The Father Christmas Myth – Classroom vs. Parents

Published: 11 December 2008 at 10:52

With Christmas approaching, the annual seasonal clash is also on its way. A study led by Professor Theodora Papatheodorou from the Faculty of Education at Anglia Ruskin University has shown that parents and teachers have differing views about perpetuating the Father Christmas story with young children and this could potentially create tension in schools across the country between now and the end of term.

While Father Christmas is not part of the National Curriculum, he is still used as a tool to drive letter writing and numeracy skills. In the current politically correct environment, however, teachers have become increasingly concerned about initiating colourful discussions about Santa. This is despite the fact that Father Christmas has little foundation in religion. 

In contrast, parents surveyed during the course of this study felt that mystical figures such as Santa, Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny are all part of the magic of childhood and do not see this as a moral dilemma. As one parent explained

 “Often, just reading and talking about Father Christmas is enough to excite a child’s imagination”. 

The average age children find out about the reality of the story is between 7-9 years and the revelation in most instances (but not always) is easily acceptable. The majority of parents surveyed for the study revealed that the joy, wonder and magic of Father Christmas overrides concerns about conceit and the possible risk of losing credibility.

Professor Theodora Papatheodorou who led this study says,

“The purpose of this research was to ascertain how the Father Christmas story fits in today’s society, within both the home and school environment. It was clear throughout the study that the parents were much clearer on their views and the freedom to indulge in the myths of Santa due to the goodwill of the story. However, this was is in contrast to teachers who, for professional reasons, feel quite unsure whether the story has a definitive place in the classroom. The overriding factor for all concerned is that it does teach children about sharing and kindness but political correctness has changed the dynamics of the classroom and in this instance it is hard to agree that it is positive. Father Christmas is a “family” issue with different families having accorded different values to the story, reflected in their own rituals, customs and traditions regarding Santa. Father Christmas as a “family” issue adds further difficulties for teachers whose story may clash with the children’s family story. Teachers, who participated in this study, have said that a close and sensitive liaison with parents is essential for Early Years professionals in order to respect children’s diverse backgrounds and to avoid imposing Father Christmas as an alien and distant figure from their experiences.”