The Santa Debate

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Growing up, I believed in Santa. In fact, I don’t know of another childhood friend that didn’t. Santa was real. Santa was fun. Santa was good.

Santa had to have been my parents dream during the month of December… just the mere threat of Santa putting you on the naughty list straightened up any bad behavior that was currently being put on display. Not to mention the cookies and milk that had to be eaten by them on Christmas eve.

Even with all of the Santa commotion… as a kid,  I still knew that Christmas was about Jesus. I understood the Christmas story just about as much as I understood the North Pole. (Which was well to quite well)

I had never questioned whether or not I would do the “Santa” thing with my future children. It is just assumed that you will. It’s a part of childhood, right?

Today, I read a post on Stuff Christians Like (Love that blog!) that really got me thinking. How does Santa fit in when you are trying to focus on Jesus at Christmas time? Is it possible to have both?

16 {Yes. This is a real ornament on my tree.}

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I believed in Santa until about 3rd grade (or 8 years old)… then I had too many questions. In fact, I wrote 100 Questions to Disprove Santa and left it next to the milk and cookies. 8-year old me was going to get to the bottom of this.

Years of skepticism had been building questions like… why soot was never transferred to the carpet by Santa’s boots… or why Santa’s handwriting looked eerily similar to my mom’s… and then the next year like my dad’s… or how a 250 lb man could fit down the chimney… or how reindeers were able to get any lift. Surely if he was real, he could explain his way through my 100 questions.

Frankly, my mom didn’t have that kind of time and admitted to me that she was indeed Santa. I didn’t really feel lied to. I wasn’t bitter. I felt like I was a smartypants that cracked the case against Santa. I solved the mystery; I had it ALL figured out.

With that being said, finding out Santa was fake never made me question my belief in Jesus or the Christmas story. Santa was magical. Jesus was miraculous. Even as a child, I knew not to confuse the two.

But, as an adult, I am beginning to debate myself. Is Santa harmful to children? As a child I would have said NO:

I enjoyed the magical story of elves and flying reindeers and looking for Santa’s sleigh in the night sky on Christmas eve. I loved the anticipation of going to bed and waiting up as long as I could to see if I would hear hooves on the roof… knowing that if I did, I couldn’t get out of my bed or I wouldn’t get presents. And the giddiness of Christmas morning… running to see what Santa left you… to see his note… to see the bite he took out of the cookies… to examine any boot prints that might have been left in the carpet.

As a child, I also enjoyed the idea that Care Bears could live in cumulus clouds. Or Fraggles underground. Or a Muppet world that could coexist with the human world like in all of the Muppet Movies. What child doesn’t enjoy the fantasyland of fairy tales? Our imaginations are fed through make believe… the more far-out and unbelievable the tale… the more we loved it.

Fast forward 20 something years… If I were to answer the same question: Is Santa harmful to children?

I could argue yes.. Or possibly, at least.

As we grow older we lose imagination and gain rational, logical and critical thinking… which is completely necessary. But we must admit, that we no longer think like children. We see Santa as a lie. A distraction from the real meaning of Christmas. We are betraying the trust of our children.

And I agree. Mostly.

But at the same time… I am as giddy as a schoolgirl when Christmas decorations come out. Nativity scenes, Christmas lights, Christmas Trees… garlands, candy canes, cookies, treats, snow, Christmas cards… all of it. I love watching children lose their marbles at the sight of Santa at the mall or a parade. Why? Because I re-live the “magic” of Christmas through them. I momentarily recall the excitement I felt as only a child could.

If you choose no Santa… can you still choose Christmas trees, stockings and gifts? Can you still watch Christmas movies? Sing carols? Where does the line get drawn?

I never thought I would ever have this debate… and, thankfully, I still have some time to think it through before I have children of my own…

What do you guys think? Can Christmas magic and the Christmas miracle coexist? Can you celebrate both with out discrediting the importance of the birth of Jesus?

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Or, perhaps an easier answer is  incorporate the story of the early Christian saint… St. Nicholas (who the Santa-model actually came from)… and explain that Santa is a representation of  St. Nicholas’s secret gift-giving and faithful service of giving to the poor. Which is true. And factual. And would help the adult me justify perpetuating the real “Santa” and not the exploitation of “Santa” through greed and commercialism during Christmas time.

Interesting how things change over time and how society distorts the truth: Time line of St. Nicholas.

I have to share with you an article that I think closes the debate for me…

Slappy Holiday by Gene Edward Veith

“Santa Claus had his origins in St. Nicholas, the fourth-century bishop of Myra in present-day Turkey. Known for his generosity and his love of children, Nicholas is said to have saved a poor family’s daughters from slavery by tossing into their window enough gold for a rich dowry, a present that landed in some shoes or, in some accounts, stockings that were hung up to dry. Thus arose the custom of hanging up stockings for St. Nicholas to fill. And somehow he transmogrified into Santa Claus, who has become for many people the secular Christmas alternative to Jesus Christ.

But there is more to the story of Nicholas of Myra. He was also a delegate to the Council of Nicea in a.d. 325, which battled the heretics who denied the deity of Christ. He was thus one of the authors of the Nicene Creed, which affirms that Jesus Christ is both true God and true man. And unlike his later manifestation, Nicholas was particularly zealous in standing up for Christ. During the Council of Nicea, jolly old St. Nicholas got so fed up with Arius, who taught that Jesus was just a man, that he walked up and slapped him! That unbishoplike behavior got him in trouble. The council almost stripped him of his office, but Nicholas said he was sorry, so he was forgiven.

The point is, the original Santa Claus was someone who flew off the handle when he heard someone minimizing Christ. Perhaps we can battle our culture’s increasingly Christ-less Christmas by enlisting Santa in his original cause. The poor girls’ stockings have become part of our Christmas imagery. So should the St. Nicholas slap. Read More

Source: WORLD Magazine, Vol. 20 No. 50 – 24 December 2005

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Kind of makes you look at “Santa” a little differently…

I’d love to hear your thoughts… :)

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  • http://www.mrsyellowhat.blogspot.com Tara G.

    My family did Santa when we were children; my husband’s didn’t. While I don’t think that I was harmed in any way by Santa, I don’t know that Jesus was emphasized as he could have been (and all year round for that matter- if Christ would have been the source for my parents’ daily decisions and lived out, it would’ve been huge to us kids). We don’t celebrate Santa with our children, and yet the season remains magical, miraculous and loads of fun (we have stockings, they watch Charlie Brown, etc.!)! We have many fun traditions which include our annual “Gingerbread Day.” We do a lot of giving. Whatever you decide to do, I believe the most important thing is to live your faith daily, and then Santa or no Santa will fit in either way in the appropriate way and amount. Check out Noel Piper’s Treasuring God in Our Traditions- an easy read and it has a lot of great ideas and options.

  • http://www.mrsyellowhat.blogspot.com Tara G.

    My family did Santa when we were children; my husband’s didn’t. While I don’t think that I was harmed in any way by Santa, I don’t know that Jesus was emphasized as he could have been (and all year round for that matter- if Christ would have been the source for my parents’ daily decisions and lived out, it would’ve been huge to us kids). We don’t celebrate Santa with our children, and yet the season remains magical, miraculous and loads of fun (we have stockings, they watch Charlie Brown, etc.!)! We have many fun traditions which include our annual “Gingerbread Day.” We do a lot of giving. Whatever you decide to do, I believe the most important thing is to live your faith daily, and then Santa or no Santa will fit in either way in the appropriate way and amount. Check out Noel Piper’s Treasuring God in Our Traditions- an easy read and it has a lot of great ideas and options.

  • http://www.mrsyellowhat.blogspot.com Tara G.

    P.S. I’m going to let this hang on out there for better or worse- one thing I do not like is that elf on the shelf. For one, I think it’s creepy. And secondly, for us, it goes against a lot of the biblical training we’re trying to instill into our kids about being obedient to the Lord because it pleases Him.

  • http://www.mrsyellowhat.blogspot.com Tara G.

    P.S. I’m going to let this hang on out there for better or worse- one thing I do not like is that elf on the shelf. For one, I think it’s creepy. And secondly, for us, it goes against a lot of the biblical training we’re trying to instill into our kids about being obedient to the Lord because it pleases Him.

  • http://starshinechic.blogspot.com Kim

    I personally feel that both Santa & Jesus Christ can co exist together at Christmas. I was like you as a child, I loved Santa. But in my household we knew that the true meaning of Christmas was Jesus Christ. I think the answer is “like a child”. Doesn’t Jesus want us to be like a child? Children are capable of understanding that the two (Santa & Jesus) can co exist. I think if we get rid of Santa, we are going to the extreme just like those who are not Christian go to the extreme of taking God out of everything. We need Santa. Santa is Christ like by giving to everyone no matter their color, age, religion, etc. I personally feel that Santa adds to Christ, not takes away.

  • http://starshinechic.blogspot.com Kim

    I personally feel that both Santa & Jesus Christ can co exist together at Christmas. I was like you as a child, I loved Santa. But in my household we knew that the true meaning of Christmas was Jesus Christ. I think the answer is “like a child”. Doesn’t Jesus want us to be like a child? Children are capable of understanding that the two (Santa & Jesus) can co exist. I think if we get rid of Santa, we are going to the extreme just like those who are not Christian go to the extreme of taking God out of everything. We need Santa. Santa is Christ like by giving to everyone no matter their color, age, religion, etc. I personally feel that Santa adds to Christ, not takes away.

  • http://www.number17cherrytreelane.blogspot.com No. 17 Cherry Tree Lane

    I just did a blog post on this and am learning so much about this….I would love to think that it isn’t a big deal, but It can’t be avoided…..
    Love this post!

  • http://www.number17cherrytreelane.blogspot.com No. 17 Cherry Tree Lane

    I just did a blog post on this and am learning so much about this….I would love to think that it isn’t a big deal, but It can’t be avoided…..
    Love this post!

  • http://www.theparkwife.blogspot The Park Wie

    We did Santa growing up, I am not scarred that his existence was a fairy tale. HOWEVER, we don’t do it at our house with our kids. We choose to empasize Christ’s birth and His love. Our kids only get 3 presents from us (hey, that is what Jesus got and it is His birthday). They get other presents from family and neighbors so don’t think they are deprived. Plus, I don’t want our kids over indulged and taught that things are more important than relationship.

    I think this is very important if you choose to not do the Santa thing:
    We are teaching our boys not to be rude to others and when asked what Santa would bring them, just to say, “We celebrate Jesus birthday on Christmas”. Also, I am teaching them that it is not their responsibility to set others straight and they were not to tell other children there was no Santa. We told them Santa in the mall was someone’s daddy dressed up in a costume, but the Santa game was not something our family participated in. We were not to JUDGE others, but do what God has led our family to do.

    I love Christmas and am a tradition junkie as far as making cookies for neighbors, our kid’s go caroling, special baking days, etc. Just no jolly old Saint Nick around here.

    The Park Wife

  • http://edenwild.wordpress.com Lisa C

    Hi, I just found this post by search engine. I wrote a post about this on my blog. I feel a little heated about the prospect of lying to children, even if it is just for fun. I think it’s totally possible to do the Santa thing without lying about it.

    But I can’t help wondering…what would a Christmas be like that focused entirely on Jesus Christ? Or shall we say, Jesus, family, and doing service. I would love it if Christmas could be a time of spiritual growth for my family.

  • http://edenwild.wordpress.com Lisa C

    Hi, I just found this post by search engine. I wrote a post about this on my blog. I feel a little heated about the prospect of lying to children, even if it is just for fun. I think it’s totally possible to do the Santa thing without lying about it.

    But I can’t help wondering…what would a Christmas be like that focused entirely on Jesus Christ? Or shall we say, Jesus, family, and doing service. I would love it if Christmas could be a time of spiritual growth for my family.

  • Jennie

    I love this blog! And I love the people who commented on it! I want to be your friend! ha ha :) I am having a hard time finding people who feel the same way I do about Santa. Essentially, I just believe it’s a lot of effort to lie this gigantic lie, for not much benefit. I love what “The Park Wife” said, and I echo her sentiments. My husband and I do not have kids yet, but we plan to still have all the fun and tradition of Christmas; stockings, tree, etc… but without the lying. My kids can still sing Rudolph and read Twas the Night Before Christmas – like you said in your blog, the same way you love Care Bears and Muppets. It’s not real, but it’s fun to play and imagine. I would never tell them they can’t go to Disneyland because Cinderella isn’t real, but they should know it’s just a story. Thanks so much ladies, you really blessed me today!

  • Jennie

    I love this blog! And I love the people who commented on it! I want to be your friend! ha ha :) I am having a hard time finding people who feel the same way I do about Santa. Essentially, I just believe it’s a lot of effort to lie this gigantic lie, for not much benefit. I love what “The Park Wife” said, and I echo her sentiments. My husband and I do not have kids yet, but we plan to still have all the fun and tradition of Christmas; stockings, tree, etc… but without the lying. My kids can still sing Rudolph and read Twas the Night Before Christmas – like you said in your blog, the same way you love Care Bears and Muppets. It’s not real, but it’s fun to play and imagine. I would never tell them they can’t go to Disneyland because Cinderella isn’t real, but they should know it’s just a story. Thanks so much ladies, you really blessed me today!

  • http://www.faithfamilyhomefriends.blogspot.com/ Rebecca

    I know Christmas is WAY past now but I thought I’d comment since I’m new to your blog. I grew up celebrating Christmas but my parents always told us Santa was “just pretend” like when we would play pretend and that was so easy for us to understand. And we weren’t supposed to tell other children that we knew he was just pretend so it wouldn’t spoil it for them. :) We have a 2 year old daughter & this is how we plan on raising her. Growing up, we still would sit in Santa’s lap when we were small but we always knew it was just for “fun & pretend”…I loved this and didn’t miss out I don’t feel like…so we have decided to do this with our children and I feel like it’s best for us. Alot of our friends & relatives of course, their kids believe in Santa but I do feel like it’s just a bit more than I feel comfortable with when I see how far their parents have to go with the story telling…especially when they get older and look them in the eye and ask if Santa is really real and they tell him he is, you know? So, anyway, I felt like we were raised with a happy medium and weren’t one extreme or the other and I thought I’d share that with you. :)
    .-= Rebecca´s last blog ..Happy Spring!!! =-.

  • http://www.faithfamilyhomefriends.blogspot.com/ Rebecca

    I know Christmas is WAY past now but I thought I’d comment since I’m new to your blog. I grew up celebrating Christmas but my parents always told us Santa was “just pretend” like when we would play pretend and that was so easy for us to understand. And we weren’t supposed to tell other children that we knew he was just pretend so it wouldn’t spoil it for them. :) We have a 2 year old daughter & this is how we plan on raising her. Growing up, we still would sit in Santa’s lap when we were small but we always knew it was just for “fun & pretend”…I loved this and didn’t miss out I don’t feel like…so we have decided to do this with our children and I feel like it’s best for us. Alot of our friends & relatives of course, their kids believe in Santa but I do feel like it’s just a bit more than I feel comfortable with when I see how far their parents have to go with the story telling…especially when they get older and look them in the eye and ask if Santa is really real and they tell him he is, you know? So, anyway, I felt like we were raised with a happy medium and weren’t one extreme or the other and I thought I’d share that with you. :)
    .-= Rebecca´s last blog ..Happy Spring!!! =-.

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