Monday, January 07, 2008

Christians and Santa Claus

Joshua Claybourn writes that Christian parents undermine the faith of their children when they teach them that Santa Claus is real:

Children are taught to believe in both, and when the non-existence of Santa becomes a reality in adolescence, God will likewise get scrutinized. The blatant lying to children about a figure they already associate with God cannot yield beneficial results. Anecdotally, I know of a number of folks who resent their parents lying to them about Santa, and if they lied about Santa, the belief is that they lied about God, too.

Should Christian parents teach that Santa Claus is real?

Hat tip: Joe Carter


Cam said...

Disclaimer - I currently have no children, so it is quite possible that I'm speaking out of ignorance. Now granted, my lack of objection comes from a perspective that Santa Claus and St. Nicholas are one in the same. I see no problem in celebrating the history of a generous patron saint on whom much of our holiday legend and tradition is based.

Mark Winter said...

You mean...Santa isn't...real?

Keith Taylor said...


When my step son was a small child, he believed in Santa. Santa got the list, Santa took the list to the store. Santa wrapped the presents in special wrapping paper that was like no other paper under the tree. Santa stayed up and put them out on Christmas Eve. Santa ate the cookies and drank the milk. Santa was who my son recieved his presents from.

I was Santa and I am certainly real. To my son, he was just as real. When he got older, he knows the truth. The difference is that I've never quit worshiping God. I still pray to God. I still reverence God. We quit "playing" Santa when he quit believing in him.

I've never quit my Christian faith and my son knows that. Thus, he wasn't damaged. He knows that God is real is and Santa...well, he knows that he was "real" as well.

If you Christian faith can be swayed because Santa Claus or the Great Pumpkin turn out to be not all they were once thought to me, then you really didn't teach proper Christian faith to begin with.

JD said...

My wife and I had a similar debate this Christmas (I was for, she was against). With our daughter turning 4 this year, she really became aware of Santa, from her class mates and especially other members of each of our families. While I respect her position about Santa, and any other Christian parent that deems it inappropriate to practice this tradition in their home, I reminded her that in all that we do, we focus on the wonderful exciting gift that God gave us in His son, Jesus. We made it a point to have a nativity scene and read scripture each day we placed figurines around the manger. My daughter KNOWS what Christmas is about. Having Santa come and celebrate with her just makes her a little more excited about a wonderful miracle. When we as Christians focus mainly on the presents, the lights, the carols, that take Christ out of Christmas, then we have set up our children for disbelief in God. It is then that we have done them a dis-service. It is there, and really only there, that belief in a ficticious character based on the life of a saint that shared what God have given him with others can become a detractor for celebrating the glory of God.


Stephen Taylor said...

I don't regret letting our daughters believe in Santa. When they were young their imaginations made a lot of things seem real that really weren't (or who's to say?) I do wish we had, however, limited Santa. If I got a do-over, instead of all the gifts being wrapped in Santa paper, I'd have Santa bring just a few presents, or one significant present, and the rest be from us as parents. I think maybe that would make the transition easier later, and might hinder some of the "gimmie more" attitude the Santa scenerio fosters.

MethoDeist said...

As a non-Christian (Deist), I have to say that I have never met anyone of any faith that lost a belief in Santa Claus and then turned around and lost a belief in God.

Faith in God no matter what that faith it may be is much deeper than a superficial belief in a man that travels around once a year to deliver gifts to good children. A belief in Santa does not tell us where we came from and where we are going. It does not tell us how to treat each other nor can it ever give us ultimate meaning.

Santa has been around for many years and I have not seen a dramatic rise in Atheism over the last 100 years because people let their children believe in Santa.

The only argument against Santa would be a focus on him rather than on Jesus which even I as a Deist can admit is the reason for the season.

Otherwise, I have this to say to you Christians out there (as if you really care but here goes), I say relax and let your kids have fun while they can because most figure it out pretty quickly that there is no Santa and then that aspect of fun at Christmas is gone for good.

MethoDeist (aka - Joe)

Michael said...

I don't recall ever having doubts about the Almighty as a result of the truth about Santa, but I suppose the myth of Santa should be handled carefully because there is an inherent, magical element about Christmas which still exists for me that transcends even the physical birth of Christ. I suppose in a small way I still believe in the mystical element of Santa Claus.

I posted the "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" on my blog. I don't think the "reality" of Santa can be over- or under- or better-stated than by those immortal words of Francis Church.

doodlebugmom said...

I grew up believing in Santa. My kids grew up believing in Santa. I can't imagine it any other way.

Santa is giving and generous, kind and smart ( a Santa Claus told my then three year old son he could not deliver a baby brother for Christmas, they had to be ordered early!)

Who compares Santa to God? Santa is a jolly old fellow that likes to eat cookies and give presents.

God is God.

Rev. J said...

I was brought up believing in Santa and I never saw that as my parents lying to me, but it was part of the celebration and joy of the season. I also grew up knowing that Christmas was really about the birth of Christ and that never changed.

As my son continues to grow we will continue to 'do Santa' and like Keith said, once he sees the truth we will stop playing Santa. I see Santa as building a child's wonder and imagination. How can we deny children the wonder of a fat guy cruising the world giving gifts on Christmas Eve but expect them to then believe in God coming to earth, dying on a cross, rising again, a Holy Spirit ever present in our daily lives, and all the other non-visual, mysterious and faith centered beliefs which are the foundation of Christianity?

John said...

Cam wrote:

Now granted, my lack of objection comes from a perspective that Santa Claus and St. Nicholas are one in the same.

The problem lies in whether or not you think that the historical St. Nicholas is alive on earth and flies around delivering presents.

John said...

I grew up believing in Santa Claus, until I was 7 or 8 and my brother informed me otherwise. I was heartbroken.

As a teenager I became a self-avowed atheist. And I remember thinking at the time that God was just a Santa Claus myth that we kept on telling children.

My wife was raised in a very strict Missouri Synod Lutheran home and was told from the beginning that Santa Claus wasn't real. And at no point in her life did Katherine doubt the reality of God.

Are God and Santa Claus distinguishable? Yes, as doodlebugmom and rev. j point out. They are very distinguishable -- for adults. We can describe the Incarnation and the atonement and how these are very different from a fat man who flies around in a sleigh and gives presents. But can children make such distinctions? I vividly remember at about the same age that I learned about Santa Claus that I asked my Mom what God looked like. She tried and utterly failed to explain the non-corporeal nature of God. So she asked me what I thought. I answered, "Like Santa Claus, only without the red suit."

I think that it's safe to say that young children will not readily grasp the non-corporeal nature of God without delving into animism. At least, they won't be ready to write ordination paperwork on the subject, and parents should bear this in mind.

My wife and I have already discussed teaching our kids about Santa Claus. But now I'm beginning to rethink my position. Maybe kids shouldn't be taught to believe in imaginary, supernatural things, lest they cease to believe in real, supernatural things.

Anonymous said...

When I was four, I came up to my mother and asked her if Santa existed. My mom looked at me, and finding no way out of the question without lying, said no. I've been grateful ever since.

I see absolutely no attraction to the Santa myth. Some fat old man is watching and judging every action you do from some supernatural crystal ball? And what you get on Christmas morning is an evaluation of your character?

No thank you.