The Santa Claus Conundrum (Or, Christian Attitudes Toward Santa Claus

Many Christians understandably get confused when they are forced to deal with Santa Claus.  If we include getting presents from Santa Claus in our observance Christmas of the Christmas holiday, are we in essence lying to our children?  How can we observe a holiday based on the birth of Christ, and incorporate a lie in the observance?  Does paying so much attention to Santa Claus take away from Christ?

Well, I don’t really think it is all that complicated.  I know several Christians who simply ‘do not do’ Santa Claus.  I think this is a shame.  I encourage my child to have a good imagination, and I think watching her pretend is a great thing, and a source of entertainment for me as well as her.  Santa Claus teaches children about giving and that being good is often rewarded (and being bad is punished).  These are excellent life lessons for a small child.

The problem seems to revolve mostly around lying to our children.  I personally do not have any problems helping my child keep up the Santa Claus façade.  As long as she wants to believe in him, I will encourage her to do so.  However, I know the day will come when she will ask me straight-up if he is real, and I will tell her the truth.  I will also remind her how much she has enjoyed pretending that there is a Santa Claus, and how she should not ruin the same feeling for other kids who still believe he is real.

I feel sorry for the parents that do not let their children believe in Santa Claus, and likewise, I feel sorry for their children who miss out on part of their childhood.  They are robbing their kids of the chance to take part in a great Western tradition, and much of the wonder that comes with being a child at Christmas.  Often, these children grow up and become embittered by the fact that they did not get to participate in the fun that their friends had.  These are not good feelings for a teenager who is facing other temptations such as sex and drugs from their friends.  I do not want my child left with the feeling that, “Maybe, my parents just don’t want me to have fun.”

On the other hand, I once knew a girl (a twenty something) who said that because her parents lied to her about Santa Claus, she could not trust them.  I have to say that this was one of the most offensive examples of an ingrate that I have ever seen.  So, the fact that her parents got her all of those gifts, and tried so hard to give her a fun childhood meant nothing to her.  In the end, I think she was just looking for a reason to blame her parents for all of her problems, which she did.

The question about whether Santa Claus detracts from Christ at Christmas is a touchier subject.  It is true that Santa Claus is a big part of the secularization of Christmas, but that just means that Christian parents have to do their job, and make sure that their children do know ‘the reason for the season.’

About twenty years ago, Amy Grant’s music was becoming so popular that it was crossing over from the Christian music stations to the pop music stations.  At the time, Christian stations found themselves in a conundrum.  Her music could be interpreted to be either about God, or maybe a friend or boyfriend depending on how you applied the lyrics.  As a result, many Christian music stations found the need to determine if they were still going to play her music or not.  In the end, most played the music because they correctly argued that having young people listen to the music might actually draw them to Christianity.  The same argument works for Santa Claus.  If you prefer, think of Santa Claus as a gateway drug that draws the world to ask, “Why are we celebrating this holiday, anyway?”  As Bart Simpson once said, “Christmas is the time of year when people of all religions come together to worship Christ.”

It is also helpful to remember that the Santa Claus legend is based on Saint Nicholas of Myra who was by all accounts a Christian that anyone would do well to emulate in his life.

3 Responses

  1. As a professional interpreter of the Old Elf, I have always felt that this world needs as many displays of love, joy, peace, and generosity as possible. Santa has been a way for me to share my love of and for life.
    Santa, no matter how old you are, always is found in the warm spot of our hearts. Believing in the man in the suit doesn’t matter; believing in the symbol Santa represents does.
    Santa Randy

  2. Thanks Santa!

  3. My wife and I have a 2 year old and are Christians, and we have been developing our thoughts on what to do with Christmas in general, including the whole Santa thing. In the 2 Christmases we have now had with a child in tow, we have not yet done anything along the lines of Santa. I suppose our reasoning has become:

    1. Gift giving/getting is a fine thing, and is a part of our celebration, but not the point. There’s a line between it being a part of it in a child’s mind and the entire point in their heart, and I would hope that Christmas and Advent could become something other than anticipation of gifts. Santa/Christmas seem to have such an easy way of becoming more about getting stuff, and the other merits of doing the Santa thing can easily be included without him.

    2. Yeah… I really don’t care to deceive my kid… not that it’s this horrible thing necessarily, but in the end it doesn’t help me as I have tossed this around in my mind.

    3. With our faith being such that we worship a God who, in spite of our problems, loved us to the point that He gave his only Son to take all our sins upon Himself and die as payment so we could be saved through nothing other than His grace, it’s kind of weird to mix that message with an apparently omniscient character who keeps track of all the little “Naughties” and “Nices” all year, which in the end, become the sole measure of the result. On one hand, God’s love covers the fact you can’t “win” your way to salvation, and on the other, you have to try and be as “good for goodness’ sake” as you can be all year. Wouldn’t that only serve to send a mixed message?

    4. We just finished the most amazingly fun, family-filled, loving Christmas I have had in my life. My daughter smiled and laughed and got/gave a couple of really awesome presents and enjoyed being with her loved ones and all of it was without Santa even coming up, so it’s clear that this can be great without it.

    So I think it’s becoming the sort of thing where Santa is maybe a nice mascot for Christmas… but it’s just evidently not working it’s way into our family’s traditions. Maybe only having a 2 yr old means she’s not old enough to where we have seen the value in it yet. I suppose I’ll see how it goes next year, but as for 2008, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

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