Santa Claus?

Santa Claus....every year he comes up, and every year we have conversations about it. Jon grew up with Santa and I did not, so we come from both sides of the story. I'm a great fan of make-believe, imagination, and fun, fanciful stories. Several weeks ago, Mekonen lost his first tooth and I got flack for telling him about the Tooth Fairy, and letting my kids walk the streets of Disney World thinking the characters were real, but not having my kids believe in Santa Claus. For me, there's a big difference in both of those scenarios, and many don't agree, and that is totally okay. But I know my kids....I have one extremely sensitive one, and one very logical one, and I have always felt a little unsettled in my heart about blurring the lines at Christmas when Jesus is supposed to be the focus. If Santa had been at a different time of the year, having nothing to do with Christmas, or Jesus' birth, maybe we would've been Santa believers in full. Who knows!

At Christmas time, there are two very prominent figures (and one culturally more prominent than the other), Santa and Jesus. I have felt very strongly about not wanting to blur the lines between real and pretend within those two people. I got criticized for being ridiculous, over the top, and the like. (Which in one sense is funny because why do others care if my kids believe in Santa or not)? But anyway, my concern was confusing the lines, and I saw the perfect example in a conversation with my 3 year old on Friday while we drove to the children's museum. Evie says from the backseat, "Mommy, if Santa Claus is pretend, is Jesus real?" Of course I responded that He absolutely is, that He is the reason everything and everyone exists, that He is God, etc, etc. Then she said, "well if Santa flying reindeer and bringing presents to all the kids is just pretend, did Jesus really die on the cross?" Oh my. Her little mind trying desperately to make connections and discern reality and truth. I mean when you think about it, I don't blame her. Santa Claus and Jesus aren't "seen," and their stories both display omnipotence and omnipresence, as well miraculous feats that seem impossible. So why wouldn't she question that? There's already the big job of wading through questions like that during this time of the year. We want our children to know the absolute solid truth about who Jesus is, and I don't want to add to that already existing job, by mixing Santa and Jesus too much at Christmas.

Please hear my heart....I am not condemning or criticizing, or anything of the sort, those families who do believe in Santa Claus. I know lots and lots of wonderful, godly, great parents who present Santa to their children as real. Their kids are just fine. I'm simply expressing our feelings on the issue and hoping to offer a grid for people to think through when it comes to deciding whether or not to include Santa as real in one's Christmas celebrations. I think the problem comes into play when we buy into so many cultural traditions and things without ever thinking them through.

So what do we do with Santa?

We've used a little system written about by Justin Holcomb about how to wisely think through cultural practices. When we come across a cultural practice and we have to decide whether to participate or not, he suggests the 3 R's. Reject, Receive, or Redeem.

But before we dive into the three R's, it's important to remember, that we as parents must research for ourselves. We can't just piggy back the practices, beliefs, and methodologies of those around us (Christian or not). It's our responsibility as Christians not to be clueless about the history or origins of the cultural practices we so easily reject or receive, without thought, simply because our church, family, or friends do such things. God has equipped us with the ability to think and discern and we should use that wisely.

So there are three things Christians 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, partake in all the "this is real" Santa activities, while reinforcing "his realness."
3. Redeem Santa- talk about Santa Claus for who he was, tell the truth as the truth, and the imaginary as the imaginary, and allow our kids to have fun with the fanciful imagination and enjoy this aspect of the holiday season for what it is

We've chosen to redeem Santa. We talk about how the story of Santa Claus as we know it today came to be. Because the truth is, there is some truth to the story of Santa, but obviously a lot of make-believe too. 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. And what fun stories! And that's what we tell our kids! We tell them the true story of the man St. Nicholas and have fun with the pretend stories. We read the Night Before Christmas, we have a few Santa ornaments on our tree, and we visit the children's museum to participate in all the Christmas activities, which always includes sitting on Santa's lap for the classic childhood Santa picture. 
(I cannot believe Penelope didn't absolutely freak out)
No, I don't believe our children are missing out on childhood, as a few have argued with me. We talk about the truth and majesty of God sending His Son Jesus to rescue the world, and how that deserves a celebration even bigger than we can make it at Christmas. We also talk about and enjoy some of the cultural practices of our day that happen around Christmas as well. We are not against make-believe and allowing our kids to believe in certain things that aren't real. We just want to do that outside the context of mixing spiritual truths and make-believe. 
(and how cute is she with her two front teeth)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And Pastor Nicholas actually punched Arius in the face at the Council of Nicaea when Arius grabbed St. Nick by the beard.