The Santa Struggle
It’s hard to believe that a jolly, old bearded man in a red suit could cause so much controversy, but he does. I feel like every year I am part of a discussion or two about how to handle Santa Claus in a Christian home. People can be very passionate about it.
I have Christian friends who I deeply respect and love who have chosen not to participate in the Santa tradition.
I also have Christian friends who I deeply respect and love who have chosen to participate in the Santa tradition.
Personally, my (Steph’s) family participates in the Santa tradition. Santa is not a big part of our Christmas celebrations. We spend the entire month of December preparing for and celebrating the birth of Jesus. On Christmas morning we decorate a birthday cake and eat it for breakfast. My kids know, and tell everyone around them, that we celebrate Christmas because it is the day Jesus was born. In our family, Santa is on the sidelines. He fills our stockings with small things on Christmas Eve, but my kids each get three presents under the tree (because Jesus got three presents) and those come from my husband and me. We also never tell the kids that Santa is watching them or that their gifts are contingent on their behavior.
I’ve never told my kids that Santa exists, they just picked up on it from the culture around them. Whenever my kids ask a question about Santa, I tell them the truth or, if appropriate, I respond with, “what do you think?” I read them books that explain the origin of Santa and St. Nicholas in order to connect the tradition to Christ and giving (see resources below). I have found books to be helpful in telling the complete story, but keeping the whimsy. My oldest in 6.5 years old and I’m expecting him to ask about it in the next year or so and I will tell him the truth.
Santa came to our house when I was growing up and I loved the tradition, it was whimsical and fun. I remember I was sitting on my mom’s bed watching her get ready when I asked if Santa was real or not. She replied no, confirming what I already knew, and I went on with my day. It was not a traumatizing experience for me, though I recognize that it is for some people. That year my mom let me help fill my sisters’ stockings. I felt proud knowing I was helping to spread Christmas cheer.
You may have read the many articles circulating about how to talk to your kids about Santa in a gentle way by explaining that they can be Santa by giving to others and serving. Personally, we will follow that lead. Maybe not word for word, but I like the idea. You can read one of the articles, How to Tell Kids About Santa, here.
There are a lot of books and resources out there when it comes to Santa, we have compiled some of them here.
Natasha Crain wrote this really great article, Should Christians Include Santa in Christmas?, about evaluating the Santa tradition for your personal family to decide if it is a good fit. She discusses a parent’s influence over time and asks if participating in Santa will ultimately strengthen or harm your influence. I encourage you to check it out!
“It’s more than a question of Santa. It’s a question of how we, as Christian parents, make decisions every day about how to most faithfully raise our children.” -Natasha Crain
Roger Patterson is very direct in this article, Christians and Santa Claus: a Biblical View, and calls for parents to ditch the Santa tradition and focus on Biblical truths.
“Sadly, our culture has shifted its focus to the dazzling decorations and away from a dazzling Savior” -Roger Patterson
I am a huge Connected Families fan. In this article, Is There Harm in Convincing Kids that Santa is Real?, Jim Jackson discusses how to keep the fun and whimsy of Santa without deceiving your kids.
The gift-giving bearded man dressed in red enhances rather than distracts from the Jesus part of the story, with no concern about how kids may one day interpret it all. -Jim Jackson
God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Town Bergen
The Legend of St. Nicholas by Dandi Daley Mackall
A Special Place for Santa, by Jeanne Pieper