I hope that you and all your loved ones had a wonderful and Merry Christmas.
Christmas has pretty much always been my favorite time of year. There is something about the lights, the music, the food, and of course the presents that turn me into a little giddy child even as I enter into my 30’s.
I get nostalgic for the family traditions that were such a big part of Christmas when I was a child. Making Christmas fudge, decorating the tree, setting up the nativity scenes, and of course we must not forget the multiple viewings of “A Muppet’s Christmas Carol”. Now that I’m married and have children of my own I enjoy taking some of these traditions, along with some traditions my wife had as a child, and even creating some of our own new traditions as we make Christmas time special for our family in its own unique way.
One element of Christmas which will not play a significant role in our household however, is Santa Claus.
I am aware this is somewhat controversial. Whenever my wife or I mention to someone that we will not be doing “Santa Stuff” with our children we are often greeted with what I can only describe as shock and horror.
“WHAT!!! How could you deprive your children of the happiness, joy and magic of Santa Claus? Do you hate your children?”
Even people who consider themselves strong Christians, who proclaim to want to keep Jesus at the center of Christmas, will often give us a look as if they are considering calling Child Protective Services on us. For some reason, Santa Claus is now considered by many to be a sacred element of the season, and not introducing him to your children is neglectful at best, and downright abusive at worst.
So if Santa is considered by many to be such a critical component of Christmas, then why would we not wish to include him in our Christmas celebrations with our Children? I have several reasons.
First and foremost, I don’t want to teach my children about Santa Claus because I don’t ever want them to feel that I have been dishonest, or deceitful to them about anything. I don’t ever want to tell a lie to my children, and I don’t ever want them to feel that they can’t trust anything that I say. It may sound like something from a Christian book of clichés, but I am honestly concerned that if I deceive them about Santa Claus they may lose faith in my teachings to them about Jesus Christ.
Many people scoff at this idea, but it is a serious concern, especially in this day and age when the culture is so rampantly anti-Christian, and many outspoken atheists like to make God out to be as fictional and ridiculous as characters such as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. If I try to convince my children that these fairy tales are real when they are little, while I’m also trying to teach them the truth of the Gospel, why wouldn’t they then start doubt the reality of God when they discover I’ve been misleading them about all the others?
This is not a trifle fear; I know some real world examples where the shattered reality of Santa Claus actually caused children to lose faith in God. One day my wife was talking to a co-worker and expressed this particular fear. Her co-worker stopped for a moment, and then said, “Now that you mention it, I when I stopped believing in Santa Claus was around the same time that I stopped believing in Jesus.” I was also recently talking to a friend of mine about this issue, and he mentioned a boy in his non-immediate family who upon discovering the truth of Santa Claus refused to speak to his parents for months, so hurt was he that they would have been so deceitful to him for so long.
Perhaps these examples are the exceptions, not the rule. Perhaps most children when they eventually come to terms with the truth of Santa Claus accept it gracefully, and their faith in Jesus, and their parents, is not shattered. It may be the likelihood of such serious consequences is small. But even still I can’t help but wonder, is it really worth the risk? Is Santa Claus really so awesome that it is worth gambling with my children’s faith in me, or in Jesus? In my mind, no matter what the odds, the risk just doesn’t seem worth it. Santa really isn’t that awesome.
I also don’t want to teach my children about Santa Claus, simply because I really don’t feel the need. Believing in Santa is not a crucial or necessary component to childhood happiness, or a love for Christmas. My parents never gave me the impression that Santa Claus was real. If ever I asked about him they were open and honest about what he was, and what he wasn’t. Thinking back as far as I can remember (as far back as the age of 3 and perhaps earlier), I have no memories of ever once believing that Santa was a real person.
And yet, as I said at the beginning, Christmas is most certainly my favorite time of year. Many people who challenge our views about Santa express to us how excited their children get every year in anticipation for Santa Claus. But believe me, as a child (and even now as an adult) I got every bit as excited about Christmas. The “magic” of Christmas is remarkable, whether Santa is real or not. Santa is not necessary to make a child happy. This Christmas my 3 year old was just has happy and excited to have his Grandma and Grandpa visiting for Christmas as any other child was excited over Santa Claus. Why would I get my children excited over something fake, when I could get them equally excited over something real? Why should I lie to my children, when they could be just as happy without the lie?
I also don’t want to teach my children about Santa Claus, because whether you think so or not, Santa does take away from Jesus at Christmas time. And even if letting your young children believe in Santa Claus seems like a bit of harmless fun, when you really think about it, much of what Santa teaches children is in stark contrast to what Jesus would teach them.
Santa Claus teaches children that the heart of Christmas, and their happiness, is found in the presents that Santa leaves under the trees. Almost every Christmas special that involves Santa Claus ever aired on television will at some point have some catastrophe which threatens to prevent Santa from being able to deliver presents on Christmas Eve. We are always made to feel great concern for how much sadness this will bring to all the children in the world. We are to be worried that “Christmas is ruined” and that there is no other source of joy or happiness. Then typically the hero of the story, through some miraculous feat, manages to help Santa complete his mission, and deliver the presents. We all then breathe a sigh of relief as we realize that “Christmas has been saved.”
Jesus on the other hand teaches us that He himself is to be our ultimate source of joy, happiness, and satisfaction. The real Christmas story takes place in a cold, dark, and damp cave used to house horses and donkeys where a little baby enters the world in poverty. And yet this child was such a wonderful gift that angels sang in the heavens and wise men traveled great distances to come see Him. The spirit of Christmas, and our true joy and salvation, is found in this baby boy and what he represents, not in colorful packages delivered by a fat man in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer.
Santa teaches children that the key to happiness is stuff, in the form of presents.
Jesus on the other hand teaches that the key to happiness God, and He can be enjoyed no matter how many presents are under the tree.
Santa Claus teaches children that they will only get presents if they are “good” all year long and that they are on Santa’s “nice list”. They are taught that getting gifts is dependent upon them doing the “right things” and not doing the “wrong things”. It is all about them earning the presents that Santa leaves for them under the tree.
Jesus on the other hand teaches that there is nothing anyone can do to earn his grace. Jesus teaches that the only true gift that anyone really needs, the gift of salvation and a peace that passes all understanding, is a free gift that he offers to us, if we would only open our hearts to Him and accept it. Following Jesus is not about doing the right things, or not doing the wrong things, but about entering into a true faithful relationship with Him. It may not be a shiny present under a Christmas tree, but it is the only gift that will truly satisfy.
Santa Claus teaches children that doing good things, and not doing bad things is what’s important, and that their motivation for being good does not matter. In fact children are often encouraged to be good and not be bad specifically so that they can maximize their take-away come Christmas morning. The fact that such motivation is inherently selfish (focused on doing what I must to get what I want) does not matter.
Jesus on the other hand teaches that doing good things is fine, but what’s most important is having a good heart. You could do the greatest things and be the kindest person in the world, but if you do so from selfish ambition than you have earned nothing in the sight of God. Everything that we do, we are to do with the love of God working in our hearts. Without genuine love, nothing else matters.
Santa Claus teaches children that they “better watch out, they better not cry, and they better not pout,” because, “he sees them when they’re sleeping, he knows when they’re awake, he knows if they’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!” Santa teaches children to always act as if they are being watched by some mythical security camera and that all their bad deeds are being documented to be used against them. It is kind of creepy when you think about it.
Jesus on the other hand teaches that everyone ought to come to him as little children, He is not someone to “watch out” for. He teaches that He is always with us, but not in a creepy – always watching you and keeping records of all the bad stuff you are doing – sort of way, but in a – watching over you, protecting you, giving you strength, encouragement, and forgiveness – sort of way. Yes, Jesus does know all the “bad stuff” that we’ve done, but instead of “keeping a list and checking it twice” he looks at us with compassion and tells us, “I have taken your sin upon myself and washed you clean, come and be forgiven.”
Why would I want to encourage my children to believe in Santa, when I could give them Jesus? Santa gives momentary fleeting happiness, while Jesus gives everlasting life and never ending joy. Santa says happiness is in presents, Jesus says true happiness is in the Gospel. Santa’s gifts are conditional upon good behavior, while Jesus’ gift is unconditional love and forgiveness. Santa only cares that children act good, Jesus wants them to actually be good. Santa spies on them like some sort of pervert, while Jesus watches over them for protection, strength, and comfort.
I may not be entirely opposed to letting Santa and Jesus share Christmas, if Santa was not the opposite of Jesus in so many ways.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that all mention of Santa is banned from our house. I am not saying that Santa’s name is treated like a four letter word, and that there is never to be any mention of him in my presence. I enjoy a good Santa themed Christmas movie as much as the next person. We have a few Santa figurines as Christmas decoration around the house. And my family will enjoy watching Rudolf, Frosty the Snowman, Elf, and Christmas movies starring Tim Allen. We will enjoy Santa for what he is meant to be: a fun story with which to have a few laughs over a cup of egg nog.
But I will not go out of my way to convince my children that Santa is real. I will not spread glitter in the backyard and tell them it is a magic trail left behind by Santa’s sleigh. I will not put fake reindeer prints in the snow and try and convince them Santa was just there. We will not put out milk and cookies which will be left as an empty glass and a plate of crumbs come Christmas morning. While there will certainly be a lot of presents under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning, not a single one will be labeled, “From Santa”. Santa will be a fun story to watch on TV or read in books, but he will not become an intricate element of our Christmas celebrations, and he will certainly not be celebrated as if he was real.
We won’t necessarily make a big deal to our children that Santa isn’t real. We won’t beat them over the head with a Bible every time they say something about him. But neither will we go out of our way to deceive them into believing him. And if any of our children ask us about Santa, we will be open and honest about him. We will tell them that he is a fun story that is told at Christmas time, but nothing more. We may even tell them about the real life Saint Nicholas, after whom Santa is (very loosely) based. We will make sure that they know that while Santa movies and TV shows are fun to watch that the real joy behind Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Not because we think that “Baby Jesus” is cute, but because it is the awesome story of God who loved us so much that he took on the flesh of a man that he could live and walk among us, and ultimately die to save us, and that he is alive today offering us eternal joy and happiness. Santa Claus and his eight flying reindeer could never hold a candle to a story as magnificent as Jesus. Santa is fun, but Jesus is life, joy, and happiness. Why would I give them Santa, when I could give them Jesus?
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