Christmas Traditions: Seriously Santa

Ok, the Santa thing.

Before we start, here is a joke…

What do dyslectics do at a prayer meeting? The bind Santa. *Que the uncontrollable laughter* (ps I had to use spell check to spell dyslectic correctly)

The Deal

Santa can be quite a controversial topic in Christian circles.  Some don’t do the Santa thing usually citing commercialization and materialism as the reasons while others have no problem and jump right in.  I don’t want to tell anyone which side of the fence is right, but I do what to encourage parents to really think about the decision they make.

If you don’t know much about the history of Santa then look it up.  Wikipedia is always a good place to start.  There are a few different variations that the idea of Santa came from, and interestingly a lot of them involve Christian figures.  Either way, the model of Santa that our kids are exposed wears red, rather chubby but somehow manages to fit down the chimney, lives in the North Pole with a bunch of Elves that make toys (replicas of the ones you can buy from your local toy store), has reindeer that pull a flying sleigh, steals milk and cookies, knows when you’re bad or good… the list goes on.

Despite the obvious flaws in the scenario, kids still have no problem believing in Santa.  Kids have incredible God-given imaginations.  Believing in Santa is so exciting.  Waking up on Christmas morning to find out what he has left in the stocking, what kid doesn’t love that?

My Challenge

So I’ve got two main things I want to add to the discussion…

First, the obvious, the emphasis that Santa adds to Christmas on me getting what I hope for.  It’s can easily become a self-centered thing.  Truth is that even without Santa, it’s incredibly easy to get wrapped up in it.  It’s not that different from getting birthday gifts.  I remember as a kid anticipating some kind of happiness when I receive gifts.  Have you ever seen a kid rip into a bunch of prezzies, then at the end hear them say, “is that all?”  Ha, I’ve heard it!  And if I didn’t say it then I sure felt it.  I can remember very clearly at the end of one Christmas day feeling very sad.  All the things I had hoped in that day were over.

The key here is HOPE.  Kids really do put their hope in Santa to bring the gifts they perceive will give them some kind of selfish fulfillment.  As Christians we know that the only thing worthy of our hope is Jesus Himself.  Everything else other then Jesus will let us down.  It wasn’t until I had a personal belief and trust in God that I didn’t feel that down feeling at the end of an anticipated event like birthdays or Christmas.

So given that gifts from Santa aren’t the only object of our selfish desire, unless you’re going to cut out birthday gifts and other gifts altogether, I don’t think it’s reason enough to boycott Santa.

The second is based on BELIEF.   A friend once told me about how she became a Christian.  She was the ripe old age of 4.  All her life (all 4 yeas) she had held a belief in Santa.  She knew about God.  The story goes that one day her neighbor broke the bad news to her, she had been lied to, Santa was not real.  Very soon after this life shattering event (actually I don’t think she thought it was a big deal) she suddenly became acutely aware of how real God is.  In her 4 year old way, she began a friendship with God.  My friends recons that it was kinda like Santa filled this space in her heart that should have been for God.

Lying or Fantasy

Is it OK to encourage kids to imagine characters that aren’t real?  Imagination a fantasy are a normal and very important part of a child’s emotional development.  So I still don’t really know the answer to that question.  But here another issue about believing specifically in Santa, if we lie about Santa (a character who knows if we are bad or good, who has the potential to fulfill the desire of our hearts) and kids are to put their hope in him and try to be good for him, then what are they to think when we tell them to do the same thing in Jesus?

A Possible Solution

I REALLY like how my parents approached the Santa thing when I was a kid.  We “played” Santa.  I remember clearly one of the first years that we did this, I must have been 2 or 3.  I remember mum smiling and telling me that they are going to pretend to be Santa, sneak into my room and leave something on the end of my bed.  I can’t imagine being more excited then I was then.  My imagination played along, and while I knew Santa wasn’t real the way God is real, it was still loads of fun.  I woke up a thousand times during the night, kicking my feet to see if something was on the end of my bed.  One year I opened it all when it was still dark.  My heart was still very focused on GETTING.  So this solution didn’t cover that issue, but it sure dealt with the belief one.

So, there you have it.  Whatever you decide to do about Santa make sure you know why.  Most importantly, make sure you talk through these issues with your kids.

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