What To Do About Santa?

Will we tell our children the truth about Santa?

I often get the question, "So are you guys telling Mekonen about Santa Claus?" Or, random strangers in the grocery store ask my almost 2 year old if he was a good boy this year so Santa will bring him a lot of presents. I grew up not believing in Santa Claus (I know, *gasp*), but I didn't feel slighted in the least. Jon grew up with Santa. So, we've had the Santa conversation in our marriage a few times, and think we have arrived at a conclusion.The issue is that there are a lot of myths on top of some truth about Santa, and how do we want to approach truth with our children? Well, plainly put, truthfully.

As one of our favorite pastors stated, there are three things the Christian can do in regards to Santa Claus. 
1. Reject Santa- have no association with anything Satan. He is often demonized in this category.
2. Receive Santa- fully accept everything Santa, portray him as fully truth
3. Redeem Santa

(Mekonen visiting Santa at the Children's Museum. He kept yelling, "down! down!" As you can tell by his face, he is quite frightened).
We have chosen to "redeem Santa." We plan on telling our children that Santa Claus was a real person that lived a long time ago and that people pretend to be Santa and dress up like Santa for fun, just like they might dress up when they play. We'll have fun with Santa and read Christmas stories about him, watch Christmas movies, and sit on his lap for a picture. We want them to know there is a real story too, and that a lot of fun and imaginary stories have been added to the real story of Santa, like a sleigh with flying reindeer, living in the North Pole, and visiting all the children in the world in one night to deliver presents.

Our issue does not come with the imagination and make-believe. Imagination and make-believe are a God-given gift to enjoy. What we are concerned about is lying to our kids. Some people may feel this is "over the top."  But we want to teach our children that they can trust us because we will tell them the truth. And we also expect them to always tell us the truth. "Since we also teach our children that Jesus is a real person who did perform real miracles, our fear is that if we teach them fanciful, make-believe stories as truth, it could erode confidence in our truthfulness where it really matters. So, we will distinguish between lies, secrets, surprises, and pretend for our kids. We will ask them not to tell lies or keep secrets, but will teach them that some surprises (like gift-giving) and pretending (like dressing up) can be fun and should be encouraged" (Panelists Blog). 

(Mommy and Mekonen visiting Santa at Moe's restaurant. Mekonen would not go near him without me. I plopped him on his lap and Daddy took a quick picture before Meko wigged out. Poor little guy).
So we want our children to understand that Santa Claus is a mix of real and make-believe. Here are some parts of the real story of Nicholas. 
  • Some ancient records reveal that Nicholas was born to a wealthy family and was raised a devout Christian. His parents died tragically when he was young and he spent much of his wealth taking care of the poor which involved giving gifts to children and sometimes filling stockings of presents for them. One record shares that he helped save three sisters from a life of prostitution by paying their wedding dowry that their family was too poor to pay. 
  • He was a Christian leader who became the Bishop of the port city Myra that the apostle Paul visited in the book of Acts in the Bible. He also was part of the Council of Nicaea that defended the diety of Jesus Christ in A.D. 325 (I thought that was fascinating. I didn't know that at all!)
  • He was canonized as a saint after he died on December 6, 343 and St. Nicholas' holiday was celebrated by giving gifts. This eventually became synonymous with Christmas since they were celebrated within a few weeks of each other. 
  • Other folklore of the time became entwined with St. Nicholas and is where it is said we got the fanciful stories of going down the chimney, flying reindeer, and delivering presents to all the children of the world in one night.

"Saint Nick was a wonderful man who loved and served Jesus faithfully. So, we gladly include him in our Christmas traditions to remind us of what it looks like for someone to live a life of devotion to Jesus as God." (Panelists Blog). We like the idea of being able to be honest and fun and provide great Christmas celebrations for our children. 

(Ideas written were summarized from an article on the "On Faith Panelists Blog")


Ginger said...

Great post & you wrote along the lines of what we've been thinking. The trust issue is a big one for us too. One of the things I do look forward to doing with our kids as they get older is playing "secret santa" for a less fortunate family (as well as within the family)...the times I did this as a child are the most memorable & really seemed to connect me to the meaning of the season as well as the origins of the whole santa thing.

Jenn said...

I've done similar with my children (8, 5, and 2) in presenting all the stories and facts about Father Christmas, St. Nicholas etc. We also teach that Jesus really isn't the reason for the season which leads into learning about solstice and the more accurate time of year Jesus was born.

In the end they choose to believe in Santa and Jesus. They also believe in Thomas the Train, Mickey Mouse and fairies. :-)

Happy Christmas to you and your family!

Rachel said...

I had never heard of the idea to "redeem Santa" until after reading a friend's similar post a few days ago. (http://vrugginks.weebly.com/2/post/2010/12/santa-clause.html)

What a great concept! Thank you for sharing. I enjoy following your blog.

theresglitterinmycoffee said...

Do you have the book that Zondervan (Well, ZonderKids) published about the legend of St. Nicholas? It's a great one. We read that on Christmas Eve.

Haley Ballast said...

We feel the same way about Santa in our house -- there is an awesome Veggie Tales movie about St. Nicholas that I would highly recommend. Our kids (5 & 3) really enjoyed watching it this season and connecting the real St. Nicholas with the tradition of Santa Claus.

Morgan said...

First, let me just say that I love your blog. I've been following along silently for a long time. I admire so much that you have to say and the way that you walk through the world.
Second, I love this post and the core of truth running through it. I really resonated with this: "if we teach them fanciful, make-believe stories as truth, it could erode confidence in our truthfulness where it really matters."
When I came of age I began to question all things that I had been told as truth. I found that I truly didn't believe in Christ any more than I believed in Santa. There are no words for how devastating of a loss this was.
I respect deeply your belief that Jesus Christ is the son of God and walked this earth and rose from the dead. No doubt that true belief in that story requires
the suspension of everyday thinking of what is possible. Sorry for not being more articulate about this. I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you want children to allow that fantastical and REAL things have happened on this earth, than you can't confuse them (and lie to them) about things that are meant in good cheer but are actually make-believe.
Thanks for putting this out there and thinking this through and for encouraging others to raise their children with honesty and intent.

Anonymous said...

Just came across your blog. I realize the post is an older one but after I discovered you blog I went to look at some past postings. (Oh, you have two beautiful children - congrats on the new baby girl)

I saw this post and just felt the need to comment...it is just my opinion but as mom I remember having people asking me about "Santa" and actually had someone say something on CHRISTMAS EVE...

My thought on it is...children have to grow up WAY too fast in life and how things are going they have to grow up even faster. Why take a bit of joy out of their lives? Let them believe...its magical. You said you didn't grow up believing but that your husband did. I am sure he could tell you some wonderful memories of waking up on Christmas morning and finding what Santa left..and if the cookies were eaten. And now seeing on the news on the "Santa Tracker" where he is in the world at that moment. I do believe in telling Children about the true meaning of Christmas. As a Christian they would know and be taught that all along. And of course be reminded and talk to about that it is Jesus birthday. Such an amazing time. That being said, I still believe that I couldn't talk that magical time from y child's life and not let them enjoy that magic and wonder that comes from Santa. I have known people that had Santa growing up but then when they had children decided to "tell them the truth" Honestly I didn't understand it when they told me and I still don't. I realize every parent has a right to parent their child the way they seem fit and appropriate for them and each families beliefs. I am not saying my way is right and someone else's is wrong. I just felt Santa was right for my family. As I said Children grow up too fast and there are WAY too many sad things, tragedies and such in life...a bit of fantasy and wonder is wonderful. Maybe as children get older and no longer believe...be Santa for someone else such as adopt an angle from the angel tree or a nursing home. Trust me once children go to school "this jig is up" children tell other children if they know or not. If you do and have decided not to "have Santa" please do a favor and explain to your children not to say something to other children about that...there are still those of us parents that still want our children to have the joys and wonder of Santa.