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What to do with Santa

Today I ran across this article on about the TV show Everybody Hates Chris, the show about Chris Rock's childhood. Apparently, some folks are upset because on a recent episode, the Mom reveals to her daughter that Santa Claus is not real. "Come here," the mom says, "let me show you something. I'm taking you to the toys ... Santa doesn't come down the chimney. We don't even have a chimney. We have radiators."

The complaints - well - if you know anything about Chris Rock's style, then I'm not sure why you would let your child watch his show. But aside from that, I've been thinking -

What do you do with Santa as people of faith? My three brothers and I were raised on Santa, though I found out the truth from an older cousin when I was five. But my mom has said in recent years that if she had to do it again, she wouldn't teach us to 'believe in' Santa Claus. Her reasoning? Parents spend so much time trying to get their kids to believe in Santa - a more and more elaborate string of "white lies" has to be told to keep a child believing. But, eventually, the truth comes out. If we go through all this elaborate stuff, all of which, in today's incarnation, has little to with the birth of Christ, only to reveal later that it is all made up, what are young people to think of all that they hear about God, perhaps harder to learn about to begin with?

I guess some of Santa Claus can represent the "spirit of Christmas" - sharing gifts with loved ones? But I think that isn't how Santa is usually taught to kids. Santa is the one who brings toys to good boys and girls. (More and better toys to richer girls and boys.)

I don't have children yet, so right now it is easy for me to say that I won't teach my kids to "believe in" Santa Claus. I'm sure their classmates' parents will be thrilled with me. What about you out there? Thoughts? Does Santa come to your house?


LutheranChik said…
I was a Santa skeptic by kindergarten. Partly because we had no fireplace, and our chimney didn't go anywhere;-), and partly because, being German-American, we unwrapped presents on Christmas Eve after we got back home from church. (My grandfather surreptitiously dropped off the presents at our house.) My parents' explanation that Santa visited all the Lutherans' homes first didn't really wash with me.;-) The last straw was seeing multiple Santas in the stores, and hearing the nervous explanation that they were "helpers," not the real Santa.

The thing is...I wasn't angry or disappointed in learning the truth about Santa Claus. I was pleased to be in on the joke. So I guess I wouldn't worry too much about injuring the psyches of little children by perpetrating the Santa story. On the other hand, I wouldn't push it and push it. My on parents, I think very wisely, would ask me, "What do YOU think about Santa Claus?", and at one point I said, "I think it's you," and that was that.
Anonymous said…
In our household, we have never really talked much about Santa, although our kids have come to kow the santa story. But Christmas is 12 days (not 1) and so we open presents (one a day) during the whole of the Christmas season. This is one way we try to connect Christmas to the liturgical calendar. The other is that we have tried to emphasize that Christmas is about service through giving to the poor. So, we try to volunteer at homeless shelters, etc. Helping serve homeless folks and spreading gifts over 12 days seems to go some distance in reducing the effect of commercialism on our family.
Greg Hazelrig said…
I have no kids either. But Jewel, my 5 year old Scottie, has been taught the true meaning of Christmas. And believe me, it's been hard. You see, her name has been shortened, like so many others, into a nickname. Mostly we just call her Jew. So as you can see, there's been a hard time getting her to celebrate Christmas instead of Hannuka (spelling?). Ha ha.

Actually, I would try to incorporate both Santa and Jesus from the very beginning, each year bringing out the importance of Jesus as the real reason for the season more and more. I think that's what's most important. It's ok to read Twas the night before Christmas, as long as you read (or tell) the birth story as well and keep reminding what the real reason for Christmas is.
Anonymous said…
With out kids we decided that we weren't banning Santa, but we make sure they understand it's just a cute story and such, and that the real focus of the season is the coming of Christ.

I remember when I was a kid and found out there was no Santa Claus being pretty upset. The thing was, it wasn't because there wasn't a Santa, it was because my mom had lied to me for years. I was more upset by the dishonesty than the existance of some guy who maybe brought toys.
Revwilly said…
Here is a thought; why would you let your children believe something that is not true or why would you lie to your children? Before we had children we decided we would never do those two things. It is a matter of being a person of integrity and honesty and wanting your children to always know that about you. Our children are now 20 & 21. They've always enjoyed Christmas for all the right reasons
Jason D. Moore said…
I don't think it's about lying or being a person of integrity or not. In fact, I feel that my parents have more integrity than most people I've ever met and they perpetuated the Santa mythology. I think the integrity and honesty of a parent in the eyes of the child comes more from his or her everyday watchfulness of the actions of the parent(s).

Even though the child may feel bad when faced with the revelation that there's no Santa, I don't think there is ever any long-held feelings of destrust in the parents over it. At least that wasn't the case with me.
Anonymous said…
I agree with you, Beth. I don't feel called to parenthood, but I don't believe parents should lie to their children or encourage children to believe something that will turn out to be false. Telling kids about Santa, the fictional character in folklore, is fine--as long as kids understand that he isn't real.

I remember watching family videos of Christmas when I was young. When I got a gift at age 4 or so and was really excited, I thanked Santa and looked up, as if I was praying. Yikes! Why didn't my parents teach me to be thankful to whoever purchased the gifts and ultimately thankful to God?

Additionally, I agree about the economic bias. Santa is another way that stores and advertisers victimize the poor. I see parents who cannot afford the gifts they are buying burrying themselves in debt so that their children won't wonder why Santa brought more gifts to their friends.

The worst part of the whole charade is when churches participate in perpetuating the lie. I'm ashamed that the church I serve does have Santa come to the church Christmas party (they even made me sit on his lap). I would much rather have the children get a visit from Mary and Joseph, who will explain what it was like on that first Christmas, or something like that.
Anonymous said…
Jason is right.

When I was a child, Santa Claus came to my house. And for my younger brother and myself, he was real. My parents told me that Santa was watching me and my brother and knew if we were bad or good. You know what, that is true. They told me that Santa knew if I was sleeping or awake. You know what, that is true also. I remember when my brother and I were very young if we acted up any time in the fall of the year, it would invoke my Dad with the extended index finger pointing at me and Todd and saying, "be careful, Santa Claus is watching you..." . That was no lie either, he was. I am 37, but I can clearly remember being about 4 or 5 and not being able to sleep on Christmas Eve. I ended up in my parent's bed, nervous that if Santa knew I was awake, what would happen. There was a large oak tree over the house over my parents room and the branches were scraping roof on that windy Christmas Eve. I just knew it was a sleigh and reigndeer. I remember my Dad telling me not to worry, I was with him and Santa would come through. And he did. I think I got a Lionel train that year. That event is permanently burned in my mind.

A lot of the understanding of Santa didn't come to me until after I was married and had a six year old step son. My son believed in Santa and he came to our house. For weeks before Christmas, my wife and I started working on the "list". Just like Santa's elves. I remember finishing all the dishes and cleaning up the house on Thanksgiving, puting my son to bed, and leaving the house at 11:30 to get to Walmart so I could get "the whatever it was" that year. That was a labor of love. Santa's gifts were wrapped in our house. But, my wife and I bought special wrapping paper with Santa Claus' picture on it each year so that it looked official. It was more expensive and heavier grade than the other stuff. I joked that it was the "official wrapping paper of Santa Claus". I even signed the tags in a different handwriting. In my son's eyes, Santa existed. In my heart, he existed as well. I miss St. Nicholas' visits to my house.

I was sad when my son finally let it slip that there was really no way Santa could do all he had to do in one night. We had lost our innocence. I see a parrallel in the faith that childeren put in Santa Claus and the Faith that we as Christians are to put in God and Christ. Of the course, the difference is that God and Christ are real, Santa is not. Christ will never fail anyone like Santa Claus does to poor children or to the children of deadbeat parents. And unlike Santa, Christ gives more to those he need him most, but the allegory is still there.

One of my favorite themes of Santa Claus is found in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Narnia is a land under a curse. It is always winter, but never Christmas. Suddenly, Father Christmas (ie. Santa Claus) shows up and tell them that Aslan (i.e. Christ) is on the move. Without Christ, Santa Claus can't come. If there is no Christ, there is no Santa Claus. If there had been no Christ, there would have been no Saint Nicholas.

Santa Claus is not a lie, he is not a fable... not to me. He was very real to me when I was a child. He was equally real to me as an adult as a father to my 6 year old stepson. Our challenge as Christians is that we never remove the linkage of Christ from Santa Claus. I also think that Christ tells us to approach our Christian Faith with the heart of a child. Christ says Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. No, we don't have blind faith like children do in Santa Claus, but we are to approach God with Faith in the same matter.

Merry Christmas!!!
Unknown said…
While I was taught to believe in Santa I didn't lose much sleep over finding out the truth about him. Besides, St.Nicholas of Myra is a lot more interesting anyway.
My kids were also given the Santa myth but we (She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed and I) agreed that the first time the boys questioned it then we spill the beans.
The Santa myth has not had a deliterious effect on my faith or that of the boys over the years. I see the problem residing in the obsession with keeping the "lie" in place for a set number of years.

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