I thought we were past this. With both kids in double-digits now, I didn’t expect to be offering explanations about our stance on Santa Claus again. But the issue has already arisen this Christmas season.
Intentional parenting means that we, as parents, recognize when we’re making decisions and consider the long-term repercussions of those decisions. We don’t just ‘go with the flow’ of our culture, and we don’t parent for personal convenience or for appearances. In our case, that meant choosing not to lead our children to believe in Santa Claus. Before you label us as Mr. & Mrs. Grinch, consider these five reasons we don’t ‘do’ Santa at our house.
1. We refuse to lie to our children about anything.
In our present-day culture, truth is what you want it to be. People even say that something can be true for you and not true for me. As Christ-followers, however, we know there is Absolute Truth, and as parents, it’s our job to set the standard of truth in our homes. When our children reach the age of understanding and discover that we’ve been deceiving them about Santa for their entire lives, our admonition not to lie is rendered moot. At that same age, they begin to question our belief system. If we lied about Santa, maybe we’re lying about God, too (more on this below).
As all of us know when it comes to deception, it’s never one simple lie. The existence of Santa leads to chimneys (or the absence thereof), and who ate the cookies, and multiple Santas in various locations, and why Santa didn’t bring the much-anticipated pony. Telling the truth is simple and easy to remember.
Then there’s the fact that, at some point, you do have to tell them the awkward truth. I’ve written before about those difficult conversations (sex, drug use, etc.). By removing Santa, we eliminated at least one of those ‘talks.’ Whew.
2. We don’t want our children to lie to us.
This goes back to that age of understanding. You and I both remember that year (or years) when we knew Santa wasn’t real but we still wanted all the gifts, so we pretended to believe. That’s deception. If it’s not okay in everyday life, it’s not okay for Christmas.
3. We refuse to bribe our children for good behavior.
A child’s behavior reveals the condition of his or her heart. (See Shepherding A Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp for more on this.) By rewarding a child for good behavior, we feed the inborn selfishness of that child’s heart. We don’t want our children to be good because they will get something; we want them to act honorably because their hearts are pure, desiring to bless God and those around them. We set the expectations for year-round behavior, and that doesn’t change because it’s the holidays.
Furthermore, no one actually follows through on the naughty/nice list. Even if a child is terribly behaved leading up to Christmas, she will still find a stocking (or more) full of new toys on Christmas morning. By not carrying out the discipline, the parent models to the child that her behavior doesn’t matter and that Mom or Dad’s commands can be ignored.
And finally, on the naughty/nice thing…what about the impoverished child? Santa Claus brings gifts to “all the good boys and girls” so he tried really hard to be good for a whole month. Yet on Christmas morning, he gets nothing because his parents can’t even put food on the table. What undeserved disappointment!
4. It’s too easy to misplace the meaning of Christmas.
I have a hard time keeping my focus on Jesus during the holiday season, and I know most of you do too. Think how much more difficult it must be for our children, who don’t have years of experience and a history of God’s faithfulness on which to fall back! Between the songs about Santa and the Christmas-morning pile of gifts to anticipate, our children’s thoughts will—understandably—be consumed by the clutter of consumerism. (Oohh-nice alliteration! I’ll have to use that again.)
5. God is God and Santa is not.
I don’t buy into all that ‘Santa is misspelled Satan’ junk, but undoubtedly, we need to be careful here. Just think about it; both God and Santa:
- Are unseen
- See everything
- Give good gifts
- Typically have white beards
- Have mythical powers
- Come at Christmas (via Jesus)
- Influence behavior
- Have naughty/nice lists (Lambs Book of Life, separating sheep and goats)
It’s enough to confuse a little kid! That child may then start to think God also rewards obedience, but we know it’s not the good kids who go to heaven. It’s the saved kids…and adults. What is more, when the child discovers that Santa isn’t real, he may unconsciously put God in the same category.
So What Do We Do Instead?
When changing one’s lifestyle or habits, we all know it doesn’t work just
to remove. You have to replace. We replaced the whole Santa Claus thing with a celebration of Saint Nicholas’ Day. When the children awake on December 6th, they find a small stocking of gifts—a reminder of Nicholas’ generosity, which is why we also do something charitable on/around that day. We read a book we have about St. Nicholas, and we have a nice dinner together. So they do still get gifts, and because they come in a stocking, they have an answer for all those well-meaning adults who later ask, “Was Santa good to you this year?” The gifts are small, but I try to make them special. The focus, however, is on giving/helping others.
Logistically, this works great for us.
- It gives the children a chance to enjoy their gifts without the stress of rushing off to this or that relative’s house. In the past few years, we’ve given only St. Nicholas’ Day gifts because we travel later in the month.
- Because we travel, St. Nicholas’ Day is our family’s private observance of Christmas—something I treasure.
- It marks the beginning of the Christmas season for us. Although this year we’re observing Advent (an effort to keep our focus centered, as I wrote above), there’s still something about the stockings and the story that say “Christmas is here!”
- It’s easy to find a charity to help. In the past, we’ve donated money, but now I’m trying to make the giving more of a hands-on experience.
People argue that, without Santa, children miss out on the magic of Christmas. The “magic,” if you want to call it that…the astonishing thing…is that God voluntarily became a human being—a baby!—and came to live with people on earth.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. –John 1:14
By removing the distraction of Santa Claus, my children have a better chance of catching the real “magic.”
From 2013, John Piper says “no way” to Santa in a Christian family’s home on Desiring God.
By Elizabeth Maddrey, one family’s story of keeping Santa in the “make-believe” category, posted at The Glorious Table.