How We “Do” Santa

This time of year, I’m reading a lot of posts about Old Saint Nick, particularly from Christians who don’t “do” Santa. I’ve read many different reasons for not introducing children to Santa. Fears of children feeling lied to. Convictions about making the holidays too Santa focused and not Jesus focused. Fears of teaching materialism or consumerism. Fears of stealing from the glory of our Lord’s birth. Given all of this, I thought I would share what we do and why.

We’re a Santa-believing family. I grew up believing in Santa. Travis grew up believing in Santa. We had stockings, we raced to the tree to see what delights awaited. But, we also grew up in Christian homes. My parents read to us the story of Christ’s birth from the book of Luke every year. We attended Christmas Eve church services with our extended family. I grew up singing in the church Christmas choir. And honestly, looking back on my childhood, I was never once confused about what Christmas was really celebrating. I’ve always known Christmas to be a celebration of our Lord’s birth. I even remember a song we sang in the church choir when I was seven or eight: “Happy birthday Jesus. I’m so glad it’s Christmas. All the carols and bells make the holidays swell, but it’s all about You….”

I understand all of the arguments that Santa can take away from the true celebration. When so much emphasis is placed on Santa and gifts and toys, how could kids not get confused? Well, Travis and I work hard to make sure our kids aren’t. For one thing, we don’t use Santa as a threat. Absolutely zero emphasis is placed on “the naughty list” in our home. There’s no such thing here.

In our home, Santa is the perfect segue to explaining mercy, love, grace, and redemption to very young children. We believe Santa is the perfect way to introduce children to the substitutionary atonement of Jesus’ death on the cross. Did you make that leap with me, or are some of you clicking the X at the top of the page? Please don’t! Hear me out.

It all goes back to the original Santa Claus, St. Nicholas.

*Brief history lesson ahead*

Saint Nicholas was born to wealthy parents who died in an epidemic. They left him his inheritance, and, feeling convicted by the words of Christ compelling him to care for the needy, he sold off his entire inheritance to give back to the poor, the sick, the needy, the widows and orphans. He was persecuted for his faith and never stopped caring for others and loving those in need. Now, is this the same jolly old elf who famously slides down our chimneys? No. But rather than painting a picture of Santa as a toy manufacturer who watches your every move, eager to punish you with coal if you’re bad, we speak of Santa as a believer in Jesus who gives with love and grace.

We have explained to Buggy that Santa gives gifts out of the kindness and goodness of his own heart, because his desire is that all people will know the love that Jesus freely gives to all. We explain that whether he’s been good or bad Santa still comes. And the reason he comes regardless of Buggy’s behavior is because Jesus loves regardless of our behavior. Do our kids deserve gifts from Santa and stockings full of goodies? Probably not. But we rely on disciplinary methods in our home that work {most of the time} so threats that Santa may bring them nothing really aren’t necessary. And such threats run counter to the portrait I want to paint of Santa, a loving saint of our Lord.

Santa gives because his heart overflows with joy for the Lord who gave his life for us…Not because we deserve it. Santa gives so that we may know kindness and mercy and grace. Santa gives so that we may know generosity for others as well. Every year since Travis and I married, we’ve made it a special tradition to choose one or two children from the Salvation Army Christmas tree. We lovingly pick out gifts for these children and try to get them as much from their request ticket as we can. Now that we have kids, we include them in this. Buggy loves it. He looks forward to it every year and takes great pride in selecting only the best for his chosen Angel Tree child. I’m always careful to explain to him that just as he gives gifts out of the love and goodness in his heart for these children he doesn’t know, Santa also gives him gifts out of the kindness of his heart. And it’s all done in reflection of the ultimate love of Jesus Christ.

My son loves the magic wonder of Christmas that Santa’s arrival brings, but he also moves quickly to dispel any confusion about what Christmas is really about. This mama’s heart swelled with pride just the other morning when I heard him telling Miss Priss at breakfast, “Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. It’s so nice he lets us give everybody else presents on HIS birthday!” Worries about confusion flew out the door.

Someday I’ll sit him down and tell him the truth about Santa and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy and everything else. For now though, I’m loving the magic of Santa. I love using Santa as a concrete tool to teach my child less concrete concepts like grace, love, and generosity. In the meantime, I’m careful to talk often about the birth of Christ and the love that came into the world on that night in Bethlehem.

Childhood is so short. And in our society, it’s growing shorter and shorter. I want my home to be filled with magic and wonder, excitement and joy. I want to plant a seed of graciousness, generosity, and appreciation in my son’s heart, and I think Santa is perfect for that. Santa is whatever you make him to be. If you paint him as a genie who grants you anything you want, or a judge who harshly decides if you’ve been naughty or nice, then that’s what he’ll be in your home. In our home, Santa is a wonderful saint of the Lord who gives because Jesus gave his life for us.

Maybe this model doesn’t work for every family. Maybe it doesn’t change your mind about Santa. I’m not really trying to combat any of the arguments I’ve read against Santa, because I respect each parent to parent as they see fit. Your convictions are different from mine, and your concerns and priorities are different from mine. But I did want to put our version of Santa out there for anyone who is looking for a way to keep Santa a part of Christmas without taking focus off of Christ. How do you celebrate Christmas? What is your take on the jolly old elf?

Kat

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “How We “Do” Santa

  1. Mom

    I love this article. I love that “Buggy” gets the truth. I love that you and your brother got the truth.

  2. Nanny

    I couldn’t have explained it as well. Without Jesus there would not be a Christmas. Jesus is the reason for this season.

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