Friday, December 4, 2009

Santa and Christmas

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I have seen the topic of Santa come up in the various groups I am in online. The question is basically "Do you do Santa at your house?" Answers vary. Some are yes. Some are no. Some are somewhere in between.

Some reasons parents have for not wanting to do Santa are that they don't want to lie to their children and they want to focus on the purpose of the holiday--being the birth of Jesus Christ. Some parents worry that if they tell their children Santa is real, this will someday shake faith in Jesus Christ.

I definitely see the point of these reasons, but we have always done Santa at our house. I haven't ever thought it would cause problems for my kids, but I haven't ever been able to pinpoint why I felt okay about doing Santa. I just do :)

During a recent group conversation, Anne-Marie Ezzo sent me an article Gary Ezzo (author of the -wise series) wrote years ago on the topic. I thought it was a great article. Here it is:

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What Should I Tell My Children About Santa Claus?
By Gary Ezzo

Thirty years ago, questions about Santa Claus’s effect on your children were not an issue. However, in a society that does little to protect the real meaning of Christmas, these questions become pertinent.

As we move closer to the holiday season, the debate about the legitimacy of Santa Claus heats up in the Christian community. The debate centers on two issues. The first is the charge that parents who propagate the fantasy of Santa Claus cause their children to think of Jesus as a fantasy. As a result, the true meaning of Christmas and the message of the Bible are undermined.

Such confusion occurs most often in families that make the Lord real to their children only twice a year— at Easter and Christmas. However, if you teach your children abut the reality of Jesus throughout the year, you will not have to worry about their being confused over the meaning of Christmas. As you continue that practice, you will help your children separate reality from fantasy. Santa Claus will become just another character to them like those found in Mother Goose, Dr. Seuss, and Sesame Street.

A second question raised from this debate is also legitimate: When a parent tells his child there is a Santa Claus, isn’t that a lie? Of course it is, if your child asked you a direct question about the reality of Santa.

HOW CAN I TELL MY CHILDREN THE TRUTH ABOUT SANTA WITHOUT
DESTROYING THEIR FUN AT CHRISTMAS?

It is important to preserve the innocence of your child’s adventure in fantasy, but you must do so without compromising the truth. Here are some responses you may want to consider when your child asks you about the reality of Santa.

You can tell him abut the historical Saint Nicholas. He was a church bishop approximately 400 years after the birth of Christ, and was famous for his generous spirit. Explain to him that the Christmas tradition of Santa Claus is based on his life. Then tell him that instead of a real Saint Nicholas, Mommy and Daddy pretend to be Saint Nicholas and leave gifts under the tree each Christmas season.

Another response you might consider is to ask your child some questions about Santa Claus. Be sue to be sensitive to their response when you do so. For example, you might ask, “Do you think there are reindeer who know how to fly?” “Do you believe Santa can really fit through our chimney?” And if you don’t have a chimney, you can ask, “How do you suppose Santa gets in our house?” One question you should ask is, “Do you think Santa brings toys to you or do you think Mommy and Daddy are the ones who put gifts under the tree?”

By answering your child’s question with a question, you can lead him to the right answer in a way that won’t crush his spirit. That’s one way you can preserve your child’s fantasy world while at the same time providing him with accurate information. It will ultimately cause him to understand and accept that Santa Claus is not real. Yet he will also be able to have fun pretending that he is real.

When our children were at the age where fantasy was great fun for them, Santa Claus was just one of many gift-givers in our household. Some of the others included our cat Mittens, our dog Pooch, our pig Wilbur, and Henrietta the hen and her four sisters. Of course our girls understood that Mommy and Daddy were the ones who actually provided the gifts. In our family the traditional Santa Claus ranked no higher than our feather and furry friends from the barn. Our children knew that and had a good time with all of them.

What you tell your children about Santa Claus is up to you. But whatever you decide, remember that Christ is the King— both of Christmas and every day. That is the most important message you can get across to them.

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I wanted to draw out a point I thought was excellent in this article. I liked the point about teaching about Christ year round, not just at Christmas and Easter. These holidays have great opportunity to focus on Christ, but you don't want these holidays to be the only time of year you teach about Him (assuming you want to :) ). Regular prayer, lessons, and scriptures at home throughout the year will teach your child who He is.

At Christmas, we have lots of activities that help focus our family on both Christ and giving at Christmas.
  • We choose two families to secretly do service for.
  • This year, we started the Straw Bed For Jesus, which the kids love. They are always seeking out service opportunities.
  • We like to sing children's hymns throughout the year, and at Christmas, I choose hymns about Christmas. Singing these songs brings up lots of questions, and the children are always eager to hear the answer because they asked about it!
  • Reading the Christmas story (you know, the real Christmas story). We do it from the scriptures as well as from children Bible stories.
  • Reading other Christmas stories. We read other Christmas stories that illustrate a giving heart at Christmas time.
These are just a few examples of things you can do.
What you ultimately decide to do with your family about Santa is up to you. I am not writing this in an effort to make you do one thing or another. But I thought I would post this article and ideas for helping make the Christmas season more meaningful for your children in case you do want to have Santa, but also want focus to be on Jesus Christ.
Without debating or preaching, please feel free to share what you and your family do at Christmas time, with or without Santa :)
Merry Christmas!

13 comments:

Megan Lubbers said...

We don't plan on doing Santa. We plan to just tell our kids that Christmas is about Jesus if they ever ask about Santa. This is what some friends of ours did and they have teenagers now and it's never been an issue.
I have thought about celebrating St. Nick and talking about the history of St. Nick and celebrating that day by giving the way he did. We would just fill stockings on that day. I also plan to make a birthday cake on Christmas when our kids can understand what's going on, and celebrate Jesus' birthday by giving gifts to other people. We will take that opportunity to talk about the scripture where Jesus says what we do to others is what we do to him. We exchange ornaments on Christmas as a family.

Paulina said...

Thanks for posting! This is helpful as it is something we have been praying about.

Allie said...

Val, this is really helpful! Thanks. Would you share some of the stuff you do as a family besides the children's hymns to teach Christ throughout the year?

Jamie said...

We will not be doing Santa. We stole an idea from a friend of ours. We will give Tre one gift each weekend in December, with the last (4th) gift coming on Christmas morning. This gives us 4 opportunities to talk about Jesus and why we celebrate Christmas. This also takes a lot of the focus off of gifts, since it's not just a big pile of presents on Christmas morning.

In general, we're not really big on Christmas presents (or any other obligatory presents). We want to teach Tre that you can give people presents to show how much you love and care about them, but not just because society says this is a good day to give someone a present.

Jessica said...

This is something my husband and I debated before Avery was born and we concluded that we would not do the traditional Santa in our home. We will not deprive our daughter of the FANTASY of Santa (meaning allowing her to watch the fun Christmas movies and songs containing reference to Santa, etc.) but we will in no way teach that Santa is real or that he gives our daughter anything. Santa is mainly taken from Saint Nicholas, which was first celebrated on the eve of The Feast of Saint Nicholas, December 5th.

I do not necessiarly have a problem with the fantasy of Santa, I have an issue with Christ sharing the celebration of his birth with a fictional fat guy and his side-kick reindeer. Hope that isn't too blunt ;).

There are times when I miss not doing the traditional Santa, my husband and I both had it. And, don't worry y'all, our daughter will be instructed to say that "Santa does not come to my house" when proded by fellow classmates, etc. She will not ruin it for them.

As to the things we do, this year we started doing a Jesee Tree which is so much fun! The term "Jesse Tree" comes from Isaiah 11:1. Basically it focuses upon the "story" of God in the OT looking foward to the birth of Christ. Each night we read a passage of Scripture and color an ornament and put it on our tree. Advent is also fun. We also do Operation Christmas Child, something we started this year.

the Shipe's said...

thanks so much for posting this. My husband and I were thinking about this. We are going to enjoy the fantasy of Santa. I like the way he pointed out that teaching children about Jesus all year will prevent them from being confused.

We do plan to be open about it when they ask.

One good idea someone thought of that I plan to do. Christmas morning when everyone wakes up, we'll celebrate Jesus' birth by blowing out a candle on a coffee cake (or cinnamon roll) & talking about Jesus' birth. Then it's stocking & present time.

Plowmanators said...

Allie, that is a great idea. I will do a post on it!

Plowmanators said...

Thanks everyone for sharing your plans!

mtmommy said...

Thanks for this post! We are not planning on doing Santa as the giver of gifts with our 3yr old. We believe that, "every good and perfect gift comes from the Father," including what He gives us as parents so we can give to our children.
Our issue this year with Santa is trying to figure out what to have our child say to other children who "do Santa." It's hard because we don't want to spoil it for them, but feel like we end up asking our kid to lie in order to protect "Santa." Our relatives kids ask, "what is Santa bringing you?" My child points to a big box and gives an answer-which satisfies no one- because if the box is sitting there on Christmas Eve, then Santa didn't bring it. It's creating more controversy between the adults than the children- I feel like I'm debating some "tenet of the Faith."
Any thoughts on the ethical issues here would be appreciated. I feel like the relatives stance of believing in Santa is taking precedent over our wishes to not do Santa. And, we have issues with all the lying going on. Help!

Plowmanators said...

I think you bring up some excellent points. I have wondered why some parents have problems lying to their children about Santa, yet teach them to be decietful to other kids--yes, lie. A child is not going to be skilled in the art of dodging, chaning the subject, and keeping things free from lies when pressed by other children. At least I hope not ;) I could also see the "Santa doesn't come to our house" being hard for some kids because there will be those who then decide that the child is naughty and that is why Santa doesn't come.

It isn't an easy situation. I think people have the right to not do Santa if they don't want to, but I also think they then have the responsibility to figure out how to make that work without compromising the right of other families to do Santa.

So far as adults go, I think they need to just get over it :) Tell them you aren't doing Santa, so don't ask what Santa is bringing. They can ask what the child want for Christmas just as easily as they can ask what the child want Santa to bring for Christmas.

Hopefully your children won't be faced with other children asking about Santa until he/she is old enough to deal with it. I would be honest with your children about why you don't do it and yet why you want to be respectful of those who do.

Jessica said...

mtmommy,

I agree with Valerie assessment regarding the adults, they need to "get over it!"

Like you, I will not instruct my child to lie to cover up the "fantasy" of Santa. At this point, while we have had 22 months to think about this, we are going with "Santa does not come to my house." We have encountered the "what did Santa bring you" by complete strangers at the grocery store and acquantinces. Our response is generally "Yes, Mommy and Daddy got me a lot for Christmas!"

While I respect those who do Santa, and I understand the fun of it (let's be honest, it is fun for most of us), I am not sure I sense the same respect for those of us who leave Santa out of the celebration of Christ's birth. While I will not encourage my daughter to walk up to a 2nd grader and say "Santa bringing you presents is a lie!," I will also not tolerate my child being made to feel somewhat inferior, or being harassed, made fun of, etc. because she knows the truth.

I believe that there is a two-way street in regards to respecting each families decision in how they celebrate Christmas, Santa or no Santa. It is not the sole responsibility of those who do not do Santa to protect those that do, nor vice versa.

I must wonder why a fictional, fat guy and his sidekick reindeer cause such an absolute fuss. Why is there such a need to protect his fantasy? Do we protect the fantasy of Cinderella and Mickey Mouse the same? I think not. Why is there a difference?

As I recall the article attached above, I have an additional thought. It was mentioned that a primary reason for not doing Santa was to not confuse a child about the real reason for Christmas, and was then alluded that would be possible because a child would not be taught about Christ year-round. I must disagree. The familes I know, who do not do Santa, teach their kids about Christ daily. Many of us who do not do Santa do so out of religious convictions, a conviction I would find it hard for a person to have that does not give Christ a prominent role in their family daily.

In any event, Christmas is about CHRIST! If Santa comes at the same time, that is each families personal decision. Like I had said before, at times I miss not doing Santa, but know that is not the right thing for our family.

Stepping down...ha!

Jessica

Jessica said...

Must elaborate a moment. After reading my last comment, I wanted to mention that I know many Christians, who are committed to The Lord and teach their kids about Christ, who do Santa. The majority of parents in our church have chosen to do Santa. Wanted to clarify that before anyone had hurt feelings.

Murphy said...

Thank you for the article!

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