How does your family deal with the Santa issue?
(Thought-provoking guest post by Sara Wallace over at The Gospel-Centered Mom. Re-printed by express permission of Sara Wallace. Her words contain so much grace, maturity, and truth. Please understand that how you handle this topic is a family decision, and you are in no way being judged. Thank you.)
I believed in Santa.
My husband believed in Santa.
We turned out okay. We didn’t walk away from the Lord or resent our parents. Before we had kids we figured we would do the whole Santa thing. We wanted Christmas to be as special for them as it was for us. But then we actually had kids and we had a big problem.
Santa wasn’t going to work.
First let me say I’m a huge proponent of fostering imagination in kids. My kids’ all time favorite activity is pretending. All day long I have pirates, super heroes, and exotic animals flying through my house. I love it.
I also want to point out that when I talk about Santa in this post I am specifically referring to believing in Santa, not whether or not he should be banished altogether. My husband wears a Santa hat while we bake cookies. My kids sing along to Christmas songs on the radio and they don’t skip over Santa’s name like a cuss word.
But we have decided not to tell our kids Santa is real. More specifically, we purposely tell them he is not.
If you’ve been reading this blog for long you know that the whole point is to direct us moms and our kids into living out the gospel. I tried and tried to fit Santa into that plan, but it didn’t work. It was like trying to stuff a giant man down a chimney…
Four Reasons Santa Didn’t Make the Wallace Team
1. Santa promotes works righteousness.
That might sound harsh, but keep in mind the aforementioned goal.The heart of the gospel is the glorious trade of our sin for Christ’s righteousness. It is a difficult concept to teach because kids are legalistic by nature. It takes a lot of time, prayer, and thoughtful conversations to help them understand that God loves us because of Christ’s good works, not ours.
Then along comes Santa.
He’s jolly, sparkly, magical, and he promises gifts to children who are good. One of my sons in particular is very sensitive to the damage this causes. He would be so stressed if Christmas rested on his good deeds. Each time he messed up he would buckle down and double up on his good deeds to make up for it. I already have to work with him on accepting Christ’s free forgiveness instead of trying to work for it. Thanks, but no thanks, Santa.
2. Santa blurs the lines between fact and fantasy.
So precious are the moments when the kids climb onto our laps for a Bible story. We talk about Jesus and how He lived a perfect life and died for our sins. We talk about the mighty power of God who created the world, parted the Red Sea, and closed the mouths of lions. They listen intently.
And they believe me.
Sometimes my heart aches when I look into their wide eyes and innocent faces and think, “They trust me implicitly. I want so dearly to lead them in the truth.”
If my husband and I throw Santa into the mix of “true” stories, what will they think later when they find out Santa is not real? How about Noah’s ark? How about the ten plagues? How about that Jesus guy who was kind of like a religious magician?
We want the categories of true and fantasy to be clearly divided. Characters don’t get to jump back and forth from one category to the other.
3. Santa is a type of god.
Some of my readers might be rolling their eyes. But think about it. He is omnipotent (all powerful – makes toys, rides a magical sleigh, goes up and down chimneys).
He is omnipresent (everywhere at once – how else could he deliver the presents?).
He is omniscient (all knowing – he knows who is bad and who is good).
He is eternal. He is perfect. He is the whole package.
I can’t think of another mythical creature that encapsulates so many characteristics reserved for God alone.
When we describe God to our kids I don’t want them thinking, “Oh yeah, kind of like Santa.” No. God is not like anybody. We want to keep it that way.
4. It’s hard to compete with Santa.
Who cares about a baby in a manger when there’s a huge man in a shiny red coat throwing presents and candy around like it’s going out of style?
Kids spend the entire Christmas season looking for signs of Santa. They write him letters. They bake him cookies. And that’s just the kids.
Playing make-believe takes a lot of work for us grown-ups. We are on the other end of it trying to hide the evidence and figure out how to field all of their questions. All the time and energy we put into keeping up the Santa myth could be spent focusing on Christ’s birth.
Some parents call the Santa myth a lie while others call it pretending. I’m going to call it a huge distraction.
My five-year-old asks me questions about God all the time:
What does it mean to be a spirit?
If God doesn’t have a heart how can He love people?
If there is only one God why do we call Jesus God?
Talk about tough questions. If I told my son Santa was real I would get all the same kinds of questions. Hundreds of them. Do I really want to take the time to thoughtfully answer my son’s genuine curiosity with answers that aren’t even true? Do I want Santa to become the focal point of every conversation?
So where does that leave us with Santa? He’s everywhere we go. We can’t exactly hide from him. And we don’t want to. We treat Santa like any other part of life. We explain him. We use him as an opportunity to teach our kids how to think.
We don’t want them to run and hide in fear or to venture out on their own to find the answers their parents wouldn’t give them. We have open and honest conversations about it.
When we see Santa ringing a bell outside the grocery store my kids smile and say, “Merry Christmas, Santa!” They giggle and get a big kick out of it. But they don’t think he’s real. He’s not watching them while they’re sleeping or keeping track of their good deeds. To them it’s just like seeing a guy dressed up like batman.
And they are having a great Christmas.
NEW note: I am so thankful for the great discussion this post has encouraged. One question that has been tossed around is, “How do you keep your kids from spoiling it for other kids?”
It’s definitely something to address with your family. BUT – it shouldn’t be a motivating factor for teaching your kids to believe in Santa. For example, we wouldn’t say, “Well, we don’t want our kids to be party poopers so I guess we’ll have to go along with the Santa thing.”
From the time our kids are really little they think of Santa as a game. That shouldn’t spoil it for anyone. By the time they are old enough to spill the beans we have the talk about some kids believing in Santa.
We don’t make those kids sound silly or less spiritual. We just say it’s a family decision and every family is different. It’s a great way to help them put different family decisions in perspective.
At some peoples’ houses we can eat food in the living room, some let us run in the house, some say take shoes off at the door….and some believe in Santa. It helps our kids learn thoughtfulness and respect for different ways of doing things.)
My name is Sara Wallace. My husband Dave and I are raising and homeschooling our four little boys in the backwoods of Idaho. I love my busy life – but I am in desperate need of daily grace. If you’re a mom, you’ve got a tough job. You are not alone. Let’s explore how the power of the gospel equips us for this sticky, messy, heart-wrenchingly beautiful battle called motherhood.
You can find her at The Gospel-Centered Mom.
When I only had 2 children and my first one was 4 and my 2nd was 2, we went to church and our pastor encouraged us to get rid of Santa. Keep everything else about Christmas but have it revolve around Jesus and not Santa, so we came home and told our children. We taped them and still watch it 28 years later. My oldest was heartbroken at first until we explained it all to her and then my 2 year old pointed to my husband and said, “You are Santa!” It was the cutest thing!
We don’t celebrate Christmas however when we did we told our children the truth about all the myths surrounding the holiday. I once heard a lady say that once she found out Santa wasn’t real she stopped believing in God. To her as a child Santa and God were one and the same. As parents we must be truthful in all our dealings so we don’t damage the faith of our children.
That is the approach we take, too. She articulates her reasons very well and throws in a few I hadn’t even thought of! (Like being constantly peppered with questions about Santa — yep, that would definitely be happening.) I’ve told my kids that St. Nicholas was a real person and that he was a Christian who helped the poor, but the Santa Claus in a red suit in a flying sleigh… not real. It is still a fun part of Christmas, as she says, but just not one we go to great lengths to promote belief in.
How I wish I had not gone along with the Santa myth! I had decided when my son was born that we would not portray Santa as a real person. When he reached school-age he truly believed the hype so I went along with it. When he figured out around 10 years old that Santa was indeed not real, he calls me a “liar” because of this and it just cuts me to the core because I did unnecessarily lie to him. I just hope it doesn’t make him cynical (as someone mentioned already) about Jesus.
My heart can come along side of yours in a thousand other similar areas. We must not allow Satan to make us miserable for our failings, dear Mama, for he desires to do just that. He is the father of lies and the accuser of the saints. We all have so many things we wish we hadn’t done, big and small. I would go to him and gently ask for his forgiveness (if you haven’t already), tell him you love him, and maybe even show him Sara’s post and my comment. Let him know that you want to make it right, that you have asked the Lord to forgive you, and that you know He has (that is the beauty of grace). I’m sure you already have talked with him about it. If not, simply speak of God’s grace and how we all need it. Tell him that this is a good lesson for you …and for him. We can all learn and still love one another and be better for it (either better or bitter). Going to him will model the fact that all of us parents sometimes need to ask for forgiveness, and he will too one day when he is a parent.
I am praying for you, your son, and your family! God bless you.
Thank you for your wise input and your prayers!
Sounds good… our kids have always known he wasn’t real also… our neighbor kids adamantly believe he IS real… because their parents said so…and their parents would never lie to them! Oh, what pain awaits them someday. Thank you for your post.
I grew up not believing in Santa (my mom had heard a similar story as Jamileh posted about it causing kids to doubt if Jesus exists), but my husband did and was so heartbroken when he found out the truth as a boy. So we decided we wouldn’t tell our children Santa was real. I had a neighbor who thought I was ruining Christmas for my children by telling them the truth from the beginning. But I knew that, from my own experience, this wasn’t true. I always loved Christmas, and so do our children. (We told them not to tell other children he wasn’t real, though, so their parents could deal with that.)
This is a good post. With our oldest son, we went along with the Santa thing. Our next child was born five years later. By then, it was starting to get old. Some people might feel this isn’t right, but I began to resent Santa; the hard-earned money and time that went into picking presents only for some non-existent “magical” guy to get the credit. My husband could never keep things straight and would mention some toy we got my son, only to have him say, “Dad, you didn’t get me that – Santa did!” But of course there is much more to it than that, as your post pointed out so well. I try to avoid most “magical” things and Santa certainly falls into that category. I found the God-like qualities don’t work the same as with the real God. When he is watching you to see if you are “naughty or nice” it is not like the comforting presence of God watching over you just because he loves you. Instead there is stress and worry. The final straw came when our second child was about three. The oldest one by then knew Santa was a fiction, but he wanted to “help” by constantly telling his younger brother and baby sister all about Santa. He was adding more elements to it and making it seem as if the entire holiday was about Santa. That is the biggest problem – there is no room to celebrate Jesus! I finally took him aside and said we would be downplaying Santa from here on out. It has been several years since we decided to do so and it has really made a great difference in our Christmas celebration.
Warm greetings, Jacqueline! I trust this finds you well and having a blessed day! Your post are always encouraging, even though sometimes I don’t take time to leave a comment! Sorry!
Oh, the Santa thing! We always told our nesters the truth. Make believe is fun, but to take a fictitious character and put him above the Son of God was not something we wanted to do. We told them it was not their place to tell their friends…so, they told their cousins!!!! Two of our adult children play up the Santa thing with their nesters and two do not. We raised our 14 nesters according to how we felt God was leading us.
Blessings to you Sweet Friend! (By the way, I finally posted some pictures of the family! Still trying to get birthday pictures together!)
I’ll be right over to see your sweet ‘nesters’! I love that term 🙂 You are a GREAT Mama!!!! <3 Sending warm greetings in the name of Jesus!! Merry Christmas, dearie!
LINDA LR MURPHY
I wanted to say that when it was time for me to play along with my 2 little ones, I did it the first year when they were 2 but I felt bad, I spent the whole of the next year discussing the lie with my husband who was adamant about not spoiling it for them by telling them the truth. I decided that I needed them to know I would never lie to them so I exposed the whole thing as a cultural fantasy, and not to spoil it for other kids, but wink and nod and let it go. I told them if there was only one person in the whole world who would not lie to them, it was me. I stuck to my promise and even though my husband was disgruntled, it was out in the open and he couldn’t undo it. It wasn’t the only thing that came between us, either, Halloween was the next big issue we were on opposites sides about. I guess you need to discuss these things before you marry!
So true, Linda. I pray the Lord will help you and your husband to be on one mind and that you can find common ground without distention. Thanks for sharing your heart! Merry Christmas!
Linda LR Murphy, I love your term “cultural fantasy.” Years ago, when my eldest was little, I used the term “legend” and told him “some people like to pretend about” Santa. I was not even a Christian at that time, but still didn’t like the idea of lying to my child. Funny, though, he came home from Kindergarten one day and announced that “Santa Claus is TOO real!”
By the way, I have a hard time calling Christmas “Jesus’s birthday” as well, since it’s most likely not.
Well, Saint Nicolas was actually a bishop in the third century. We celebrate St. Nicholas Day on the 6th of December and I love this festival and its traditions. Here is a great explanation of how Saint Nicholas turned into commercial Santa Claus: http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/origin-of-santa/ I like this blog post, too: http://theartofsimple.net/st-nicholas-the-real-santa-claus/
I don’t agree with you, but I understand what you are saying. My parents grew up with Santa, I grew up with Santa, my son grew up with Santa and I include Santa in my grandchildren’s Christmas. We went to Church and celebrated the birth of Jesus and the joy of the season. I think you can do both. I wouldn’t trade one minute of my childhood Christmas memories. I wouldn’t trade one minute of my childhood Church memories.
It’s a fun Santa game you play with your kids and as long as you teach the reason for Christmas I don’t see the harm. Today children are expected to understand and participate in so much that should wait until they are older. Be children, they are going to be adults for a long time. They grow, they believe, they fall, they get back up! I don’t believe in trophies for every child either, win or lose. They become entitled individuals.
You support, you love and guide but not everyone wins! You have to handle defeat.
I feel I turned out just fine, thanks to my family.
I say “Merry Christmas” & I have a big wooden sign I hang in my living room each Christmas that says, “We Believe in Santa”! courtesy of my late Dad!
Thank you, Terry, for sharing your thoughts 🙂 I’m a firm believer in parental rights and feel these are decisions parents have the right to consider and make. As a blogger, I give what I feel is best and the reasons and let people decide for themselves. We can agree to disagree, for sure. I’m not judging or adamant that others have to do it my way 😀 Have a blessed Christmas and God bless you!
Why didn’t you post my comment from today? 12/14/15
Post have to be approved and I just saw it, Terry 🙂 I have a family to care for first 🙂
Have a great day!
This is so well written, and I agree completely!
Hi, Jill!! Merry Christmas, old friend!
Great post! For anyone who is curious, from someone who grew up not believing in Santa: my upbringing did not lessen my enjoyment of Christmas. Even without Santa, it was still a “magical” time – we hang lights on everything, a tree ends up inside the house, cookies everywhere, presents, and I always end up dressed as a sheep at some point! I never felt that I missed out on anything.
The other thing that I feel I gained from it (as opposed to my peers at school) was an overwhelming sense of gratitude, and less a sense of entitlement. I knew my parents had to work hard to give us those gifts, and I was genuinely thankful. And while my friends expected rewards for their good behaviour, I came to a deeper understanding of Christ’s grace – that I don’t deserve anything good on my own, no matter how good I am.
For those concerned about taking away from the Christmas experience by being honest about Santa – don’t be afraid! It was that way for me, and it was great!
Great thoughts, Owen. I grateful you shared them here and from a man’s perspective!
Merry Christmas to you and your family!
Santa was spoiled for me by my Dad when I was about 4. He just flatly told me there was no such thing as Santa and I needed to thank my mother (for he did not work or provide a thing) for the gifts and her work.
I’ve resented that my whole life! I missed out on a Joyful childhood experience. My child is oldest is 10. There is no sign yet that any of them will stop believing soon. We adore Santa and have great fun with him. We also praise and worship Jesus and revolve our hearts around Him.
Some day when they have doubts we’ll deal with it. I have ideas. I think it’ll be ok. Until then let’s just keep childhood magic intact.
in our home Santa wasn’t the main thing, Christ was(and still is). We have knick knacks of Santa holding Jesus, bowing beside Jesus and one with his eyes closed praying by Jesus. Santa brought ONE thing. When our oldest said classmates told her Santa is your parents, she asked if that is true? I told her Santa is someone who loves you VERY much, but God loves you way more because He sent Jesus. Christmas is celebrating Jesus birthday and that’s the most important thing about Christmas. Comments about behavior being tied to Christmas were discouraged and minimal, usually by well-meaning extended family, but was quickly discounted. As they got older and didn’t go see Santa or write a letter to Santa we cont’d having one gift from Santa under the tree. It became a joke and eventually when as teenagers they rolled their eyes at is there anything you’d like from Santa – but we would overreact and horrified say you don’t want a Santa gift. I think we struck a balance. God was who we wanted to please and serve, not Santa. Now they all love and serve our Lord Jesus Christ. We approached Halloween the same way. We were never into the scary stuff, but dressed up and visited neighbors tric or treating. When THEY became aware of Satan and evil and that side of what their friends thought was ok they determined to not be a part of it. We used it as a family night-dinner and a movie. We also passed out tracts. Giving and placing too much emphasis on anything (Santa, school, sports, friends, appearance, stuff) rather then what is REALLY important is the problem.
Ana Willis at TheyCallMeBlessed.org
Bravo! My kids can’t care less about Santa. We never lied to them and Christmas for us, in our own way to celebrate it, is all about Jesus – nothing else. If we model speaking the truth always, they will learn to trust us. Yes, we love fairytales, but we don’t allow anything or anyone steal Jesus’ spotlight.