Last week, Bee was leaning over my shoulder while I looked up a recipe online, and she saw a poll on one of the sites I frequent. The question was, “When your kids asked if Santa was real, did you lie?”
Suddenly, Bee just blurted out, “Mom, is Santa real? Because some people say he isn’t.”
I always promised Bee that she could ask me anything, and I would tell her the truth. So, she and I went to the History Channel web site, and we looked up the history of St. Nicholas. I stressed that Santa Claus (Sinter Klaas) was in fact a real person. He was a Christian monk who helped the poor and needy because of his deep love for God. I then explained that Santa Claus as we think of him is just make believe, but the spirit of generosity and selfless giving that he represents is very real. It exists in the hearts of parents, and anyone else who loves children. I told her that her Daddy and I pretend to be Santa because it’s fun and exciting for her, and because we love her and enjoy giving her gifts that make her happy. I took this opportunity to explain that the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny are also fictitious.
She seemed a bit surprised, but not the least bit upset. In fact, she’s very excited to be in on our secret, and she’s eager to keep the Santa legend alive for Cakes.
Some Christians believe that Santa Claus detracts from the religious origins of Christmas, and that it’s unethical for parents to perpetuate such an elaborate lie. I don’t agree. My attitude about Santa is similar to my attitude about Halloween – children are exposed to the Santa legend everywhere in this world, and rather than rejecting it outright, I chose to incorporate it into our Christmas celebration in a very minimal way. My children absolutely understand the real meaning of Christmas, and we spend far more time talking about Jesus at Christmas time than we do Santa. We make a birthday cake for Jesus, and teach the nativity story, because those things are most important to us. Also, Santa doesn’t bring elaborate or expensive gifts – only small treasures and stocking stuffers – because we try to keep the focus off material things.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with teaching children the Santa legend, as long as gifts and materialism don’t become the primary focus of your holiday. Also, I believe it’s very important to tell children the truth when they ask about the reality of Santa. When I explained the motivation behind our perpetuation of the Santa legend, Bee actually threw her arms around me and squeezed me tight. She understood that we were motivated by love for her, and she knows that she can trust us.
Most importantly, Santa should not be made into a God-like figure. We shouldn’t tell our children that Santa can see them all the time, and knows if they’re good or bad, because that is attributing God-like characteristics to him. We always tell our kids that Santa can only do what he does on Christmas Eve because of God’s help (just like Noah’s impossible task of getting all the animals into the ark), and that Santa loves God, and expresses that love by showing kindness to others. It works for us.
As with Halloween, I think that the choice to teach or not teach the Santa legend is a personal one, and neither choice is wrong or right. Each family must do what they believe to be right and best for them. We must not judge or condemn a Christian brother or sister who chooses to do something different than we do, for the Bible says,
“Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day– 17 things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (see Romans 14:3b, 5-6).[print-me/]