Let's talk about Santa Claus. Because Good Saint Nick's been under a lot of debate lately. The big question among a lot of Christians this time of year is - should you let kids believe in Santa Claus? Will it confuse your kids to be taught about the miracles of Jesus along side the magic of Santa? Will your children lie awake at night, terrified that a fat, old man is going to break into the house as soon as they close their eyes?? Will they be damaged emotionally and question your honesty forever when they find out you lied to them???
Let's dive in shall we?
When I was growing up, Santa was kinda a big deal. My Grandpa Robison collected Santa figurines and postcards and had a genuine passion for making Christmas and Santa Claus as magical for his grandkids as possible. Every Christmas Eve all the grandkids would pile onto the couch with Grandpa and he would recite from memory The Night Before Christmas. Then, as we said goodbye to all the cousins outside my grandparents' house we would hear Santa's sleigh bells in the distance. I kid you not - actually, auditory proof that Santa was real and he was comin' to town!
Then one fateful Christmas Eve as we stood outside waiting to hear Santa, I ran back into the house to grab something. As I rounded the corner through the kitchen - oh what to my wondering eyes did appear? But Grandpa in the backyard, jingling sleigh bells for his grandchildren to hear.
I discovered three things in that moment: 1) Santa wasn't real, 2) Grandpa had been setting up those sleigh bells for who-knows-how-many years and 3) My Grandpa was awesome. And that moment - when I discovered the jolly ol' elf wasn't real - is my most favorite Christmas memory ever. (insert "awwww" here)
So my family really liked Santa and none of us were scarred when we found out he wasn't real (I know that is not true for some kids however). For us, Santa was a fun, imaginative tradition - even after we discovered the truth about him.
Even still, I don't think that my own children will believe in Santa the same way I did. Because as much as I love the fun surrounding the Santa myths, there is one thing that I can't quite reconcile with.
I want my children to grow up in a home full of love and compassion for the poor. I want them each to have a "sponsor sibling" through Compassion International. I want to teach them about the joy of giving. But when I think about raising children in that atmosphere, I can't imagine how a magical elf who delivers toys to every child in one night fits. How can I tell that story to my kids while encouraging them to give to children in poverty who don't have Christmas presents? I’m not going to lie to my kids and “defend” Santa for not delivering toys to Africa. My main beef with Mr. Kringle is that his sleigh seems to only reach the middle and upper class. Even so, a part of me would still like to keep the magic of him around for my own kids, at least a little bit. Is the balance?
I think so. It seems there may still be hope for Santa Claus afterall! Mark Driscoll wrote a great article on the subject that you can read here. I really liked this little excerpt that addresses some of the "issues" Santa causes for some families:
We tell our kids that [Santa] was a real person who did live a long time ago. We also explain how people dress up as Santa and pretend to be him for fun, kind of like how young children like to dress up as pirates, princesses, superheroes, and a host of other people, real and imaginary. We explain how, in addition to the actual story of Santa, a lot of other stories have been added (e.g., flying reindeer, living in the North Pole, delivering presents to every child in one night) so that Santa is a combination of true and make-believe stories. - Mark Driscoll
When my little sisters were even littler, they asked me to tell them if Santa was real. I answered with a mischievous smile, "He is real in your imagination." This answer seem to please them. It gave them the truth about Santa, but to also gave them permission to continue "believing” in him a little longer if they wanted to. I suppose I'll take a similar approach with my own children: make-believing in Santa can be fun, while still being aware of the truth and our own responsibility to care for the poor.
"We just heard Santa outside our window!!! He said, 'Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas! Happy New Year. God bless us - everyone! I bring you good news!" - my little sister, Julia
(Apparently Santa's been hanging out with Tiny Tim and the Archangles)