The Great Santa Debate

**Warning: Hot Topic Ahead**

The photo taken by Grzegorz Łobiński for MerryRibbon eCards. Shared under a  Creative Commons license.


We do Santa at our house. There. I said it. Feel free to throw stones or think I’m a horrible Christian.

I know this causes a LOT of conflict within the Christian community. It’s a very divisive topic.

I admit, I had so many mixed feelings when we got to the stage where we had to make the Santa decision. I went through a lot of inner turmoil. I asked myself questions like:

  • Isn’t that taking the focus off of Jesus?
  • Is lying to our children about the reality of Santa destructive?
  • If they believe in Santa then later discover the truth, will they also doubt the reality of Jesus?

In the end, we decided to do Santa for several reasons:

Reason #1: Traditions bring families together.

Both The Husband and I have fond memories of Christmas mornings. For many years, my sisters and I slept together on Christmas Eve, woke up at the crack of dawn and jumped into our sleepy parents’ bed to wake them. Mom and Dad would go ahead of us into the living room and Dad would usually exclaim: “Aw…looks like Santa didn’t come this year!” We would giggle, then walk together down the hall with our eyes covered until we reached the tree.

You see, it wasn’t the gifts that I remember so well, but it was the tradition and feeling of family togetherness that has remained with me through the years.

Reason #2: To avoid bitterness.

Quite frankly, I know some adults who didn’t grow up with Santa visits and they are bitter to this day. As children, they were constantly dodging questions about Santa. They had to answer carefully when the topic came up among friends (and they made quite a few friends mad when they answered truthfully). The bottom line was they felt like they missed out on a part of their childhood and a shared cultural experience.

You could argue that we, as Christians,  should reject culture and to some extent I might agree. But think of it this way: art is part of culture. The Israelites used art to create the golden calf that was worshipped in the wilderness, but art was also used to build the temple that was used to worship our Creator. Therefore, I would argue that it is how art (or other cultural aspects) is used that determines whether it is good or bad. Like a good lawyer, we must always look for intent.

When we play Santa at our house, the intent is not to worship a mythical guy in a red suit or to take our focus off of the real meaning behind Christmas. Our intent is to have fun with our children. In the same way, when we bake a cake, gather friends, sing and bring gifts to our daughters on their birthdays, it is not to worship them or to exalt them. Our intent is just to be thankful that God has given us another year to share together.

Reason #3: Fiction is Fiction

I had a friend whose ultra-conservative Christian mother forbid her kids to watch the Smurfs (because Gargamel was a wizard) and He-Man (because there was only one “Master of the Universe” and it wasn’t that guy) or Scooby-Doo (not sure why…probably because Shaggy would make them want to become dope smokers). I watched all those “evil” cartoons and I even grew up to become a big fan of the *gasp!* Harry Potter books.  None of those things negatively influenced my faith because I understand that cartoons are not real.

Similarly, I learned that Santa was not real in second grade when I heard my parents putting together gifts. One of my biggest concerns when deciding whether or not to play the Santa game was the question, “If they believe in Santa then later discover the truth, will they also doubt the reality of Jesus?” I asked myself, “Did I ever doubt Jesus?” Of course I did…but never because of Santa Clause and never as a child. I also never trusted my parents less after the Santa secret was spilled.

Even though we decided to do Santa, we still set some guidelines:

  1. We never lie to our kids. When they say “So-and-so said that Santa is not real, ” I will answer, “Well, what do you think?” They always say “yes” and I just shrug my shoulders. We have never done the “Easter Bunny” but we did do the “Tooth Fairy” on a moderate scale. When my daughter asked if I was the Tooth Fairy, I said “Yes.” I will do the same for Santa. (My oldest knows the truth; my youngest acts like she doesn’t, but I think it’s just because she wants the tradition to continue. She was the one who busted the Tooth Fairy.) 🙂
  2. Santa brings small gifts. Really, our kids just get some stocking stuffers and a small something-or-another. We try to limit gift-giving overall–from Santa or otherwise–but if they do get something of substance (say a telescope), it would come from mom and dad. Our kids have never gotten more than three gifts from us–if it was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for them! 😉
  3. Santa is an after-thought. We focus on the reason for the season (yep, I just shamelessly used that cliché!). I always knew what Christmas was really about Jesus; my kids do too. Santa is not the centerpiece of our celebration.

I know that many of you will disagree with our decision to play Santa. That’s okay. I understand. However, I don’t begrudge you for choosing not to do the Santa-thing. I  like what Brian Dembowczyk said on the ParentLife blog this week…

“…let’s extend grace to one another. The unity of the church should be strong enough to withstand a man in a red suit.”


So tell me, where do you fall in the great Santa debate? What choice did your family make and why?

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10 Responses to The Great Santa Debate

  1. Jessica says:

    I appreciate culture and traditions. And if the santa myth/tradition fell obscurely on the calendar and was totally independent of any meaningful religious observance, it’s very possible we would do it. Because it’d be fun.

    But, for me, I think it’s no coincidence that the exaggerated version of St. Nick falls on literally the same day that we try to celebrate the birth of Christ. So in my head, you can really only pick one. But I’m admittedly a bit black and white on some issues. Traditions are wonderful. But we could probably find giddy enducing ones that focus on the birth of Christ. Or perhaps on the authentic story of the real St. Nick, even.

    And I agree that believing in Santa Clause doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll grow up and reject the faith. But my observance, is that most people that grow up in a Christian Santa clause house, while they may grow up to even still be church attending Christians…they’re often not very…how should I say, Kingdom Focused Christians. They tend to be American Dream Christians. Basically, ineffective in the only commandments Jesus left us with. Tell the nations, love each other radically, sacrifice to give to those without. Etc.

    And I think that’s really sad. And personally, I’m weak by nature. So I have to clear out spiritual distractions to focus on The Kingdom more clearly. And to parent more lovingly and meaningfully. So we have never done it.

  2. We’ve never done the Santa thing for various reasons. Initially, I was against the idea of misleading kids and remembered my own jaded feelings when I found out he wasn’t real. Our reasons have evolved over the years and since coming to the Lord.
    That doesn’t mean we avoid him like the plague. In fact, tonight we’re going to a town celebration and Santa will be there. It is very hard to explain to a 9 and 4 year old how to handle the questions about Santa (from well meaning people, cashiers, etc.) while keeping the answers honest and not “ruining it” for other kids. This aspect of the Santa thing alone is one reason why I really dislike it.

    • Megan says:

      It *is* hard to handle, isn’t it? That was one of the reasons I guess we went with it. We never did the whole Easter Bunny thing and the kids handled that okay, but it seems to be much less of a big deal culturally.

      Personally, though I absolutely love Christmas, Easter is much more of a holy season to me. That sounds bad. I don’t mean to lessen the holiness of Christ’s birth, but on the same hand, we wouldn’t celebrate Christmas if not for Easter, KWIM?

  3. Megan says:

    I don’t disagree with any of those points. If I had to do differently, I might. My kids are already getting too old for the whole Santa bit anyway.

    My struggle is in the black and white. In theory, if we were all living in the “black and white,” we would never purchase cameras or drive cars or have air conditioning or the computers that we are using to write these blog posts…we’d give away ALL of that money. But that’s not realistic. Not in America, anyway. But maybe I’m too much of an “American Dream” Christian. I’ve contemplated that a lot this year.

    Sometimes I long to be in Africa or some far-away place where life is made simpler strictly from lack of choices. But that’s not realistic either because life is often more complicated in those “simple” places.

    But you are wrong in one area, Jessica: you are not weak, you are strong.

    • Jessica says:

      Well, I definitely feel you on wishing you could live in a country without all of the spiritual distractions. That’s exactly the road we’ve been on for awhile, and are still plodding along on. That kind of life is definitely harder in many ways. But I think it’s probably much easier to be more focused on what really matters in life.

      On the topic of weak and strong, I could so relate to the post that Shaun Groves linked to this week about the compassion blogger who finally got rid of tv. She said,

      “It’s because we are weak, weak people that we had to go to this extreme. Stronger people can make better decisions…”

      That’s exactly how I feel about anything in my life that might seem like I’m “extreme”!

  4. I wanted to come back to clarify… I was truthfully devastated when I found out Santa wasn’t real. It came just months after finding out that my Dad had a “girlfriend”. Another fatherly figure who ended up NOT being what I thought. I might not have taken it so hard if the timing was different. But, those feelings of being misled and rocked to the core are still carried with me in some ways. The experience has definitely shaded how I feel when I think about Santa.

  5. Amy says:

    I still remember finding out that Santa was my parents. I reject the thought that he isn’t real, because he was my parents and they are very real!

    I stay out of the great Santa, Christmas debate for the most part. I don’t like to debate and I don’t like to defend why I do what I do. I did have several days of “I must not be a very good Christian, because I am not doing it like so and so”.

    All that said to say that we don’t really do Santa, but we don’t really not do him either. We have stockings and the kids get stocking stuffers. We’ve told them in the past that we are Santa and they are okay with it. For them, Santa is an idea and not a person.

    IDK. I am used to people thinking I do things wrong, so I just do it. LOL.

    • Megan says:

      I do think we all tend to get a little defensive over this topic, that’s why I like the quote about extending grace to one another. What’s right for one family may not be right for another. Most people are just doing the best they can in the parenting world and we should really leave all the judgement behind.

  6. Jill Foley says:

    We dont’ do Santa and I’m so thankful…but we also don’t avoid him. I find that it’s just one less thing to “do” this time of year – like Jessica mentioned, a distraction.

    I’m glad to hear you don’t lie to your kids…that’s my biggest issue with Santa. I don’t know why anyone would intentionally mislead their kids. I was disappointed when I learned Santa was not real and it did lead me to consider whether Jesus, the other central figure of Christmas, was also fake.

    We homeschool and have moved a lot, so my girls don’t have many friends to “ruin” the myth of Santa for.

    I’ve popped over here a couple times and enjoy your blog….I think I’ll add you to my reader!

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