Should our children believe in Santa Claus? This seems like a simple question, and shouldn’t be such a serious topic. I’m probably over-thinking things, but it’s something I had to seriously consider.
I grew up in a fairly non-religious family who had strong faith in Santa Claus. I heard stories of and even had my own magical, unexplainable Santa experiences. I was sure he was real.
I didn’t feel great about myself as a child, and was fairly convinced I was not worthy of love. But Santa seemed to love me no matter what I did. Or at least he brought presents.
Of course, sometimes I got presents I wanted on Christmas, and sometimes I didn’t. And as I got older, I started to doubt Santa’s existence. But I wanted to believe.
By that point in my childhood, I’d given myself to Christ. I didn’t solely rely on Santa for acceptance anymore, but to me Santa and God were very similar. They were both mysterious, loving, and in my house, seasonal. I’d even started to wonder if God was the one filling my stocking.
Eventually, my doubts about Santa solidified, and while I was sad, there was something much bigger I was grappling with. My faith.
I’d been told to, and readily did, put a lot of faith in Santa Claus and now I couldn’t rely on him. What did this mean about Jesus? Would I be disappointed again? Did I really have anyone?
I’ll never forget one college weekend trip in Belfast. My bunk mates and I were getting ready for bed and two of us were sharing our common faith in God. A third mate jumped in and asked us if we were serious. We both confirmed, and she said, “I can’t believe it. It’s like you’re saying you both REALLY believe in Santa Claus.” I wasn’t the only one who had felt the similarity.
Of course, as an adult, my faith in Christ is much stronger, and his existence confirmed continuously. But as I have children of my own, I am careful how to approach the topic of Santa Claus.
My first thoughts were:
- Christmas should be about Jesus, not presents.
- We should put emphasis on giving to others, not on what we want.
- I don’t want them to expect a lot every year, because we might not always be able to deliver.
- What will this do to their faith?
- What will this do to their trust in our word?
As my oldest son got older, I was hoping I could dodge the issue by not bringing it up, talking specifics, or asking him what he wanted all the time. It seemed to be working. He never mentioned gifts, but looked forward to the Christmas tree and lights. Gifts were just a bonus that he didn’t really get worked up about.
My son is much more inquisitive than I anticipated. On top of that, he’s still not sure how to decipher real from make-believe. Unfortunately, he was seeing some scary things on TV at daycare that he believed to be real. I tried to make it clear what is real and what isn’t, and it led to him being convinced Santa is pretend. This may have been harmless, if it didn’t affect other children, but it will. Plus, he seemed kinda sad when Santa was mentioned. We needed damage-control.
We took him to the mall to see Santa and tell him what he wanted. We waited in line for two hours, and our son got a brief interaction with the grumpiest Santa I ever met. I was hoping my son wouldn’t notice. I think the lavish decorations and free candy cane may have done the trick.
My son told Santa he wants a “median airplane.” While we weren’t sure what “median” meant in this context, we were satisfied with the modest request for a toy airplane. He spread his arms wide when he said it, so a toy that large may be a rarity, but possible.
While Daddy was out shopping, he happened to browse airplanes and asked that I prepare my son for the possibility that a toy airplane that size might not fly. My son said, “Santa’s bringing me an airplane I sit in and drive with a steering wheel and red button like my friend’s monster truck.” While I texted Daddy this clarifying information, my son added, “My airplane is going to be Ripslinger, and have a working propeller!” as he giggled into his pillow with delight. He was so excited! I told him I wasn’t sure if that existed, and he said, “Oh, I’ve been praying for it, and God will tell Santa! He’ll bring it!” I soon overheard his younger brother praying aloud. Then, my oldest telling him, “I prayed that Santa will bring one for each of us!” He lost himself into another fit of giggles.
When Daddy got home, we held each other in sadness. This was what I had feared. I didn’t want my son to be disappointed. With all he’s going through, what he needs most is to be shown he’s special, and what if he didn’t feel that way on Christmas? Why did we ask him to think about what he wants? How could we get the focus back on what’s important without losing Santa altogether? How was this so complicated?
We decided on a few tings:
- We will stick to keeping Christmas modest, aiming for some consistency from one year to the next.
- We will make stronger attempts to visit Santa each year, to establish tradition.
- We will write to Santa. We hope Santa’s encouraging response will bring more love and meaning than his gifts.
- We will continue to make birthday cake for Jesus and sing Happy Birthday to Him on Christmas day.
- We will revive our habit of reading the children’s Bibles with them often.
- When needed, we will join our children in prayer for the toys they want most.
Christmas wouldn’t exist without Jesus, and that can never be taken from us. We don’t need to stress about the worldly parts of Christmas, because we will always have Jesus for Christmas. And He can help us with the worldly parts we struggle with.