I’ve decided not to give my kids the story about Santa Claus. Ok, maybe I should talk first about my own experience with the whole Santa thing. I believed Santa was real for a relatively long time- until I was ten years old. I asked my parents to verify his reality around that time and they told me nope, he’s not real. They guessed I had figured it out. I hadn’t, but another kid at school told me. I didn’t actually believe this other kid and wanted an adult opinion to bring back to her the next day. So it was an honest mistake on my parents’ part thinking that I was finally questioning.
Learning the truth was rather upsetting. It also made me want to protect all younger kids from the horrors of discovering Santa wasn’t real. I knew the kids would have to be upset by it someday, but I wanted to put it off as long as possible. Our culture also seems to have this pervasive need to keep the truth of the Santa myth a secret from the poor innocent children. There are so many movie in which the plot does this: 1) cynical character asserts Santa is not real 2) little kid is upset and seeks Santa 3) Santa is revealed to both little kid and cynical character whose faith is restored! It is seen as a terrible thing to tug off the beard of a mall or parade santa. The kids might see! Local news stations now often ‘track’ Santa’s progress as he flies around the area. Kids write letters to Santa that parents then ‘mail’ and poof, Santa brings what they asked for in that letter mom ‘mailed’. The whole thing seems like it’s designed to play a big trick on the tiny children, like some massive practical joke. Why does everyone buy into this when it’s actually teaching kids lies?
The difficulty I think Christians ought to have with Santa is based on the part where we lie to children about an invisible being. As a Christian teaching your kids about God, you want them to know He’s real. If you teach them Santa is real and then take that away, how are they to trust God is also real? God is supposed to be an equally mysterious entity you never see who also keeps track of how good you are. How is this not confusing to kids? As a child I saw Santa as the best solid evidence God existed. No human being can delivery toys at the rate Santa is expected to do it. No deer fly. When I wondered about how these phenomena occurred I knew it was with God’s help that they must have happened. Like all those biblical miracles. This was our only miracle left today. Except it wasn’t. And all the grown ups were conspiring to give us this huge show and lie to us about where it came from.
For a while I bought into it and the whole “Don’t reveal it, it’s the magic of Christmas!” stuff. Everyone says little kids need this. But I’m thinking now that even more, little kids need adults to lie less to them. Then they won’t need to be disappointed at the truth. So when I have kids I’ll tell them about a game we play at Christmas called Santa Claus. On Christmas morning the presents will all be from someone real (mostly mom and dad) and we can take turns playing Santa and pretending he’s the one that brought the gifts. There’s no reason Santa has to be ‘real’ for them. And I’m good with that.