A pastor told me once that he didn’t think he was going to teach his someday child about Santa Claus because he didn’t want her developing a complex after she inevitably learned he wasn’t real … comparing him to Jesus, whom she also cannot see, and imagining Jesus would one day leave her, too. As this pastor told me his thoughts, I listened intently, then realized I was starting to feel bad for the big, bearded, jolly fellow (Santa, not my pastor). And I started feeling bad for my pastor’s as-yet-imaginary daughter, too. Obviously it’s important—it’s everything!—that she know how real, important and present Jesus is. But I don’t think a lovely little story of a guy who likes to give can compromise that; at least not irreparably. Hereby I humbly make my Case for Claus. (No groans, please).
1. First, I have to say … I have never met an 8-year-old whose presence of mind and understanding of complex ideas extended much far beyond single-digit multiplication tables and puppies. In other words, I really don’t think they’re going to make that connection there. When I found out that Santa’s handwriting was really just my mom using her left hand, I was more confused at why my parents would go to so much trouble to prove Santa to me and less angry at the fake Santa Claus for deserting my needy self. And comparing him to Jesus? Never crossed my mind. Santa is a jolly guy who likes to give gifts to everyone and spends the rest of the year virtually irrelevant. Jesus is the most relevant person in my world … and yours. No comparison!
I’ve read some blogs from some people who’ve said they actually did make this connection, and after realizing Santa wasn’t real, they also decided anything they couldn’t physically see, including God, was also not real. But here’s where the parents step in, I say. Explain to your kid the differences between teaching them a nice principle of giving via a jolly character and the man who literally saved their life and soul by dying in a very real way.
2. I think children need mystery and to believe in mystery. They need lots of possibilities and to believe curious things and places exist; and there is room for joy that some may find unmerited or inappropriately generous. It’s part of being a kid, a beautiful part, and it’s how kids become adults with dreams and the motivation to explore them. Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW believes that "all children have the right to be fascinated and enchanted by the nurturing, age-old myths and fables of their culture. Santa Claus, and yes, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy engage a young child’s sense of wonder." If you don’t know who Carleton Kendrick is, just look at all those acronyms after his name. Clearly he knows what he’s talking about.
But even if he doesn’t, I still agree with him.
3. I do indeed wish my children to leave me cookies and milk; and to find unmerited joy in the simple fact that they were eaten. I love to be loved for my eating. I often feel my skill in that area goes unappreciated.
4. Santa’s example of generosity is worthy to be taught. When a child discovers Santa is not real, I don’t believe that child would then extend his nonexistence to the principles he stood for. Children recognize that Santa is beloved; that he brings joy to people. God has placed in all hearts—no matter how young—the knowledge of how very valuable that is. If Santa isn’t real, his lesson of generosity still can be.
5. How are you going to explain so many of the world’s greatest Christmas tunes if your child doesn’t know who Santa is? Who did you see Mommy kissing? Who’s coming right down Santa Claus lane? Who is coming to town? Down through the chimney comes who?
6. Santa wants your kids to be nice, not naughty. Wouldn’t it be nice to have Santa be the “bad guy” for once? Threatening kids with less presents if they are naughty might seem a bit cheap, but I think Santa knows what he’s doing. It’s a very basic way of teaching kids their actions have consequences, is it not? It’s a self-involved lesson of course to say “you should be nice to others so you receive more gifts.” But I argue that if nothing else, it teaches a child that being nice is, indeed, valuable; and others find it to be valuable, too. I would also argue children learn best through self-focused lessons. We don’t really know how to move our focus from self to others until we are older, I believe. My last point here would be though our salvation is not based on works, Jesus talks often about building up our treasures in Heaven, and about getting one day the same measure we gave. There’s something biblical to the idea that our actions have consequences, not just for others but ourselves as well.
Full disclosure: I have no kids, and I don’t consider myself in any way an authority on this. I think if you, as parents, choose to not teach your child about Santa Claus, perhaps it really is the right thing for your family. You know better than I do. I just know my childhood Christmases and even my Christmases now would be much different if I didn’t have that sparkly feeling—no matter how slight—of wonder that comes when I imagine the white beard and cozy red hat. Santa might not be really sitting up there at the North Pole, pounding wooden toys and glancing over a comically large paper scroll with spectacles at his nose, but I don’t mind.
Maria is a recent college graduate from Ohio who just got married and moved to Arizona because she likes an adventure. She can’t wait for Christmas, especially because she gets to spend it with her family, even if they do always overcook the ham.