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What Do You Do About Santa?
Last week, when I was shopping with my girls, we stopped by the food court in the mall. And the girls were so excited that some of the "good seats" were still available, so we plopped ourselves down to watch.

And what was the object of our attention?

Santa. Not because we like Santa (I never believed in him as a child, and in fact told my ENTIRE kindergarten class that he wasn't real, causing my mother to get hate phone calls for months afterwards). It's just that we have a very sick sense of humour. My children and I find it fascinating to watch grown women try to plop very upset babies into the lap of a rather rotund stranger and then try to get that baby to smile, while the baby is crying and reaching out to Mommy.

Some babies go easily. But in that half hour, we counted three moms trying to coax crying babies and toddlers to sit still with the fat stranger and make a nice face. The babies would have none of it. They wanted their moms.

I think it's a perfect metaphor for Christmas. The baby is like our soul: it's reaching out to the familiar, the loving, the meaningful. But we miss the significance of that, and instead try to push the baby into the Christmas trappings, even if they ultimately don't satisfy.

Too often we spend too much time on the trappings, and not enough on what's really important.

I know some families find Santa fun, and I don't mean to say that you're wrong. I really don't think you are. I just could never summon up the energy to try to convince my kids of the existence of someone I found too complicated to try to explain. I also felt that my main calling was to point them to Jesus, and to add another semi-omnipotent and omni-present being into the picture was too confusing.

But I'm curious: what do you do? How do you handle Santa? What will you do this year? Tell me in the comments!

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24 Comments:

At 8:52 AM , OpenID christinnjon said…

What a great topic and I'm glad you opened it up for discussion. I thought about doing this on my own blog but wasn't sure I had the energy for it! LOL :)

We don't do the Santa thing here, for several reasons.

1. To me this is the most obvious, but I don't see any good in lying to my children to convince them someone (or something) exists which really doesn't. And after they have found out the Truth, I have lost my credibility as a mother. Which leads to my #2 reason

2. After they realize I've lied to them about Santa being "real" [now], who's to say they don't start to question the existence of Jesus after spending the time and energy convincing them He is Real and Living?

I don't buy the whole, "oh it's fun for the kids" excuse to lie (sorry). There is NO honor in lying to our children for any reason. They trust us and we abuse that privilege when we convince them something is real that isn't.

Our children are allowed to view Santa as he really is: imaginary.

We teach that every gift comes from the Father...including the presents under the tree...no matter how few they may be. :)

 

At 8:59 AM , Anonymous Debbie said…

We grew up with Santa. Christmas Eve we opened gifts from one another and celebrated as a family. Christmas morning - after reading Luke 2 and singing Happy Birthday to Jesus - we'd open our gifts from Santa. I wasn't terribly disappointed to discover he wasn't real. In fact, it sparked my imagination, and I helped keep the Santa alive for my brothers as long as we could.

One thing we did as I was older was buy a "Secret Santa" gift for someone we knew at church or in our neighborhood that we could give to in secret, and it was a really fun thing to do.

Truthfully - for my girls - we have Santa. But as they learn that he is just pretend, I want them to understand more about the spirit of giving to others - especially without expecting anything in return.

 

At 9:07 AM , Blogger LAURA said…

I'm like you... I just don't have the energy for Santa. I don't think Santa is bad or evil... I just don't care.

But one reason that I really don't care to do Santa in our house is that my husband works really hard to bring in money so that my kids can have gifts at Christmas. I want them to understand that and not think that they can wish for anything and get it from the big red guy. It's just a silly thing in my head... but I love my husband and all that he does for our family and I don't want to pass off the wonderful things he does for us at Christmastime off to some imaginary guy. :)

 

At 9:12 AM , Blogger Sheri said…

We don't really do Santa, but we also don't avoid him. In fact, I love old fashioned Santa ornaments and such. We have never told our kids that santa is real or that if they are bad Santa may not come (Okay we may have used that one LOL)...we tell them that Santa is simply the spirit of Christmas...meaning "Santa" is the fun of Christmas..."Jesus" is the meaning.

 

At 9:18 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

Interesting comments so far! I think I've been all of you, at different points in my life.

Christin, I agree with you about the lying thing. That never felt right to me, either. And I just couldn't summon up the energy for it.

Laura, I never thought of it like you said, but that is so true! If our kids are going to feel real gratitude, they need to know the money didn't just fall out of trees (or down a chimney). It came from our hard work, so they can't just ask for the moon. Good point. And I like your attitude towards your hubby!

Debbie, I do like the Secret Santa thing. I think if we teach our kids that the effort needs to be put in the giving, and not the receiving, and that it's fun to think up good gifts, that goes a long way to teaching them the right lessons.

And Sheri, I hear you. I come from a family that does Santa big (my husband's family, that is). So whether we've promoted Santa or not, he's always been part of Christmas. But if you just show Santa as fun, and Jesus as the heart, then it's probably a good compromise. Because we couldn't get rid of Santa altogether, even if we tried!

 

At 9:42 AM , Anonymous Timmy Boyle said…

I love Santa...okay, I love dressing up like Santa.

Growing up I had always wanted a Santa outfit. I think, one year, I even asked for one for Christmas. Then I found this really great one for like $25. I was shocked!

Ever since I bought it, Christmas Eve has become an even more special time than the day itself.

For years, on the Eve, I would put on the suit and drive around (with my sister as navigator/elf) to drop off cards and gifts to my friends.

One night we drove for 10 hours, because the list had become so long and our friends weren't all in the city.

And, every year we'd add someone to our travels who wouldn't be expecting us. It was awesome.

I took a few years off, when I got married, but then began again with my oldest daughter as my elf.

Sometimes driving for hours to surprise an old friend, Santa has been my way to show love and bring smiles to so many of the people in my life on Christmas.

My kids know Santa's not real, because even the youngest ones dress up like little Santa's for a mini-community visit, before I head off for my late night journey.

But what they do know is real, is my love for my friends and family. They also know that it is Jesus that motivates me to give, not just gifts, but memories and laughs.

And I'm pretty sure that when my kids become adults, though they may not dress as Santa, will find a way to manifest the spirit of giving that I've tried to model.

 

At 9:51 AM , Blogger Courtney Kirkland said…

The Santa thing has been up for debate in our home, since our son isn't really old enough to understand [He'll only be 14 months at Christmas].

Christinn-you made a very good point about lying to our kids and the possibility of them questioning Jesus when they find out Santa isn't real. I have never thought of it that way.

I look back now and remember being ungrateful for the clothes that my parents gave me and then praising Santa for bringing me 'good' things. And I love the point Laura made-my husband, too, works too hard to pass off the things he gives to our family for gifts from an old fat man.

I want to bring our son up to know about the "giving" that is portrayed by the Santa Theory, but to know that everything is from Christ and Christ alone. Excellent post!

 

At 10:57 AM , Blogger Marie said…

Though I grew up with Santa, I remember the bitter disapointment in findig out he was not real. Therefore, we have *never* done Santa with our kids (with the strict proviso that they are *NOT* to tell anyone & spoil it for them!)

1) It *is* lying, and (being gentle here, because we know so many who do the Santa thing), there is no such thing as a "harmless" lie.

Lies damage us spiritually, and when our kids find out, some of them, like me, are hurt.

But most importantly, I am not willing to risk my children's soul over a lie. By that, I mean that, if I lie about something "small," will they come to me to talk to me later on during the tween/teen years? I can't take that risk, so I have always told them the truth, and they know Mom doesn't lie. My kids come to me with everything right now, even my tween son who is asking a lot of theological questions. If I told him about Santa & lied, is what I am telling him about God a lie? Is God real, or another of Mom's "harmless stories?"

2) Scripture does tell us that all gifts come from God. So we tell the kids that God blesses their Dad with work, that provides the money for everything we have.

It is nice to see that others have grappled with this, too. We don't know anyone else who doesn't do the Santa thing.

 

At 11:28 AM , Blogger Karen (Canadian Soldier's Wife) said…

We skipped over Santa completely for three years, then starting last year explained it in simple terms that it was something fun to pretend.

This year our oldest is almost five, and we've been talking about Saint Nicholas and the way he inspired people to give gifts, and how nice it is to pretend to be "Santa" to bless other people with gifts. But at the same time, pressing that SOME PEOPLE BELIEVE that Santa is real, and we don't want to make them sad, so we don't tell any kids that Santa is just pretend.

(Although I get the biggest kick out of it when she looks incredulously at an adult when they ask what Santa is bringing her and she says, "No, Santa isn't real, Mommy brings presents!")



For me, it just seems like the way our culture does Santa Claus goes against so many of its own norms, even...

All year we tell children don't talk to strangers, don't go with strangers, don't let strangers in the house, don't take candy from strangers, don't lie, don't be greedy...

Then comes Halloween and we send our kids out to all kinds of strangers' houses to get candy from them, and not long after that we're lugging them to the mall and forcing them to sit on some man's lap who they've never seen before, telling him all the things they want for Christmas, while we stand by and smile and nod, we get them to write a long letter of all the things they want for Christmas, and we allow them or encourage them to think that man from the mall is going to sneak into our house at midnight and deliver all of these goodies.

It just seems really messed-up, somehow.

 

At 12:19 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Like many who've commented, we don't do santa in our house. We agreed when our oldest was only 1 that doing Santa was lying to our kids and we don't want them to learn that ANY lie is ok, because God says ALL lying is wrong.

Instead, We tell the children the story of the real St. Nick, who inspired the original story of Santa, and we make sure they know he was a good, generous man who died centuries ago. We also keep Jesus in EVERYTHING we do for Christmas! The kids get very excited in November/early December when we pull out the World Vision (or Samaritan's Purse or Heart for Africa) gift catalogue and get each kid to choose a gift to send to someone less fortunate. They get more excited about that than they do getting their own gifts! Even in their somewhat limited understanding of the world (Our oldest fully understands but our youngest is only 4) They know they have been richly blessed by God, that they have so much already and that there are kids out there who have nothing at all.

We also put a limit on presents a few years ago. Each child gets a maximum of 3 gifts and all come from mom and dad or siblings. Many are not even store bought but hand made gifts. By keeping the facts of Jesus birth before our family, we try to keep this now overly commercialized and coveteous holiday in perspective.

We explain to the children not to 'spoil it' for their friends and classmates by telling them Santa is not real. Even if we don't agree with santa in our family, every family must choose for themselves. They're told that they don't have to hide what they believe, though. If their friends ask what santa's bringing them, the kids can gently tell them that we don't do santa in our house. For the older children, this often leads to an opportunity to share Jesus with school mates. For the younger ones, they simply say we celebrate Jesus' birth in our house, not santa, which is still a simple way of sharing their faith with others.

In our house, it is important to us to empahsize that Jesus did not come to GET. God GAVE him to be the Savior of the world and Jesus came to GIVE himself up so we could share eternity with Him and with Father God. Those are the "gifts" we celebrate in our house!

 

At 12:19 PM , Blogger Growing in God's Grace said…

No we don't do santa, and never have. We have always been honest with our kids, for no other reason than keeping Jesus the focus of Christmas. Though we have always explained too that December 25th is a made up time of celebrating His birth, but we've always kept it on the Lord.
But we have also, always stressed never to talk to other kids about it, since we don't know what their parents teach them. I think that was the hardest part. My kids have always known their presents come from us and the grandparents. And though I've never thought of it I liked what Laura said, and the importance of letting the kids know how hard their father works. :)
JoAnn

 

At 1:08 PM , Blogger Llama Momma said…

We do Santa, but not in a big way. We've always emphasized Christ's birth...Santa is just a "fun" tagalong. We don't make a big deal of it, but when the kids ask, "is he real?" I just say, "What do you think?" This year, my older boys (7) get that he's not real. As one of my boys said, "It's just not logical." He asked why people believe -- I told him we all want a little magic and christmas, and this is one way to create some fun for kids.

They learned the tooth fairy wasn't real last year when she was caught red handed (ahem), and it's been downhill with the magic from there! :-)

 

At 2:19 PM , Blogger Kelli said…

I grew up believing in Santa. I never felt "lied to", but enjoyed the child-like feeling of him bringing presents on Christmas Eve. I have three children and as I'm now the mother with the choice of teaching them of Santa or not of Santa, it's a tough one! My husband works so hard to bring in money for us to purchase gifts for our kids. Therefore, we let our children only ask Santa for ONE gift. This teaches them not to be greedy or selfish, but still keeps the magic. =) To be honest, I don't think we should be teaching our children about Santa, but I'm in a rut because my husband wants to. I've never lied to my kids, so when they ask about Santa, I usually try to dismiss the conversation or let me hubby answer. He's head of our house and even though we may not always agree, he gets final say. We do make a birthday cake for Jesus, teach our children that giving is more important than receiving, have them earn money to buy a gift (Dollar Store) for each member of our immediate family, teach them the Nativity, etc. I never push for "visiting Santa" at the mall, but my two oldest (4 and 2 yrs.) did want to visit him this past week, so I did the waiting in line thing and took their picture. My oldest is smart and I'm sure will have it all figured out soon enough. I guess there's no harm in believing in a little innocent 'magic' as a child.

 

At 2:29 PM , Blogger Berji's domain said…

We started a tradition last year with our daughter of celebrating Saint Nicholas Day (the original Santa). We read about him and what he actually did. We do activities related to him and talk about giving & helping others less fortunate than ourselves.
We have never mentioned the jolly ol'man in a red suit. Last year she didn't notice. She might this year, but with the emphasis on Saint Nicholas I think it will make some sense. (She will be 3 this Christmas.)
I think by doing this you are not lying to your children, you are providing them with a historical framework and also incorporating the true meaning of Christmas into the tradition because St. Nicholas was real and a bishop- he did what he did b/c of Christ, just like we do.

 

At 2:45 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I grew up with Santa, as did my husband, but we never did Santa for our kids. (the stockings are beautiful ornaments, but it wasn't Santa that filled them-just us parents and not until Christmas eve)We tried to keep the focus on Jesus. Our children are adults and all Christians none have expressed a feeling of deprived childhood :).
On the other hand we did have a tooth fairy....

 

At 3:04 PM , Blogger Amy said…

I've always sort of tied Santa in with the true meaning of Christmas. We talk about why we celebrate Christmas, and my oldest - being the observant, questioning child that he is - once brought up that it's like there are two reasons for Christmas. And of course I've had non-believers tell me I was being a hypocrite for doing the 'Santa' thing.

My kids know about Christ and that's what I put emphasis on during Christmas, but when asked I tell them that Santa is, basically, giving gifts because Christ gave us a gift. Sort of continuing a tradition. Without Christ, there wouldn't be a 'Santa'. Santa gives because he wants people to understand giving and unselfishness in the way that Christ gave unselfishly. Of course I have also explained that Santa's gifts aren't nearly as important as the one given to us by Christ. My oldest gets it, the others don't but they will one day.

If they directly ask, I will tell them that Santa is an idea and not really the guy in the mall. My oldest is nearly 10 and I think he's clinging to the Santa idea for nostalgic reasons at this point. Heh.

I never once felt that I had been lied to when it came to Santa, and I haven't met a person yet who felt terribly wronged from the experience. It was usually more of a "Well darn!" or "I knew it!" response. Lol In fact, most people I know now say they can't wait to "play" Santa for their kids because it was such a wonderful experience for them as a child. And to me the idea of Santa is just a symbol of giving. Once I learned that he wasn't real, I continued to feel that way.

As far as the picture thing... My daughter was a month old when Christmas rolled around last year. I've never been a huge fan of having a baby's picture taken with Santa unless older siblings were in it as well, but last year I held off on passing her to the guy in the suit. This year we might because her brothers don't like having group pics without their baby sister, but we'll see.

 

At 5:04 PM , OpenID angelamills said…

I never believed as a kid, even though my parents went along with it. I was shocked when my Dad had my oldest over when she was 2 and she came home talking about Santa coming. She believed him! I have always hated the lying, and my family doesn't understand that. We do Santa, and yes I believe in Jesus...our focus is much more on that. Santa brings one little gift.

We also do the tooth fairy and Easter bunny...I just never thought of not doing it. We were raised that way, and my parents and in-laws would have killed us if we didn't. Now that I'm older, I might have done it differently, but as a young mom I did what my parents did :)

I have no worries about them not believing in Jesus or thinking we lied about that, because the HOLY SPIRIT will reveal the truth to them. They are believers, and know God personally. So much different than a random, unknown character that plops a barbie on the fire place once a year.

Bottom line, I think it is a cultural tradition that is fun and it depends on how far you take it. Nothing can take away the true meaning of Christmas unless you let it.

One more thing...I never had to convince my kids, and the second my oldest started questioning things, I told her the truth. She was about 6. I didn't try to convince her or keep her believing or make up answers to her questions.

 

At 5:09 PM , OpenID angelamills said…

Also, for those of you who say your kids won't trust you when older: My girl is 13 now, and like I said I told her the truth at 6. She confides in me about every little thing and is on fire for God. She has a personal relationship with Jesus and her mommy is one of her very best friends.

Just wanted to add that for any readers who are feeling condemned right now. God knows our hearts!

 

At 5:41 PM , Blogger Vindiciti said…

I love how you described all of that! I believed in Santa far longer than the normal child. My parents told me that my friends could quit believing all they wanted, more presents for me! Then, I was sick on Christmas. I was on the sofa, ill, all night. I found the truth out in the WORST possible way! For my kids, we have done the Santa thing for my older two, but we are 'offing' him this year. We are not only uncomfortable with the lying, and the focus NOT being where it belongs (JESUS!!), but it's just an insanely ridiculous expense! Why spend tons on Christmas presents because of an imaginary (Yes, I know about 'St. Nicholas') fat guy who wears a red suit and breaks into houses?? The 'Santa gives presents to everyone to celebrate Jesus' birthday' bit isn't cutting it for us anymore.

 

At 5:42 PM , Blogger Casandra said…

I am so happy you posted about this today. I personally know of no one who does not play the Santa "game" and feel very isolated in our (my husband and I)decision not to teach our son to believe in Santa. It is nice to see that there are others out there who do the same.

I don't think Santa is evil. I grew up with Santa, although according to my father I never really believed. *lol* For me it is all about the lying. I just can't bring myself to lie to my son.

Santa will be treated the same way as the Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy, and the characters on Sesame Street. They are fun, but they are not real. When he is old enough to understand I will teach him about Saint Nicholas and what he did.

I want Christmas to be about Jesus. I hope that my son will have beautiful Christmas memories that have nothing to do with the commercial season and everything to do with God and family.

 

At 7:51 PM , Blogger Alex Headrick said…

Though I do not have children yet, my hubby and I have already started talking about the "Santa Dilemma." What I think we've come to is that we'll teach our children about the true Santa, Saint Nicholas, and what he did when he was living, and how he embodies the spirit of giving and Christmas. We bought a beautiful book the other day about Saint Nicholas and how other cultures see him and how Santa got to be the big red, rotund man we know today. I like the idea of teaching my children about giving, but I certainly don't want them to grow up believing in an imaginary man who brings presents.

 

At 8:37 AM , Blogger Mrs W said…

We don't do Santa, we are 1) not going to lie to our kids and 2) not rob glory from God! When I was growing up, we called Santa "the gloryrobber".

Also, why do we tell our kids that they can't tell others that Santa isn't real? I want my kids to tell others that, because I don't want my kids to lie to other kids, or to cover up what they believe. I want them to be bold. Parents can teach their children whatever they want, and if my child tells them something different, it's a GOOD thing if they go home and ask their parents about it.

Do you also tell your kids to not witness to other kids because "their parents don't teach them that?" I surely hope not.

My kids will be allowed to tell other kids that Santa is not real instead of hiding their light under a bushel.

 

At 3:36 PM , Blogger Nurse Bee said…

Ah Santa!! Not so happy memories of my cousin telling me Santa is dead. I was so heartbroken. But at least I knew the toothfairy was still real! (Interestingly enough....despite believing in Santa, the Toothfairy, and the Easter Bunny at some point in my life, I still believe in Jesus and my cousin who was taught that all were pretend is an agnostic).

I still have another year regarding Santa (my child is 15 months), not sure yet, but of course we will teach her what the true meaning of the season is.

 

At 7:30 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Sheila,
I had not read the email till this morning. Last night I was driving my daughter and another girl to a group we all attend. We brought up this subject. I have never had my children believe in Santa. I am on the same page as you exactly. My experience was (my parents were not born again Christians at the time), I was 7 and noticed my brother's writing on the cards, "from Santa", I said to my mom. "hat's Steve's writing", she said "no". Well they lied to me. LOL. I always remembered that. They told me the next year that he didn't exist.

Jesus is the reason for the season. The holiday is so commercialized as it is bring Santa as it is brings more confusion to them. I remember one year having their picture with Santa, I said to them that this was just someone that dressed up. They didn't know the difference and what he had to do with Christmas. I won't even have Santa decorations in my house.
I appreciate you bringing up this topic. I think so many times we tippy toe around it.

 
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Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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