Monday, December 12, 2011

The Great Santa Debate

I hate this topic!
Do you hear me? I HATE this topic!

Yet, it’s worth addressing. I think. I hope.  Please feel free to write many affirming, church-unifying comments at the end of this email to feed my fragile ego (kidding!... sort of) and reassure me that the Santa debate does not have to be divisive!  We can all be friends!

Recently, a couple of Christian bloggers have raised the question: Santa or no Santa? I’d been asking the question myself for years, and now that Caroline is nearly four, we had to make a call.

We were torn.  We wrestled.  We avoided.  We waffled.  We finally decided... Santa will be a "pretend game that lots of people have fun with," according to our household.  Please refrain from throwing tomatos.  Hear me out.

It was just a family, personal choice. No, I’m not one of those people who think that “Santa” is one letter away from “Satan.” I don't claim that they wear the same red suit!  If your family practices the Santa tradition, I think that’s fun!

So feel free to disagree with our family's stance.  I highly doubt that God will choose whether we spend eternity in heaven or in hell based on how we handle the tradition of the jolly man with a jelly belly.

Here were our pros and cons.

Amelia in fur last Christmas.  (No, it was not cold in Uganda!)
Pro Santa:
  • It’s fun!
  • My parents did it for us, and I loved the tradition until I was eight and a stinky kid spoiled it for me. I cried.
  • Santa is a generous guy.  I am still touched by the way my parents lavished us with gifts on Christmas, yet took no credit for it, all to make some magic for us.  AND they somehow simultaneously taught us to NOT BE MATERIALISTIC.  I am thankful to my parents for how they handled both Christmas, generosity, and their children's attitudes towards STUFF.  It's a picture of God the Father, isn't it?
  • The historic story of St. Nicholas is a great way to show the importance of caring for the poor, the needy, the children. 
  • I think C.S. Lewis once had some awesome quote about the positive effect of fairy tales on a child’s ability to develop faith. Or I could be totally wrong. Hmm… Anyway, fairy tales can be good.
Con Santa:
  • It *could* distract children from Jesus and the true meaning of Christmas. (Let’s face it… the Santa tradition is so stinkin’ awesome, and so much more understandable to children than theology.  Baby Jesus in a barn gets lost in the excitement of gifts headed "my" way through magic and flying reindeer.)
  • It *could* contribute to selfishness and materialism… the constant, “What do you want for Christmas?” mentality.  Children might learn that it's all about them, and about getting, rather than giving.
The Cons Against Santa That I Don’t Buy Into:
  • Some say it’s lying to our children.  I disagree.  I could be wrong, but it just seems like a fun game. 
  • Some claim that when children find out that Santa isn’t real, they’ll wonder if God isn’t real, as well.  I doubt this is often the case.  I guess anything can happen, but I don't see this as a common issue.  But hey, I can always be wrong.
In any case, in our desire to keep Jesus as the clear center of the holidays, we evicted Mr. Claus. 
Are we happy with our decision?

Yes and no.  I love focusing solely on Jesus coming (and future coming) during Advent.  But we've already had a big uh-oh moment...

Caroline last year
The other day, Caroline pointed to a dressed up Santa-man and asked me if “that is the real Santa over there.”  We'd already told her that Santa was just a fun game, so I was surprised that she once again believed him to be real.  (These things happen at preschool, I suppose.)  I explained to her that none of them are the REAL Santa, because it’s all a fun game of pretend. We've now talked about this several other times when she seemed to get confused.

But then, in preschool, she announced to the class that Santa is not real. That her mom told her so.


So now MY child is just like the stinky kid who made me cry on the bus when I was eight. Except these kids aren't eight... they're preschoolers!  Their parents are NOT ready to give up the Santa game.

So despite the fact that none of these kids gave a moments thought to Caroline's blunder...
      and despite the fact that they all "KNOW" that Santa is real...
      and despite the fact that they (thankfully) wrote my daughter off as crazy...

I have heard that some of the class moms have death threats out for me. (Ok, not literally.  But almost.)

I’M SORRY!  Please forgive me and trust that I am now doing EVERYTHING in my power to keep my girls from ever doing this again! Please know that I understand your frustration.  Please show this I-don't-know-what-I'm-doing Mama some much needed grace!

Please help me! Can any of you offer advice? I am now sure that our family’s Christmas traditions will exclude Santa, but I don’t want to become an outcast in society and ruin everyone else’s Christmas, as well!  How do I keep Caroline’s precious know-it-all mouth shut?  (And Amelia's, as soon as she's old enough to spoil Santa!) And how do I keep the focus on Christ’s coming and off of the Great Santa Debate!?  Please tell me!

For a Santa-debate blog post waaaay better than this one, (and well worth reading,) click here.


Anonymous said...

You have thought through this so completely. We had the same struggle when our girls were little. We came to the same conclusions. This one statement seemed to satisfy their minds: "Santa is make believe but Jesus is real." Impressing upon them the reality of the living Lord can never be wrong and they will only reap good from it. Enjoying your blog! Jo Barrett

Jim and April said...

We've struggled with this as well and know many wonderful people that love the Lord on both sides of this issue. Personally we both grew up knowing Santa and believing in him. We both grew up in wonderful christian households, my dad is even a pastor and I never thought as I grew older that santa was more important than Jesus and they always made sure we knew Jesus was the real thing, real reason and most important! When I finally asked my mom if he was real, she got the encylopedia out and told me about the real man who was no magical person but just loved to help others and bring them gifts. I still dont know what we will do, Isaac is 17 months so he doesn't understand yet but we will need to figure out before next year. This year we put Santa on his presents but who knows...seriously no clue haha ;0)

Toni Patrick said...

I don't think that you should worry about Caroline/Amelia "spoiling" other kid's belief in Santa any more than those parents are worrying about their children affecting your children's understanding that he is pretend. After all, your children speak the truth. Tell the girls that their knowledge of Santa is a secret that we only talk about within the family!
*If it makes you feel any better, my friend's 4 year old did the EXACT same thing last week. They subscribe to the "don't lie to your children" Santa camp.

Kait said...

We just kind of left it up to our kids. We don't push the Santa thing. We don't avoid it either. We let it exist as this fun, fantastical thing that happens around this time of year and leave it at that. We don't threaten the whole "Santa won't bring you any presents if you misbehave" but we also don't tell them he's not real.

Childhood is so short anyway. I know we're technically taking a stand by not taking a stand but it just seemed easiest to let them believe as they wanted and we would focus on the Jesus side of it. The rest of the world has the Santa part handled for us and what's the harm in believing in something beyond reasoning? Isn't that what we're asking them to do with believing in God anyway? (Now I've done it - comparing Santa and God! I'll be waiting for my death threats!)

Alli and Korey said...

Oh rachel this has been on my mind/heart since eli was a baby! And now at 3 he really is starting to ask questions. We have kind of adopted the same philosphy as your family ... I dont really want him to be the focus and in dont want to lie and say he is real. So are you guys going to d the presents xmas morning and say they are from you guys or from santa?

Christen Price said...

Guess we are in the same boat friend! I still don't know what we will do :)

RACHEL said...

I love hearing from all of you! Glad to get comments from those who are sympathetic to what we're going for. I know the pro-Santa crowd is the majority though (I even like the guy myself) and they are super silent on the topic. haha! As far as this blog post, they may be prescribing to the old "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" theory.

Mike Lyons said...

I NEVER believed in Santa Claus. My parents didn't play the game (nor did they tell me otherwise). I went to school thinking ALL the other kids were total idiots for believing such foolishness.

I play the game with my daughter, and she's eight, and I can't believe she still believes, and I dread the day she's told otherwise and I keep hoping that she's just playing, too.

The Kirks said...

I can definitely understand your pros and cons but after reading it it made me sit back and think. I can completely picture the scene if "Santa" was around in Jesus' day the love that Jesus had for children and their innocence and earnestness to believe. I could just picture him putting gifts out for the children and giving to others. Imagine seeing their faces light up with the faith that they had as a child to believe in something that they cannot see with their own eyes. I think that that there is a lot that we can learn from the faith of a child and I think the Santa phenomenon is an example of that. It is when children get older and cynical that we lose that trusting spirit so much anyway.

I definitely agree that Santa should not be the main focus of Christmas but I think it is also a very magical part of Christmas and what about the real story of Jesus and Christmas wasn't magical in itself? I know some families that have a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas as another way of remembering the true meaning of Christmas.

I don't have any issue if someone else doesn't want to believe but I do hope that Hadley can experience that true magic feeling of Christmas and "Santa" will be a part of it for us as long as she believes.

RACHEL said...

I have no doubt that the Kirks will do a perfect job of raising Hadley, and that the fun of Santa won't do a thing to rob the beauty of Jesus' birthday. :-) You two are the best parents... I already can imagine even without having had the pleasure of seeing it in person yet! I just love seeing my grown up Heather in action!