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Santa Ambiguity

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It's never quite revealed whether Santa Claus really did come to town.

This trope has been Launched!
Proposed By:
Unicorndance on Jan 1st 2019 at 9:53:57 PM
Last Edited By:
Unicorndance on Jan 11th 2019 at 12:53:45 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

Good old Santa Claus: in some works, he clearly exists. In fact, sometimes, he's in danger and Saving Christmas might be in order. In other works, he doesn't exist; the parents buy the presents, or maybe Christmas doesn't even exist. And then, there are these works.

In these works, Santa's existence is unclear. Mall Santas might be seen, people might try to prove or disprove Santa's existence, and sometimes evidence leans one way or the other, but we'll never know for sure.

A common way to play this trope is to introduce an old man who looks like Santa, acts like Santa, and/or claims he is Santa, but it's never proven or disproven. Sometimes, there's a reveal that someone was pretending to be Santa and there's a separate possible Santa, but he's never revealed to be Santa or not.

What is not this trope, however, is when the mysterious old man is seen with elves, flying reindeer, or anything else along those lines, as that basically proves that he's Santa, and Santa Claus is Real After All.

Additionally, don't list examples where Santa is not brought up in an important way because there are too many works like that for it to qualify.

Sub-Trope of Ambiguous Situation and Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane. Compare Angel Unaware for another subtrope of those two tropes that might involve Christmas. Compare and contrast Yes, Virginia and Santa's Existence Clause where it is less ambiguous and Santa does exist.

Indexes: Christmas Tropes, This Might Be an Index


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     Films: Live-Action 
  • In the BBC 2018 special Click And Collect, the protagonists give ten pounds to a fat, old, homeless man with a white beard. He later comes back and gives them change for a claw machine and they wonder if he's Santa, but decide he isn't when they see him pee on a lamppost. Previously, a house's Christmas decorations featured a peeing Santa.

  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Unlike the web comic, where Santa explicitly does not exist, in the books it is more ambiguous. Greg does not believe in Santa, but he's often wrong about things. There's a doll named Santa's Scout that's supposed to report back to Santa and it changes position, but nobody sees it move and Greg suspects it's actually Rodrick who moves it.
  • The Dilly The Dinosaur story "Dilly and the Book of Bad Behavior" has Santa's prehistoric equivalent Dino Claus. His existence is ambiguous; he appears at the mall but that might just be the equivalent of a mall Santa, and this Dino Claus needs to be informed about Dilly's situation.
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas!: The Grinch pulls a reverse Santa in order to steal Christmas, then brings it back while still in his Santa garb, but he never bumps into either the real Santa or a parent being Santa, so Santa's existence is left up in the air (in the Ron Howard live-action film version, however, not only does Santa exists but the Grinch makes his move after he watches him leave Whoville. He even makes a Deadpan Snarker joke about how Santa's lifestyle must be good for tax-dodging).

     Live-Action TV 
  • Murdoch Mysteries: In "A Merry Murdoch Christmas", an old man is very adamant about being released from police custody because according to him, he's actually Kris Kringle and needs to complete his Christmas present rounds. Dr. Ogden thinks he's just delusional, although she consents to releasing him on the basis that he isn't putting himself or anyone else in danger. At the end of the episode, the policemen are giving the local kids gifts and notice that they have more presents than they bought themselves, upon which they notice "Kris" in the crowd, wearing a Santa suit and smiling. The man then disappears into the streets, leaving his real identity a mystery.

     Western Animation 
  • Arthur: In "Arthur's Perfect Christmas", there is a lot of discussion about Santa, but at the same time, it's heavily implied that the mom was the one looking for a "Tina the Talking Tabby" toy for D.W. However, it is never revealed where the kids' other presents came from, so the possibility of Santa existing is left open-ended.
  • Bojack Horse Man: Parodied in the Christmas Special "Sabrina's Christmas Wish". The Show Within a Show "Horsin' Around" uses this trope and Todd asks if Santa is real. Bojack replies, "What? I dunno, we were all on cocaine."
  • In The Loud House episode "11 Louds a Leapin'", Lisa does an equation that supposedly proves the non-existence of Santa, but then she thinks she's seen Santa. However, that was just their neighbor Mr. Grouse dressed up. Santa's existence is not outright denied, though.
  • Postman Pat: In "Postman Pat's Magic Christmas", there is a strange old man who gives the kids presents and occasionally seems to use magic, but he's never directly stated to be Santa.

Feedback: 8 replies

Jan 2nd 2019 at 2:02:59 AM

  • Blue Linked TV Tropes page names.
  • Examples section
    • Added a line separating the Description and Examples section.
    • Added [[foldercontrol]] .

Jan 2nd 2019 at 11:40:34 AM

  • Arthur: In "Arthur's Perfect Christmas", there's a lot of discussion about Santa coming. At the same time, though, it's heavily implied that the parents bought the gifts- however, while it's all but confirmed that the mother was the one looking for D.W.'s "Tina the Talking Tabby" toy, it's never otherwise discussed where the other presents came from, leaving the possibility for Santa coming open-ended.

Jan 2nd 2019 at 3:06:06 PM

Live-Action TV

  • Murdoch Mysteries: The Christmas Episode "A Merry Murdoch Christmas" features an old man claiming to be Kris Kringle, who is throughout the episode very adamant to be released from police custody so that he may complete his rounds for Christmas night. Doctor Ogden is of the opinion that the old man is simply delusional, although she eventually consents to releasing him on the basis that he's no danger to himself or others, and the other characters tend to agree with that assumption. At the end of the episode, when the policemen are distributing gifts to the local kids, they notice that there are a lot more presents than they actually bought themselves — at which point they notice "Kris" in the crowd, dressed in Santa's iconic outfit, who smiles at them and vanishes into the streets.

Jan 11th 2019 at 12:30:19 PM

Parodied in the Bojack Horseman Christmas Special Sabrinas Christmas Wish. This is done in the Show Within A Show Horsin Around. Todd questions if it means Santa is real and Bo Jack replies "What? I dunno, we were all on cocaine!"

Jan 11th 2019 at 12:32:24 PM

Also in the BBC 2018 special Click and Collect, the main characters give ten pounds to a fat old homeless man with a white beard. He later returns to give them the change they need to win a toy from a claw machine and they wonder if it's the real Santa...only to see the homeless man pissing against a lamppost. Bonus points, this was foreshadowed earlier in the special by a gaudy Christmas Lights display on the front of a house that featured a pissing Santa.

Jan 11th 2019 at 12:50:24 PM

Launching today if no one objects.