Gérald Bronner, ” Contribution to a theory of the abandonment of beliefs : the end of Father Christmas “, Cahiers international sociology, 2004
“There is a belief that many of us have adopted it firmly before pushing her no less firmly by the result ? “The response, of course ! The Father Christmas ! This represents a favourable terrain for the study of the dynamics of beliefs. It offers the advantage of presenting a belief that is unquestionably false, and a support to examine the mechanisms of abandonment of the belief.
Why children believe in Father Christmas ? The reasons of membership
At the age where they are offered to this belief, children are not able to find it dubious, and it was even less than their parents, synonymous of credibility continued to play a central role in its dissemination. The children have good reasons to believe in their sources of information, since other members of the family, the teachers of the schools and even the other children stayed in the school seem also to believe. With the argument that not everyone can be unanimous in error, the child is confronted with a monopoly on cognitive, that is to say that no offer cognitive competitive does not yet. In addition, the parents strive to limit the likelihood that children are confronted with anomalies, creating dissonances serious in the belief : it asks the children to go to bed so that Father Christmas can come and bring gifts, is deposited on the chimney of carrots and cookies for the reindeer, which of course have been eaten by the parents, who have even taken the precaution to leave a few crumbs..The belief in Father Christmas is based on physical evidence of its existence : the letters sent to Father Christmas and receiving a response, the phone calls, the traces left on its passage.
Why do the children believe more in Father Christmas ? The reasons for the abandonment of the belief
How can the child then one day give up his belief in santa Claus ? The average age of this abandonment is to 6,99 years, according to interviews. The author of the article spot three types of breach of belief. The dissonance is the element that is most frequently mentioned to explain the abandonment of the belief. This category covers several situations quite different. The first of these classes includes the cases where one of the mediators of belief, disguises himself as Father Christmas, but is recognised, parents can be caught in the act, despite their silence, cautious, and drop the gifts in front of the Christmas tree. The gifts can be found by the children in a closet, in the attic, in the garage, before the evening of Christmas, this discovery resulting in sometimes the immediate abandonment of the belief on the ground that the gifts may not ” already be there “. The belief can still be weakened or abandoned due to a fourth type of dissonance : the presence of too many Father Christmas in the cities.
The second type of fracture is the competition, when the parents destroy the belief. Some of them have only confirmed the doubts that the child was already having. Others, however, will convene the child and reveal suddenly, the legendary character of the case, by way of an initiation ritual.
The breakdown by inconsistency implies that an internal element of the myth is questioned by the individual. The children put in doubt the fact that Father Christmas may live at the North pole or in the center of the Earth. Thus, the breakage can be a result of the fantastic elements of the legend that end up looking implausible. The omniscience of the Father Christmas (the fact that you will always know what the kids want), the presence of elves, flying reindeers, etc, it all seems far-fetched to the extent that the child may never see first-hand the reality of these allegations. Some children are struck by the fact that the Father Christmas can not go around the Earth in a single night, he is also too old for this strenuous work, his hood and his sleigh may not contain all of the toys, or even that it is too large to pass into the chimney.
It should be noted finally that the stories mentioning the unique influence of peers or older brothers and sisters to justify their abandonment represent only 8 % of the total workforce.