A stock Christmas plot. At least one character (typically a child or very naive/innocent person) strongly believes in Santa Claus. Another character will disagree with them and try to prove to them otherwise, but by the end of the work Santa turns out to be Real After All. He may or may not present himself to the characters, but the audience will definitely know. Just try not to melt the snow in the process.
Many of these stories start on the cynical side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism, but end up on the ideal side (due to the lack of belief in Santa being proven wrong).
In American media, expect a reference to the Stock Phrase "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus", from an 1897 editorial in the The New York Sun that told a little girl Santa Claus is real in our hearts and minds.
Note that this trope usually doesn't apply if Santa Claus is the main character. Usually he's a one-off guest in a continuing series or maybe just in as a cameo, almost always in the Christmas Episode.
Can overlap with Still Believes in Santa if Santa's true believer is someone well past the age of childhood. Compare Real After All, How Can Santa Deliver All Those Toys?. Compare and contrast Santa Ambiguity, where it stays ambiguous through the whole work.
- A commercial for M&M's has Yellow wondering if Santa likes M&Ms, with an exasperated Red grumbling that he wouldn't know because he's "Never met the guy!" Suddenly, Santa comes barreling down the chimney, causing Red to exclaim in confused excitement "He does exist?!"... followed by Santa realizing the same thing about the M's. They both pass out, leaving a bewildered Yellow just standing there.
- The Christmas Episode of Hello Kitty and Friends, titled "Santa's Missing Hat", has Kitty and Mimi get into an argument with their friends over whether Santa exists. Then the hat on their school's Santa decoration gets blown off, and Kitty and Mimi get lost as they go out to find it. Santa appears to them and gives them a magic reindeer sled toy to get back home; they meet their friends after Christmas Eve mass and tell them what happened, but they still don't believe Santa is real until they see him flying in his sleigh that night.
- Discussed in episode 2 of season 2 of Love Live!. When the girls arrive at Maki's family home in the mountains for a song brainstorming session, the latter asks them not to use the chimney, partly because it's still too warm outside to use it, and partly because her father told her Santa won't visit if the chimney isn't kept clean. She then shows some writing and drawings from "Santa" inside the chimney, prompting Nico to laugh at her for still believing in Santa. However, the other girls don't want Maki's belief to be shattered, so they try to keep Nico quiet about it.
- In the Clerks Christmas special, Randal is asked by a chubby, bearded man to find him some dwarf porn. Randal is about to refuse, knowing that this guy doesn't have an RST rental account... except that "Mr Nicholas" does, and his address is an apparently unknown apartment between the two stores. Randal finds out the apartment leads to Santa's secondary toy-making workshop, and that the old guy is real after all (the dwarf porn is for the elves btw, so relax)! He gets some weebles and tries to score a Mötley Crüe denim jacket to win a bet against Dante... But later, Randal wakes up in the snow outside, and his head hurts. Turns out he was cold-clocked by another "block o' stores" employee, and that the apartment has been vacant for months, and the whole things was All Just a Dream... Until Jay and Silent Bob come along, who trade him a blunt and a weeble... for the Motley Crue denim jacket Jay is now wearing.
- A Justice League of America comic had Plastic Man telling Woozie Winks' nephew about how Santa was indeed real, and even a member of the JLA. His story is obviously bogus, as he relates the tale of how Santa helped beat Neron (One of DCs innumerable demons pretending to be Satan) while having the powers of flight and heat vision. Just as the little snot begins lampshading every detail ("If you guys were in Hell, why wasn't the fire hurting Martian Manhunter?"), Santa(!) comes flying by, and much to Plastic Man's shock, uses heat vision to burn "Merry Christmas!" into a nearby snowbank! The nephew goes to sleep, knowing Santa is near... Plastic Man meanwhile goes to relate this news to Woozie, completely in shock over it all. Turns out "Santa" was just Martian Manhunter, who, along with Green Lantern, was in the area and heard Plas's whole story because his signal device had been left on — but then in the last panel, the real Santa makes an appearance, saying "Heat vision? The imagination of some people!" Apparently, the part about being a member of the JLA is true. He also breaks into Apokalips every year to give Darkseid a lump of coal, and was killed by Lobo at one point. (like that'll stick)
- Played With and Inverted in Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas. After a talk with Pete, Max starts to doubt Santa's existence, and becomes even more convinced when he catches Goofy pretending to be him for some poor neighbor kids. The thing is, Goofy really does believe in Santa, and by the end, it's Max who dresses up to restore his father's faith. Naturally, Santa actually flies by near the end, to their delight (and Pete's shock).
- Rankin-Bass' The Year Without a Santa Claus has a little boy named Iggy who vocally states his disbelief in Santa Claus in front of the disguised big guy himself. Cue this song number and Iggy's disbelief being shaken and thoroughly removed upon seeing "Mr. Klaus" flying away on his reindeer's back.
- In Ernest Saves Christmas, Santa winds up in jail, though it's obvious it's him from the get-go: his fingerprints show up as snowflakes, he's able to bring out the good in people, knows things nobody else could, etc... but the rest of the adults don't want to believe. Except for Ernest P. Worrell, of course.
- Miracle on 34th Street, based on the famous "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" editorial. The kid in question doesn't believe because her mother thinks that it's not proper to believe in someone that she doesn't think exists.
- Happens to Scott Calvin in The Santa Clause, even though he spends the better part of his visit from St. Nick and successive trip to the North Pole trying to convince himself it's a joke and that he's deluded, respectively, completely blowing the false pretense he had made of believing in Santa.
- The Santa Trap is all about what happens when a little girl tries to capture Santa to prove he is real.
- Inverted in Gremlins, where Kate tells Billy the story of how her father died. He dressed up as Santa on Christmas Eve and tried to come down the chimney in order to surprise his family, only to slip and break his neck.
Kate: And that's how I found out there was no Santa Claus.
- The Autobiography Of Santa Claus: After Francis Church writes his "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" response to a little girl's letter asking if Santa exists, Santa leaves Church a special gift and a signed thank you note. (In this case, Church does believe in Santa. It's Virginia's father who doesn't but tells her to write the letter rather than disappoint her. Santa points out that the father should have noticed his child receiving extra gifts, but speculates that maybe he didn't notice because Virginia's mother does all the gift shopping.)
- The Crew of the Copper-Colored Cupids proposes that Father Christmas is actually a sentient interdimensional meme which infects as many worlds as it can; belief in a fictional Santa is the first stage, after which a real, physical Santa Claus will gradually begin to coalesce until he was always there as far as anyone can tell. The individual Santas aren't actually malevolent, but the Cupids are still quite keen to not let this happen to their world.
- Subverted in Hogfather: Susan's "assurance" to Twyla that the Disc's version of Santa exists is a deeply sarcastic twist on "Yes Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus", but Susan knows the Hogfather exists - she'd just prefer to live in a world where he didn't. And then she gets surprised/annoyed when someone else (namely, her grandfather) comes down the chimney...
- Both averted and played straight in A Christmas Story as Santa's appearance is clearly a dream and the little boy knows it, but he chooses to believe in Santa regardless.
- In an episode of 227 , "The Night They Arrested Santa Claus" sees a crook dressed as Santa rob the main characters during their Christmas party. To help teach Alexandria the spirit of Christmas, the adults each get the idea to dress up like Santa—only to each get mistaken for the crook and arrested. Eventually, a guard with a white beard and twinkle in his eye brings in the real crook—calling him a disgrace to Santa, letting everyone else out of the cell, and quickly departing. Upon learning no such guard is on duty tonight, Lester wonders if the guy was actually Santa. He dismisses that as crazy, only for everyone to suddenly hear sleigh bells.
- In one episode of The Addams Family, Wednesday and Pugsly doubt Santa is real after their neighbor told them otherwise, so the family decides to encourage their belief by having Uncle Fester play Santa. Unfortunately, the plan hits a snag when he gets stuck down chimney, requiring the family to have someone else play Santa. Unfortunately, they all decide to play Santa without telling the others. Naturally, Wednesday and Pugsly realize something is amiss when they're visited by five Santas and eventually realize what's going on, even recognizing Uncle Fester when he finally gets free of the chimney. Fortunately, while their backs are all turned, the real Santa had come and gone, decorating their tree.
- An episode of Amen which had Frye acting more like Scrooge. When called in to defend a man dressed as Santa who punched another man who was ridiculing him, Frye initially thinks the man is nuts before coming to the conclusion that he is Santa, and decides to use this as his defense. After winning the case, Frye comes home to find the train set that he's wanted since he was a little boy under the Christmas tree, as a reward for being ''good".
- The Bewitched episode "A Vision of Sugarplums" has Samantha and Darrin care for a troublesome orphan boy on Christmas Eve. The boy explains to Sam that he doesn't believe in Santa Claus because his father worked as a department store Santa, and explained to him that Santa Claus doesn't exist. Sam restores the boy's faith by giving him a flight to visit the real Santa Claus at his workshop.
- Doctor Who:
- In "A Christmas Carol", the Eleventh Doctor claims to have met Santa personally, and that he prefers to be called "Jeff".
- The show also suggests that the Doctor himself may be Santa Claus.
Rose: Look at you, dancing around like you're Father Christmas!
Doctor: Who says I'm not, red-bicycle-when-you-were-twelve?
- "Last Christmas" zigzags this. Santa Claus is explicitly stated to be a dream construct trying to save the characters, who have been trapped in dreams by the Monster of the Week. He, however, admits that he exists in their belief, and the Doctor seems extremely familiar with (and annoyed by) him. Then, at the end, after everyone has woken up and the Doctor and Clara have taken off for more adventures, there's a shot of a tangerine, which Santa had earlier stated to be his "signature gift", on Clara's windowsill, adding a Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane twist.
- An early episode of Home Improvement has Mark questioning his belief in Santa after Randy and Brad cruelly tell him that Santa died right before he was born. The end of the episode has Santa showing up at the Taylor house to bestow early presents on everyone and restore Mark's faith. After Kris Kringle leaves Tim comments on what a great guy their neighbor Wilson is to do something like that... only for Jill to point out said next-door neighbor standing at the fence waving to the family. Scene cuts then to Mark standing at the front door and looking up at the sky in wonder.
- The Murdoch Mysteries Christmas Episode "A Merry Murdoch Christmas" features a subplot about an old man with a white beard who claims to be Kris Kringle, and everyone's impatience with Constable Jackson who is very close to believing him. At the end of the episode, when the constabulary are handing presents to orphans, a whole stack of new presents shows up without anyone knowing where they came from, and Jackson and Dr Ogden briefly see Kringle in the crowd in full 19th century Santa outfit before he vanishes.
- In Smallville, Season 5, Ep 9, Clark finds a drunk man dressed as Santa who is about to jump off of a building because Christmas spirit is dead. Clark, in his typical fashion, convinces the man otherwise. Later on, Chloe (who is expected to deliver a roomful of toys to needy children), receives a visit from the same Santa, who offers to help deliver, and she eventually agrees. She turns around for a moment, but when she immediately turns back around, the Santa and all of the presents have disappeared. She later speculates that maybe it was really Santa Claus.
- Played with on Qi, for their Season "K" Christmas episode, "Kris Kringle", when Stephen Fry asked "Why is Santa off the Rich List?" Brendan O'Carroll asked, "Could it be because (stage whisper) he may not be real?" The klaxon sounded and the words "HE ISN'T REAL" flashed on the screen. Phil Jupitus turned to the screen and fell to his knees in seeming despair, prompting Stephen Fry to assure him, "That got a klaxon so it can't be right!" and give him a hug. The Rich List, for the record, is an annual list assembled by Forbes Magazine of the richest fictional characters (that year's winners in ascending order were Tony Stark, Jed Clampett, Carlisle Cullen, Flintheart Glomgold and Smaug). Santa Claus had been on the Rich List before, but Forbes' editors decided that he didn't qualify because, in their opinion, he wasn't fictitious.
- Punky Brewster: The two-parter "Yes, Punky, there is a Santa Claus" is kickstarted by an older kid telling Punky that Santa doesn't exist. Henry convinces Punky that he exists, which leads her to believe that he will bring back her Missing Mom for Christmas... which sends Henry in an impossible chase to find her. Eventually, he settles for a music box from The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday that... turns out to have been owned by Punky's mother. Only after she recognizes the box does Henry realize that the old, bearded owner of the shop who gave him the box knew Henry's name without him saying it first.
- This stanza from Greg Lake's "I Believe in Father Christmas", which was written about the commercialism of the holiday and how it irked him that people thought it was politically incorrect to talk about Christmas, choosing instead "the Holidays":
And I believed in Father Christmas,
And I looked to the sky with excited eyes,
Till I woke with a yawn on the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise.
- In Kingdom Hearts II, during the first trip to Halloween Town, Sora and co. actually get to meet Santa Claus and become his bodyguards, with Sora being a bit too excited about it. But when they finally meet the jolly old man, Sora is revealed to be on the naughty list because he stopped believing seven years prior to the events of the game after being told by Riku that Santa does not exist. This reveal causes the teenager to moan in embarrassment.
- Sleepless Domain: In the comic's Crimmus interstitial, Anemone explains the city's winter holiday of Crimmus. She emphasizes that their Santa Claus figure, a Magical Girl named Holly Jolly, doesn't really exist, and the presents come from friends and family. She goes on to mention that that's why she never gets Crimmus presents... and in the next panel, finds a single present under her Crimmus bush.
- Played straight by The Cult of Scratchwood: Matt spends most of the Christmas Special The Night Before Christmas trying to explain to Derek that Santa Claus is not real, and struggling to explain why humans pretend he is (the closest Derek comes to understanding is when he assumes it is "a tool for propaganda"). After Derek has already left, Matt sees Santa's flying sleigh whizzing past his window. He blinks and goes get another drink.
- Justified in that the SCP Foundation can't contain SCP-4255 so they modify the memories of the parents of the kids he delivers to. To make them think they bought the presents themselves.
- Addressed by The Onion: "Sitcom Characters Still in Shock after Christmas Episode Proves Existence of Santa Claus."
“I feel like I'm losing my fucking mind.”
- The Renegade Rhetoric post where Cy-Kill described the events of the fictional Challenge of the GoBots Christmas Episode "And to All a Good Knight" had the Renegade leader dismiss Santa Claus as a fairy tale, but at the end of the story returns to his Thruster to find his lackey Cop-Tur receiving a present as a reward for his good behavior of letting the Guardians Scooter and Good Knight go and a lump of coal for himself.
- In The Beatles cartoon "Money", the boys are at Coney Island where Ringo mistakes a mechanical clown as Santa Claus (the Brits refer to Santa as Father Christmas, but it's not brought up here).
Ringo: And I want a set of toy soldiers, and a choo-choo train and, uh...(the others yank him back) What did you do that for? I was only telling Santy Claus what I wanted for Christmas!
- The Buzz Lightyear of Star Command episode "Holiday Time" starts with Buzz not believing the Santa Claus that is requesting his help is real until he reveals what the Space Ranger wanted for Christmas as a kid. XR remains skeptical until the end, where Santa told him that he always believed but didn't know.
- Class of 3000: Kam argues that Santa simply cannot exist, but it turns out he does! And he gives Kam a lifetime membership to the Bigfoot Watchers Society.
Mrs. Claus: Poor child, he still believes in Bigfoot.
- One episode of Dexter's Laboratory had Dexter claim that Santa and his reindeer were his parents in disguise. He retains this opinion throughout the entire episode, even after we see that Santa doesn't have the same body dimensions as his dad and he mistakes an actual reindeer for his mother. This results in him shooting Santa's sleigh down, blowing up probably all of the presents that Santa Claus was carrying that night. In short, he ruined Christmas for the whole world.
- Futurama has several episodes featuring Santa Claus... except instead of being a mythical jolly old man, he's an evil death machine that's frighteningly real. The explanation is that they tried to build a real one, but its standards were set too high and it has no sense of proportion.
- Jackie Chan Adventures: When Jade caught Jackie taking a tooth from her pillow, it not only made her stop believing in Tooth Fairy but also in Santa Claus. She learned otherwise about Santa when they had to save him from Daolong Wong. (Note: While Uncle already knew — or at least believed — Santa was real, he doesn't believe the same about the tooth fairy.)
- The Christmas episode of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius has Jimmy trying to convince his friends that Santa isn't real, going so far as to take a trip to the North Pole... where, even after arriving at Santa's workshop, he's convinced it's somehow all fake. After accidentally zapping Santa and being told Christmas has to be called off, he offers to deliver all the toys from his rocket, claiming that if a mere mortal can succeed in delivering all the toys in one night, it's proof that Santa doesn't exist. Naturally, he fails, and Santa, who has gotten better, steps in at the last moment to finish the job.
- Rugrats (1991): In "The Santa Experience", Chas decides to be Santa for Christmas, while Drew hired an actor. After Chas reveals his identity to Chuckie, Santa soon arrives at the door to hand out presents. The actor later calls to say he can't make it as Santa rides off in his sleigh and the adults wonder who he really was.
- Played with in The Real Ghostbusters when the Ghostbusters don't believe that the three ghosts of Christmas are real until after they've put them in the containment unit. At the end of the episode, once everything's been put back to normal, the Ghostbusters have no issues accepting the idea that Santa is real.
- Recess: "Yes Mikey, Santa Claus Does Shave" - Mikey is the only one of the gang who still believes in Santa. He eventually loses hope until an elderly man tells him to believe with his heart. In the end he and his friends see Santa flying, leading Mikey to believe he spoke to the real Santa (who shaved).
- Rankin-Bass' 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, where the non-believer is told with a straight face that his disbelief ruined an entire town's Christmas. The reason? Santa is real, easily offended, and will skip entire towns over one moment of skepticism.
- The SpongeBob SquarePants Christmas special has all of Bikini Bottom await Santa's arrival, only for him not to show up, to Squidward's delight. When SpongeBob gives Squidward a present (because he didn't ask Santa for one), Squidward feels guilty and pretends to be Santa for him (and then later, because he can't leave SpongeBob's field of view, for the rest of the town as well). After Squidward gives away all of his possessions as presents, he discovers a note from the real Santa Claus, thanking him for filling in. Then he hears sleigh bells and sees a live-action Santa note .
- Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends explores this in "A Lost Claus". After Mac's belief in Santa gets shattered, he sends out a prayer to Santa asking for a sign he's real. Although we don't see Santa at the conclusion (just the Santas kids thought up in their imaginations at the start), Mac's prayer is answered.
- Santa's Christmas Crash: In America, one of the two main children waiting for him, Tommy, is completely convinced that Santa Claus isn't real. He even agrees to wait with his little sister, who DOES believe, in the attic for him to show up. They wait all night for him, and when he doesn't show up by the time the sun rises, he comforts his sister over her disappointment at Santa not existing. Then they see Santa making the rounds in clothes he's not normally known for.