What Do Christians Do About Santa Claus?

Will we tell our children the truth about Santa?

I often get the question, "So are you guys telling Mekonen and Evie about Santa Claus?" Or, random strangers in the grocery store ask my children if they've been good this year so Santa will bring them a lot of presents. As with most holidays, there are lots of discussions that need to happen on how to celebrate, what to celebrate, etc. The issue for us with Santa Claus 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.

Similar to my post on What Do Christians Do About Halloween where I used Justin Holcombs's ideas of rejecting, receiving, or redeeming cultural practices, I've used this system along with Mark Driscoll's thoughts to think through and discuss Santa Claus.

But before we dive into the three R's, it's important to remember, that you as the parent, must research for YOURSELF. Do not just piggy back the practices, beliefs, and methodologies of those around you (Christian or not). I've encountered many Christians who are clueless about the history or origins of the cultural practices they so easily reject or recieve, without thought, simply because their church, family, or friends do such things. God has equipped us with the ability to think and discern and we should use that wisely.

There are three things the Christian can do in regards to Santa Claus.

1. Reject Santa- have no association with anything Santa. He is often demonized and even declared "sinful" in this category.
2. Receive Santa- fully accept everything Santa, portray him as fully truth
3. Redeem Santa- talk about Santa Claus for what he was, tell the truth as the truth, and the imaginary as the imaginary

Although we've re-routed some cultural practices we are participating in at Christmas for this season of life due to the young ages of our children and their current "all or nothing" mindsets, we have chosen to "redeem Santa." We plan on telling our children that Santa Claus was a real person (Saint Nicholas) 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 idea 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- Mark Driscoll).

Brushing and feeding the reindeer at the Children's Museum. 
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. (History facts from Mark Driscoll's panelist blog)

Evie thought the reindeer were real and was hesitant at first. She kept trying to feed them and was irritated that the hay kept falling out of their mouths. She also insisted that they were horsies. 
"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- Mark Driscoll). We like the idea of being able to be honest and fun and provide great Christmas celebrations for our children.


Anonymous said...

You can erase this comment... I love this post. Totally agree. The guy in the suit is Santa Claus, not "clause". I am sorry. I am a grammar and spelling nerd.

Jon said...

Eve Bo Beve was a unsure about the Santa man! Meko is simply hamming it up!

Melodie said...

and once again, every time i come over here to read, i am amazed by our similiarities in the areas of parenting and family. even down to the little details. i love reading your thoughts. so thanks for sharing!