Now that the holidays are over, I feel like I can write this article without being labeled a Scrooge. I was talking with a family member a few weeks back about Christmas, when I mentioned that we (Angela and I) do not tell our children that Christmas gifts come from Santa Claus. (Stop reading if you still believe in Santa Claus). The family member was shocked and surprised thinking that we were in some way depriving our children of some childhood right. But as I thought about this for the past few weeks, I became even surer of my conviction on this matter.
Now, I am not saying that we do not let our children utter Santa’s name, like he is some kind of Voldemort. We tell our children that Santa is one of the Christmas stories, like Rudolph or Frosty. We always knew it was going to be a problem because we do not have a chimney in our home, so it would be a little strange to tell our children that Santa sneaks in through the back door or something like that. But we have other reasons for why we don’t tell our children that Santa brings them gifts on Christmas Eve.
First, we do not want to compromise our integrity as parents. Over and over again we tell our children to not lie, we tell them to not tell half-truths, and we tell them to speak the truth at all times. I always tell my girls it will be better for them if they confess, than if they lie to hide something. It is hard to escape the fact that the tale of Santa Claus is a lie, told to children. Calling it a lie sounds harsh, but what other word could I use? My parents were the ones who would write Santa’s name on our gifts, when in reality, it was mom and dad who bought them and wrapped them. When I was old enough to understand, my inevitable question was, “you’ve been lying to us for years?” I don’t want to face that day when my children challenge our integrity as parents by saying, “you tell us not to lie, but you lie?”
Second, we do not want to compromise what we tell our children about the character of God. Let me explain. The folklore behind Santa Claus is that he knows when you are sleeping, he knows if you have been bad or good. This is kinda scary for a child, thinking that if they push a kid down on the playground, Santa saw it and is going to withhold gifts. But the idea that Santa knows all and can see all, is an attribute that God alone possesses. They should be scared of God seeing them, not Santa. It is called omniscience; that God knows everything. I do not want to give my children the impression that a man (Santa) is able to share one of God’s incommunicable attributes. What makes God, God, is that He alone knows everything, not Santa. I want my children to be in awe of God, not Santa Claus.
Third, we do not want to compromise how we explain the gospel to our children. It may sound like this has nothing to do with Santa Claus, but hear me out. The message of Santa is that if you are good, he brings you presents. And if you are bad, you will not get any presents. But this teaches our children that if they do good, then good things happen to them. That does not always happen in real life, and it for sure, is not the gospel message. The gospel message is that we do bad things, and God forgives us. Unfortunately, the gospel is usually taught like the message of Santa Claus: be a good person and God will do good for you. That is not the gospel message and I do not want to be the one who is confusing the gospel, I want to make the gospel ring clear to my children.
Now, some may think I have gone way over the deep end with this. “It’s just a fun, Christmas thing, lighten up,” I can hear people saying. But I take my task as a parent very seriously. And if I am going to choose a story to tell my children that could compromise my integrity, God’s character, or the gospel message, then it is my responsibility to refuse it. I am not saying every parent or family should take my family’s stance on this, each one needs to make his/her own decisions. All I’m saying is, we have reasons for choosing this way that we have thought long and hard about. And don’t worry, I also teach my children to not run around telling everyone “there is no Santa Claus!”
Pastor Mark Scialabba