This time of year, it seems that ‘Santa Claus’ is nearly as polarizing as the names ‘Edward’ and ‘Jacob’ in a cafeteria filled with 6th grade girls.
The thing is, I understand, respect, and appreciate both sides of the Santa debate. Those who don’t include Santa choose to make Christ the center of Christmas while those who do just want to incorporate a fun childhood tradition with their own children. This post is not intended to sway anyone one way or another. It is actually written for my own sake…to process and organize my thoughts about incorporating Santa into our own Christmas celebration.
Up until this year, I have been happily ignorant of the whole issue. Both my husband and I grew up in homes where Santa Claus was part of our celebration. We both have treasured Christmas memories that involve Santa.
So when we celebrated Big Brother’s first Christmas 3 years ago (when he was 11 months old), we didn’t even think about whether or not we would include Santa. It was a given.
It really wasn’t even until this year that I started assessing whether we really should be including Santa in our Christmas celebrations…mostly from other bloggers and writers as well as comments on my Facebook page whenever Santa was mentioned. I didn’t really come to any earth-shattering conclusions after I began pondering this topic, but here are a few things I’ve realized:
As parents striving to raise our children to love the Lord, we celebrate Christ (his life, death, and resurrection) each and every day of the year. We talk about God throughout the day, we read Bible stories, we pray regularly with our children. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t set aside special times to celebrate more intently as well (as God himself commanded His people Israel to do in the Old Testament), but our daily, lifelong focus is to be on Christ.
If Christmas is the only time that you celebrate the birth of Christ, I would conclude that there isn’t any room for Santa in that celebration. 25 days (the length that we typically end up “celebrating” Christmas) is way too short to focus on the whole story of Christ AND Santa. But because we try to make Jesus the focus of every day of the year, having fun with Santa for a few days of the year won’t take away from Christ being the center of our lives or even our Christmas celebrations. Just yesterday I asked Big Brother, “What is Christmas about?” Without any hesitation, he replied, “About Jesus’ birth!”
In our home, Santa is included but not emphasized. Our kids take pictures with Santa (mostly because Mama wants it for the photo album), we read a couple books here and there, and we have a few Santa figurines. But we read WAY more books about Jesus’ birth, have nativity sets prominently displayed, and we focus WAY more on the real meaning of Christmas.
We talk about the story of St. Nicholas and we don’t go out of our way to embellish the fantasies surrounding Santa. Our boys are too young to ask whether or not Santa is “real”, but I would venture to guess that when the day comes when our children ask us point-blank, “Is Santa Real?”, we won’t lie to them. We are especially vigilant not to portray Santa as “God-like.” We don’t talk about the myths such as “He sees you when you’re sleeping…He knows when you’ve been bad or good” (unless, of course, “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” is playing on the radio). Last year, Santa (aka my dad) visited our house while the boys watched from the staircase. Even though this does “feed” into the myths about Santa just a little bit, in my mind it keeps him from being God-like because they can actually see him delivering their gifts and makes him more of a character (like Mickey Mouse or Elmo) and less of a deity.
The fact of the matter is, whether we like it or not, Santa is all around us. Nearly every time we have left the house in the last two weeks, someone has asked one of our children something about Santa (“Is Santa going to come to your house? What did you ask Santa to bring you?”). We can’t even walk into a store without being bombarded with images of the jolly old elf.
So, we have a choice. We can either avoid Santa altogether (which is especially difficult to do in the American culture), we can go all out and embrace all of Santa (myths and all), or we can include Santa for a short time in our daily celebration of the birth of our Savior. The important thing is that we, as the parents, are intentional in every act of parenting (including our holiday celebrations) and decide what is best for our families. For our family, this means the latter.
What about you? Does your family include Santa in your Christmas celebration?
(I appreciate your comments and feedback. Please note however, that any comment found to be rude or offensive will be deleted immediately. I know this is a sensitive issue, but please remember to be respectful.)
Interested in reading a bit more about how Santa can be included in our celebration of the birth of Christ? I recommend reading this post by the authors of When You Rise as well as this post by Mark Driscoll.
And if you’re looking for some resources on including Santa in a Christ-centered celebration, I would highly recommend: