Dec 12 2016

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What about Santa? Here’s how we handle the Santa question

Santa is Just for Fun


I want Christmas to focus on Jesus. As a part of that, we read scripture each night with our advent activities. However, much of what we do as a family for Christmas is founded in tradition. Tradition has the capacity to bring unity and remind us of significant truths. (We don’t always benefit from it, but the potential for an enriching experience for our family is available.)

I don’t give gifts to friends, neighbors, and family because of Jesus’ birthday. I’m not modeling the reason to give after the wise men. Not that there needs to be a special holiday to be generous to others, but Christmas has a custom of gift giving. It’s fun to give gifts. It’s loving too.

I enjoy other Christmas traditions too. I have no profound reason for it, but I find joy in each one. Here are a few:

  • The Christmas tree (We decorate the day after Thanksgiving)
  • The colors red, green, and white
  • Christmas cookies (sugar and gingerbread)

While each of those elements can be symbolically used to represent beautiful, Biblical concepts, my reasons for them find their roots in tradition.

Do we talk about the symbolism? Yes.

Can the symbolism be enriching? Sure.

What’s the reason? Tradition.

Our Santa Tradition: Truth plus fun

I grew up with Santa at Christmas. When we had children, we decided to teach our children about the historical Santa as well as enjoy the poem. We told them that St. Nicholas was a real person in history known for his generosity and loving acts in Jesus’ name. (This site provides some interesting stories about St. Nicholas’ life.) The Santa in the pictures and at the mall came from the poem (and advertising). He is not truly alive today, nor is he delivering presents to all good children. He is “just for fun.”

Children love fantasy and imagination. We have chosen to keep imagination and historical side-by-side. It works for us…mostly. You’ll have to come back next week for a better understanding of what “mostly” means.

Santa Culture

Another reason we keep the tension of both is because Santa is part of our culture. Not everyone in our family believes as we do, and Santa is part of their tradition.

At this time of year, loads of cashiers excitedly talk to children about Santa. In teaching my kids about Santa, I have given them helpful tools to respond well to the pictures and (and very well meaning) Santa evangelists they encounter. Teaching my children helps them to hang this cultural hat on a solid hook. Cultural literacy has value. I empower my children by helping them better understand the world around them.

Someone asked my then three-year-old girl if she knew who Santa was. She said, “Yes, he’s a man.” Upon further questioning about him, I learned that she didn’t have much more to say. We did talked about St. Nicholas that year (although she watched the VeggieTales St. Nicholas movie). You don’t know what your child knows or understands unless you ask. Don’t assume you know. (Ask open-ended questions.)

We address Santa (as we hope to do with all issues of life) in a natural, age-approrite level as the subject comes up or when we believe it is important to address. At three, a child doesn’t fully understand all that comes with celebrating Jesus’ birthday either. Learning and maturing come with good teaching, mentoring, and time.

Shhh! Don’t tell

As we talk with our children about Santa, we tell them to NOT tell other children he isn’t real. There’s no point to correct others. He’s just for fun, right? Other families are free to celebrate or not celebrate. For us, it’s a non-issue.

Will there be presents under the tree from Santa?

That answer has varied from year to year.  When there are, my kids know someone wanted to give them a “just for fun” present. They know they are well-loved and can enjoy the gift. We know this truth: In all things we can thank God, for all good gifts come from Him.

What about you?

Share your thoughts about Santa and how you celebrate Christmas.

Please note: I will not publish offensive comments. I will, however, publish ideas that differ from mine.

Next week, get the story of how my children really responded to our “Santa’s just for fun” parenting.

My children have had their own responses to Santa despite our tradition. Parents know that children have minds of their own.


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