This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
Santa Claus is a pretty important figure to lots of kids. Kids who don't believe in Jesus but like the idea of presents. In some homes parents put a lot of effort into maintaining the illusion and all the innocence that comes with it, so when it's gone, we can end up feeling pretty traumatised.
To find out how traumatised, we asked some grown adults about the time they found out the truth about Santa.
When did you find out the awful truth about Santa?
Leyla, 22: I always knew.
Because there's a picture of me aged five, in bed, with Santa looming over me. I always questioned my family about who it was but I still just don't know. I asked about a lot of different men in my family, but it was none of them.
Do you know now?
No, and to this day it still hasn't been resolved.
How old were you when you found out the awful truth about Santa Claus? If you have?
Alec, 24: I don't think I was ever told that it was a thing.
Well, no, it was a thing, but everyone knew that it wasn't real. My parents never said, "Santa Claus is bringing you presents." They got the presents.
So they wanted all the credit?
We just never really had the Santa Claus myth.
So how old were you when you found out the truth?
Charlotte, 27:I think I was seven or eight, maybe. I was in the playground – I remember vividly – and someone said, "You know Santa's not real?" and I remember stopping in my tracks. We were playing a game, and I was like, "What?" Then I went home and I spoke to my parents and they were like, "Yeah, sorry about that." So it was quite shocking but I got over it.
Were your parents big into it?
Quite into it, but not overly.
Can I just take your picture?
David, 29: I don't want people to know I'm in Shoreditch.
I won't tell anyone. So how old were you when you found out that Santa wasn't real?
I don't really remember. I'm blocking out the memory.
It's traumatic. Were your parents big on it?
Not really. They used to decorate their house quite nicely, and now they've moved away, so they don't do that any more.
So it wasn't too bad?
I'm kind of over it.
How old were you when you found out?
Nick, 28: I was about eight or nine. I remember because the airing cupboard was in my bedroom and I saw a big present at the top four days before Christmas, and I was like, "Ooh." And then Christmas came and it was my present from Santa. So I asked my mum and she told me the truth.
Were you devastated?
A little bit, but I got a big present so I didn't really care.
Do you remember how old you were when you found out the awful truth about Santa?
Andrew, 45: About seven-ish.
Were you upset? Were you big into Santa?
Yeah, I think so. You feel a bit let down, don't you. It's a shame because that illusion is gone.
Do you remember what happened? Who told you?
My parents. I think I guessed and I asked them and they said, "Yeah, actually, it's dad."
Do you have kids?
I have three. Two of them know, one doesn't. My youngest is seven, so I reckon this is her last year. It's sad – it's the spirit of Christmas.
Do you remember finding out about Santa?
Charlie: I think my elder brother told me, and I would have been about eight. He ruined the surprise. He utterly revelled in telling me.
Jane: I think at the end of primary school I blagged that I didn't believe, but actually secretly I did for a really long time. My parents kept going with the myth, so I don't think it was until about 16 that they decided to stop doing it and I thought, 'Oh, right, maybe he really isn't real.' So I've continued the same thing with my children – that it's real – until I drop dead, basically. Because they do believe – and why not, that's the spirit of Christmas.
What if they tell you he's not real?
Jane: If you don't believe, you don't get!