Christmas… The time of year to spend time with loved ones, give gifts, and… decide what you’re going to do about Santa. If you’re a young parent, you know the situation… What are you going to encourage you children to believe about Jolly Old Saint Nicholas? If you’re a Christian parent who wants the focus of the season to be on the birth of Jesus, that makes it even trickier. Are you going to go all out and do the Santa thing unabashedly? Are you going to keep Santa from your house and simply focus on the true meaning of Christmas? While I respect both of those paths, I believe there’s a third option… A more middle ground approach.
What Forms This Middle Ground Approach?
The Importance of Honesty
One of my biggest rules in parenting is that I do not lie to my children. I feel passionately that it is important that my boys can believe that everything they hear from me is truth. Sure, I word some things in a way that little minds can understand or leave key pieces of information out (I mean, my four year old recently asked me how I got a baby in my belly. I DEFINITELY left a few key pieces of information out of that conversation) but the heart of what I say to my boys is truth.
Because of this belief, I cannot lie to my children about Santa Claus. I cannot tell them that he is real or encourage them to believe that he is real without feeling as though I am breaking one of my biggest rules.
The Importance of Religious Holidays
I often see Santa stealing the spotlight from the birth of Jesus. Santa gets all the celebration and glory and Jesus can be an afterthought or something boring that kids have to think about. Nate and I believe that religious holidays are important and sacred and we want our kids to understand and find joy in them. We don’t want Jesus to be an obligation while Santa is the real prize.
The Importance of Keeping Santa and Jesus Separate
“He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sake!” Sound familiar? That sounds a lot like how some people view God. He’s the big guy in the sky watching down making sure we’re not messing up. If we do mess up we’re going to pay for it. It’s heartbreaking and wrong to think that some people view God that way. That is not the gospel. The true gospel is full of Love and Grace. It’s about Jesus coming to earth in order to lay down his life in payment for the things we did wrong. It’s about God seeing us through the sacrifice of Jesus and viewing us as perfect.
On top of that, I’ve heard many stories from friends who believed in Santa where, when they found out Santa wasn’t real, they also began questioning if Jesus were real. If their parents were lying to them about one, maybe they were lying to them about the other. I never want my kids to struggle with a moralistic gospel or questioning the reality of Jesus!
So What Do We Do?
After all those points, I’m sure it’s surprising that Santa is still a part of our Christmas traditions. You see, traditions are FUN! I absolutely adore Christmas traditions and want all the joys of the holiday for my kids. We watch Santa movies, visit Santa and tell him what we want for Christmas, read Santa books, and so much more!
The difference, though, is that I never tell my boys that Santa is real. In fact, we openly talk about how Santa is a fun pretend game. Just like we’d visit Mickey Mouse at Disneyland, we can visit Santa. Just like we watch movies about super heroes, we watch Santa movies. We read fun Santa books but we also read books about the real Saint Nicholas, how he loved Jesus, and the origins of the fun Santa “game.” We get to enjoy the Santa parts of the holiday while remembering that it’s Jesus who is real.
What about other kids?
One of my struggles with this approach to Santa is that I don’t want my kids to ruin Santa for other kids. I totally respect parents that do the whole Santa thing and would hate to have my boys be the ones to break the news. My siblings who have kids do Santa with their kids and I’ve already apologized in advance if my boys ruin it. I try to talk to my boys about how other kids like believing that Santa is real so we don’t talk about how he’s just a game and so far it’s working but, just like I respect parents who do Santa with their kids, I hope those parents respect that we don’t do it all out and give grace for whatever my boys may say.
It’s fun for me to be able to have real conversations with Caleb about things. He’ll ask me things like “Why do those Santas look different” or “Is the real Santa (Saint Nicholas) in Heaven with Jesus?” and we get to talk through those questions. It’s what works for us.
What does your family do about Santa?
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