By Rohan Kapitany
Warning: this piece contains Christmas spoilers
Many of us tell our children about a rotund, bearded man in red, who lives in the icy tundra at the top of the world. He is tasked with judging the moral worth of children everywhere. He has a list. He has checked it twice. And there is no court of appeals.
We promise our children that, on a known date and under the cover of darkness, he will sneak into our homes. Here, his judgment will be delivered. In preparation, it is customary to erect and decorate a tree inside one’s home (a dead one, or a simulacrum, will do just fine) and to leave a food sacrifice of high-fat cookies and nutrient-rich milk. He will then repeat this act several billion times, aided by his entourage of flying polar caribou.
Why would children believe something so absurd? And can it teach us anything about how children come to discriminate between what is real and what is no…