The longer I’m a parent, the more it becomes clear to me that I’m a rookie at this child raising stuff. Everything is new. Still, I’m committed to get things right the first time as much as I can.
When it comes to Santa, Julia and I decided long ago that we would have that discussion once the time came that our boys were old enough. Our culture’s message about Santa is that we must “believe.” Believe, believe, believe.
But believe in what?
The message of Santa says there’s a big dude far away that kids must believe in–even though they can’t see him–and that he does nice things for them if they are good all year. But if they choose to be naughty, they will be punished and receive things they don’t like.
Sound familiar? Is it any wonder why I grew up mistaking Santa as an archetype for God? I think the concept of Santa also helped fuel my legalistic approach to life with Jesus, too. For many years, I thought that if I was good, Jesus would like me. Even now, I am a recovering legalist.
But regardless of your background or to what degree you celebrate Santa, the inevitable outcome of kids believing in him is always the same: they discover the truth. There is no Santa.
Are You Perpetuating A Lie?
Some of you may freak out that I even typed those words, but to me, the discovery that Santa is not real pales in comparison to a child discovering that his parents are liars. And make no mistake about it. If you tell your kids that Santa is real, you are lying to them.
In time, all kids–including yours–will learn that Santa is not real. But they never have to learn that your words are not real. We’re committed to always speak truth to our boys. So at Christmas, we’ve made a choice to refrain from perpetuating the Santa lie.
So, let’s have the truth about Santa Claus:
- Santa Claus does not exist.
- He does not live at the North Pole. Hardly anything does.
- Elves don’t make toys. Or cookies. Or shoes.
- Reindeer don’t fly. Neither do sleighs.
- It’s impossible for anyone to make a world tour in one night.
- There’s no such thing as magic.
- The Santas at the mall are not Santa, nor do they work for Santa. They are businessmen who sport a unseasonably thick white beard for 11 months out of the year in order to make major bank taking pictures with your terrified kids at Christmas time. And more power to ‘em, too.
So when we speak the truth about Santa, it may feel like we are not left with any of the good parts of Christmas, but I respectfully disagree.
All the Best Parts of Christmas Are 100% True
People ask me sometimes, “if you don’t do Santa, what do you do?”
We do the truth.
Honestly, I’m jealous for my kids’ affection, and I don’t want a nonexistent, overweight elf-lie getting credit for the awesome gifts we give our kids. Santa doesn’t love them; their Mom and I do. And Santa sure doesn’t pay for Christmas presents; we do. And that brings me to sharing the best parts of Christmas that are 100% true.
Parents’ (and Grandparents) Love for Their Children
We love our boys. They are an absolute gift, and it is our pleasure to provide for them. Once a year, it is our extraordinary pleasure to surprise them with all sorts of Christmas goodies. It’s the dedicated time of year where our love manifests in gifts, just as God’s love for us manifested in the gift of the presence of Jesus Christ. What a true joy that is!
God’s Love for His Children
Christmas is all about Jesus, and we celebrate the reality that He not only exists distantly as the deist would believe. Rather, He exists intimately and personally in the here and now.
He is Emmanuel: God with us. He didn’t have to come, but He did. That incredible, impractical love became tangible when a teenage girl and her fiancé became parents to a baby boy that was conceived right in the burning heart of God’s love for us.
He is true. And His presence changes everything.
The Example of St. Nicolas’ Selfless Love for Others
The real inspiration for Santa Claus is a man from the early 4th-century named St. Nicholas. Not much is known about his life, and much of it has long since morphed with legend. What is known about him is that he was an orphan from a wealthy Christian family who became known for his generosity and care for children. St. Nicholas’ inspiration for his selfless generosity was Jesus, which is an example worthy of emulation.
Standing in stark contrast to the lie of the modern, secular Santa Claus myth is the reality of St. Nicholas and his devoted life of service to Jesus Christ. It’s a story worth retelling. And it’s absolutely true.
How We Teach Santa
We don’t want our kids to be the ones with the Santa allergy, so we don’t make Santa out to be a bad guy. He’s not unwelcome at our house. In fact, we enjoy him. We have books about Santa, and we like to have fun with the story, but we make it clear to our boys that their presents come from real people that love them enough to give them one.
Santa Claus is just a character. That means we treat him the same as Wolverine, Cinderella, and Darth Vader. These characters are totally fine when kept in their appropriate context. We have lots of fun with them, but they have their place. We’d no more try to convince our boys that Santa is real than we’d tell them Superman is real.
When you take Santa out of Christmas, you’re not degrading the Christmas experience. You’re enhancing it. You make the message of Christmas shine for what it really is: a true story of love-made-manifest for the people you love most. After all, that’s what Christ did for us.
What a beautiful Christmas truth. Ho. Ho. Ho.