What Should Christians do with Santa Claus?

Like many Christian parents, I struggle with what role Santa should play in our family’s Christmas traditions. I’m not writing this as a guy who has got it all figured out, but rather as one who wants to foster in my kids both a solid foundation of faith in Christ and a healthy sense of imagination and wonder. I don’t believe those two goals have to be in conflict with one another but I recognize it can be a very delicate balancing act.

Some Benefits of Santa

Santa Claus (or “Father Christmas” as he is called in many cultures) is the quintessential symbol of childhood fantasy and imagination. He’s one of the most lovable and universally-recognized figures on Earth. For many, he represents all that is good and untainted in the world. Millions cheer him with the excitement Will Ferrell had in the movie “Elf” (which is hilarious, by the way). When kids believe in Santa, it can make Christmas a magical time of great memories.

Some Dangers of Santa

Some of you are thinking, “What could be dangerous about Santa?!” On the surface, nothing at all, but I believe it’s possible for Santa to cause some long-term negative consequences for your children. Before you shout ‘Humbug!” and put me on your ‘Naughty List“, hear me out…

Many people unknowingly train their kids to see Santa as their god. We teach our kids that Santa is always watching them and that he has a “Naughty List” and a “Nice List” and if your good outweighs your bad, you’re rewarded once a year with presents. The only actual contact you have with Santa is writing a letter and checking in once a year at the mall to tell him what you want, and getting what you want from him is really your only motivation for impressing him.

Many adults have subconsciously developed their view of God based on these same ideas. He’s a distant being who keeps track of my good and bad deeds and rewards nice people but has no real influence or presence in my life. In fact, he may not even be real. You may say, “I used to believe in Santa the same way I believe in God and since Santa isn’t real (in a literal sense) maybe God isn’t either, but I need to stay pretty good just in case. If he is real, he’s probably a sweet old guy with a beard who gives out treats but lacks the power to bring any change in my life.” These, of course, aren’t at all the attributes of God, but that’s a discussion for another time.

I’m not trying to go “Church Lady” on you and say that because you can mix up the letters of “Santa” and get “Satan” that you need to try to perform an exorcism on your Mall Santa. What I am saying is that is that one of Satan’s most effective tools is to distract us (some times even with “good” things) to keep our eyes off of the Main Thing. In the Case of Christmas as in all of life, Jesus Christ is the main thing (not Santa). Jesus must be the Central Focus. He’s the Reason for the Season. Santa can play a role but it should always be a minor Supporting Role, not the Lead.

What I’ve written here is just the commentary of a guy who doesn’t have all the answers, but I do have “The Answer” and his name isn’t “Santa”…it’s Jesus. Keep Christmas (and life) focused on Him and you can’t go wrong.

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12 thoughts on “What Should Christians do with Santa Claus?

  1. Dallas says:

    I have to say thanks as always. I love reading your blog because of things Ike today. I honestly had never thought about it this way and you have shed light on a subjects hat as a parent of two boys under 5 had never thought about. I take them to church, pray with them nightly, read the bible to them, but just today I said to them you better behave or Santa won’t bring you anything for Christmas. I really don’t want Santa to be the focus of Christmas and I see how I have made him the focus. Sorry so long but bottom line is we as a family will refocus this season on what is really important and it is not Santa or which Black Friday sales are the best.

  2. Inga Swope says:

    I so relate to this and we struggled with how to deal with this in our own family. I thought I’d share what we decided to do! We are a military family that has had the privilege of living all over the world. While we were in Europe and our children were young, we adopted their tradition of celebrating St. Nicholas Day! The children in Europe put out their shoes on the eve of Dec 5th and St. Nick comes by and fills their shoes! We have enjoyed this tradition for a couple of reasons. One, we are able to still participate in the fun St Nick traditions while at the same time separating it from the true meaning of Christmas. Two, the Europeans simplify everything! The gifts typically need to fit in your shoe! The items are small and inexpensive, but none-the-less greatly anticipated!
    Even now, as we live in Japan, our youngest is still convinced that St. Nick will pop by and fill her shoes next week! BUT she is also 100% behind why we celebrate Christmas! JESUS was born and that deserves our focus! :)

  3. Jeanie says:

    We celebrate Christmas the entire month of December, having a big family meal several nights each week, and each person opens one small gift that night (and somehow, everyone gets something similar that night, like pajamas).
    Our kids know that while there IS a Santa, who teaches us to imagine, and shares with others all over the world, we struggled with the perception given in many families that “Santa” brought the gifts, but in reality, kids need to know that Mom & Dad & Grandma ALL budgeted, shopped, paid for, & wrapped each gift, and they need to learn to write “Thank You” notes to everyone who took the time to be considerate and send a gift (we try to write thanks to ALL extended family, friends, & even each other….if you can’t give Thanks graciously, then you’re too spoiled!!). Packages that arrive from extended family may be opened that night after Dinner. This tradition began when we we’re stationed in Germany for 3 years, and it just made more since!!! Gifts arrived anytime between Halloween and Valentine’s Day, so Carp Deum!!
    We used to spend ~ $100/child each year, but have cut way back on that as the kids got older, and their needs become wants.
    I would encourage every parent to scale back your shopping, getting 1 meaningful gift, and then just give small items, such as school supplies, winter clothing, & books!!

    We also set a dollar amount to spend, and then as a family, we choose how to truly give to those Widows & Orphans that Jesus instructed us to care for.

    You can order a catalog (or go on-line) from World Vision, and buy goats, chickens, dig a well for a village in many poor countries, supply a school with art supplies, send a sewing machine, or even send soccer balls to children who play soccer with a ball of rolled up, dried banana leaves. All the many gift options have prices to fit every budget, even a child’s allowance!!

    Our youngest child, now age 9, used all of her saved allowance to send soccer balls to schools in Zambia, and another school in Haiti last year.
    Her joy of being able to give “play” to kids in tough situations warmed my heart, and helped me see clearly that the gift of giving and a heart for sharing are the best gifts we can give our children.
    As far as our presents, they’re often a “need” and have all been opened on our special family nights.
    We only have stockings to open on Christmas Day!

    We then cook a BIG meal, and invite anyone who can’t be home with their loved ones (military families, students, foreigners working in the area, widows & singles, etc).

    So we celebrate our Gift of Grace, and our Savior who came to take the punishment for our sins. That is the best gift ever….just reach to Jesus, and he’ll offer you the same “Amazing Grace”.
    What an awesome Gift!!

  4. Jeanie says:

    Oops…sorry for all my typos!!
    My “Smart Phone” hasn’t taken Grammar yet!!!

  5. I definitely struggle with this. I’m still a kid in many ways (even though I’m 38 years old), and I have a tendency to turn Christmas into some childlike fantasy that I want to relive every year. Now that I have kids, I do it vicariously through them. My 7 year old daughter asked me just last week to confirm that Santa was not real, just so she could be sure and move on, I’m guessing. My response? “Of course he’s real!!” #parentfail I will pray over how my husband and I can best incorporate some of the superficial fun that comes with this time of year, but still keep Jesus Christ FRONT AND CENTER!

  6. Peggy Richardson says:

    Very good article! I have struggled for the past few years with Santa. I have found that while I allow my kids to believe in Santa and participate, I try to keep it very simple and not let it overwhelm the month of December! I have explained to my kids that, while Santa may make gifts and spend one night a year giving them out, it is the parents who invest the money and means to allow Santa this opportunity. On Christmas morning we have began letting Santa only bring three gifts, which represent the three wise men and gifts they brought to Jesus. We also tell our kids that Santa is a Christian and it is through his faith that he is even capable to own and care for all those reindeer and elves and fly a sleigh.

  7. Mary McCray says:

    I do not see the conflict. Santa clause is a way of celebrating Jesus’s birthday. We give and receive gifts to celebrate the birth of our savior. Easter is to celebrate his death. No one ever has a problem with the Easter bunny. He is at the mall too. The main problem with Christmas is when Jesus is left out of Christmas. Each Christmas Eve we had a happy birthday baby Jesus birthday party. We would go to the live nativity scene and brave the cold to realize he is the main reason for the season. But Santa is a fun element in Christmas where children of all ages can believe wishes do come true. Whether you are a parent being Santa making dreams come true or a child dreaming of reindeers landing on the roof, Christmas is a celebration of love, dreams, family, traditions, and lasting memories if we all remember Jesus is the reason for the season.

  8. Kimra Griffith says:

    Our family struggled some with this issue as well. My sister and I both have 3 kids and our mother was known to get completely carried away buying gifts both as herself and as Santa. We finally found some balance. We decided we would do a chinese gift exchange, with 3 gifts for each person since the kids could relate that to the 3 wise men who brought gifts to Jesus. Then we limited the focus on Santa by keeping the gifts from Santa to a limited price range. Lastly, we brought the focus back to Jesus at the end of the day by having a birthday cake for Jesus. It helped the families keep Christ in Christmas and not get carried away by the commercial idea of Santa and presents.
    I must also mention, that all of our kids grew up in North Pole, Alaska, where Santa is present EVERY SINGLE DAY of the year. We did not try to tell the kids he didn’t exist. We just played him off more as a “helper” to moms and dads…

  9. Tammi says:

    One thing we do with our daughter at Christmas is bake Jesus a birth day cake. Because what better way to illistrate to a child the basic principal of the point of Christmas. It is to celebrate the birth of our Saviour Jesus. So we bake the cake and our daughter gets to decorate it and we have it with Christmas dinner. And she is funny on how she will tell us stories about other children that she is in contact with that they like presents better than God and how wrong that is. It is positive reasurance that she gets it.

  10. David S says:

    Great Post and a Great Discussion.

    I pondered this question in the past and with 2 daughters 11 & 8, I wanted to be intentional about Christmas and its importance. In the USA it seems to be very commercialized and I think a lot of folks get caught up in that.

    What I have found is when we look at the principles of Santa Claus, we can Learn about a great example for all of us, especially the ones who follow Christ.

    The Story of a a person who gives to others without anything in return. Someone who is an example of Selfless Giving. To be thinking of others and to provide others with joy. To know that someone is thinking about us and cares about us.

    I believe the spirit of Christmas and Santa lives on, but its lives on through us and in us. Its not about “the Stuff” but about caring and serving others; To just Love Others.

    In memory of a person who started giving selflessly, we continue it today. That person is not Santa. That person is Jesus.

    I believe that some time in the past a Christ following man named Nicholas just cared enough to do something for kids, orphan kids. He didn’t want them to be forgotten. He wanted to show them that someone loved them. So he gathered his resources and brought them gifts to bring joy to them and show them they are important. That they are loved and He did this as an act of worship for God.

    Although Nick is gone now and with Jesus, his demonstrating how to love others and his act of kindness lives on through us and is a Great Example of how we should give.

    So give gifts with selfless ambition and say its from Santa. Give gifts to your children, parents, friends, and strangers, Say its from Santa.

    Just know that He is Always watching and always Loving you through all times and to the end of times. He wants a relationship with you even though you can not see him physically or touch him physically.

    People will tell you he is not real and there’s no such thing!

    Some people won’t believe and they will stop believing, but don’t listen to them. Know in your Heart that he is real and that he is coming to see you. He does love you, He is watching even when no one else is. He has sent you gifts and those gifts are from him even though they come through others. His real name is Jesus but some do call him Santa.

    Merry Christmas Each and Every One of you….Merry Christmas!

    Joy to The World!

  11. gabulmer says:

    We told our kids from the get go (around age 3 1/2- 4) that there was no Santa Clause, but not to tell their friends who insisted that he was real.

    Our main reason is that, we bought them up to beleive in Jesus Christ and, after years of believing in each, thought there might be blow-back if we suddenly, one year, tell them that Santa wasn’t real, but that Jesus still is.

    Today, aged 15 & 17, they’re well adjusted with zero emotional scars from the no-Santa thing, and self-confessed, baptized Christ followers.

  12. Tracy Rochell says:

    I had an issue when I had kids wether or not to tell them about Santa.. Christmas has become so commercialized. I didn’t want my kids to forget that Christmas is Jesus birthday so I didn’t even mention Santa Clause at first lol okay bad idea! My daughter was 4 when a neighbor who dressed as Santa came up and talked to her.. She freaked lol I had to come up with something! I told my kids that Jesus loves so much that he would rather all of us have presents on his birthday. But He needed help to deliver the presents so Santa helps him. Idk if its the best idea.. But it works for us!

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