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The Case for Claus

A pastor told me once that he didn’t think he was going to teach his someday child about Santa Claus because he didn’t want her developing a complex after she inevitably learned he wasn’t real … comparing him to Jesus, whom she also cannot see, and imagining Jesus would one day leave her, too. As this pastor told me his thoughts, I listened intently, then realized I was starting to feel bad for the big, bearded, jolly fellow (Santa, not my pastor). And I started feeling bad for my pastor’s as-yet-imaginary daughter, too. Obviously it’s important—it’s everything!—that she know how real, important and present Jesus is. But I don’t think a lovely little story of a guy who likes to give can compromise that; at least not irreparably. Hereby I humbly make my Case for Claus. (No groans, please).

  1. First, I have to say … I have never met an 8-year-old whose presence of mind and understanding of complex ideas extended much far beyond single-digit multiplication tables and puppies. In other words, I really don’t think they’re going to make that connection there. When I found out that Santa’s handwriting was really just my mom using her left hand, I was more confused at why my parents would go to so much trouble to prove Santa to me and less angry at the fake Santa Claus for deserting my needy self. And comparing him to Jesus? Never crossed my mind. Santa is a jolly guy who likes to give gifts to everyone and spends the rest of the year virtually irrelevant. Jesus is the most relevant person in my world … and yours. No comparison!

I’ve read some blogs from some people who’ve said they actually did make this connection, and after realizing Santa wasn’t real, they also decided anything they couldn’t physically see, including God, was also not real. But here’s where the parents step in, I say. Explain to your kid the differences between teaching them a nice principle of giving via a jolly character and the man who literally saved their life and soul by dying in a very real way.

  1. I think children need mystery and to believe in mystery. They need lots of possibilities and to believe curious things and places exist; and there is room for joy that some may find unmerited or inappropriately generous. It’s part of being a kid, a beautiful part, and it’s how kids become adults with dreams and the motivation to explore them. Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW believes that "all children have the right to be fascinated and enchanted by the nurturing, age-old myths and fables of their culture. Santa Claus, and yes, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy engage a young child's sense of wonder." If you don’t know who Carleton Kendrick is, just look at all those acronyms after his name. Clearly he knows what he’s talking about.

But even if he doesn’t, I still agree with him.

  1. I do indeed wish my children to leave me cookies and milk; and to find unmerited joy in the simple fact that they were eaten. I love to be loved for my eating. I often feel my skill in that area goes unappreciated.

  2. Santa’s example of generosity is worthy to be taught. When a child discovers Santa is not real, I don’t believe that child would then extend his nonexistence to the principles he stood for. Children recognize that Santa is beloved; that he brings joy to people. God has placed in all hearts—no matter how young—the knowledge of how very valuable that is. If Santa isn’t real, his lesson of generosity still can be.

  3. How are you going to explain so many of the world’s greatest Christmas tunes if your child doesn’t know who Santa is? Who did you see Mommy kissing? Who’s coming right down Santa Claus lane? Who is coming to town? Down through the chimney comes who?

  4. Santa wants your kids to be nice, not naughty. Wouldn’t it be nice to have Santa be the “bad guy” for once? Threatening kids with less presents if they are naughty might seem a bit cheap, but I think Santa knows what he’s doing. It’s a very basic way of teaching kids their actions have consequences, is it not? It’s a self-involved lesson of course to say “you should be nice to others so  you receive more gifts.” But I argue that if nothing else, it teaches a child that being nice is, indeed, valuable; and others find it to be valuable, too. I would also argue children learn best through self-focused lessons. We don’t really know how to move our focus from self to others until we are older, I believe. My last point here would be though our salvation is not based on works, Jesus talks often about building up our treasures in Heaven, and about getting one day the same measure we gave. There’s something biblical to the idea that our actions have consequences, not just for others but ourselves as well.

Full disclosure: I have no kids, and I don’t consider myself in any way an authority on this. I think if you, as parents, choose to not teach your child about Santa Claus, perhaps it really is the right thing for your family. You know better than I do. I just know my childhood Christmases and even my Christmases now would be much different if I didn’t have that sparkly feeling—no matter how slight—of wonder that comes when I imagine the white beard and cozy red hat. Santa might not be really sitting up there at the North Pole, pounding wooden toys and glancing over a comically large paper scroll with spectacles at his nose, but I don’t mind.

Merry Christmas!

Maria is a recent college graduate from Ohio who just got married and moved to Arizona because she likes an adventure. She can’t wait for Christmas, especially because she gets to spend it with her family, even if they do always overcook the ham.



Kim in Ostrander commented…

My son is 11 now. he told me he is now too old for Santa. I said okay. Last year he wasn't ready to give up on the idea.... We were watching "Yes Virginia There is a Santa Claus" and he looked at me and said it wasn't very nice of that girl to say Santa wasnt' real, or to call them babies. Kids should be allowed to believe in Santa.
he sounded very grown up at that moment.


Waterfrog46 commented…

My sisters and I never believed in Santa. My mom said that there were already so many distractions from Christ during Christmas, that she didn't want to create another one for us. My parents tried very hard to keep Christmas and Easter free from anything but Christ and the amazing things God did for us. My parents did a lot to make that fun, applicable, and used anything they could to point my sisters and I back to Christ. Not that Santa and Jesus have to duke it out, but when considering Santa for my son I have decided that God did a whole lot more to teach the world about giving then did Santa.

Also, I don't think you can stop a child's imagination by simply not teaching them Santa. Have you ever watched a child? I watch my 20 month old son who can entertain himself with tupperware, empty soap bottles, and blankets. How can a once a year pretend man make or break a child's creativity and imagination? I think that is overstating Santa's abilities just a little.

Don't get me wrong, if you would like to continue the tradition of Santa with your children there is nothing wrong with that.



Cyle commented…

Well, my parents never pretended Santa or the Easter Bunny were real, but we did have a Tooth Fairy of sorts. I agree with their decision for two reasons:
1) Christmas and Easter are supposed to be times when we celebrate Christ. I find it hard to maintain a focus on the miracle of Christ's birth if everyone around you is making the holiday about a magical old man who flies around bringing toys to kids. I believe every child needs the wonder and excitement that comes from fantasy like the Tooth Fairy, but in the case of Santa and Christmas, I think he overshadows the true reasons for our celebration. Fantasy is great, but there's a place for it. I just don't think we shouldn't include it in important Christian holidays because then the holiday becomes more about the fantasy than the history.

2) Many parents simply aren't able to give their children Christmas gifts because they don't have the financial means to do so. I'm surprised no one has brought this up yet. Perpetuating the Santa myth only makes it that much harder for those who are less fortunate. Knowing that the gifts came from my parents made me appreciate what I had. It teaches children the importance of giving, the value of hard work (gifts don't magically appear), and how it's important to give to those in need. I think it's important to realize these things at an early age. I think it's great to have kids participate in giving to charities like Toys for Tots and others during Christmas, and it would be illogical to then turn around and tell them that gifts come from Santa.

Anyway that's how I see it. I'm 19, so it'll be a while before I have any kids lol.



ajamison commented…

Everyone, go read "Orthodoxy" by G.K. Chesterton if you don't think children should be told about Santa.

The Wall Street Journal had an excellent article about this very subject last year, using Chesterton and C.S. Lewis as examples: "OK, Virginia, There's No Santa Claus. But There Is God"

A great Chesterton quote regarding this: "The test of all happiness is gratitude; and I felt grateful, though I hardly knew to whom. Children are grateful when Santa Claus puts in their stockings gifts of toys or sweets. Could I not be grateful to Santa Claus when he put in my stockings the gift of two miraculous legs? We thank people for birthday presents of cigars and slippers. Can I thank no one for the birthday present of birth?"

Another: "We believed [that a certain benevolent person] did give us those toys for nothing. And I believe it still. I have merely extended the idea.

Then I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking; now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void.

Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dolls and crackers, now I thank him for stars and street faces and wine and the great sea. Once I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking.

Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside; it is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic good will."
(Hint: He's not talking about Santa anymore at the end of that quote.)


Pamela commented…

It's weird, we teach kids that lying is bad in every other sense but when it comes to Santa it's ok to lie?

I've always enjoyed christmas, but my parents never tried to convince me Santa was real, and in school I remember getting in trouble for saying he wasn't.

I have a friend who is a young mum, and she has 2 gorgeous little girls, both under 3, and when her oldest asks about Santa, she says "It's a nice story."
Cos it is, it's something really nice to imagine, and I remember staying up late on christmas eve just to see if I could hear reindeer on my roof, just to see if Santa was real.

And a side note, I've heard heaps of people tell me that they were devastated when they found out Santa wasn't real. Save your kids from the heart ache. I think it's one thing to let your kids have fun with their imaginations, but it's another thing to blatantly lie and tell them Santa is real, and then admit you were lying.
Christmas is still special. It's still celebrating the time when God became human and was born as a baby and was to go on to save us from our sins.

I'm only 20, so my childhood isn't that far behind me, and I can honestly say I've missed out on nothing by knowing Santa wasn't going to drop presents down my chimney, that mum and dad actually bought my presents, that dad was the one who ate my cookies.

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