To Santa Claus or not to Santa Claus; that is the question

By Cindy Koch

The evergreen dresses in her stunning Christmas sparkles. Ginger and cinnamon waft from the warm Christmas oven. The family gathers close to the bright Christmas fire, but a guilt-ridden question hangs over our head. Carols sing sweetly in the white Christmas cold. Little toys hang from the tall Christmas tree. Candles, friends, and family light up the dark Christmas evenings. But somewhere in the middle of Christmas wreaths and gingerbread houses, we struggle with the Santa Claus conundrum. Should our old jolly friend visit our Christian household on that blessed Christmas Eve? 

You see, it is the eve of the Christ child’s birth. What an amazing gift God gave to his world, to save us terrible sinners from the punishment of death. The humble birth we celebrate on Christmas day was the bold entrance of the Word of God into the dust of the earth. The little baby we celebrate on Christmas day was the very flesh that was beaten instead of ours. The breath of life we celebrate on Christmas Day was the first incarnate inhale of an eternal promise of life given to us.

So, does a funny old fat man deserve any of our attention on Christmas?

Many Christians lament the “lie” of Santa Claus during this special celebration. Santa and Jesus are portrayed to go head to head, fighting to be the Christmas champion. Christians are encouraged to fill their front lawns with nativity figures, only buy “Jesus is the Reason” ornaments, and be exclusively entertained with baby-Jesus movies. Believers will shame Santa’s worldly consumerism yet promote Jesus’s heavenly commercialism—to share the Gospel, of course.

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So, this question is even harder when we consider our children. Do we tell them this jolly old story that we know is not true? Do we encourage this imaginary figure, especially on this night of such real celebration? Are we pushing our kids over to the dark side if they receive gifts from Santa Claus?

Every part of Christmas, Team Jesus or Team Santa, can be grossly misused. There is no escape from the distracted desires of our heart, even on Christmas. It’s not as simple as choosing a side. In truth, Santa and Jesus are not at war. Rather, we are just a little confused. Our culture has lost the virtue of a fairy tale.

Santa Claus is a tale told to young children. With reindeers and presents, it’s a magical and hopeful story of good things to come on Christmas morning. As fairy tales are meant to do, imaginary or realistic characters do extraordinary things. Whether it is slaying a dragon to protect a girl, enduring the hardships of a wicked stepmother, or visiting all the children of the world in one night, fairy tales are free to teach about the joy, sorrow, and hope of things to come.

But more importantly, fairy tales are for children. Little minds with limited experience and power live through the words of these enchanted stories. A timid toddler boy takes up his imaginary sword to stand up boldly for his princess. A young girl whistles during chores as she dreams of castles and carriages. Children everywhere wait with pure joy for that anticipated morning to break on which they find free gifts under a tree. Fairy tales capture the imagination of our children and teach a little about life beyond their small comfy home.

Santa Claus is a Christmas fairy tale that encourages even the youngest of minds to look forward to a special morning. What a better morning to celebrate than when our Lord appeared on the earth.

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But when our children grow, they begin to put away childish thoughts. One day, they will; wake up and realize that our fallen world is uglier than it first appeared. They will be touched by the sting of sickness and death. They will become disappointed that their real-world heroes do not always match the stories. They will discover that the fairy tales of their childhood fade back into story books and fuzzy memories.

As our children grow, they will be comforted by real hopes and expectations to come. They have learned to distinguish the evil dragon and now will boldly fight as men. They have learned to value patience, work, and honor, even under dire circumstances. They have learned to anticipate a free gift on Christmas morning. In Christ, they now hope in the free gift of eternal life.

The Christmas fairy tale of Santa Claus is certainly not our story of salvation. But this imaginary legend is not harmful to our little Christians’ ears. If our children grow up saturated in the faith, that Jesus Christ is the only true hope, there is nothing to fear from this fairy tale.

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7 thoughts on “To Santa Claus or not to Santa Claus; that is the question

  1. I have always struggled with this. I understand your point on the value of fairytales, myths and legends, but practically, how do we share with our kids that it is a fairytale as opposed to the one truth of Christ on Christmas? Do we actually say, “This is a fairy tale”? Should that fairy tale come to life, with actual gifts appearing under the tree?

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  2. I grew up believing in Santa Claus. I’m not sure when along the way I learned the “truth” about Santa, but I remember getting sweatpants when I was 11 or 12 “from Santa” and when I complained to my mom that what she got me from Santa wasn’t something I could play with, she told me to pretend one of my games was from Santa then. Good memories… It didn’t keep me from knowing Christ as my savior.
    We did the Santa thing and got some cute pictures with the boys, but they always knew Jesus was the focus of our celebrations. I really don’t see Santa any different than the parents who do the Elf on a Shelf thing and let their children believe the elves are coming alive at night.
    I have seen parents who don’t “do” Santa or make excuses for Santa and to each their own. Great Blog. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. I won’t deny that the “lie” bothered me when my kids were young. I was more bothered that it was typically not set up as a magical myth, but more as a magical truth, which is not actually true. Yet, I was always more bothered by the works righteousness nature of the whole endevour. Tell your kiddos that if they’re good… and if they’re bad… Blah! To top it all off, I knew more than a few parents who used Santa as an idol threat, “if you don’t behave I’ll call Santa and his evles.” Blah! Nontheless, I have always understood why parents decide to participate in the Santa game. It’s fun to bring a little magic into the lives of your kids. Fairy tales are important, and when Santa stays at the level of fairy tale, I say come on in fat man. Fun article. Thanks, Cindy.

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    1. Yes I agree that Santa is used badly to scare kiddos into behaving. But in reality, as naughty as I was as a child, did I ever receive only coal in my stocking? Nope; Santa was always amazingly gracious, every year.

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  4. How many have told their kids that Santa (Saint Nicholas) was (is?) a worshiper of Christ Jesus and a Christian Saint? Granted, he seems to be a little more active than the other saints. (^;

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  5. Wonderful blog, Cindy. Anticipating Santa doesn’t prevent any child from the wonder of the arrival of the Christ Child. Childhood is all too short.

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