Should Christian parents teach their children about Santa Claus? That’s an interesting question. My wife and I were not raised in a typical Christian home. Don’t get me wrong–our parents would acknowledge that God exists and even pray at times, but we did not study the Bible, attend church regularly, or have theological lessons on scriptures. In other words, we weren’t really trained in the faith or devout Christians in any sense of the word. I hadn’t even read the entire Bible before my mid 20’s. It’s sad but true.
Nevertheless, like most households, we knew all about Santa Claus. I could remember as a kid being so excited each year at the prospect of getting gifts from this mysterious Santa Claus figure. Old St. Nick would always have some cookies or snacks on the table at my house each year. It was a tradition that my wife and I both enjoyed as children.
But now that my wife and I have become born-again Christians (who may be having children of our own within the next few years), we’ve been discussing some traditions we want to create for our own family. As such, this very topic has came up recently, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on this topic.
Origins of Santa Claus
The interesting thing to keep in mind is that Santa Claus is merely a mythical legend likely based upon a real man, St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas was a Christian Bishop (living from 270 – 6 December 343), who was very involved with the Church. In addition to his Christian faith, he was also very generous and reportedly came from a wealthy family. He had a well-known reputation for gift-giving. Hence, you can quickly realize how this true story eventually changed over time into the legend most children know today (with added special effects of reindeer, chimneys, etc).
Also, I should quickly point out that since St. Nicholas was born hundreds of years after the gospels were written, the Bible never mentions Santa Claus.
Should Christians Teach the Story/Myth of Santa Claus to Kids?
I feel that the answer to this question is YES and NO, but mostly no.
Yes, I think it is okay to tell them about the Santa myth, but only in the context of telling them a bedtime story (i.e. Pinoccio or Peter Pan). I think parents should be honest with their children from the beginning and never lead them to believe this is real at all. If you feel compelled to talk about Santa, tell them about the true historical man, and share with them the fun little myths of the story as we know it today. After all, you don’t want your kids to seem as if they were raised on another planet when they see the stores, commercials, and decorations each year.
But remember not to lie to them and encourage them to believe in a real Santa. Lying is a sin (even for fun), and it leads your children to assume something is true that isn’t true. In fact, atheists always love this time of year so that they can compare belief in Santa for children to the “grown up equivalent of humans believing in God.” This isn’t true, of course, and I always like to remind the atheists that St. Nick was in fact real, and a Christian!
Anyway, Christians should promote Christ above all things during this time of year. Jesus is the reason for the season. Parents should be teaching their children that Christ is the reason for the celebration, not Santa. Read the gospels or virgin birth story instead (and there are great cartoon or animated Bibles for this purpose), rather than constantly indulging them with movies and books on Santa. Of course, there is nothing wrong with the occasional story or movie–but the focus should be on Christ.
I’d also recommend Christians to be decorating with scenes of Nativity, not an overweight man in an obnoxious red suit. That is one thing that my wife and I have changed from our home tradition. We put much more emphasis in our decorations on Christ, not Santa. In fact, I do not own one single Santa Claus decoration.
Today’s mythical Santa is the secular world’s (Satan’s) distraction from the great news that Christ was born and died on the cross to redeem our sins–and that is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Presents are a great way to get kids to focus on “me, me, me,” instead of Jesus and helping others.
What my wife and I plan to do with our children is to tell them both the true story and the myth, but it will always be in a way so that they know the mythical portions aren’t true. We will make a point to say it is only make-believe. They will never believe in a real Santa flying around and hopping down chimneys, eating loads of cookies, and leaving presents for kids all over the world. Instead, they will know there was a real man who lived and gave gifts, and also about this “make believe” version of the story. But that’s it. Santa will be so marginalized that he’ll almost be forgotten.
Instead, I will spend the majority of my time telling my kids about the amazing story of Jesus. I will tell them that we celebrate his birth and remember his amazing sacrifice during this time of year.
Also, I am not going to let some overweight man in a red suit–battling a potential case of rosacea and diabetes— get the credit for any gifts I give my own kids. I want them to know my wife and I are the ones who gave them the gifts, and it was because we love them. In addition, I don’t want to use Santa as a “scare tactic” like some parents do, telling my kids that if they aren’t good, they won’t get presents (oh no!).
Santa will be so diminished in my household, that my kids will barely even think of him. Instead, I want our Christmas holidays to be filled with love, giving, and a major emphasis on the real reason for the season: Jesus Christ.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning this last point: How many of us Christians get upset when stores force people to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas?” How many of us get upset when atheists whine and pitch hissy fits to have nativity scenes and other Christian decorations removed from government property?
Yet…how many of us are doing the same thing in our own homes by stripping Christ from Christmas and presenting a watered-down, gift-giving, obese man as His replacement?
We take the time to honor Memorial Day, President’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and everything else. Can’t we give our Creator a day? Granted, we should worship Him in spirit and in truth 365 days per year. He should take priority every day.
And true, the Bible may never come out and say that Jesus was born on December 25th. Maybe He was, maybe He wasn’t. Nevertheless, can’t we choose to honor Him just a little more on one day out of the year? Can’t we stop and reflect on His amazing virgin birth? Our savior was born, only to die an agonizing death so that we might have life!
Conclusion: Christian Parents Should Teach Their Kids About Santa as a Fictional Character ONLY
Here are the main summary points of this article on my feelings of how Christians should approach Santa Claus:
- According to many accounts, St. Nicholas was a real man, who was a Christian, which is what the Santa tradition is based on.
- Christians should focus with their children on the true meaning of Christmas–a Savior was born in the flesh and redeemed our sins. Christ should always be the main focus, and the Santa thing should only be mentioned in passing (and never emphasized).
- Christians should tell their children about the true and mythical story of Santa (St. Nick), only so their kids can understand it all. Again, this should never dominate the holiday. Children should be able to name the 12 disciples, not Santa’s 9 reindeer. They should be singing hymns or songs about Christ–not Santa Claus is coming to town. They should be striving to be “good” because it is God’s will–not because they may not get that shiny new toy.
- Christian parents should never lie to their children (a sin) or lead them to believe a mythical person is real–even if it is for fun. Not only is it a sin, but it doesn’t set a good example for the children in the long run.
- Don’t make Christmas about presents either–that should only be an afterthought. Make it about Christ. Make it about giving and not so much about receiving. Make it about loving. Make it about giving worship to our Creator. Gift-giving is just something some people may choose to do for a little added fun on the side, but it shouldn’t be the central theme. I’m not saying to avoid giving gifts to your children, but rather, they should focus on giving first, receiving second.
So now that I am a Christian, that is my personal view on this issue after some prayer, reflection, and study. I am sure some Christians may do things a little differently, but that is what I think is most appropriate for us as a Christian family, and I’d encourage other Christians to follow something similar.