The Christmas Chronicles. Photo: Netflix
Once, during the middle of a long drive, my then-preschooler hit me with an unexpected question: "Mommy, is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer real?" I tried skirting the issue—"Well, honey, he lives with Santa at the North Pole"—to no avail: "But is he REAL?" She wasn't taking anything less than full commitment. I don't like the idea of not telling her the truth, but in the heat of the moment, sweating bullets, I caved: "Yes! Yes, he's real!"
Now, with the holidays on the horizon, I'm hoping to avoid anything that might spark her next round of grilling.
For families who opt in on the full Santa story—North Pole, elves, magic sleigh, hauling loot down chimneys (or through radiators)—protecting a child's belief in Christmas magic can be a tricky thing to negotiate. Save yourself a little angst by keeping these books and movies out of your holiday media rotation until you're ready to have The Talk about Jolly Old Saint Nick.
Even movies that wholeheartedly embrace the existence of Santa can get kids thinking (and asking questions) if some characters are doubters.
Best for: Ages 3+ This short, which is included in the compilation Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas, is all about Goofy trying to convince his skeptical son, Max, that Santa is real—without a resolution that's particularly convincing.
Best for: Ages 4+ A young girl's belief in Santa is ridiculed in this animated tale. But it's ultimately sweet and heartwarming, if kids aren't distracted by Virginia's doubts.
Best for: Ages 5+ The movie begins with Santa taking a fatal fall (Santa dies! Ack!) off the main character's roof—which leads to him inheriting the red suit and all that comes with it. It's a clever, fun idea, but many characters talk about Santa not being real.
Best for: Ages 6+ The little girl at the heart of the story, Susan (Natalie Wood), at first doesn't believe in Santa—which could lead to questions from kids—but ultimately she's proven wrong and becomes a stout believer in St. Nick.
Best for: Ages 6+ Though in the end this a beautiful affirmation of the true meaning of the holiday, some kids may wonder why the main character, a little boy, is doubting Santa's existence on Christmas Eve.
Best for: Ages 7+ No one has more Christmas spirit than Will Ferrell's Buddy the Elf, but that doesn't mean that other characters don't shake their head and roll their eyes at the notion of Santa. And kids talk about the possibility of parents being the ones behind the presents.
Best for: Ages 7+
This Santa isn't your typical jolly old elf. He's tough, he's tattooed, and he wields swords like a pro. Guardians is a gorgeous adventure, but its departure from tradition could get kids wondering.
Best for: Ages 8+ The storyline centers on an aging Santa (who's not dressed in the traditional red, so as to blend in) seeking out his replacement for the job, so it could raise questions about the St. Nick legend.
Best for: Ages 10+ Amid plenty of holiday-themed mayhem that skews a bit older anyway, a boy starts to tell his younger sister that there's no Santa. He doesn't go through with it, but the topic still comes up.
Best for: Ages 10+ This movie isn't intended for kids young enough to really want to believe in Santa, but just in case: Phoebe Cates' character gives a memorable speech about how she found out that Santa wasn't real.
This article was originally published on Common Sense Media.