\begingroup$ I like this unexpected twist on mutually exclusive lists, the purgatory to the proverbial Heaven and Hell. $\endgroup$ – Bret Apr 1 '15 at 21:07
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    $\begingroup$ Interesting take, although most stories I imagine I would want to write about Santa Claus probably would not use the slightly pessimistic tone or philosophical assumptions you described. $\endgroup$ – Kevin - Reinstate Monica Apr 2 '15 at 6:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Kevin, the point was to demonstrate that the sum of the two lists don't have to be inclusive of every child on the planet. If I was a little flamboyant in the way I presented that point, well that's just artistic license. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Apr 2 '15 at 12:39
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    $\begingroup$ I guess we know how someone god jaded about Santa. $\endgroup$ – Dronz Apr 3 '15 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ Just to add. There is an anecdote about Ded Moroz (Russian fairy tail character, who was actively pushed as surrogate of Saint Nicholas (a.k.a. Santa Claus) at Soviet time to "clear" New Year celebration from religious elements (turning it into purely secular and childish-fairy-tail event)). That is: Once a child sees Santa Claus putting gifts under Christmas tree. He says happily: "Santa Claus, now I know you exist!" And Santa answers: "Yes. Therefore now I must kill you." $\endgroup$ – Sasha Dec 9 '16 at 8:04
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Santa could have a perception filter.

Adults think they buy gifts, and see the nightmare after Christmas (the credit card bills) as appropriate. They don't see the sleigh on top of the roof, and ignore any reindeer poop on their cars as just evidence of a very ill pigeon.

As kids get older, the perception filter starts to kick in retroactively. After all, if you thought you saw Santa as a child, which would you think more likely nowadays as the reason -- that Santa was real, or that those were the confused perceptions of a child?

We see this in other circumstances, such as when, after months of infants screaming everyone awake at 2 AM, parents think about having a second child and decide they can't think of any reason -- any reason at all -- not to. If humans weren't vulnerable to this kind of psychic blindness, I think our species would have died out ages ago.

Edit: Per Saidoro and Oldcat's suggestion, the money actually goes to pay for more Purina Reindeer Chow & some money for the elves. It's all channeled through shell companies -- Santa has had centuries of experience with finance. When the parent sees the line in the credit card bill from SantCo (a division of Borealis Industries, Inc.) they mentally translate it into Toys 'R Us or, sometimes, the coal company, as appropriate.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not following your first point. Where do the gifts go? If they don't buy the gifts, why are there bills? $\endgroup$ – Bret Apr 1 '15 at 17:17
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe Santa discretely charges for his services. $\endgroup$ – Saidoro Apr 1 '15 at 17:40
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    $\begingroup$ Elves and Reindeer don't come cheap! $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Apr 1 '15 at 19:11
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    $\begingroup$ +1 "after months of infants screaming everyone awake at 2 AM, parents think about having a second child and decide they can't think of any reason not to" $\endgroup$ – algiogia Apr 2 '15 at 13:36
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    $\begingroup$ Parents don't forget the horrors of the first couple months after childbirth (or the couple months just prior to that). They simply recognize there are also good parts. Cute little baby, daww. Watching it grow into a toddler. Knowing it will grow into a real person in a couple years. Etc. There's also pressure from society, friends, family and so forth to have more children. The sum total of "do it" motivations outweighs the "don't do it" motivations, so they do it. Plus, people are horny, because biology. $\endgroup$ – MichaelS Dec 12 '16 at 1:39
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Another possibility is to turn Santa into more of a wraith like creature who can posses parents - he might still travel around with reindeer and sleigh, but once he is down the chimney he possesses the parents. During the lead up to Christmas day Santa's wraith like elves do the job of coordinating what the parents buy. The parents are completely unaware of the possession, or just think it is "holiday cheer". If you need to explain people not seeing the sleigh, either deploy a handy-dandy handwavium shield, have him traveling fast enough we cannot see him, or have the sleigh projecting some kind of mind warping field that blanks the memory.

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    $\begingroup$ Getting into the Christmas spirit, heh. $\endgroup$ – Kevin - Reinstate Monica Apr 2 '15 at 6:03
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    $\begingroup$ This is the first thing I thought of, too. The jolly veneer and trappings (reindeer, sleigh, etc.) are in fact an illusion created by the operation of the Christmas zeitgeist to cover up its more sordid nature. The slay bells are ringing and they toll for thee; all gifts given provide anchors for the ghost of Christmas past to perform its annual feeding, thriving on the energy of pure, irrational consumption. $\endgroup$ – Dan Bryant Apr 2 '15 at 14:34
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Perhaps Santa is the biggest business tycoon in all of history, and the toys that parents are buying are created by the elves in Santa's workshop.

Santa has a factory line going 365 days a year, and distributes the toys made to shops for parents to buy, and uses the profits to buy more materials for next year.

This would get round the problem of delivering all the presents in one night, you simply use the parents as the middle people.

Even the naughty/nice list duties have been delegated to the individual parents, because Santa doesn't have the time. But nearly all parents would put their own children on the nice list and buy them the presents.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think this is most convincing explanation. Parents are just doing all dirty job, without even knowing that they are working for Santa. $\endgroup$ – user11153 Apr 2 '15 at 13:25
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    $\begingroup$ Jeff Bezos at Amazon as Santa Claus, I like it. $\endgroup$ – Graham Apr 2 '15 at 17:23
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Let me be the one to clear up any controversy regarding Santa, as I am the man himself.

Yes, I know its hard to believe, but its true. I come to your house every night every Christmas Eve, drop down your chimney (or through a window if you don't have a chimney), and leave you presents.

I do live on the north pole, but the weather isn't that bad. I do have a toy factory up here, and my minimum wage elves do a great job making toys for little boys and girls.

The naughty list does exist, and its not hard to earn yourself a spot. Although I've never given out coal to these naughty children, I have been known to give PHP textbooks to the worst of the worst.

My reindeer are doing well.

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    $\begingroup$ Why php textbooks? Pascal ones would be better. $\endgroup$ – rpax Apr 3 '15 at 22:09
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    $\begingroup$ @rpax They are equally horrifying to small children. $\endgroup$ – Santa Claus Apr 3 '15 at 22:11
  • $\begingroup$ Not for a kid who dreams to be a programmer : en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Real_Programmers_Don%27t_Use_Pascal $\endgroup$ – rpax Apr 3 '15 at 22:14
  • $\begingroup$ @rpax Cmon, give Santa some slack here... $\endgroup$ – Santa Claus Apr 3 '15 at 22:16
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, you know that better than me. +1 $\endgroup$ – rpax Apr 3 '15 at 22:20
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Mayans sacrificed people to enable their gods to keep the universe existing. Parents buying presents is the actual sacrifice needed for Santa to be able to do his job. He exists to confer transcendence to what otherwise would purely be a private ceremony.

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  • $\begingroup$ Stabs knife into bike gears Do I get a present now Santa? $\endgroup$ – tox123 Apr 3 '15 at 18:28
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Why can't Santa be a god?

Not a god as we normally understand it, but a Discworld sort of god. By that, I mean an entity born out of belief, and posessing power directly proportional to the amount and strength of belief in him.

Considering the number of children worldwide who believe in one or other form of Santa (these exist in many, many cultures), Santa could be a very, very powerful god.

Hopping into millions chimneys at once to leave innumerable presents; fiddling with parents' minds so that they think that they bought the extra presents (and with the stores' records to confirm this); and of course, most importantly, making himself be seen only to those who make it all possible by believing in him... These feats should be well within Santa's power.

Of course, he would be a complicated god, one with many faces, changing at will from Santa Claus to Père Noël, morphing his army of elves into one Belsnickel or Snegurochka, etc.

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    $\begingroup$ It's been pointed out how Santa is very much like a conventional diety. He is at least on par with Hercules or other demigods. In fact, he evolved from a Catholic saint. Why otherwise religious people stopped beleiving in him is the real mystery. Talking snakes, OK; flying reindeer, not. A newer religion, still in the Abrahamic family, features a flying horse. The ancient greeks had a flying horse. Maybe he's just too nice to make a god, and doesn't demand blood and insist that followers spread the word. (We do leave offerings (milk and cookies) not because we must but to be nice. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Apr 3 '15 at 17:19
  • $\begingroup$ Re morphing: if he were a properly-beleived god, then he would not be all forms based on context. Rather, different factions would be killing each other and insisting that their form was the one true narrative. As for Diskworld, Hogfather is indeed a Disk novel and a rather good movie. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Apr 3 '15 at 17:24
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    $\begingroup$ Jim Butcher's Dresden Files implies that this is the case. That Santa is a member of the wild fey and wears other guises during other parts of the year. Including riding with the wild hunt on all hallows eve. (It has been a few years since I read it, but I am thinking there was a scene that implied he was one of the faces of Odin in there somewhere as well.) $\endgroup$ – Rozwel Dec 6 '16 at 20:51
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Santa could be active well before Christmas. He charms parents of good kids to buy more generous gifts, and he confuses parents of bad kids to bring coal instead of gift (thinking it is a good fun idea). He may be invisible spirit, or he may really be a businessman, toy producer, who secretly puts charms on his toys. Adults see his elves as Mexican workers, and his deer are a nose figure on his Jaguar car.
However, on Christmas night, Santa inspects at least some of the children to ensure, that they got the treatment they deserved. And if something went bad, like the parent lost a present, Santa works magic. Adults notice that magic, but it happens rather rare, they can not persuade each other that something miraculous happened.

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For the same reason people don't believe that aliens exist

We can draw an analogy between Santa and aliens.

  • Although many people claim to have seen aliens, these people are treated as cranks or lunatics. Claiming to have seen an alien virtually guarantees you will be treated as mad.
  • Although there are apparently pictures of flying saucers, these pictures are always a bit blurry. They are most likely hoaxes, or if not, they must have some natural explanation, ball lightening or experimental aircraft.
  • Although aliens apparently leave crop circles, these could easily have been placed by students under cover of darkness. Likewise that extra present under the tree was probably dropped off by Auntie Flora last week, wasn't it?

  • Moreover, admitting a belief in Santa would have serious social consequences. Anyone in possession of evidence supporting the Santa will most likely want to keep said evidence private for fear of scorn and derision.

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Once upon a time Santa did all the work himself. Toymaking, hiring coalworker and the logistics. After some years he realized that this is a pretty dumb way to do. He outsourced the work to the parents.

He became a master in manipulation

Santas plan was ingenious and evil at the same time. His first action was buying majority shares of toymaking companies and placing, right before christmas, ads all over the world.

The ingenious part was now to remove himself from the next christmas, NOT delivering the toys. The crave for toys generated by the ads and the missing Santa lead the parents to the toy-stores, taking the matters into their own hands.

The legends still exist of Santa, the tradition carries on. Santa is at the beach, rich beyond imagination, drinking Mojitos while amusing himself with babes.

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The particular adults who don't believe in him were naughty kids themselves and so never got presents. They now buy presents for their kids (since they don't believe) so Santa doesn't need to. Two lots of toys would just be spoiling them...

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    $\begingroup$ How about nice kids born to naughty parents? There should be at least one Santa visit before the upbringing kicks in... $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Apr 3 '15 at 4:09
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The people in these movies actually live in a deeply totalitarian regime where the population is kept under control by pervasive surveillance, secret justice, and arbitrary punishment. Santa is an important part of this regime. However, the society is materially successful. This seems to match Santa's capabilities and situation.

The adult population is deeply traumatised by experiences during brutal national service as teenagers, or similar personal assault, (not necessarily systematically, but pervasively and by the state or its agents or those in privileged positions) such that any casual acknowledgement of its existence has become taboo. Along with this sanctions preventing discussion of the secret service for those above the age of majority.

As a result of these incidents the secret police, Santa among them, can go about their business quite publicly. Children can acknowledge his existence quite publicly, but adults are forced to pretend that they don't believe in him or pretend to others or even individually repress any sightings of him.

Any attempt for an adult to acknowledge Santa or his effects would risk their personal security, and that of their families under "terror laws" in secret courts, would publicly ostracise them, leave them liable to attack by their contemporaries.

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Santa is actually a minor god, and like all gods, his power and presence are both fuelled by human belief, and (crucially) uninhibited by the constraints of time.

Parents tell their children that Santa is coming, and they really do buy them gifts. Then, having done this, they claim that these gifts are from Santa (this explains both why they remember doing it, and why children are able, on occasion, to discover them doing it, and to stop believing in Santa as a result).

When the children find the presents, their weak belief in Santa is strengthened to the point where Santa can physically materialise in their home. When this happens, the local timeline is altered. The parents now never bought the presents, which really were delivered by Santa, but since humans are constrained by time, the parents' memories of the alternative timeline remain intact. As far as they're concerned, Santa doesn't exist, and they are responsible for the presents.

You might also be interested to note that, as of 1939 or so, Rudolph has always existed, and has (at least as far as Santa can recall) always had a very shiny nose.

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Santa Claus is a spirit, he counsel the parents to buy (or not) presents to their children. Its a kind of unconscious spiritual channelling. People do a lot of things daily that they don’t know why. So, Santa Claus, who is actually Saint Nicolaus, is the patron of a legion of angels who work with children and help parents raise them. This legion of angels visit parents in their dreams and counsel them on what to do on the next day - they can predict the next day. Once woke up, the parents do what they decided while asleep. There are other legions of angels who work on other areas of life too. Solved.

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When Santa comes down the chimney, he steals all the toys left by the parents (for next Christmas) and leaves his own (stolen from parents last Christmas).

The cookies are just delivering fees.

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