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The story of Father Christmas is widespread across Europe and beyond, and for almost six weeks each year dominates children's and adults' lives. This longitudinal study examined parental practices and attitudes towards the Father Christmas story. Participating during the first phase of the study, conducted during November and December 1998, were parents and guardians of children up to the age of 8 residing in the East Anglia region in the United Kingdom. Their practices and attitudes were identified through 318 mail questionnaires (53 percent response rate) and 10 interviews. A purposive sample was used to obtain views of parents from diverse backgrounds. Questionnaire data indicated that parents overwhelmingly reported that they celebrate Father Christmas, that they had been brought up to believe in Father Christmas, and that they encourage their children to believe in him. Most parents reported that they found out gradually that Father Christmas was not real and they did not recall strong feelings about it. The majority stated that Father Christmas was real for their children, especially 4- to 6-year-olds, and that they expected the children to find out that Father Christmas was imaginary between 7 and 10 years of age. Parents believed that Father Christmas had no real adverse effects on children, highly rated the magical experience and feelings of excitement and wonder associated with it, and acknowledged to a lesser degree values conveyed by the Father Christmas story. The majority of parents indicated that Father Christmas was celebrated in their children's schools/nurseries. (Contains 39 references.) (Author/KB)

Descriptors: Cognitive Development, Emotional Development, Foreign Countries, Holidays, Longitudinal Studies, Mythology, Parent Attitudes, Parent Child Relationship, Parents, Religious Holidays, Spiritual Development, Values, Young Children

Autor: Papatheodorou, Theodora; Gill, Janet


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