Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Problem with Santa

In the car the other day, a commercial said 'Christmas is Coming!'. Remy excitedly repeated as a question, and I responded by asking what that meant. My heart was broken as his immediate response was 'It means Santa is coming!'. I quickly launched into a sermon of sorts about it being the birthday of Jesus, and while I think he got the message (and I have been pounding it into his brain ever since...) I have been deeply disturbed by it since then.

A little background here might be necessary. Never have two parents been so deliberate as Trace and I in trying to leave Santa and American commercialism out of Christmas. We just last year got our first tree, and that was only because Remy seemed so excited to have one.  We do give gifts, but not to excess, and really try to emphasize that it's the giving that really makes the day. That is how we honor the birth of the Messiah. I didn't grow up believing in Santa, and once we became parents it just felt like lying, and we weren't willing to do that to our kids. When Remy has asked about Santa, upon seeing him in malls or movies, we just tell him that it's all pretend. He's just a man dressed up in a suit... some people like to pretend that he comes to their house... etc.  Now we don't want to have the kid who ruins it for everyone, but at the same time it isn't for us.

So after what I shall call 'the incident' in the car, my immediate reaction was to email my mom about what a failure I'd been. My own son thinks Santa is coming!  And she quickly reminded me that it's not my failure, but rather further proof that we live in this broken world among people who just haven't seen Him yet. I get so tired of this world sneaking into my home... is that selfish?

In the days since, I have found moments ripe with possibility to talk to Remy about ways we can celebrate Jesus' birthday. My boy does love a good birthday party! He decided that we need to take cupcakes down to the 'hungry guys' (we help feed the homeless guys downtown sometimes). He thought they might like party hats too, an idea that I thought might not fly so well, so I think I successfully talked him out of that.

And on the topic of Santa, why does it seem that I am the only person who thinks it's a bit creepy? If I were to tell you that some huge man in red velvet knows where you live and watches you all year long to see what you are doing. Then one night he comes and sneaks into your home, eats your cookies and milk, and leaves you gifts. Wouldn't you call the FBI or something!? I can't believe more children aren't terrified and traumatized!

Now I'd like to hear from you. How do you blend tradition and festivities without going overboard? How do you remain Christ-centered among a world of reindeer and presents?

"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."
Luke 2:11


  1. My husband and I just had the opposite problem, my 11-year-old son found out from another adult that there is no santa clause. I had dreaded that day ever since and it actually took a few hours to talk my son down from his tears. He felt like he'd been betrayed, so I understand your resistance to bringing Santa clause into your home and into your son's life. My son goes to Catholic School and has been taught never to lie so this was rather a shock for him.

    We explained that Santa IS real. He is real in the hearts of all Christians and that he was once a real living man who was so good and giving that he was made a saint. When we pretend that there is a santa with him it was just a way of keeping the giving heart alive that Saint Nicholas worked so heard to bring.

    The problem is, Santa or St. Nick is already there in your son's life because of the world that surrounds us. Perhaps if you do from the beginning what my husband and I did when we had to explain to my son about the santa "Myth" the other day, just maybe the santa myth won't be as bad as for your son as well.


  2. I grew up in a VERY catholic household - I mean how could it be avoided with my mom being an ex nun and my dad being an ex brother! But when it came to Christmas, we had an equal amount of the religious side and the Santa side. My parents made the Santa side an extension of the celebration of Christ's birthday - by giving gifts, we were following in the giving spirit of the day. Santa was a great big giver and helped in the celebration. That is how it continues with my kids. I too wondered about the lying part of it, but as soon as my two older kids asked me if Santa was real, I said that the idea of Santa is real, but I was honest in telling them that there was no big guy actually coming down the chimney - I told them just as we pretend and use our imagination, that is what Santa is as well - a fun pretend idea that helps teach us about giving and receiving from someone we've never met.

  3. We taught our children to believe in the spirit of, kind, compassionate etc. and how those are the same attributes that God has and why He gave us His son.
    Keep praying for God's wisdom...He always comes through!


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