Seriously, why Santa? Re-thinking the purpose of this jolly old Christmas ‘fairy tale’


Seriously, why Santa? I concede it’s all probably harmless, and “all in good fun” — but why? Wouldn’t kids be more grateful if they knew from day one their gifts came mommy, daddy, grammy, grandpa, or better yet — are blessings from God? Why base their formative years on a fairy tale? Because “everyone else is doing it” and you don’t want your kid to be left out? Is that really a good enough reason? These are genuine questions I’m asking as a new parent who hasn’t had to deal with it yet, and I’m honestly looking for feedback from parents.

The reason I hear the most is that “doing Santa” is a family tradition with many wonderful childhood memories, and parent’s want to re-live these memories with their own children. I don’t have a problem with that, and I respect how people choose to celebrate the Christmas season with their families. The purpose of this blog, however, is to think ‘counter culturally.’ And with that goal in mind, I try to step back and simply evaluate why our culture is so set on carrying on the ruse of jolly old St. Nick with kids, some well into their school-age years.

Obviously I come at this from the Christian perspective, but my intent with this article is not to make it a Christian vs. non-Christian issue. There are many Christians that “do Santa” while still honoring the true meaning of Christmas (I hope anyway), and of course many non-Christians (agnostics, atheists, etc) who look to Santa as the central gift-giver.

When I posted this question to Facebook in order to “research” this topic with parents, the response was lively to say the least.

If you take the time to read the thread from the Facebook post, you’ll see respondents from both sides weighed in. After taking a few days to let all the opinions and feedback sink in from friends I respect (which resulted in scratching my original plan to write a scathing dismissal of this make-believe boss of a sort of North Pole WalMart), following are some conclusions to which I’ve come to if you do decide to keep some sort of Santa tradition going.

Don’t keep lying to your child once they start to figure things out and begin to ask if Santa’s really real. Seriously, this is when damage can be done. Let it be a fairy tale, and let Santa be just another “Disney” character. Cinderella isn’t going to come visit your house anytime soon, and you don’t tell your child if they behave she and Mickey Mouse might stop by for a play date.

Which brings me to my next point that is more Christian in nature…

Don’t tell your child that Santa will only bring them gifts if they are good and behave (or wont bring them anything if they misbehave). This line of reasoning is equivalent to works-based righteousness, and as Christians we don’t subscribe to that mind game. I will concede that with the Christian life comes an expectation to “be good” (for lack of a better term), but only by the grace of God and not because our behavior makes us any better than others (or gets us to heaven). Good behavior should simply be to please God as a natural result of having a saving faith rooted in Christ. Teaching kids that they must behave to get good gifts gets them off on the wrong foot with understanding the unconditional loving relationship they have with their heavenly father.

Don’t let a focus on Santa hijack the true meaning of Christmas. Many of the parents who responded to my Facebook post made sure to qualify that their Santa time is exceeded by a proper focus on Jesus, and the true meaning of Christmas. That’s great, but this is where being sure that Santa remains a fairy tale is critical. If you put Santa side-by-side with Jesus, and maintain that Santa is real well into their school-age years, then when you finally give up the ruse they may have doubts about Jesus, as well.

For Christians that spend the entire year focusing on Jesus, rather than just the few weeks around Christmas, this concern is significantly lessened and most-likely a non issue. So, in short, build your family on Jesus year around and keep Santa no more than a fun-filled fairy tale when he pops into your child’s psyche at the end of the year.

Christmas really should be about giving, not just receiving. The legends associated with the real St. Nicholas, a Catholic Bishop who lived from 280-343 A.D., are about a selfless man who gave to the less fortunate. If you have a Santa tradition with your children, maybe make it more about giving rather than receiving — take it as an opportunity to bless others. Some examples could be picking a family to provide gifts for the children, buying a family’s oil heat for a month, or meeting some needs of local area homes and shelters.

A final word for everyone that is pro-Santa — think outside the box and don’t just “do the Santa thing” in it’s current form because “everyone else is doing it.”  In fact, the current Americanized Santa character didn’t even take shape until the mid-1800’s, so it’s not like our culture can’t consider giving him the boot.

Lastly, have a little more grace with families that decide to exclude the consumer-crazed jolly red giant from their Christmas celebrations, and we will do our best to keep our school-age kids from telling yours it’s all just a fairy tale.