Note: This post is not intended to communicate judgement or condemnation to anyone who disagrees with the way we celebrate Christmas. Please don’t add that in. This is simply an explanation of why our Christmas doesn’t include Santa. This may help some of you who are unsure how you want to handle him.
When I was a little girl, I believed in Santa. Until I was eight. Then I figured it out. When my husband and I began having children, we already knew that we didn’t want to go that route. For one thing, we don’t feel comfortable telling our children something that is not true.
I know, I know. Many parents will say, “But it is fun. Didn’t you enjoy believing in Santa when you were a kid?” I don’t really remember, honestly, how much fun it was to believe in Santa, but I think it is more fun to give a gift to my child with her knowing that it is from us. Honestly I don’t really see the fun perpetuating the story about a man who visits every house in one night and gives children their gifts. The next question would be, “Why?” It is hard to keep any lie going, so I think it would be much less fun actually.
There are deeper reasons we chose not to include Santa at Christmas. Besides the fact that we don’t want to lie to our children, we also don’t want to confuse our children.
As we are teaching them about Jesus and His birth as a baby on earth (Christmas), we want to help them gain as clear of an understanding as they are able to at their given age of what this story of Jesus means. We want them to be able to begin their journey in further understanding the whole message, the big picture, of what Christmas started. We want our Christmas focus to be centered around and founded on God coming to earth in human form to begin the process that would lead Him to the cross, His death, and His resurrection. This is the story of redemption for all those who chose to accept the free gift of grace extended through the hands of Jesus.
It’s hard for me to see where Santa Claus would fit into this picture.
The story of the man who eventually became known as Saint Nicholas is a great story about giving. It is a story worthy of telling. The progression of that story that turned into what we know call Santa Claus is a different story.
While it may be easy for an adult to reason why the story of Santa is obviously make believe, it is not as easy for a child.
“If Santa really sees me while I am sleeping, does that mean he sees everything (omniscient)? Isn’t God the only one who can see everything?”
This can bring confusion about who God is.
“If Santa wants me to be good, so he can bring me presents, why do kids who aren’t good (well behaved) still get presents from him?”
I know it can be challenging at times as a parent, but isn’t talking about being good for Santa just another way to bribe children into good behavior? We don’t believe that bribing is ever a good way to motivate behavior. Bribing only offers a change to the behavior, but doesn’t require a change of heart. Therefore, the obedience is only motivated by a reward instead of true respect and humble submission to parents. This true respect and humble submission to parents will, we pray, lead to a loving obedience toward the LORD and love toward others. This is the ultimate goal.
Also, making a list for Santa can lead to several dilemas. First of all, the list is usually full of big ticket items that many parents, like us, would not be able to afford. This leads to a second dilema. What if the child doesn’t get what he asked of Santa? How is he to understand why Santa didn’t get him what he asked? What about the kids who get nothing? What about the kids who get everything?
Our children are not going to expect huge gifts from us that are out of our price range, because unless we save up for them and search for good deals, we don’t regularly purchase things like that any other time of the year either. They receive gifts from us and from their siblings, and they like the gifts because we chose the things they would like. This is a much more realistic, reasonable, and non-materialistic way for them to understand Christmas presents. Don’t get me wrong. They receive many gifts from family and friends, and they are well taken care of all year round. We just don’t want Christmas to be a “gimme” time where the focus is mostly (or only) on what they want and who will give it to them.
I love the way Noel Piper articulates the problem with Santa in a home where the parents want Jesus to be known in her book, Treasuring God in Our Traditions:
“…celebrating with Santa and manger will postpone a child’s clear understanding of what the real truth of God is. It’s very difficult for a young child to pick through a marble cake of part truth and part imagination to find crumbs of reality. We want our children to understand God as fully as they’re able at whatever age they are. So we try to avoid anything that would inhibit or distort that understanding.”
I totally agree.
Now, what to do about this in a culture that constantly asks my pre-schooler what she wants Santa to bring her for Christmas?
First of all, we explain to her that some parents teach their children that the story of Santa Claus is real. Then we help her understand that it is not her job to tell those children otherwise. Their parents will tell them when they want them to know. Otherwise, she must not say anything about Santa to others. If they ask her about Santa, she can look to us to answer for her.
It’s funny how often the topic of Santa doesn’t come up though as we prepare for Christmas. I suspect that part of the reason this is so is because we spend all of Advent talking about Jesus, and hopefully all year talking about Him, as well.
It’s just not an issue for her. She doesn’t know any different, and my suspicion is that she will appreciate us telling her the truth anyway. She’s like that, and I am thankful (Of course we also strive to tell the truth in an age appropriate way). I believe our other children will feel the same way.
Funny story: One Christmastime we were walking into a local grocery store, and our oldest saw a balloon with Santa on it. In a very loud and excited voice she yelled, “Moses! Mommy, Daddy, look! That balloon has Moses on it!” Then as she saw the birthday balloons she asked, “Are those to say ‘Happy Birthday’ to Jesus?” My husband and I smiled at each other and were thankful that she remembered what we hoped she would: Christmas is all about Jesus. It was pretty funny that she thought the Santa balloon was a tribute to Moses.
Ultimately it is up to the parent to decide what to do with Santa Claus. This is what we have decided. Yeah, we get flack for it from time to time. It’s okay, though.
With all that being said, we almost cannot wait for Christmas to finally be here! I hope you are filled with just as much excitement.
Merry Christmas! May Jesus Christ bring you hope this holiday season!
“In His name the nations will put their hope.” (Matthew 12:21)
Also, I recommend checking this post from Afterthoughts that has some interesting articles about Christmas…