Luckily when Jaden asked, I’d been on Facebook and had just the right answer.

I’m not on Facebook a lot; I had to take it off my phone for all the usual reasons, FOMO, comparing people’s vacations to my sickdays at home with the kids, and outrage fatigue.

Anyway, Jay was out of town, it was bedtime, and Jaden had recently discovered some unmarked boxes in the garage with presents in them. He fixed me with a stare and said to me, “But really, is there a Santa Claus?”

My standard answer has been that Santa is magic, which is a nonanswer, but also, I believe, true. But this particular day a Facebook blurb came to me (I’d look for the source but there’s one sure thing about Facebook: you may see the same thing 20 times in 5 minutes, but you can never, ever find anything that you look for).

So I said to Jaden, “There are some big questions in life, and once you know the answer to them you can’t unknow them. Are you sure you want me to answer?”

He looked a little shocked, but after a pause he said, gravely, “yes.”

“Santa is real,” I said.

“But… Santa is not a person. Papa and I buy the presents and wrap them up. We do it because we believe in the idea of Santa, which is the idea of giving without expecting anything back. Generosity, kindness, sharing with people. We tell little kids there’s a Santa because it’s easier to understand, and you should never tell kids too little to understand about this secret.”

This was not what Jaden was expecting, and he was a bit wide-eyed.

“But,” he said. “Wow. But.” He was thrilled with the knowledge, but looked like he suspected I might be fibbing in the other direction.

Over the next week he would ask about when Santa was coming, then remember Santa’s not real, then explain to me that he’s real but not a person. You could see the gears turning as he alternately rejected and accepted this new premise. I worried it might scar him, but I aslo didn’t want to wait too late. I think it was just the right information at the right time.

Because the amazing thing about my Facebook Santa story is that it explains more clearly than I ever could why we tell this big fib, and keep it going so long. Our holiday, somewhere below all the stress and materialism, is really is in service of a sweet impulse. My everlasting thanks to the Facebook mind on this one.

Have a Merry and a Happy, y’all!