Israel 2016

Israel 2016
Roman architectural influence in Bet Sean, Israel

Saturday, December 17, 2011

What Do I Tell My Kids About Santa?

Excerpted from Got Questions.Org

Question: "What should parents tell their children about Santa Claus?"

Although Santa Claus is a mythical figure, his creation is based in part on a great Christian man named Saint Nicholas of Myra, who lived in the 4th century. Nicholas was born to Christian parents who left him an inheritance when they died, which he distributed to the poor. He became a priest at a young age and was well-known for his compassion and generosity. He had a reputation for giving gifts anonymously, and he would throw bags of money into people's homes (and sometimes down their chimneys) under the cover of night to avoid being spotted.

Nicholas passed away on December 6 sometime around the 340s or 350s AD, and the day of his death became an annual feast in which children would put out food for Nicholas and straw for his donkey. It was said that the saint would come down from heaven during the night and replace the offerings with toys and treats—but only for the good boys and girls. There are many different versions of the legend of Saint Nicholas, but all are the inspiration for the jolly, red-suited gift-giver that we now know as Santa Claus.

Many Christian parents are torn as to whether or not they should play the "Santa game" with their children. On one hand, he makes Christmas fun and magical, leaving wonderful holiday memories for years to come. On the other hand, the focus of Christmas should be on Jesus Christ and how much He has already given us. So, is the story of Santa Claus an innocent addition to Christmas festivities, or is he a subject that should be avoided?

Parents need to use their own judgment in deciding whether or not to include Santa during the holidays, but here are some things to consider: Children who believe that the gifts they receive Christmas morning are from a magical man with unending resources are less likely to appreciate what they have been given, and the sacrifices their parents make in providing them. Greed and materialism can overshadow the holiday season, which is meant to be about giving, loving, and worshiping God. Children whose parents are on a tight budget may feel that they have been overlooked by Santa, or even worse, deemed one of the "bad" boys or girls.

An even more troubling aspect of telling our children that Santa comes down the chimney each year to leave their gifts is that it is, obviously, a lie. We live in a society that believes that lying for the "right" reason is acceptable. As long as it doesn't hurt anyone, it is not a problem. This is contrary to what the Bible tells us. "For the Scriptures say, 'If you want to live a happy life and good days, keep your tongue from speaking evil, and keep your lips from telling lies'" (1 Peter 3:10, NLT). Of course, telling our children that Santa is real is not a malicious deception, but it is, nevertheless, a lie.

Although it is probably not typical, some children honestly feel deceived and betrayed by their parents when they find out that Santa is not real. Children trust their parents to tell them the truth, and it is our responsibility not to break this trust. If we do, they will not believe more important things we tell them, such as the truth about Christ, whom they also cannot physically see.

This doesn’t mean we must leave Santa completely out of Christmas. Children can still play the "Santa game" even if they know it is all pretend. They can make lists, sit on his lap at the mall, and leave out cookies and milk on Christmas Eve. This will not rob them of their joy of the season, and gives parents the opportunity to tell their children about the godly qualities of the real Saint Nicholas, who dedicated his life to serving others and made himself into a living example of Jesus Christ.

Note from jk: Ultimately it is, as the article points out, up to the parents to decide how they want to handle this. I've seen disasters occur form both perspectives. Either way, in making the decision what to reveal to our children, we should prayerfully, carefully follow Scriptural guidelines in bringing the truth in a gentle and loving manner. 

I remember my daughter coming to me when she was 6. We had been very careful about Santa, telling her Santa was pretend but fun. 
She said, "Dad, I know Santa is pretend, right? The Santas we see in the mall and on TV are make believe...right?"
 I said, "That's right, you have it!" 
She said, "So I can't really see Santa...right?" 
I said, "Right!"
She said, "Hmmm...I can't really see Jesus either. Is He real?
This led to a nice talk about where our faith lies and she got that too. Praise God! But then she said...
"I've been telling my friends Santa is not real.But, how do I get them to believe in Jesus if they can't see Him either?"

See? This is an area not addressed in the article. What do we tell our children to say to other children? This has to be handled with the same loving compassion we use to reveal the truth to our own children. Every year, our church staff has to deal with some incident or another in a Sunday School class in which one child blurts out to another, "There is no Santa Claus!", causing unbelievable uproar and anguish. Instructing our children to be sensitive in this area shows respect for other people's viewpoints and also respects all parent's rights to raise their family their way.

These are the tricky decisions we have to make as parents and shepherds of our little ones. Handling them with the integrity of the truth and exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit to our children will never let us down and makes our decisions easier and it will teach those life lessons to our kids.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Rev. John,
    I am very impressed with this post. As a celibate Catholic priest, I obviously don't have to face the "Santa" question on a personal level, but I think your advice is sage and sound. I love the idea of introducing children to the real source of the "Santa" myth--a holy saint who wanted to express the generosity of spirit that is made most manifest in the generous gift of God the Father, who gave us all the best Christmas gift ever--HIS only son, Christ our Lord. Praise God for your work for the Kingdom.
    Peace and Christmas Blessings to one and all,
    Fr. Paul Dressler, OFM Capuchin-Franciscan