Santa or No Santa…

Great question. Over the years Christian parents have asked the question, “Should we tell our kids there is a Santa or not?” And historically there have been two answers to this question:

Answer 1: Of course not!

Why would we lie to our kids? Why would we set them up for heartbreak later?  What if they find out the truth from someone else and we aren’t there to help them process it? Will they stop trusting us?  And will they assume Jesus is a myth as well?

I love the heart behind this argument – we want to protect our children from heartbreak, lack of trust, and skepticism about Jesus.

But there is another answer.

Answer 2: Of course!

Many of us grew up believing in Santa and we think, well, it worked out okay for me… it will be fine for them! After all, it’s fun to see the joy in our kids faces when they leave out the milk and cookies. It’s fun to see their expressions when they see the reindeer tracks we leave in the yard or the filled stockings left in the house.

And I love the heart behind this argument – we want to provide our kids with as much childlike joy as possible… for they won’t be children forever.

Personally, I grew up believing in Santa and I loved it.  In fact, I was never one of those who wanted to stay up and watch for him for the fear I might scare him off and ruin the whole thing.  My wife on the other hand was told from the beginning that Santa is a fairy tale.  And yet she had just as much joy on Christmas morning as I did.  So when it came time for us to make a decision for our kids we took the middle road – we told our kids that he was a legend that some kids believed. Our oldest never bought it. Our youngest said “I know he is not real… but I believe in Santa anyway!”

Either way you go… I think you can still have a great Christmas and still help your kids learn the difference between Santa and Jesus…. but let me offer a few thoughts:

Santa is not an anagram for Satan.

Santa comes from the Latin sanctus, meaning holy or saint. Santa’s name likely evolved from a real person, Nicholas, a Christian man whose extreme generosity helped strangers.

It is possible that Santa Claus can actually help kids believe in Jesus.

If Christians embraced the Father Christmas myth while rejecting the materialism attached to it, it might bring value.  Myths, after all, are time-honored methods of communicating truth through story, and the Santa Claus myth is no exception.

Santa Claus embodies Christian values such as: kindness, generosity, forgiveness—every child soon realizes that even if they have not been perfect all year, Santa comes through. Santa brings gifts to children both deserving and undeserving. While Santa is not a Christ figure—that must be clear—the Santa myth is not the problem. The problem is that we have let advertisers hijack Santa, turning Christmas into a retail event.

Obviously, leading your kids to believe that their wish list is a demand list, or focusing exclusively on Santa, or using it to threaten or manipulate your children, is unhelpful.

But allowing children to embrace Santa while they are young can allow them to experience unmerited favor (grace). However, as they grow,  we can point to that experience in order to explain what it means to give and receive grace. Rather than replace fairy tales with rational, hard facts (“There is no such thing as Santa. He does not exist!”), why not tell your children the tales of Father Christmas or St. Nicholas, someone who gives without expecting anything in return, who loves children—and brings you one gift, not 30. What do you think?

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