Santa Claus, are you for real?
(Copyright @2009 by Yonko Mali, All rights reserved.)
As Christian parents, what do we tell our children about Santa Claus?
I struggled with that as a young parent raising my children.
In my case, when I was a young child, I was very disappointed to find out that Santa Claus was a hoax, a myth. I felt like a fool. I felt dumb. And I was very disappointed that adults seemed to like fooling children in this way.
In fact, in my case, I blame this Santa Claus experience in my life as part of the reason I struggled with the question, “Jesus Christ, are you for real?”
So I decided I would do something different with my children. But what exactly? Should I start telling my children, flat out, that Santa Claus is a fake, a hoax?
But then maybe using the blunt truth could also backfire and cause my children pain and confusion in other ways. For example, they would see all the other children enjoying their belief in a Santa Claus, and getting excited about what presents they would receive from Santa Claus at Christmas time while they would not be receiving any presents from Santa Claus at my house.
Also my children would be watching TV and going to the stores and see Santa Claus being celebrated everywhere. They would see all the Santa Claus decorations, the reindeer, the happy elves - and as small children, they would see the “real” Santa Claus in this store and then in another store. They see him in person everywhere, so he must be real in the eyes of small children.
Only older children would start using logic and notice that the Santa Claus in one store looked quite different than the Santa Claus in another store. And how did he get from the one store to the other store in so short a time? And seeing multiple Santa Clauses’ together, may finally cause them to question the whole thing.
But small children want to believe in anything good and they trust adults - especially their parents. And they readily accept any explanation for any question about Santa Clause that they have.
So what to do as a Christian Parent? Well, here is what I came up with. As I studied the origins of Santa Claus, more properly we should call him Saint Nicklaus, and as I studied how different cultures celebrated Santa Clause, I had the insight that the main idea of Santa Claus should be that Santa Claus is a person, any person, who does nice things for people in secret. Santa Clause can be any person who does nice things for people in secret and without wanting any praise in return and not needing any recognition for the good deeds he is doing. And Santa Claus should not be only about giving and receiving presents but also about doing good deeds, about being nice to people, and about having fun.
The earliest stories about Santa Claus probably started in what is today the country of Turkey in the region of Lycia, in the early in the 4th century when that area of the world was mostly Christian. St Nick was a Catholic Bishop or Cardinal so that is where the Red suit and walking stick comes from. It is believed that he came from a wealthy family and so he probably used his own money for making the secret gifts that made him famous in the region. By being the local priest he readily knew who needed help. Eventually the people found out who it was that was giving out the gifts. But his legend lives on as Santa Claus. In Holand, they call him Sinterclaas, in England he is known as Father Christmas and in France Pere Noel.
So here are some my suggestions about Santa Claus for this Christmas season:
Show your children by example, how you did something nice for someone in secret this Christmas season and say you were following Saint Nicks example.
Plan some projects with your children and do something nice for people, both in secret and in public. For example, you can say, “Let’s be Santa Claus and bring joy to our neighbors by singing Christmas Carols to them.”
Or better yet, let’s go visit the local Nursing Home and sing some carols or make some cookies or bring some small presents. The elderly people always welcome small children with smiles on their faces.
Tell your children about the true CHRISTIAN origins of Santa Claus; about Saint Nicklaus and explain to them how different cultures use Santa Claus in their as part of their Christmas celebration. And that Santa Claus is more than simply getting presents under the Christmas Tree. Tell them about the true meaning of Christmas, that it’s a celebration of Jesus’s birth - and throw Him a birthday party.
Read them all the stories about Christmas from the Bible. And if they are old enough to read, have your children read the Bible stories concerning Christmas. Follow up by singing the great Christmas carols together.
And its even OK for small children to believe in a Sana Claus as long as you define it as Let’s have fun, Let’s have Make Believe about Santa Claus, so as they grow up they will not be disappointed in the TRUTH about Santa Claus like I was. And remind them always about the Christian origins of Santa Claus in the first Saint Nicklaus.
For make believe, ask your children to make up a their own story about Santa Clause. Your precocious child may say that Santa Claus now comes in a Helicopter, none of that old fashion sled and reindeer stuff.
And as parents you can start off the Make Believe games by making up your own story, like you may say My Santa Claus only brings good and healthy foods to Mommy and Daddy and their children because we eat too much junk food that’s too fatty and too salty and too, too sweet!
With my family both on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, we will always ask this question, “Who wants to be Santa Claus this year?” Because Santa Claus is the person who picks out the presents from under the Christmas Tree and gives out the presents to everyone else.
And finally, we always read the story by Harold Myra called “Santa, are you for real?” You can find it at most Christian bookstores. The publisher is Thomas Nelson. And I recommend the longer version, not the short book for very small children.
And here’s a tip for you guys out there. Are you tired of never getting any of the real man stuff you really want for Christmas. You can try this trick that I have used a few times but use it at your own peril. I would buy what I really wanted, then wrapped it up and hide it and then on Christmas eve, I would shove it way back in the corner under the Christmas tree. Then when everyone else was finished opening their presents. I would spy the last package hidden way back there and ask the youngest child who knows how to read, to retrieve the present. I would ask, who is it for. The child would answer, “Its for John. Its from Santa Claus!” And then I would open up the present and act as surprised as I could and I would say, Boy its just what I wanted. How did Santa Claus know.
The first time I pulled off this trick a few years ago. My wife was astonished, How could a guy who was against celebrating Santa Claus do such a thing. I answered that I was only trying to make up for my troubled childhood.
Just remember: you may get in trouble with your wife if you try this trick!
So have fun with Santa Claus this Christmas season. Merry Christmas and remember – Jesus is the reason for the season!