Ithaca College Santa Expert Helping Keep the Magic Alive

By David Maley, December 5, 2016

Ithaca College Santa Expert Helping Keep the Magic Alive

In the internet age — where we may think that a simple Google search might spoil the magic of Santa Claus for kids — Macy’s is hoping to fill the World Wide Web with positive affirmations of belief. And a developmental psychologist from Ithaca College who has conducted her own research on belief in Santa is helping out.

As part of its annual “I Believe” campaign, which supports the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Macy’s has launched The Santa Project. It is calling on people of all ages to show their beliefs by using #SantaProject to post a message, photo or video via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or YouTube. A selection of responses will be featured in Macy’s television commercials in December.

Ithaca College Professor of Psychology Cyndy Scheibe served as a consultant for the project, and is featured in promotional videos.

“I think that they are approaching this is a lovely way — not just trying to promote belief in Santa as a way to get people to buy more stuff — but to counteract what they perceive as an increasingly cynical world that is perpetuated by messages on the internet and in social media that might undermine children’s wonder and awe and belief about Santa Claus and the whole holiday season,” said Scheibe.

Macy’s has long been connected in popular culture with Santa Claus and Christmas, from its annual Thanksgiving Day Parade to the film “Miracle on 34th Street.”

“This season, we want to do everything we can to boost the spirit of Santa for future generations,” said Joe Feczko, senior vice president of brand marketing for Macy’s. “We’re asking people to come together this Christmas to flood the internet with a groundswell of positivity that preserves belief for kids everywhere.”

Scheibe says Macy’s did a lot of its own research, and sought out experts in developmental psychology to talk about children’s imagination, the importance of fantasy in children’s development, and how the process of going from believing in Santa to discovering the truth about the Santa story occurs. The videos include comments from the experts, along with children talking about Santa.

“From my research, I think the key for parents in having that conversation concerning ‘the truth’ about Santa is to couch it in the context of why this wonderful story has been created and what it gives to the celebration of Christmas — both for kids and for adults — by adding magic and wonder and being able to surprise people with gifts that they didn’t know about.

“I love the editorial ‘Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus’ and the films that carry the same message,” Scheibe added. “I think we all need things and people to believe in, especially in the world today.”

Scheibe is the founder and executive director of Project Look Sharp, a program at Ithaca College that supports educators in preparing students for life in today’s media saturated world. She has been a consultant to the Children’s Television Workshop and was a founding board member of the National Association for Media Literacy Education.

To learn more about The Santa Project, visit