Wiltshire vicar ‘accidentally’ ruins Christmas for schoolkids by telling them Santa Claus isn’t real


We wouldn’t just walk into the church during one of his services and tell everyone there that Jesus isn’t real. He’s a person of authority and it’s not his place to be telling the children that.

That was the reaction from a Wiltshire mum Linzi Merritt, whose son Levi, nine, attends Charter primary school in the Wiltshire market town of Chippenham. She was expressing her anger over the fact that Canon Simon Tatton-Brown had come to the school and explained told pupils doesn’t really exist.

Canon Simon Tatton-Brown

Canon Simon Tatton-Brown. Photo Adam Gray SWNS.COM

According to this report, Tatton-Brown’s slip came as he delivered his festive address to pupils. A “technical issue” meant he had to work without notes and he told them that many believed the figure of Father Christmas was based on Saint Nicholas, a fourth-century saint renowned for his secret gift-giving.

Now Some parents threatened to pull their children out of a Christmas concert at his church, St Andrew’s, in protest.

The very youngest pupils were not at the assembly but many others went home with their belief in Santa shattered. Realising his error, Tatton-Brown, who is due to retire on New Year’s Eve, apologised to the school.

But not all parents were in a forgiving mood.

Merritt added:

It’s the older children who have suffered the most because their parents can’t really talk their way out of it like the parents of younger children can.

Loads of kids went home crying – it has ruined Christmas for them. It wasn’t a nice story for children to hear, there were lots more he could have told. Not only has he spoiled Father Christmas for them, a lot of them are now questioning the existence of the tooth fairy as well.

Kerry Butler, whose nine-year-old daughter Kacey is a pupil, said:

All the parents here are very upset. I think it’s a lot worse for the older children because a lot of them are on the cusp of not believing anymore and this could have pushed them over the edge.

Tatton-Brown wrote to headteacher Sarah Flack to apologise. His letter said:

I was very sorry to hear of the trouble following my assembly. I talked about Saint Nicholas, and the stories about him, which tells us why Santa Claus brings gifts at Christmas.

I am sorry if this was misunderstood. I fully support parents who want their young children to enjoy the Christmas stories, including Father Christmas, and I had no intention of undermining their belief in the reality of Santa Claus.

The school has accepted his apology. Tatton-Brown was getting on with his preparations for Christmas on Thursday and referring inquiries to the diocese of Bristol.

A spokesman said:

When Simon discovered that what he had said had cast into doubt the existence of Santa Claus, he contacted the headteacher by phone and volunteered an apology to be sent to parents. The school accepted his apology and sent it out to parents. It looks forward to continuing its links with St Andrew’s, including holding its carol service there this Christmas.

According to one version of the legend, Saint Nicholas lived in south-west Turkey in the fourth century and performed a number of miracles involving sailors and children.

There’s also a sory that claims that during a terrible famine a malicious butcher lured three little children into his house, where he killed them, cured them in a barrel and planned to sell them. Saint Nicholas, who was visiting the region to care for the hungry, resurrected the three boys from the barrel by his prayers.

Meanwhile, there’s another row brewing around Santa (or Sinterklaas) in Holland. Traditionally, he has an assistant called Black Pete (Zwarte Piet), and even the United Nations has stepped in.


Last month it called on the Dutch government to “promote understanding, mutual respect and intercultural dialogue” in a debate that was getting out of hand. The UN warning followed a sharp increase in complaints about the portrayal of Black Pete, which perpetuates negative stereotypes of Africans and people of African descent.

Hat tip: Ivan


26 responses to “Wiltshire vicar ‘accidentally’ ruins Christmas for schoolkids by telling them Santa Claus isn’t real”

  1. TrickyDicky says:

    Pot – Kettle

  2. Caute says:

    Well why would anyone believe in a mythical figure?

  3. Dave Godfrey says:

    “We wouldn’t just walk into the church during one of his services and tell everyone there that Jesus isn’t real.”

    I would.

  4. David Anderson says:

    Far better to tell the kids a story about a man who was tortured and crucified. Much more heartwarming.

    ¡Hostia! I’ve just realized this story is from the UK. Reading thr ludicrousy, I was sure it was the USA.

  5. 1859 says:

    ‘… and I had no intention of undermining their belief in the reality of Santa Claus.’

    So, the truth is, he knows the ‘reality’ of Papa Xmas doesn’t exist, but he doesn’t want to say so? In other words, it’s quite OK to tell children that something exists that doesn’t exist. Well, I wonder were he got that idea from?

  6. Cameron says:

    My kids worked out Father Xmas didn’t exist by the time they were 4, but they still love to celebrate the holiday.

  7. Trevor Blake says:

    Nobody, anywhere, complains that because animals don’t really talk and wear clothes and have jobs that we can’t use Aesop’s fables or Grimm’s tales to talk about morals. Maybe the morals these stories convey are good or bad, well said or weak, but they do convey morals. Even fiction can convey heroism, humor, loyalty, all sorts of good moral values. So can comic books. When religion insists it is both a moral lesson and a true lesson, it oversteps and fails at both.

    Did you read about the United Nations trying to promote understanding, mutual respect and intercultural dialogue with Muslims such that they might hold back in murdering each other and non-Muslims, oppressing / killing women and homosexuals, discouraging education and encouraging plague? No, I didn’t either. How much easier it is to go after Black Pete.

  8. Barry Duke says:

    I’m a tad concerned about the UN intervention in Holland. There’s a pic of me sitting on Black Pete’s lap on the Internet, and the PC police may be trying to track me down as we speak:

  9. Broga says:

    Is Santa Clause getting down all those chimneys any more incredible than Jesus’ flesh and blood being consumed thousands of times every Sunday by RCs?

  10. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    @BarryDuke: They’re closer than you think, the link is down already….

  11. john c says:

    News headlines…..Santa Attacked!–Easter Bunny -“Im living in fear now”..

  12. L.Long says:

    WTF!!! ‘Traditionally, he has an assistant called Black Pete (Zwarte Piet), and even the United Nations has stepped in.’
    BLACK Pete was BLACK as in BLACK, not african.
    These PC police are really out of hand.
    I waiting for the albinos to organize and stop everyone from using the word white to describe their pink-brown color!!!!

    So someone said there aint no Santa! Ya?!? SO?!?
    What the parents are too scared to tell their kids more make believe stories to make them feel better??? My G’kids are 4 & 5 and have the no santa figured out. Talk about a non-issue!

  13. Robster says:

    ” a lot of them are now questioning the existence of the tooth fairy as well”. So the real issue here is TF. Tooth has been largely forgotten while the Baby jesus, Santa and Elmo get all the Xmas glory! All the celebrated imaginary people/things are male too! It’s misogynistic, Tooth is a female fairy and is suffering discrimination while the generous Santa, Elmo and that dead jew on a stick lap it up while dentally challenged children wait wistfully for the forgotten fairy. It’s not fair.

  14. TrickyDicky says:


    Surely Santa should be applauded as an equal opportunity employer.

  15. Angela_K says:

    “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” A. Hitler. Possibly something he learned from religion and probably the reason the Santa and Tooth Fairy myth keeps going. Shame the Vicar didn’t add that the man in the red suit was invented by the Coca-Cola company.

    Did this Vicar mean to say there is no Satan, now that would be funny.

  16. tony e says:

    If anyone should be an expert on mythological figures then Tatton-Brown’s your man.

  17. David Anderson says:

    Papá Noel is a fairly recent import to Spain. Traditionally kids in Spain get their presents on “El diá de los tres reyes magos”(three kings day). Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar are supposed to represent the peoples of Arabia,the Orient and Africa respectively. Now Balthazar, being from Africa, is typically presented as black. Next target for the UN?

  18. Broga says:

    When faced with sufficient opposition Tatton-Brown backs off. The same thing will happen when the tipping point is reached and there is enough opposition to the destructive fantasies of religion.

    You can see it happening on the dire Thought for the Day. TfTD is listened to by a literate audience and they don’t like what is being expensively foisted on them at their expense. And they are saying so and most of them can read and write.

    The religious cabal at the top of the BBC (RCs being prominent) continue to block secularist contributions as a result of (a) vain arrogance; (b) fear of the dull current contributions being exposed by the comparison; (c) sheer bloody panic and not knowing what to do.

    The current ploy, cowardly as it is capitulation masquerading as business as usual, is to avoid any mention of religion until a brief reference is slipped in immediately before the end. The effect of this nonsense is that the secularist mass listener audience now wait to hear the religious mention being slipped in. It is so ridiculous as to have become a widely enjoyed joke.

  19. RickRay says:

    Holy FSM ! Wait until the kids find out their Jesus/God isn’t real either. Watch the shit hit the fan then….Oh, it already has !

  20. Helen says:

    Does no one realise that kids are not shattered because they are told there is no Santa, but because they realise their own parents have been telling them lies??

  21. Rachel says:

    Wait; the Tooth Fairy isn’t real also?? /bawl

    A priest telling children about make believe characters not existing? I suppose one could look at it as irony.

    and here was I thinking that priests are more likely to tell the kids “actually I am Santa, now come sit on my lap little one…”

  22. Matt+Westwood says:

    “Not only has he spoiled Father Christmas for them, a lot of them are now questioning the existence of the tooth fairy as well.”

    Onion Mash, anyone?

  23. Matt+Westwood says:

    In mid-December I happened to find myself in Florida once, on a business trip. One of the colleagues in our Florida office, a middle-aged woman, asked me what I wanted Santa Claus to bring me for xmas. I pointed out with a glib barely-perceptible sneer in my voice that “we don’t believe in Santa Claus in Britain.” She was shocked. She was actually horrified that I did not believe that SC existed.

    Children in Britain are lucky — at least they live in an environment where healthy cynicism is actually the norm when it comes to shit like this.

  24. andym says:

    Matt. When I read that quote about the tooth fairy, I had exactly the same thought. It sounds precisely like a quote from the Mash. Rather like the same way that some people are getting their knickers in a twist about Scientology being declared a religion. “It makes unproven assumptions…” Yes, and..?

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