My five year old daughter made an interesting comment recently. While I was attempting to explain that fairies, unicorns, and the tooth fairy are mythical creatures and are not actually real, she stated 'You mean like Jesus and God?'
'No, not like Jesus and God...' and this got me thinking,
Should we, as Christians, partake and involve our children in the mythology of Santa?
The truth is, we are essentially lying to our kids about this large man with a beard and red clothes, watching them all year round to see if they have been naughty or nice and sneaking into their homes while they sleep on Christmas Eve to bring gifts.
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 chapter 3 verse 10). Of course, telling our children that Santa is real is not a malicious deception, but it is, nonetheless, a lie.
The Magic of a lie?
I have had a few conversations with fellow parents with mixed opinions on the matter.
One answer I got was 'You can't tell them the truth, it would take away the magic of Christmas!' The magic of Christmas. All that was going through my head was 'The magic of telling a lie'.
Although it is not typical, I have noted over the years that 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. I know that the works of salvation are stronger than some might think; but if we do break this trust, they may doubt the more important things we tell them, such as the truth about Christ, whom they also cannot physically see.
I have to admit it too, I dislike buying my kids these great gifts and this fictional character, Santa, getting all the credit.
I think children who believe that the gifts they receive on Christmas morning are from a magical man with never-ending resources are less likely to appreciate what they have been given, and the financial sacrifices—such as working overtime shifts—their parents make in providing them. Greed and materialism can overshadow the Christmas season, which is meant to be about giving, loving, and worshipping God.
Children whose parents are on a tight budget may feel that they have been overlooked by Santa, or even worse, deemed to be one of the bad boys or girls.
A better way, the truth.
I don't want my kids to believe a lie, but neither do I want to face the angry kindy parents when my daughter reveals the truth to everyone around her! Maybe there is a better way.
I started by doing a little research on the origins of Christmas and, in particular, this Santa Claus character.
Santa Claus is loosely based on an actual saint, Saint Nicholas (Nikolaos of Myra), who lived in Turkey in around 270AD. He had a reputation for generosity and stories are handed down of protection from the likes of thieves and giving food and or gold to the needy.
The practice of hanging socks from the fireplace mantle comes from one of these stories, when St Nik used to throw gold into the window of a needy family he tossed the coins contained in stockings or tossed them into stockings hanging on the mantle.
I have started to collect all the stories I can find into a homemade story book about the real Saint Nicholas.
So should we leave Santa completely out of Christmas?
I guess children could still play the Santa 'game', even if they know that it is pretend. They could make lists, sit on his lap and leave milk and cookies out on Christmas Eve. This would not ruin their sense of joy.
I look forward to telling our kids about the godly parallels of the real Saint Nicholas, who dedicated his life to serving others and made himself an example of Jesus Christ.
Michael Dahlenburg is an electronics engineer currently working in the ATM industry. He is non-denominational and has previously been involved in church plants and assisting those in ministry. His interests include; enjoying family, home DIY, gardening, most things tech-related and driving his wife crazy with a constant stream of inventions!
He lives with his wife Michelle and three children in God's own land of Southern Adelaide, Australia.
Michael Dahlenburg's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/michael-dahlenburg.html