As a kid, I was allowed to believe in Santa Claus. We would hear stories about Santa, watch Christmas movies (such as one of my all-time favorites, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer), listen to Christmas music, make cookies for Santa, and receive one, more expensive than the rest, gift from Santa underneath the Christmas tree. Christmas was always a very magical time for me and I love it still.
Every year, we would get together with grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins to celebrate the Christmas holiday, exchange gifts and of course have a delicious Christmas meal. We weren’t really a religious family, excepting for the knickknack depicting the nativity scene found at grandma’s house.
As the oldest of several cousins, I realized Santa wasn’t real long before the others did, but went along with the charade for the younger ones who still believed. I actually don’t even remember asking my parents if he was real or not. I have always been a very quizzical person, probably annoying my parents with “why?” more times than they could count. Still, the knowledge that Santa was in fact a fictional story like many of the others I loved didn’t ruin Christmas for me. I still love fiction and probably always will.
As an adult and a parent, I am really unsure how to deal with the Santa myth with my own children. You see, I am now a Christian and would rather have my children believe that God is real and He really did send His Son Jesus to live, die and be raised again so that we would all have the opportunity to obtain eternal salvation. I don’t want to confuse my kids in thinking that God is chubby and wears a big red suit.
Before you start thinking of all the reasons why teaching children to believe in Santa is a good thing, know that I already know what you would say. I have read many articles with opposing viewpoints on this topic because it is a very common debate around this time of year. I know there are both positives and negatives with each option. But to me, it is a personal decision every parent must make for themselves, much like working vs. staying at home, cloth diapers vs. disposables, breast vs. bottle feeding, etc., etc.
I don’t see anything wrong with reading stories about good ol’ St. Nick or teaching Christmas songs to my kids. After all, much of our days are filled with fiction from Disney movies to playing superheroes or with baby dolls and I love that my kids use their imaginations. I think it’s a vital part of growing up.
But do I want to lie to them to make sure they believe there really are three nice bears who really live in the forest near a girl named Goldilocks? No, bears are not nice and I do not want my kids thinking so. Do I want to lie to them and make sure they believe their toys really do come alive when they are not looking? No, that just seems silly. Do I want to go out of my way to plan an elaborate hoax that a jolly, big guy and his elves are always watching my kids and if they don’t behave, they will not get Christmas gifts? No, I want my children to be good because I told them to and I want them to realize we give them gifts because we love them. I don’t want to lie to my kids. I want them to see Christ in me and lying is just not something I want them to learn from me.
But do I want to go out of my way to make sure they DON’T believe Santa is real? The answer to that is also no. Much like I don’t feel the need to explain to them that the Avengers aren’t real or that people do not really have ice magic like Elsa, I don’t think it’s necessary to flat out make sure they know Santa is simply a story that has evolved through many generations into the one we now tell today. Imaginations and pretending are great.
I definitely want my kids to understand the Christian aspects of Christmas. Yes, it’s true that we do not know the exact day of Jesus’ birth and it was the Catholics who first came up with the idea of celebrating Christ-mas, but I am not one of those Christians who sees something wrong with the idea. And I don’t think that it’s a good enough reason to delve into the now secular traditions surrounding the holidays simply because ‘Jesus was not born on Christmas Day.’ I like that we give gifts to each other like the wise men gave gifts to Jesus. I like that this time of year, we want to help others and those less fortunate than ourselves, and even non-Christians can participate in those things.
If my kids ever ask me “Mom, is Santa real?” I may respond with a point-blank “No, baby, he’s just a story” or I may ask “Well, what do you think?” to hear their answer. I simply haven’t decided yet. I don’t want my kids to ruin it for others who do believe either, so don’t freak out about letting your kids near mine.
My husband and I are united in our feelings toward a “real” Santa and I think that’s important. I will decorate the Christmas tree and wrap the Christmas gifts while simultaneously listening to Christmas music and preparing Christmas food, but I will not make it a point to make sure they believe a real Santa will deliver their gifts (and those of the entire world) on Christmas Eve. I will also not judge parents who decide to. Like I said earlier, each parent has the right to make the decisions they feel are best for their children so you’ll get no judging from me.
So: to Santa or not to Santa? That is the question. I’m afraid I don’t have a real answer for you. Since our culture dictates that Santa is a norm, I think it’s up to each parent to decide. For us, we will Santa, but we won’t lie. We will not abolish him completely, but we’ll focus on the birth of Christ and doing good for others, including gift giving and wishing peace and good tidings to all.