The following post is an opinion of the author, and does not necessarily represent the beliefs of Minno.
How to Talk to Your Kids About Santa Claus
Here we are in the middle of Advent, as we are preparing our hearts for the coming of the Savior and looking forward to celebrating Christmas with our loved ones. But there is still the debate in our Christian community about the inclusion of Santa Claus in our Christmas tradition. Should we Christians allow our children the fantasies of Santa Claus, his elves, the North Pole and the naughty and nice list? Or do these fantasies do nothing more than feed greed in an ever-growing commercialism of this holy season? Can we have both Santa and Christ?
As a child, I never gave much thought to the fact there shouldn’t be Santa included in the celebration of Jesus’ birth. Our family had both traditions, and we were able to keep everything in perspective. Going to Catholic school, the devotions associated with Advent were done on a daily basis. I knew that Christmas was a celebration of Jesus’ birth. But like many in my age group, Santa Claus also played a role in our Christmastime fun. I sat on the chubby elf’s knee many times, and assured him that I was a “good girl” all year…except for that one time when my little brother “needed” shoving. The question is, has my childhood preoccupation with Santa as part of my Christmas tradition negatively affected my spiritual growth as a Christian? Definitely not!
I consider myself to be rooted strongly in my faith as a follower of Christ. And even though we really don’t know when Jesus was born, we know He was born in Bethlehem to Mary and Joseph. We have the account of His birth in the Book of Luke, and as a culture we have chosen to celebrate his birth on December 25. Even though the Bible doesn’t tell us specifically when Jesus was born or for that matter, to even celebrate the birth, we do. So, how does Santa NOT take away from this birthday celebration?
We know that Saint Nicholas actually did live. And while there are legends mixed into the truth about this good man, we know that he was born into a wealthy family, and was raised as a devout Christian. Still a young man after his parents’ death, he inherited their fortune. Obeying Christ’s teaching to, “Sell what you have and help the poor”, he used his inheritance to help the poor and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God by helping others. Commercialism aside, this is really the idea behind Santa leaving gifts on Christmas morning. It was never a tradition that was meant to take away our focus from the Christ child, but to enhance the idea of doing good to others in His name.
Perhaps when our children are old enough to understand the concept of Santa Claus, we can teach them the truth behind the myths. Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with combining a little fantasy in with our Christmas celebration. For those who insist that “Thou shalt not lie” is reason enough to boycott the Santa thing, I honestly doubt a game of make-believe is the same thing. Also, I don’t know of any adult who suffered irreparable mental anguish when the “truth” about Santa was revealed to them. Instead most adults who celebrated both Jesus and Santa look at the fantasy part of Christmas a childhood rite of passage, an innocent time before growing up.
My husband and I never hesitated to include Santa Claus in our Christmas traditions. We have a beautiful nativity scene set up as a focal point in our home. We have had an Advent wreath on our coffee table for many years, and we have our Christmas tree lit up as well as our stockings hung on the mantle. For us the anticipation and then celebration of Christ’s birth somehow seamlessly mixes with our anticipation of Santa Claus riding in his sleigh on Christmas Eve.
For me, the memories that these traditions bring to our family are priceless. I hate to use the word “magical”, because these days that word can be misunderstood as something occultish. But for those of you who can look beyond that ugly meaning, and remember those Christmas mornings as children, when you woke up and came into the family room… gifts under the tree, lights twinkling, and mom and dad somehow looking a little more tired than usual. It truly was a magical moment in time. And then when you finally got dressed up and went to church that morning, the singing of “Joy to the World” filled the hearts of the congregation with a new hope! Jesus, our Savior, was here!
Lisa Strnad is an independent contractor in Christian media as a writer, marketing consultant, and public relations specialist. She speaks to Christian women’s groups on the issues of motherhood, home schooling and raising a child with special needs. Lisa and her family make their home in Nashville.