Santa Claus still flying high in new poll

Updated: 2011-12-26 10:08

(China Daily/Agencies)

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WASHINGTON - Why do kids believe a chubby guy in a flying sleigh can deliver joy across the United States? Because their parents did. A whopping 84 percent of grown-ups were once children who trusted in Santa's magic, and many cling to it still.

Things are changing fast these days, with toddlers wishing for Apple Inc iPads, grade school students e-mailing their Christmas lists and moms wrestling over bargain toys at midnight sales. Despite all the pressures on the rituals of the season, an AP-GfK poll confirms that families are sticking by old St Nick.

"It's important for kids to have something to believe in," said great-grandmother Wanda Smith of Norman, Oklahoma.

Year after year, Santa Claus survives the scoffers and the Scrooges and the 6-year-old playground skeptics. He endures belittling commercials that portray him shopping at department stores or taking directions from an iPhone. He shrugs off scolds who say his bagful of toys overshadows the reason for the season.

Two-thirds of parents with children under 18 said that Santa is an important part of their celebrations this year. Moms, especially, have a soft spot for the man in red - 71 percent of them said he is important, a big jump from 58 percent just five years ago.

His overall popularity is up slightly compared with an AP-AOL poll in 2006, before the recession hit. In these bleaker times of homes lost to foreclosure and parents sweating out their next paychecks, the poll shows Santa riding high with families both wealthy and poor.

Smith, whose childhood gifts were mostly handmade by her mother - things like cookies and knit scarves - remembers that every year, Santa Claus managed to put one present under the tree for her to share with her brothers.

"One year it was a bicycle. One year we had a sled. One year we got a puppy - his name was Jack and he was a border collie," said Smith, now 70.

"We didn't have a lot, but we didn't know it. Our mother and daddy made it a wonderful time for us," she said.

In multicultural America, Christmas isn't just for Christians any more. Three-fourths of non-Christian adults said they believed in Santa when they were children. Half feel he is still important to their holiday celebrations.