I have no idea what to do about Santa Claus, the man with more origin stories than Batman, the saint who outshines the savior of the universe on his own birthday.
I never really thought that much about Santa Claus before I had kids. He was jolly, he had some warm and fuzzy Coke commercials, and he seemed like he could help the good people at the Salvation Army raise some money. But when my kids first asked, “Dad, is Santa real?” I just stood there with my mouth open and my eyes wide. I was like a first-time criminal unsure how to deal with a seasoned interrogator.
A couple of months back, I wrote a passionate defense about why I celebrate Halloween with my kids. But as a Christian, my feelings about Santa are more complex.
Reasons for letting my kids believe in Santa
1. Santa is another way to make Christmas special.
Few things are more adorable than seeing my daughters get excited about Santa. They wave to him at the mall. They make milk and cookies for him. Grandma loves the pictures of the kids dressed in cute Christmas outfits sitting on Santa’s lap. It’s nearly impossible to get your kids to sleep with all the adrenaline of Christmas Eve, but tell them Santa won’t come until you’re in bed and my kids are asleep faster than you can say Buddy The Elf.
2. Santa teaches them about the power of belief.
As person of faith, I have to stretch my imagination to wrap my mind around the mystery of God. Believing God is living inside me is more of a stretch of the mind than thinking someone can deliver presents all around world in 24 hours. Thinking about Santa is good way for my kids to practice understanding that which they can’t see.
3. Santa helps them fit in.
This is probably my worst reason, but it is one of main reasons I allow my kids to believe in Santa. I know it’s okay for my kids to not fit in all of the time, but they already have enough strikes against them. Stennetts lack skills in athletic department and we have an unhealthy love for sci-fi. I don’t want my kids to also wander around the playground crushing other kids dreams by proclaiming Santa isn’t real.
4. Santa lets me know what they want for Christmas.
This year, we had our kids write letters to Santa. We asked them for weeks what they wanted for Christmas, but some of the items they asked Santa for were a complete surprise. Were they willing to ask for him for stuff they wouldn’t ask us for? Maybe they were just trying to milk the system. I’m not exactly sure, and I don’t want to spoil my kids, but I remember as kid there was something special about getting exactly what I wanted for Christmas.
Reasons against letting my kids believe in Santa
1. I have to lie to my kids.
Lying to my kids is easily the number one reason I feel conflicted about Santa. And so much of Christmas is about lying to your kids. Parents wake up every morning pretending to be amazed what The Elf On The Shelf did last night. And we create an almost decade-long tangled web as we lie to our kids year after year about Santa Claus. The better their detective skills get — Dad, is that the real Santa at the mall? — the more elaborate our lies become: He just works for a network of other Santas that reports to the real one at the North Pole.
It seems twisted to make my kids go through a Keyser Söze moment when they realize Santa’s not real. It could call everything else I’ve taught them into question: Are vegetables actually bad for you? Is it actually okay to run with scissors?
2. Santa gets all the credit.
There is a classic Seinfeld episode where George gets upset that his girlfriend Julie gets credit for bringing a big salad that he actually bought for Elaine. That’s how I feel about Santa Claus. We get my daughter exactly what she wants for Christmas, and Santa gets the credit.
This year, we told my oldest daughter that money is a little tight so we’re going to have to be very selective about what we ask for. She said, “That’s why I asked Santa for a Leap Pad 2. Because I knew we couldn’t afford it.”
3. Santa can turn God into a fairy tale.
In my family, Santa isn’t the centerpiece of Christmas. My kids know it’s a time where we remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus. We do a reading from the storybook Bible every night.
I talked before about the good believing in Santa can bring, but many of my Christian friends don’t look at this way. They think teaching about Santa can damage your child when it comes to believing in God. It’s not a stretch to see why. We teach our kids to believe there is a bearded man in the sky who knows you by name and cares about how you act.
I think that’s why it’s so important to be careful about how I talk to my kids about Santa Claus. But I’m just never sure what to say. This year, I’ve decided to say nothing at all.
This morning, my daughter asked, “Dad, how does Santa get in our house when we don’t have a chimney?”
I was searching for the words when I decided I didn’t need to answer. I asked, “How do you think he comes in?” She gave me an elaborate answer, and I said, “That’s a very good theory.” It was a good theory. I didn’t lie to her — I just gave her room to discover the answers on her own.