Sunday, November 30, 2008

How Christian Is YOUR Santa?

Perhaps one of the most hotly debated issues around Christmas is whether or not, as Christians, we're supposed to tell our children about Santa. You know as well as I do that this determines your worth as a parent.It's kind of like the whole Amy Grant situation. As the years pass, I can't remember if we're still supposed to be mad at her or not. To El Shaddai or not El Shaddai; that is the question. Same with Santa.

Once, in a women's group, I mentioned taking my kids to visit Saint Nick. As soon as I said it, one mom said, "We choose not to lie to our children. If we lie to them about Santa they'll think we're lying about Jesus. Then where would we be?" She made a good point. As my kids and I keyed her Mercedes later that day I couldn't help but wonder if my children would be scarred for life because of Santa Claus? Was I doing irreversible damage? I lost a good 20 minutes of sleep that night wondering...

That was 3 years ago. Today I have come to my senses. I know that not everyone will agree on the issue of Saint Nick, but we have to admit, he's here to stay. So if by chance you find yourself debating whether or not to take your kids to see Santa this season, you've come to the right place.

In order to help you distinguish Christian Santas from heathen ones I have devised the following points system. Before taking your child to see Father Christmas observe him according to the following scale. Add and subtract points according to your observations.

The Stacy From Louisville Christian Santa Assessment

Santa says, "Merry Christmas!" +4

Santa says, "Happy Holidays!" -2

There's a nativity set up beside Santa's chair. +3 points

There's a nativity set up beside the chair with a fiber optic reindeer as the focal point. -3 points

There's a baptistery every child must be dunked in before he can speak to Santa. +2 points

A kid nearly drowned in it because an elf took a cigarette break. -4 points

Santa has a tattoo of a cross. +1 point

Santa has a tattoo of himself. -2 points

Santa says, "Truth is, I'm not real. Not at all. But Jesus is real and He loves you!" +2 points

Santa wears a t-shirt that says, "My Boss Is A Jewish Carpenter". +2 points

Santa wears a t-shirt that says, "I like your cookies!" (I'm talking baked goods here people! Get your mind out of the gutter!) -2

On the back of his sleigh Santa has a big Christian fish and 8 smaller ones for each reindeer. +2 point

On the back of his sleigh Santa has a rusted out bumper and inappropriate mud flaps. -2 points

For Christmas Santa gives your son a polyester suit and a scholarship to Bible college. +4 points

For Christmas Santa gives your daughter an ankle-length skirt and an Mrs. Degree. -4 points

Santa smells like soft notes of sweet baby Jesus and candy cane. +3

Santa smells like Hickory Farms and cigarettes. -2

Santa just got back from a mission trip. +2

Santa just got out on a work permit. -3

So, how did your local Santa score? Perhaps you saw other questionable behavior. What guidelines would be deal breakers for you? Help me add to the list...


Tricia said...

Good post. I must say, I did take my daughter to see Santa already. She knows the deal, he is a nice guy who gave her a free coloring book. The presents come from Mommy and Daddy and Jesus is the real reason for Christmas. But I don't see anything wrong with Santa. My daughter is 3 and she is not any less a kid because she knows the truth. But even if she didn't, no hurt in talking about Santa.

The reality is that the original Santa was real. He was a nice guy who did give gifts to people. If I remember correctly...the first gifts came in the stockings only and then it went out from there. Of course...I could totally be thinking about the claymation Christmas special stuff and have no idea what I am talking about...who knows! Anyway, no harm in seeing Santa. When the kids are old enough to get it...maybe tell them the truth...but don't make a huge deal.

Tobyhanna, PA

Candace Jean July 16 said...

You've outdone yourself, Stacy. "To El Shaddai or not El Shaddai" - RUCTLOL (that's rolling under Christmas tree....LOL).

A couple years ago I saw a Santa wearing sandals. Seriously. Points?

Word verification: scapored (how women react to keyed Mercedes)

sundog said...

I've yet to find a 'Santa's lap' that I would feel comfortable allowing my child to sit upon. They really creep me out. Does that mean I'm paranoid?

Mella DP said...

My parents never made a big deal out of emphasizing that Santa wasn't real, but they never once hinted otherwise. They were so nonchalant about it that I seriously never knew that some kids actually did believe him to be real until I was nine or ten.

Ever since then, I've entertained elaborate fantasies about telling believer children the truth just to make them cry. (Such fantasies usually include a line like, "Well, your parents lied to you, so they obviously don't love you very much.") I'm a really, really bad person.

Your Mercedes lady is a dope, though. I don't believe it can be right to lie to your children just so you can be entertained by their enchantment, but the Jesus line is stupid.

Jil said...

Not having children, I cannot honestly say what I will tell them... however I don't remember ever believing in Santa and I don't think it damaged me, so I think I'll lean down that route.
I had a customer today with a son about age 6. I'm not certain how the subject came up, but he was wondering how Santa was going to come out of their chimney because something was covered in glass. I replied that Santa had magic, so there was no need to worry. (Nice of me to support the parents lies, eh?)
The boy replied that Santa would *pow* break the glass... and he probably had so much power from doing lots of meditation.
So... how many points for a meditating Santa?

vanilla said...

I'm in my eighth decade of life and I certainly believe in Santa. Nothing rankles me more than to have some seven-year old kiddie tell me, "Santa isn't real because my mommy told me so."

Lauren said...

Cute post! It really is a hot debate. We have ultimately - after lengthy prayer, deliberation, and discussion - decided not to invite Santa to our house. But not in a "creepy-frozen-fake-smile-'not-going-to-lie-to-our-children'-and-I-know-it-was-you-who-keyed-my-car-Stacy" kind of way.

Frankly, this has been a really, really, hard decision for us. We decided on it back in the early fall, and as Christmas gets into full swing and there are sweet and magical movies on every channel, we have to continually go back to the reasons we made our decision in the first place.

The thing is, we're taking so much heat from Santa people! We've had friends or family tell us that we are stupid, being cruel to our children, depriving them of "the experience," or setting them up for disastrous confusion. (These are things that people have actually said to us, verbatim.)

While I know your post was - as always - intended for tongue in cheek sarcasm and humor, I want to be serious for a second. We don't in any way view this as an issue of right or wrong, good or bad parenting, or a sliding scale of holiness by which to judge how people are raising their children. We don't think Santa is inherently bad, we just realized that celebrating with Santa is not the right choice for our family.

wv: rerva: that choking sound my mother-in-law made when my husband told her we wouldn't be playing Santa while she was drinking hot coffee

SirMax said...

This is the greatest post! I see no issue with Santa as long as you don't become obsessed with buying everything your child wants.

Merry Christmas!


eastern ky pastor said...

My parents told me early on that Santa wasn't real. I think it might be because I kept getting Santa and Jesus confused. It must have been pretty distressing for a five year old to ask how Jesus was going to come down our chimney.

Funny thing is, it seems a lot of Christians get Jesus and Santa mixed up, as in we treat Jesus as though His purpose of being is to give us what we want. I think that's more of an issue.

vanilla said...

--we treat Jesus as though His purpose of being is to give us what we want. I think that's more of an issue.
--eastern ky pastor just turned the conversation serious. This is exactly the issue. Too many of us do tend to think of God as Santa Claus. Yes, He is the giver of all gifts, but it is not His "job" to satisfy our whims.

Christy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marni said...

We have Santa, but we don't go see Santa. I hate malls at Christmas. My daughters only know of Santa by seeing pictures, TV shows, etc. Somehow that makes me feel like I didn't create the lie, I just perpetuated it. Kind of like being the get away driver, rather than being the one that actually held up the gas station.

This is likely our last year of a Santa because our youngest is pretty much on to us, but it was fun while it lasted and I have no regrets.

My oldest believes in Jesus even though we lied to her for so many years, so there went Mrs. Mercedes theory if that helps with that 20mins of precious sleep you lost 3 years ago.

Besides, when my kids land in therapy as adults, it won't have anything to do with how we lied to them. They'll have way bigger fish to fry about other stuff we did to wreck them.

Julianna said...

I agree with Lauren. My husband and I have come to the same conclusion. We don't judge others and hope that others won't judge us. My parents won't accept the fact that we won't so they talk to our daughter about it. She's too young to understand right now, so we will deal with that when we get there. I think she's most likely to laugh it off if my husband and I can be good to do that. We have agreed to still read stories like "Twas the Night Before Christmas" and "The Polar Express" and view Santa in our house as the storybook character he is.

Good comparison from eastern ky pastor. Too many people see God that way and turn away from him when things go wrong. Not biblical at all.

Tasty said...

Smiling is my favorite!

Kathleen said...

I remember when I was a kid, my Granny and Grandad would send us presents for Christmas, and they would sign them "Santa Claus", probably because my mom didn't do Santa with us and they thought she was wacko.

I thought to myself at the time (as a child that didn't believe in Santa) that they were just being stubborn, signing Santa when they knew we didn't believe in him. They were very persistent, even pretending not to know what we were talking about when we phoned them to thank them for the gifts. "We didn't get you that, that was Santa Claus!"

Ah well.

wv: Conet - Comet the Reindeer's pointy-headed younger brother. He wasn't pretty enough to make the fly squad.

daphne said...

After I called one of my friends a liar and suggested she re-read Exodus and she keyed my Kia, my group of friends and I decided to add something to an annual cookie decorating party we have so we do not have to buy each other gifts.
We read a book that was about Jesus and a friend of His named Santa.
It went well. I never had the scratches fixed so it can remind me to do my best to get along with others, especially Christians. Grace & Peace, daphne

Ps..I do not care so much if you bring your kids to see Santa, but if you force them to take a pic while they scream in fear I will probally Twitter AND facebook about you. Just sayin.

Anonymous said...

Great post.
My mom used to wonder about what to tell us kids about santa, and her and my dad finally agreed upon: "Well kids, santa is fun to believe in, but Jesus is real." hahahaha.

Anonymous said...

Really? This is what people are having "lengthy prayer, deliberation and discussion" over? This is what you consider a "really, really hard decision"? Ease up folks. Don't wear yourselves out on the small stuff; there's so much more worthy of your attention than to Santa or not to Santa. You know, things like the Easter bunny, Tooth Fairy, and Great Pumpkin. Lighten up, have some fun, and get ready for life's big questions.

Skerrib said...

I sure like your cookies, Stacy.

Lauren said...

Dear Nony #2:

Normally, I wouldn't respond to your comment, but this is the third time today that someone has misunderstood (or not taken time to understand) me and then misrepresented what I said in such a way as to make me look like a fool who is overly concerned with things that aren't that important. Plus, I'll be honest - it kind of sticks in my craw that you would write something disparaging, directly quoting my comment, but not have the courtesy of signing your name, whether blogger or otherwise.

Do I think that to Santa or not to Santa is the most important thing in the world? NO. Is it the most important decision we'll make regarding raising our children? OF COURSE NOT. Do we have other trials, decisions, and problems - maybe problems that you or others might consider more "worthy" - that we're currently facing down that we are praying over? Naturally. But that's not what this post was about.

Yes, this (Santa) was a hard decision for us. And we prayed and talked about it a LOT. I'm not trying to diminish that or apologize for it, but I will explain why.

First, because our entire families celebrate with Santa at Christmas, and always have. For us to be the first generation to break away is actually really hard in our very southern "your-business-is-our-business" family who gathers far-extended family together on Christmas Eve every year, with no shortage of young starry-eyed children waiting for Santa.

First point, part B: How do we teach our children Truth wholly, without the fear of them spoiling Santa for their cousins at the Christmas Eve family reunion? What do we tell them so that their response won't tick off Vanilla at the grocery store when he asks what Santa is bringing them? ;o)

Part C: How do we communicate our choice to our friends and relatives without coming across as pious, condescending, and judgemental? Because, as I said in my initial comment, this isn't about right or wrong parenting, or weighing and judging the holiness of your Christmas celebrations. This is just what we have decided is right for *our* family. And we are first-generation Believers in my family, and many of hubby's family are not followers of Jesus Christ. This is, and will continue to be, touchy for many.

Part D: Particularly, our parents feel VERY stepped on, and feel (and we know, because they told us), that our choice not to "do Santa" is a direct and blatant criticism and rejection of their parenting. My mother and mother-in-law both cried. My brother-in-law called us and cussed my husband - his own brother - out. These were things that we KNEW we would encounter if we chose not to celebrate with Santa, and we took our time praying, talking, and weighing the pros and cons before making our ultimate decision and telling our families. We had to decide if our convictions were worth the stress it would - and did - inevitably put on some relationships, even if temporarily so.

Second, we prayed about it a lot because initially, my husband and I felt very different about the issue. While it is his privilege and his duty to make the call when we cannot reach an accord (and it is my joy to submit to a loving husband who always has the best interest of his bride and his children at heart), he chose instead having us both dedicate some prayer time each day about it for a few weeks. We talked to other families in our church who "do Santa," and families who don't.

We sought trusted counsel, searched out Scripture, and searched out our hearts, and this is the decision we came to. And frankly, when it comes to raising your children, very few decisions are really all that small when you consider the short and limited time in which you, as the parents, are the primary sphere of influence. The time we have to teach our children (in words) about who Jesus Christ is, why He came, and what He does in our hearts is finite at best, and we don't want to miss one single opportunity.

I'm stepping down off my soap box and going to bed. Thanks - to anyone - for listening.

Ryan B said...

I'm 18 years old and I refuse to grow up. Me and Santa are homeboys. I think kids need to believe in him because he helps bring magic to the season. Parents just need to make sure their kids know the true Christmas story and what it means.

Ryan B said...

Oh. And I love the video clip by the way.

Katie said...

my parents chose not to tell us that our presents were brought by santa. however, they did tell us where the idea of santa came from (st. nick, helping the poor, that sort of thing).
i remember being in kindergarten and some older kids came to our class to help us write letters to santa. i vividly remember telling the girl helping me that i didn't believe in santa and i knew he wasn't real. she tried to convince me that he was!
with that said, my parents never made the idea of santa out to be evil. most years presents arrived under the tree well before christmas day, but every now and then they would keep our presents hidden from sight until christmas morning. we still had fun with it all, but they never tried to make us believe in something that wasn't real. some of our cousins believe in santa but my parents never indulged them, nor ruined it for them. they let the other parents parent as they saw fit.
they never told us about the easter bunny or the tooth fairy either, but we still but our lost tooth under our pillow and they came and got it while we were asleep. just thought i'd share.

just an extra note of trivia: the image of a large jolly bearded man in a red suit was created by coca-cola. though i think in the original ads he was in a green suit.

word verification: goidra - the less successful chocolate-making sister of lady godiva

vanilla said...

--and now to explain my first comment; the second one is self-explanatory.

Lauren, trust me I will show no disrespect to either you or your children when they tell me in the grocery store that Santa is not real. Neither will I feel any disrespect. On the contrary people who make prayerful choices for the manner in which they raise their children have my utmost respect. My response to the blogpost was in the spirit of fun. Oh, dear it is so easy to get oneself into trouble ;>)

Lauren said...

Oh Vanilla, I was just kidding. :o) A lone attempt to keep a very serious comment lighthearted at least a little bit.

Katie, I love what you said about how your parents handled it. We, too, plan to tell the legend of Saint Nicholas, but all other stories and movies (that we loved as children) will just be seasonal fairy tales.

RcCola736 said...

Our daughter will grow up knowing that "Santa" is not real, but that there really was a Saint Nicholas, and she'll know his real story. :)
I, as a kid, never really believed in Santa, but I still thought it was fun to put out cookies, knowing that my dad would eat them.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Lauren, where do I start? I feel so sad after reading your reply.

First, I did sign my name but for some reason it didn't post. (Certainly my error—I’m old) Who am I? I'm Debby, a 51 year old mom of 3 girls (ages 21-26), wife of one, believer since 4. Currently, a bookkeeper; formerly Campus Crusade for Christ staff. Born, raised and returned to a small town in Kansas. I love to ponder and I love a good battle of wits and ideas. I have the spiritual gift of sarcasm; which is certainly one reason why I’m drawn to SFL.

John and I were raised in Christian homes that participated in the fun and belief of Santa. With our girls, we chose to tell them Santa was imaginary like their favorite Muppets; we let the grandparents do all the “Santa” they wanted; and gently reminded the girls from time to time not to spoil the fun for those who “believed”. It worked beautifully, honoring both our own family and our parents. Which was more important to us than almost anything. Somewhere along the way, our youngest actually had a brief period of “Santa belief”; we just went with the flow and her sisters soon felt called to enlighten her (as only siblings can do).

At 51, I have the privilege of standing in the middle; looking back to the generation before and watching as a new generation comes into its own. What a wonderful vantage point for seeing the blessed results of God’s urging, no, God’s command for us to honor our parents. You can choose not to “do Santa” and still honor your parents’ desire to “do Santa”. We are evidence of that; as are our wonderful godly young adult daughters. And I tell you, John and I are positive that we are reaping the rewards of being “honored” by our girls today because they saw us model the same for our parents.

As to “very few decisions are really all that small” when it comes to raising children: Believe me when I say, looking back you will be surprised to discover how very many issues really are just that small; and how often you will wish you had saved the “die on the mountain” decisions for a select few issues.

I loved what you wrote at the end about important and primary calling we have to teach our kids about Jesus Christ. AMEN to that! Just know, and I can say this without hesitation, to believe or not believe in Santa will not change that opportunity. But there is a good chance that making Santa the issue where you draw your line in the sand, could very well affect your family in spiritual ways that you can’t imagine.

You have a good heart. I’m sorry my comments made you feel foolish. My perception was that this was a forum for open dialogue and direct comments. I’m still learning. Thank God for grace, may we expend it more and more to one another!

Deb said...

Ooh, I'm so excited. I think I figured out how to post under my own name instead of Nony #2. I'm old, I'm slow, but don't roll me to the nursing home yet.

Shawna said...

The controversy here is cracking me up.

Ultimately I think Santa is only as big a part of celebrating Christmas as you CHOOSE for him to be. We have Santa at our home, but under our tree is an empty manger. The real gift is Jesus and that's what we celebrate.

My boys are 18 and 11 and both love the Lord deeply and neither thinks I'm a liar. They learned early on that the story of Santa was based on a real man and the idea of Santa is a story of giving. They also learned early on that Jesus was a real man but also God and that His life was about giving.

On a side note, I wish someone would have clued me in as a young child that (unlike what my mother told me) raw cookie dough does not give you worms.

sara said...

For the do we know Santa is not real? I go to sleep. I wake up. There is loot. I do not ask questions. I am 27 years old with kids of my own, but when I visit my parents' house for Christmas, it appears that Santa has been there. I just smile and nod.

And the answer is "To El Shaddai." Amy Grant is a holiday classic, and my favorite music artist ever!

sara said...

Now having had my sarcastic moment, I do want to take a sec and say that I firmly believe each and every family should do what Jesus says is best for them - in all areas. Santa has to be a personal decision, and no one else can tell you what is right for your family. Jesus knows that. I am young in my parenting experience, but one thing I have learned is that He is the only one who can tell you what's right and wrong for your family. Experts, friends, family, informed opinion, etc. all have their place, but the Lord ultimately knows what is best, so stick to what He says. Who-hoo! :) (Sometimes you just have to give a little shout after being so serious...)

Lauren said...


Thanks for your thoughtful and gracious response. While we did mull over a similar scenario to what you presented for what you did with your girls and their grandparents for Santa, hubs ultimately decided that we would either do Santa the whole 9 yards, or we would not do it all. I appreciate your comments about God's commandment to honor our parents, because this is of utmost importance to us. I think this is the kind of thing that's difficult to convey in the written word, because it doesn't allow for a dialogue, questions, and rapport. We do not feel that just because our parents got their feelings hurt that we are dishonoring them; does that make sense?

This isn't exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, but I hope it will still help. When I became a Christian in college, and stopped all the, um, let's say "extracurricular activities" my friends participated in thursday through saturday nights, they were hurt, uncomfortable, and embarrassed to indulge in those activities and behaviors when I was around. Not because I was preaching at them, or looking down my nose at them, or condescending to them about their choices, because I can say unabashedly and without reserve that I was NOT doing those things. I wouldn't have even known how to, plus I was dealing with a tremendous amount of residual guilt left over from my days of a works-based misunderstanding of Christianity. They felt squirmy rehashing the previous night's goings-on over brunch with me because, simply, light illuminates darkness. And darkness doesn't like it.

Again, it's not the best analogy, but it's the best I could come up with after a day or so of pondering! I'll likely be posting a blog entry on my own blog (click on my name, when my profile comes up, click on "whatsoever things are true" - hey just trying to help if you're still new to blogger navigation :o) in the next few days to explain in depth the reasons for our choice not to "do Santa" if you're interested.

Thanks again for taking the time to respond to my pitiful lament. I apologize if I sounded harsh; it's been a hard month for our family and as much as I tried to write rationally and not completely on the defensive, I'm afraid I didn't do a bang-up job of it. If you ever start a blog of your own, please be sure to stop by and let me know; I adore gleaning wisdom from women who have walked the narrow path for so much longer than I have!

Beth E. said...

Oh. My. Goodness. You are sooo hilarious! I just shot Fresca through my nose while reading this post, I was laughing so hard! (BTW, don't ever do's painful!)

I love your blog. So glad that I found it!