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.