I never believed in Santa Claus. Sure, my mom would occasionally write “from Santa” on a few of our gifts, but it was always done in fun. I never once believed the gift was actually from the big guy himself. Do I feel deprived of a magical childhood Christmas? Not one bit. In fact, I somewhat enjoyed knowing that my gifts came from people I loved, rather than some jolly man who found a way to shimmy down my non-existent chimney.
Now that I’m a mom, I spend a lot of time thinking about all of the wonderful things I long to teach my daughters. Most importantly, I want to teach them about Jesus and His love for them. It always seemed odd to me teaching them about Santa and Jesus at the same time. One is true and affects their lives in every way possible. The other, not true at all. At some point, I would have to tell them the truth. I would have to say that all the years I taught them about Santa, I was really telling a “fib” to make their Christmas more magical. But Jesus… He’s real. Wouldn’t that be a confusing message?
And speaking of confusing messages… The only reason to tell my children Santa is real is to make Christmas more special. Hmmm… What could possibly be more special than the birth of our King? Again, I would be giving them a mixed message to teach them both stories side by side as truth. It would be as if the birth of Jesus wasn’t enough of a reason to celebrate Christmas. I had to give them Santa too.
Every year, I hear the same things when it comes to Christianity, Santa, and the birth of Christ. Many have no idea how to reconcile the commercial side of Christmas with the birth of our Lord. Santa is literally everywhere! How much Santa is too much? Are Rudolph and Frosty okay?
Now with all of this said, I’d like to share with you the reason why I decided to embrace Santa Claus with my girls. The jolly man in a red suit is loosely based on a real person – Saint Nicholas. His story is quite remarkable. Was he a perfect man? No. But he was generous to those in need. He used his inherited wealth to bless those who needed it most…especially children. In fact, many of our traditions are loosely based on the stories of the real Saint Nick.
Now there’s a lot of contradicting information online regarding the origins of our American Santa, but one thing seemed clear in my research. The fictional Santa we have today came about with good intentions. We are often taught as Christians that Santa was the world’s attempt to take Christ out of Christmas, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The introduction of Santa Claus was less about removing Christ and more about creating a family holiday – one that would bring children and parents together.
When we really break it down, is there really a difference between Santa and other fictional characters we tell our children about? Is there a difference between sitting on Santa’s lap and giving Mickey Mouse or Cinderella a hug at Disney World? Not really. Perhaps it’s because Santa is a Christmas character. He’s present for a holiday that is supposed to be about Jesus. But if Santa were a “year-round character” and had nothing to do with Christmas, would we still have a problem with him?
Perhaps our problem isn’t really about Santa Claus at all. It’s about the heart of Christmas. What are we really celebrating?
So what do I teach my children then? We celebrate Jesus. Christmas is Jesus’ birthday first and foremost the reason we celebrate Christmas.
And what of Santa? My children know full well that Santa is simply for fun. He’s no different from Frosty or Rudolph, both loved characters in my home who are completely fictional and fun. I also tell them the real story of Saint Nick and all He did to generously help people. (My girls are 5 and 3 so the VeggieTales version of the story comes in handy!)
And while we don’t embrace the lie, we do embrace the family fun.
At Christmas, we not only celebrate the birth of our King, we celebrate family and giving. We honor what Jesus gave to us and for us so that we could become part of the family of God. And we honor His call to give to others in the same way.
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV)