Updated older article – Christian Parents and the Santa-game

Almost every year since I’ve been a Pastor someone in my church or circle of friends has asked me my opinion about “Santa” when Christmas rolls around.  Here’s what I typically tell people…

  1. First, as Christians we should be the first to celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Savior.  Sounds like a “Duh…” statement, but it needs to be said.  We need to much of it… to make much of HIM.  HE is what makes us Christ-ian at all, so He should take priority.  We should find all kinds of creative ways to do so, to redeem the holiday from the commercialization it has come to represent.  Find symbolic meanings for typical Christmas items (trees, lights, stars, angels, decorations, etc.) and tie it all into the real Christmas story in conversation, family times, etc.  Make the Christmas traditions MEANINGFUL for what they REALLY mean!
  2. The way the Santa-game is normally played, parents go to all kinds of elaborate extremes to LIE to their kids.  You may not have ever thought of it that way, but take the time to walk it through.  Parents – CHRISTIAN parents – go to elaborate extremes to DECEIVE THEIR OWN CHILDREN.  They work overtime (late night on Christmas Eve included) to exploit the innocence of their children so that they will believe in a magical, mythical personage  called “Santa.”  That’s the reality of it… and it’s not consistent with Christianity or the Christ we serve.  Why would we LIE to our kids?  Don’t we tell them NOT to lie?  Don’t we tell them that WE don’t lie?  We should set the example of integrity, even in this.  I know, I know – Santa is just a “fun” thing that kids love… but the principle still holds true.  Telling our kids that Santa is real, when he is not, is a LIE.  I know of a grown man, in his 40s who was deeply hurt when he found out (age 12) that Santa was not real.  To this day he is still fairly upset about his parents’  “deceit” (his word).  He says it’s been hard to learn to trust them since they went “all out” to make Santa seem so real for the first 11 years of his life.  You might think he’s a guy who’s just a bit too sensitive, or unstable.  He’s not.  He’s your average, successful businessman, who loves his wife and kids and serves faithfully in his church.  He’s very balanced and very wise.  And he’s one of the few people I’ve heard talk about this issue for what it really is – deceit.
  3. Consider the message you are sending to your kids when you say the following… “Santa is real, and Jesus is real.”  First – you are putting the two of them (one a myth, the other a historical and divine PERSON) on equal terms – connected to the same holiday celebration.  Second, the day will come when they find out that Santa (as we represent him to our kids in the typical Santa-game) is NOT real.  What do you think that does to them when it comes to considering whether Jesus is real?  “If mom and dad lied about Santa, why wouldn’t they be lying about Jesus?”  At the very least, the way that Jesus and Santa are both held up as “real” by parents who play the Santa-game, would bring unneeded, and possibly faith-harming confusion to their minds.

What does our family DO about Santa then?

  • We tell our kids the truth, from day one.  Santa is like Mickey Mouse or Luke Skywalker.  A fun character who is pretend.  Be believe that our kids (and yours for that matter) need to live in light of reality.  I’ve written about that before here.  Along this line, it would be a fine family time to tell your kids about the REAL St. Nicholas and thank God for such a generous and kind man.
  • We used to enjoy the Santa movies, etc. during the holiday season, again emphasizing that it’s pretend and that Christmas is really about Jesus’ birth.  The kids enjoyed them – and we enjoyed them.  But we kept the perspective as it should be – grounded in reality, not deception.  That may still be a viable option for many Christian families, but we’ve turned a corner from there…
  • We’ve since changed our family’s convictions about that issue.  We no longer have anything to do with Santa.  We got rid of all our Santa movies and are still purging our Christmas music collection of Santa-referencing tunes.  Why?  Because we came across 1 Timothy 4:7 in one of our family Bible times.  It instructs believers to have nothing to do with irreverant, silly myths, but rather to train ourselves to be Godly.  As we read and discussed that chapter one night in family time, one of my sons asked, “Dad, doesn’t Santa fall into that category?”  I could easily say, “Yes” because it seemed so obvious.  But I didn’t see what was coming.   He said, “Then why do we own Santa-based movies?”  Touche.  That was a really, really good question.  My only answer was, “Because we haven’t thought carefully about that issue.”  We all talked about it some more as a family, prayed together about it, and decided together that in order to better train ourselves to be Godly, and to honor Jesus above all, we would get rid of our Christmas stuff that had to do with Santa.  All of it.  Nobody misses the jolly old elf… really.
  • We have chosen NOT to have any Santa decorations in our home.  We would rather not see a pretend character everywhere when our goal at Christmas is to focus on a very REAL Savior.
  • We don’t do the “Santa” presents under the tree or the milk and cookies thing.  We don’t have to be concerned with all that when we tell the truth.

I’m NOT a killjoy.  I just love Jesus.  More than the fun of pretend.  More than any tradition handed down through the family.  More than my culture.  More than what other parents might think.  And I want my family to love Jesus like that too.  Christians are to imitate Christ, and in order to do so MUST be people of integrity, no matter the issue.  And when it comes to Christmas, we should do so for the much more important reason of honoring our Savior above and beyond anyone else – even Santa.

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