Last year I wrote a post that opened the debate about whether or not to tell your kids about Santa Claus. The topic was actually just a minor part of the post itself, but in that short paragraph I managed to totally scandalize my parents, who later left me sarcastic voicemails about how unfortunate my chidlhood must have been. Apparently my declaration that “When I was little and discovered that my parents had been lying to me my ENTIRE LIFE about Santa Claus, I felt very much betrayed” was a little dramatic. So, my apologies to my WONDERFUL parents who I love more than words can express! But, the problem nevertheless remains: To Santa or not to Santa?
Last year a number of readers posted some helpful comments, and feel free to post more of your family traditions here now. However the reason I am revisiting this topic is that I just read a great article by Mark Driscoll on this very issue. In it he describes his own family’s tradition, and his conclusions not only reflect a lot of my own feelings on the subject, but he also seems to reach a truly balanced solution. Here is one helpful excerpt:
Tis the season . . . for parents to decide if they will tell the truth about Santa.
When it comes to cultural issues like Santa, Christians have three options: (1) we can reject it, (2) we can receive it, or (3) we can redeem it.
Since Santa is so pervasive in our culture, it is nearly impossible to simply reject Santa as part of our annual cultural landscape. Still, as parents we don’t feel we can simply receive the entire story of Santa because there is a lot of myth built on top of a true story.
So, as the parents of five children, Grace and I have taken the third position to redeem Santa. We tell our kids that he 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.
We do not, however, demonize Santa. Dressing up, having fun, and using the imagination God gave can be an act of holy worship and is something that, frankly, a lot of adults need to learn from children.
What we are concerned about, though, is lying to our children. We teach them that they can always trust us because we will tell them the truth and not lie to them. Conversely, we ask that they be honest with us and never lie. Since we also teach our children that Jesus is a real person who did perform real miracles, our fear is that if we teach them fanciful, make-believe stories as truth, it could erode confidence in our truthfulness where it really matters. So, we distinguish between lies, secrets, surprises, and pretend for our kids. We ask them not to tell lies or keep secrets, but do teach them that some surprises (like gift-giving) and pretending (like dressing up) can be fun and should be encouraged. We tell them the truth and encourage them to have fun watching Christmas shows on television and even sitting on Santa’s lap for a holiday photo if they so desire. For parents of younger children wanting them to learn the real story of Santa Claus the Veggie Tales movie Saint Nicholas is a good choice.
To read the whole article, which includes a brief history of the person of Saint Nicholas, click here.
So what do you think? Agree? Disagree? I would love to hear your thoughts!