The Most Famous Lie

Lying. We know it's wrong, but everyone does it. Small lies, white lies, blind lies, big lies, cover ups, embellishing the truth. But in my opinion there is one instance where lying is perfectly acceptable: the protective lie.

By protective lie, I mean lying for the sake of genuinely having someone else's interest at heart; the most famous example of this? Santa Claus. Yes Santa Claus, one great big fat festive fabrication of a man that upholds the magic of least for children. For parents and adults, much of the Christmas period is dedicated to up-keeping this magic and affirming the lie by fleshing out the fibs if and when questioned. Questions such as:

Child: " ...well how come I never see him?"
Adult: " Well, because Santa only comes when you tucked up in bed, sound asleep."
Child: "But how does he manage to go to every house?"
Adult: "He has a magical sleigh with helpers and reindeer."
Child: "But we don't have a chimney, how does he get in?"
Adult: "Erm...he has a key."

Sorry to sound cynical but seriously,  look at how feeble these explanations sound and wonder how anyone in their right mind would be idiotic enough to believe them;  naively we all did at some point.

One of my friends even took her young niece's to go and watch a panto in East London last week. In the car on the way, they happened to pass a dozen men dressed as Santa Claus smoking and boozing it up outside a local pub after doing Santa Dash (a charity Christmas fun run). The conversation went roughly as follows:

Niece: "Why is Santa smoking? Is he not a good man?"
Aunt: "Well those Santa's aren't real darling. The real Santa's in the North Pole making presents for you lot."
Niece:" What? But there's only meant to be one Santa!"
Aunt: "Yes, I know but Santa's such a hero that everyone wants to be him, so they all pretend."
Niece: "Well they're not doing a very good job if they're smoking and not making presents."
Aunt: "Exactly. There's only one Santa!"

Of course even without being interrogated, parents and adults actively engage in further deceit:

"Write a list for Santa and pin it up in the lounge so he knows what you want."
Adult translation: "Give me your list so I can go to Toys 'R Us."

Then there's the added bribery for want of an easier life:
"Santa won't come and deliver your presents if you've been naughty, so make sure you behave!"

But the lies and the bribery are all part of the good will of Christmastime. We lie to sustain the belief, the one reason children are so spell-bounded by the festivity of it all. Receiving presents is always enjoyable, but not as enthralling when you know they've been wrapped by Dad, not elves and are made in China instead of the North Pole. Wouldn't you rather get a gift thinking it was from a magically elusive, white-bearded man than from your parents?  The magic would wear off.

And the magic always wears off quicker when you're the younger sibling- like myself. At the age of  9, when I was at the tender age of  7, my brother, after becoming suspicious about Santa's incomprehensibly magical abilities questioned my father only to be dissatisfied with the answer. Adamant my father was lying, he took it upon himself to set up and wire a video camera which he placed hidden at the bottom of the stairs on Christmas Eve. (Yes, my brother was strangely tech savvy for his age.) Whilst I squeezed my eyes shut hoping Santa would make it to our house, he wanted to stay up and wait for 'Santa'. He kept me awake prodding me and insisting his investigative techniques would uncover the truth. Unfortunately for him we both fell asleep and as I bounded down the stairs to tear open my presents the next morning, he was busy fiddling with camera which he proceeded to connect to the TV. He watched almost the entire video (a still recording of our living room) before hearing light footsteps down the stairs followed by the screen going blank. Clever Dad. Still, even without the evidence he refused to believe the lie and as older siblings often do, he made it his goal to ruin the magic for me too. By that point it wasn't hard. As my scepticism grew and I remember questioning my Dad about how he never helped us open our presents and how he was always catatonic on Christmas morning when every other day of the year he got up for work at 5am. But now it makes sense realising his lethargy was the result of lugging quad-bikes and snooker tables through the front door in the middle of the night.

I tried so hard to hang on to the belief of Santa and I was distraught when I finally figured out (with a helping hand from my older brother) that he was all a lie. It ruined Christmas for me. The magic was gone, there were no flying sleighs, no mystical elves, no Rudloph's. I cried for days and hated my Dad for lying to me just as much as I hated my brother for spoiling the illusion. Christmas was never the same again; I couldn't get over the deception of it all. Now, 18 years later, I'm quite happy to play the role of deceiver to keep a smile on my little sister's face and see the excitement in her eyes for as many years as possible. Why? Because it's the lie that keeps Christmas spirit alive. Santa Claus promotes and instils in children the idea of giving, being kind-hearted and of being appreciative. Parents find enjoyment undertaking a good deed which gives all recognition to Santa to see their child's excitement as Christmas nears, to see their ecstatic reaction on Christmas morning, to see them happy; that's what makes the best lie of all so successful.