You can’t avoid him. He seems to appear everywhere you go this time of year whether “in person,” on a coffee mug, lit up in front yards, or wrapped around a gift: Santa. It is assumed that all little boys and girls are expectantly waiting for Santa to come bearing special gifts just for them. So, how should Christian parents deal with this popular and pervasive icon? To be sure, Christians differ on their approach as to what to “do” with Santa—especially with regard to children. But in our own years of parenting, my husband and I came to share the following view as expressed by Noel Piper,
For several reasons, we have chosen not to include Santa Claus in our Christmas stories and decorations. First, fairy tales are fun, but we don’t ask our children to believe them. Second, celebrating with Santa and manger will postpone a child’s
clear understanding of what the real truth of God is. It’s very difficult for a young child to pick through a marble cake of part truth and part imagination to find the
crumbs of reality. We want our children to understand God as fully as they’re able, at whatever age they are. So we try to avoid anything that would inhibit or distort
Third, think how confusing it must be to a literal-thinking, uncritical preschooler. Santa is so much like what we’re trying all year to teach our children about God. Look at the “attributes” of Santa:
- He’s omniscient—he sees everything you do.
- He rewards you if you’re good.
- He’s omnipresent—at least, he can be everywhere in one night.
- He gives you good gifts…
But at the deeper level that young children can’t comprehend yet, he is not like
God at all. For example, does Santa really care if we’re bad or good? Think of the most awful kid you can remember. Did he or she ever not get gifts from Santa? What about Santa’s spying and then rewarding you if you’re good enough? That’s not the way God operates. He gave us his gift—his Son—even though we weren’t good at all. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He gave his gift to us to make us good, not because we had proved ourselves good enough.
(Excerpt from Treasuring God in Our Traditions, copyright ©2003, pages 80-81)
Also, Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile has written a very helpful article, “Thoughts for Parents and Children Who Don’t Do Santa,” which includes practical ideas to help parents answer the important question, “How do we help our children talk about our focus on Jesus, rather than Santa, without being self-righteous?” You can find it here.
(Image courtesy of Feelart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)