How to Talk to Your Kids about Santa Claus

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~The following post is an opinion of the author, and does not necessarily represent the beliefs of What’s in the Bible.~

How to Talk to Your Kids about Santa Claus

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Here we are in the middle of Advent, as we are preparing our hearts for the coming of the Savior and looking forward to celebrating Christmas with our loved ones. But there is still the debate in our Christian community about the inclusion of Santa Claus in our Christmas tradition. Should we Christians allow our children the fantasies of Santa Claus, his elves, the North Pole and the naughty and nice list? Or do these fantasies do nothing more than feed greed in an ever-growing commercialism of this holy season? Can we have both Santa and Christ?

As a child, I never gave much thought to the fact there shouldn’t be Santa included in the celebration of Jesus’ birth.  Our family had both traditions, and we were able to keep everything in perspective.  Going to Catholic school, the devotions associated with Advent were done on a daily basis.  I knew that Christmas was a celebration of Jesus’ birth. But like many in my age group, Santa Claus also played a role in our Christmastime fun.  I sat on the chubby elf’s knee many times, and assured him that I was a “good girl” all year…except for that one time when my little brother “needed” shoving. The question is, has my childhood preoccupation with Santa as part of my Christmas tradition negatively affected my spiritual growth as a Christian?  Definitely not!

I consider myself to be rooted strongly in my faith as a follower of Christ.  And even though we really don’t know when Jesus was born, we know He was born in Bethlehem to Mary and Joseph.  We have the account of His birth in the Book of Luke, and as a culture we have chosen to celebrate his birth on December 25.  Even though the Bible doesn’t tell us specifically when Jesus was born or for that matter, to even celebrate the birth, we do.  So, how does Santa NOT take away from this birthday celebration?

We know that Saint Nicholas actually did live.  And while there are legends mixed into the truth about this good man, we know that he was born into a wealthy family, and was raised as a devout Christian.  Still a young man after his parents’ death, he inherited their fortune.  Obeying Christ’s teaching to, “Sell what you have and help the poor”, he used his inheritance to help the poor and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God by helping others. Commercialism aside, this is really the idea behind Santa leaving gifts on Christmas morning.  It was never a tradition that was meant to take away our focus from the Christ child, but to enhance the idea of doing good to others in His name.

Perhaps when our children are old enough to understand the concept of Santa Claus, we can teach them the truth behind the myths.  Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with combining a little fantasy in with our Christmas celebration.  For those who insist that “Thou shalt not lie” is reason enough to boycott the Santa thing, I honestly doubt a game of make-believe is the same thing.  Also, I don’t know of any adult who suffered irreparable mental anguish when the “truth” about Santa was revealed to them.  Instead most adults who celebrated both Jesus and Santa look at the fantasy part of Christmas a childhood rite of passage, an innocent time before growing up.

My husband and I never hesitated to include Santa Claus in our Christmas traditions.  We have a beautiful nativity scene set up as a focal point in our home.  We have had an Advent wreath on our coffee table for many years, and we have our Christmas tree lit up as well as our stockings hung on the mantle.  For us the anticipation and then celebration of Christ’s birth somehow seamlessly mixes with our anticipation of Santa Claus riding in his sleigh on Christmas Eve.

For me, the memories that these traditions bring to our family are priceless.  I hate to use the word “magical”, because these days that word can be misunderstood as something occultish.  But for those of you who can look beyond that ugly meaning, and remember those Christmas mornings as children, when you woke up and came into the family room… gifts under the tree, lights twinkling, and mom and dad somehow looking a little more tired than usual.  It truly was a magical moment in time.  And then when you finally got dressed up and went to church that morning, the singing of “Joy to the World” filled the hearts of the congregation with a new hope! Jesus, our Savior, was here!

Merry CHRISTmas!

Lisa Strnad is a contributing writer/blogger to What’s in the Bible? and Jelly Telly.  She is a homeschooling mom of two, who works independently in Christian media in the areas of writing, promotions and marketing.  She lives with her husband and children in Nashville,TN.  Follow her personal blog posts on www.talkinglikeagirl.blogspot.com

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12 comments
Brianna
Brianna

For me, the issue is about trust. I don't want my son to doubt that I tell him the truth at all times. So whenever he asks, I tell him that Santa is not real, and he chooses to believe in Santa anyway! He is currently 6, and I'm curious to see how much longer he'll stick to his beliefs in magical fantasies. :) Besides the issue of trust, it is very important to me that he not associate Jesus with magical fantasies. I want to make it clear that Jesus does not belong in the same group as Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, etc. So we have never encouraged him to believe that those characters are real. We have told him bluntly that the Tooth Fairy is not real, but we still exchange money for his lost teeth. The first time, we gave him hints to help him figure out that we were the ones who did it, but he didn't catch on and still insists that it was really the Tooth Fairy. We don't give gifts from Santa, but I don't have a problem with Grandma and other people in his life do give him gifts "from Santa." We don't exclude Santa, but we don't celebrate or focus on him at all. When he is old enough to give up his beliefs in magical fantasies, he will know that we have told him the truth all along, and I trust that he will continue to believe that Jesus is not just another make-believe character.

Janelle
Janelle

My parents became Christians as adults. They had grown up celebrating with Santa - and more importantly my grandparents really enjoyed playing up Santa. However, I don't remember ever actually believing in him. My parents would give us a gift from Santa, and my grandparents would, but my parents never talked about Santa. They told us all about Jesus and why we celebrated Christmas, I never even considered how Santa became part of the celebration. No one had to tell me Santa wasn't real, I knew he was just an icon. Nobody had to tell me Jesus was real because I experienced his presence throughout the year. As I got older and learned that Santa was based on a real person, and I was encouraged by the testimony of his life. I now have three children of my own (8, 6, and 4 yrs old), and we have included the truthful things about Santa in our celebrations every year. They are confronted with Santa by friends and family, so I want them to know the truth. There is no focus on being "good" to get gifts, or telling them that he is "magical" and can deliver gifts all over the world in one night. We read the story of St. Nicholas and tell them how the story evolved into the legend of Santa. They hear the songs and see shows about Santa and they have family members ask them what they want from Santa...though it is funny to see their confused looks! They don't ask Santa for anything - in fact, we don't have them pore over all the toy magazines and choose what they want for Christmas at all. (In my opinion, creating a "Christmas list" just creates in them a desire for things they never even knew existed.) As for gifts from Santa, we still do a stocking with gifts from him. It is our way of acknowledging the true story of his life as part of our celebration. Even so, the kids know I am the one who fills them - even without me telling them.

Cristal
Cristal

I tell my kids the truth about St. Nick being very generous and giving children gifts- and because he is a saint- that is, saved- he has eternal life in heaven. And there really is a spirit world and maybe just maybe his spirit comes around to bless many children around the time of Jesus's birthday to show/demonstrate God's free gift to us. Dt. Nick's example was a great one of love, compassion and generosity- all from God. We also have Santa and Nativity items at Christmas time. My kids love the hope and excitement.

Jackie
Jackie

I never taught my children about Santa. By the time my oldest was 6 she and her younger brothers knew that there was no such person as Santa Clause. I told them the truth because I could remember how I felt when I realized I had been lied to. When my daughter was 6 we were waiting at the trucking company where he worked till he got off. A trucker came in to wait for his truck to be fixed by my husband and this man was huge. He could crush me with one hand. He hunkered down and asked my daughter what Santa was going to bring her and this tiny little girl (she wore a 24 mo. clothing at age 6) looked him in the eye and told him that there was no Santa Clause. I thought he was going to crush me. She pulled on his shirt and Told him that it was Jesus birthday that we were celebrating. That took the wind out of his sails. My kids have never felt the loss of not knowing about Santa Clause as a gift giver.

Jana
Jana

For us, Santa is a tangible demonstration of God's love towards us. We give to Grandma but Grandma gives to us. We give to ________ and they give back to us. Santa is the only one that gives with no expectation of a gift in return. Just belief in him is all that is required. Such is the same with God. He freely gave to us and all we must do is believe.

MamaT
MamaT

I think it depends on the child and situation, my son at 5 yrs old asked a few times last year is if Santa was real, a few times I returned the question with a question, but eventually I felt like I was lying to him. So my husband and I decided to tell him the truth, because we don't want to lie to him. So we did and he was fine. Then a week later we were snuggling before bed talking and he said " well if Santa isn't real, is Jesus?", and I was over joyed to tell him yes. I felt that we had been led to tht point and that I had helped nurture trust in my son's heart. We celebrate with the spirit of st nick and talk about why he did what he did. I told our son by all means he can pretend, but he has the truth base to build on. That is our story. After tht I talked with a bunch of moms, one had a story about her mother. Her mother didn't find out the truth until 11 or 12, she found out on a school bus and it shook her faith to the core. She walked awAy from Faith for many years. Just food for thought! I love the thought and research that goes into the veggie tales and what's in the bible products. Thank you for giving us the means to help our children and adults navigate this culture we live in!!

Katherine Ashe
Katherine Ashe

I always feel like the minority at Christmas time because I don't like Santa. Flat out. I don't like him. When I was a small child (probably around 3-5), my big brother told me that Santa wasn't real. Up until this point my mother followed all the usual traditions. She even wrapped up a special present and marked it from Santa. So when my brother told me that our parents had been lying about Santa... I wondered what else they were lying about. How could I know that Jesus was real? Where would I go when I died? I had a full on crisis. I think that moment that a child finds out someone they know has been lying to them... It's a very hurtful thing. I know that most kids get over it pretty quickly, I guess. But I didn't and I would never want to lie to my own kids. At the same time, I know most of American society focuses on Santa because he seems a safe secular alternative (almost like saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas). And I definitely fear the day that I get a call from my sons' school saying that he's spilled the beans and all the other kids are crying. And of course as the other commenter noted: “He knows when you are sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good.” Santa does not know when I'm sleeping or awake. He doesn't know what I've been up to. And he has no right to judge me. And Rudolph: Ok, so everyone is super mean to him because he's different... Until one day when he becomes useful and then very conveniently everyone suddenly likes him. That's not a good lesson. I am thankful that Veggie Tales has their Santa story that gives background on the "real" Saint Nick so I can tell my kids to focus on that version of Santa.

Toni
Toni

This year for the first time (and due in part to the What's in the Bible series), our family celebrated St. Nicolas Day on Dec 6th. The day before spent the day talking about who is was for real and in myth. We hung our stockings and went to bed in anticipation. The next morning the children fished out trinkets and fruit with squeals of delight. And that was it. We are done with Santa for this year. The rest of the month has had a renewed focus on the real reason for the season. If I had realized what a difference it would make to give Santa his own time, I would have done it long ago. Certainly we will be doing it this way from here on out. :-)

Katie
Katie

I have struggled with this the last few years, and kind of avoided Santa. Now that my kids are 3 and 5, we needed to figure out what we were saying. I have never felt comfortable with how society has turned Christmas in to Santa day, and knew in my heart that I would not feel comfortable lying to them. Thanks to the Buck Denver Christmas video, it was very easy to explain who St. Nicholas was, that his feast is on December 6, and that Jesus' birthday is December 25. We celebrated St. Nick day and put small things in their stocking for St. Nick day, explaining that St. Nick is no longer alive, but we can still be St. Nick, or Santa, to others by helping those in need or surprising people with gifts to show God's love. I told them that some people celebrate Santa on Christmas, but we want to celebrate Jesus since it is his birthday, and we will share our presents with each other on that day. This has been great, but then my 5 year old hears about Santa coming down the chimney and being good or no presents at school, and it confuses him, but we keep an open, honest dialog, and it is going well! I know they will have a fantastic, fabulous Christmas, even if they don't have a special gift from the guy in red.

Christina J
Christina J

I grew up more with Santa and less with Jesus, but now as a Christian trying to teach my girls more about Jesus and not dwelling on Santa. Part of it, for me, is I still have some struggle with things I can't see, I want my girls to know God by faith, and worry that if I say "believe in Santa though you don't see him" then turn around and say "never mind it's not like that"... well I think you see where I'm going. Anyway, that's my 2 cents :-)

BillieJo
BillieJo

I am a Christian mother. I always have kept Santa a part of our Christmas celebration also. There is a book called the kneeling Santa or (A Special place for Santa). It is a wonderful story about Santa going to see Jesus the night he was born. Makes an easy transition between Jesus' birth as a celebration, and also Santa. Check it out, a great story for all.

Kelli
Kelli

It's not about "what works" but what is BIBLICAL. Of course the whole Santa thing should be left up to each believer to decide what should be done in his/her family but think about this: "He knows when you are sleeping. He knows when you're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good." THAT's not Biblical. However you stand on the Santa story you should be careful attributing any of these character traits to anyone other than the Lord.