At this point in my life, I’m not sure what we will do about disclosing the truth/myth of Santa to you. Both Lydia and I are leaning towards telling you Santa does not exist, but nothing is for certain. I grew up believing in Santa (until my younger sister told me he didn’t exist, and that Mom and Dad had told her already) and Lydia grew up not believing in Santa, and I think we both turned out just fine. Probably not a huge deal – but I really appreciated Noel Piper’s (John Piper’s wife) opinion on this. I’ll quote her:
Over the years, we have chosen not to include Santa Claus in our Christmas stories and decorations. There are several reasons.
First, fairy tales are fun and we enjoy them, but we don’t ask our children to believe them.
Second, we want our children to understand God as fully as they’re able at whatever age they are. So we try to avoid anything that would delay or distort that understanding. It seems to us that celebrating with a mixture of Santa and manger will postpone a child’s clear understanding of what the real truth of God is. It’s very difficult for a young child to pick through a marble cake of part-truth and part-imagination to find the crumbs of reality.
Third, we think about how confusing it must be to a straight-thinking, uncritically-minded preschooler because Santa is so much like what we’re trying all year to teach our children about God. Look, for example, at the “attributes” of Santa.
- He’s omniscient—he sees everything you do.
- He rewards you if you’re good.
- He’s omnipresent—at least, he can be everywhere in one night.
- He gives you good gifts.
- He’s the most famous “old man in the sky” figure.
But at the deeper level that young children haven’t reached yet in their understanding, he is not like God at all.
For example, does Santa really care if we’re bad or good? Think of the most awful kid you can remember. Did he or she ever not get gifts from Santa?
What about Santa’s spying and then rewarding you if you’re good enough? That’s not the way God operates. He gave us his gift—his Son—even though we weren’t good at all. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He gave his gift to us to make us good, not because we had proved ourselves good enough.
Helping our children understand God as much as they’re able at whatever age they are is our primary goal. But we’ve also seen some other encouraging effects of not including Santa in our celebration.
First, I think children are glad to realize that their parents, who live with them all year and know all the worst things about them, still show their love at Christmas. Isn’t that more significant than a funny, old, make-believe man who drops in just once a year?
Second, I think most children know their family’s usual giving patterns for birthday and special events. They tend to have an instinct about their family’s typical spending levels and abilities. Knowing that their Christmas gifts come from the people they love, rather than from a bottomless sack, can help diminish the “I-want-this, give-me-that” syndrome.
And finally, when children know that God’s generosity is reflected by God’s people, it tends to encourage a sense of responsibility about helping make Christmas good for others.
Again – I’m not going to criticize families for telling their children Santa is real, because it’s truly not that big of a deal to me. Shoot, I even picture signing some presents “From, Santa” just for tradition sake. However, for some of these reasons expressed above, I think I’m leaning toward teaching you the true Reason for this gloriously wonderful seasons is our precious Lord Jesus – and celebrate that ahead of all else. Till next time, Jack.