It’s that time of year again. Go into just about any department store and you will see Christmas stuff. Some lament that it is too early for Christmas stuff, but I LOVE it. I LOVE Christmas. It’s my favorite time of year. I never get sick of Christmas music or Christmas lights. Heck, I have Christmas music on my iPod and will listen to it pretty much any time, year round. I am THAT guy. But, there is a discussion that comes up every year around this time, SANTA. More importantly it’s the discussion of how Christian parents should handle it and how churches should handle it.
He was real. The story of Santa Claus is based, originally, on a real person. Saint Nick was a Christian known for doing kind things around the holidays. From there the story has grown into something that is far from the truth, but is started out harmless enough.
Harmless fantasy. Personally I consider the Santa to be harmless fantasy. When I was a kid we played cops and robbers. We played cowboys and Indians. We would pretend to be race car drivers. We would ride our bikes around the neighborhood pretending that they were motorcycles. AND, we believed in Santa Clause. My parents never felt the need to tell me that I was not a cop or a cowboy. They never corrected me when I pretended my big wheel was a race car or my bicycle a motorcycle. AND they allowed me to believe in Santa Clause. Why? Because they believed, as I do, that all of this was just harmless fantasy. Should parents stop their kids from playing such games for fear that they may get mad at us for letting them believe a lie? I think it is much more important to teach kids the difference between fantasy and reality.
Are We LYING to our children. Some take the stance that to allow our children to believe in Santa Clause is basically lying to them. In fact I know a man that I respect very much and consider a mentor that says he felt a sense of betrayal when the truth about Santa was revealed. I would certainly never want any child to feel this way, and I hate that this friend ever felt it. But, I would argue that this feeling is pretty rare. I call my 5 year old daughter princess. Am I lying to her? Is she really a princess? She is not a really a princess, but I don’t, for second, think that she is going to be angry with me when she learns that she is not actually a princes. Nor do I think that she is going to feel betrayed when she learns that Santa is just a fantasy and the guy at the mall just a kind, old man in a red suit.
What should a parent do? I would never seek to tell parents how they should handle this issue. It’s a personal decision that is based on a lot of factors. As parents we each have to know our children. If we think that our children might be ones to walk away with a sense of betrayal over it, then you need to make the decision that is best for your family. That’s the way it is with parenting, we each have to do what we think is best. We each have to go with our personal convictions.
What should churches do? Regardless of the connection to Saint Nick, Santa Clause as we know him today is a fictional Character. Furthermore, he has no connection with the REAL reason for Christmas. Add to this the fact that some families chose to do Santa and some don’t and I think it is simply something that churches should shy away from. I don’t put up any Santa decorations. I don’t talk about Santa, either for or against, in children’s church, etc. If asked by a parent how I feel about it I will tell them, but I keep it out of what we do. Ultimately, just as parents have to make this decision for their family, ministry leaders have to make this decision for their ministry, but I would recommend simply not talking about it in your children’s ministry events or programs.