My children do not believe in Santa Claus. They never did. To some, this is an obvious move. To others, this is a shock. What’s the deal? Am I some sort of anti-holiday Scrooge? Am I some sort of overzealous fundamentalist? Why in the world would I not have my little ones believe in Santa?
People have asked many times about what our family decided to do about Santa at Christmas time when our kids were little. And, every year, I share a version of this post to try to explain the process that my wife and I went through in deciding our answer to the big question: To Santa or not to Santa.
Since you know the answer already, let me very briefly tell you the reasoning that made the no Santa policy in my home. Then, I will share with you a bit of how we dealt with Santa.
Christmas is a holiday that has been highly over-commercialized in the US for years. People focus on winter, on trees, on lights, on gifts, and not on Jesus. And you know what, none of those are the reasons why my family did not tell my children that Santa was real.
Here is my bottom line reasoning: If I tell my children to believe in a figure that they cannot see, that he watches them from afar, that he judges their motives and actions, that he has supernatural powers, and that he will visit them with gifts every Christmas, they will eventually find out that I have intentionally told them to believe in something that is not true. This fact will not do much for my credibility in telling them true things about God, who is invisible to them, who watches over them though they cannot sense it, who judges their thoughts and actions, and who will bless them with eternal blessings if they will trust in Christ. So, simply put, my wife and I determined that we will never tell our children that something is true when we know that it is not, because it is far too important that they be able to believe us when we tell them some things are true that they cannot see.
How did we deal with Santa and Santa stuff? It’s quite simple. Ever since Abigail was tiny, we worked to distinguish the difference between true stories and pretend ones. In our house, if a story began with “A long time ago…,” it was a true story. If a story began with, “Once upon a time…,” it was a pretend story. The kids did surprisingly well making those distinctions. They still enjoyed the stories that they knew were not real just as any children do—just as I still do.
Since my children had no trouble enjoying that which they knew not to be real, my wife and I never got all crabby when a family member wrapped a Christmas gift and put “From: Santa” on the label. We did not find ourselves upset when they wanted a musical Rudolph toy from Wal-Mart (well, no more upset than when they wanted any obnoxious, noise-making toy). We did not get bent out of shape when a Santa ornament made its way onto a tree near us. We didn’t even mind taking snapshots of them sitting on the knee of a portly, bearded guy in a red, fuzzy suit, though that really was never a big thing for them.
I think that you can tell from what I’ve already written, but just in case it is not clear, Mitzi and I do not look at our decision about Santa as the only possible one. This is a matter of conscience and preference. There is not Scripture that states, “Thou shalt not ho, ho, ho.” I grew up believing in Santa, and it really didn’t harm my worldview that much (so far as I can tell). But, for me and my house, we simply made a decision that we wanted our children to know that Mommy and Daddy would always tell them the truth, and that trumped our desires to have beaming little people listening for sleigh bells on Christmas Eve.
Oh, and in case you are wondering, we also tried our best to keep our children from being the ones who spoil it for others. All three were both told in no uncertain terms that they were not to make it their mission to correct the Santaology of other children. They answered truthfully when asked by other little ones, but they, to my knowledge, never tried to be anti-Santa evangelists.
Hear my heart as I wrap up this post. I am not here attempting to change any family’s plans for how to handle Christmas. Nor am I asking any person to take down Santa décor if we’re coming over. Nor am I suggesting that, if you have just watched a Claymation special with your kids that you have ruined their spiritual chances for the future. So, you do not need to send me cranky comments defending your traditions. Santa stuff is a lot of fun. I love fun stories and the joy of imagination. (We even watch Harry Potter nearly every year around the Christmas season simply because the music feels Christmassy to us; so obviously we are not the strict, non-fiction parents that you might be imagining.) But, since many ask, here is the answer: we made a choice to be able to tell our children that, when mom and dad say something is real, we fully believe it to be real.