Santa Claus More Important Than Ever, Poll Confirms

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Times may be rough and there might be fewer presents under the tree in family homes across the country this year, but that just means the big guy in the red suit is all the more important.

An AP-GFK poll surveyed more than 1,000 American adults and found that two-thirds of parents with children under 18 say that Santa plays a significant role in their Christmas celebrations this year, the Associated Press reports. His popularity has increased over the past five years, no doubt partly because of the recession: in 2006 58% of mothers polled said Santa was an important part of their traditions, as compared to 71% of mothers polled this year.

Santa is resonating with families of all religious and spiritual beliefs at a time when a little bit of faith and fun is needed to help stretch out strained budgets. The poll revealed that 84% of adults believed in Santa when they were children, and continue to pass on the tradition to their little ones. And Santa isn’t just for the religious: three-fourths of non-Christian adults note they believed gifts came down the chimney when they were young.  “It’s important for kids to have something to believe in,” Wanda Smith, a 70-year-old from Oklahoma, told the AP.

(READ: Xmas Lit 101: Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Christmas)

Smith recalls the one toy Santa would bring her and her siblings every year—a bicycle, a sled—and said “We didn’t have a lot, but we didn’t know it. Our mother and daddy made it a wonderful time for us.”

With all the access to technology and information, parents may find it hard to keep Santa Claus in kids’ lives as long as before, but they might want to point out that there are, in fact, St. Nicks everywhere. Whether it’s mysterious secret Santas paying off Kmart layaway accounts of parents struggling to buy gifts for the holidays, people spending their time volunteering, or mall Santas attending a prestigious Santa school to make sure they get all the touches just right to bring a smile to a child’s face, the spirit of Father Christmas is alive and well.

MORE: Top 10 Bad Santas

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