Monday, December 22, 2014

How to Do Santa Well (If You're Going to Do the Santa Thing)

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On my last Christmas-related article, “My Kids Will Believe in St. Nick (but They Won’t Believe in Santa)”, I received some contrary responses. I would like to clarify that it was never my intent to offend any parents who “do” Santa, nor did I wish to imply that parents who tell their kids Santa brings gifts are bad parents. I did want to make a statement on the underlying values and theology taught by the tradition of Santa, as well as to provide some questions to guide that thought process.

For those parents who are deciding or have decided, after deliberation, to continue the tradition of Santa in their household, I would like to share some tips for how to do that in a way that doesn’t take away from (but rather illuminates) the story of the birth of Christ.

Know what you are trying to teach them. The story and tradition of Santa is a great way to imbue in children the joy of giving, the beauty of Christmas, and the innocent wonder of stories. Keep in mind what you are trying to teach them, and you will find it easier to avoid what you’re trying not to teach them.

Talk about why Santa gives gifts. Teach your children that Santa gives gifts for the same reason we do: as a reminder of the greatest Gift of all, Jesus.

Use Santa for grace-based theology. In my last post, I mentioned that Santa promotes a works-based theology. Good little boys and girls get gifts, while children on the naughty list get only coal. When you talk about Santa, talk about how he knows when they do bad things, but he forgives them and gives gifts out of love for them. Talk about how this is like Jesus; Jesus knows we can never be good enough to earn heaven, so he came to earth and died for us. Jesus and Santa both give gifts not because we deserve them, but because they love us.

Don’t make Santa the be-all and end-all. Christmas should not be all about Santa. Christmas should not be all about gifts. If Santa and the gifts were to entirely disappear from the Christmas tradition, your child should still be able to recognize Christmas. You can work toward this by using Santa as a parallel for Jesus (as I said before), by attending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day church services, reading the Christmas story as a family, and having a Nativity scene up in your house.

There are lots of ways to do the Santa tradition well, keeping Christ as the center and using Santa to support and illuminate Christ’s birth. My husband and I still won’t teach our children to believe in Santa, but we would never condemn someone who does. Whether you teach Santa, St. Nick, or neither of those, the most important thing is that you remember and teach the true reason for Christmas. At Christmas, God became flesh. On Good Friday, God in flesh, the man Christ Jesus, suffered, died, and was buried for our sins. On Easter, Jesus rose from the dead, conquering sin and death once for all. Whether you do or don’t “do” Santa, do it for Christ.


For more ideas from someone who is “doing the Santa thing”, check out Barefoot and Pregnant’s post on Patheos.com, “The Great Santa Lie Truth”.

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