I told my kids the truth, once they started to ask direct questions about Santa. I couldn't lie to them. Until they asked, however, I was happy to preserve a mutual silence on the subject. If they don't ask whether it's true, perhaps they don't really want to know yet. I think Santa is a symbol of an abstract concept and so the story isn't a complete 'lie' (I mean, Peter Pan isn't a 'lie' is it?)
Once kids want to know the truth, I do think you have to tell them, because they trust you. On gruesome subjects I used to tell partial truths though, no matter how explicit the question. Because once something is known it can't be un-known.