Every year around this time I get questions from parents asking, “What did you tell your kids about Santa?” Some are very adamant: “Santa Claus is a replacement of Jesus in this secularized society and just another way of spreading the materialism of this age.” Others see the fable as harmless, delightful fantasy: “I believed in Santa when I was a kid and it didn’t hurt me! It’s just a fun way to give the kids a magical spark during Christmas.”
Have you ever thought that Santa can provide a springboard for reinforcing young minds with the true meaning of Christmas?
Hundreds of years ago there lived a man named Nicholas of Myra (later known as St. Nicholas), who inherited a great sum of wealth. He was born in 280 AD and his parents died when he was just a boy. Early in his life he devoted himself to Jesus and the Lord’s service. He grew up to become a pastor in modern day Turkey, and he gave away all of his wealth to help the poor – especially children. When he was persecuted and imprisoned for his faith, he shared his meager provisions with the other inmates. He gained a reputation for giving both out of his abundance, and then out of his poverty. He believed that giving to the needy was the same as giving to Jesus. His example of giving sparked the tradition of giving to commemorate the birth of Jesus.
Santa was a real person who left for us a wonderful example. But I think he would be horrified to know how his legend has come to be the exaggerated focus of materialism for many children this time of the year, taking attention away from the Jesus he loved.
Linda and I taught our children about the real Santa Claus. We also emphasized to our children that lying is wrong. To us, our integrity was one of the most important gifts we could give our kids. We had an agreement: We would not ever lie to them; they were not ever to lie to us. We would have had a hard time teaching them that, if we maintained a story to be true for years while knowing that it was not. As a child, once I learned that the Santa story I had been told was only a fable, I wondered if the stories about Jesus were just fables as well. Though I believed in Santa as a child, and my children enjoyed pretending the legend but knowing its roots, I did not enjoy Christmas more than they. In our family, we tried to emphasize giving to others, not getting from Santa. I think they enjoyed it more because they got excited about the “giving projects” we took part in as a family. We really tried to make Christ the centerpiece of His birthday celebration and this way we believed we were passing on to our children a heritage far more valuable than any fun that make-believe could provide.
As parents, you have the obligation to do, and teach your children, what is right for your family. I trust you will pray about this and are sincere in how you believe the Lord is leading. His way is always the best way!
In the mean time, please do your best to establish Christmas traditions in your family that will focus on Jesus and how His birth provided for us communion with God!