Santa: Friend or Foe?

It’s December, the weather is frigid (in Michigan!), the snow is falling, Christmas music is playing, the stores are decorated, people are bustling here and there, and houses are filled with Christmas spirit. With less than one week to Christmas, it’s the most wonderful time of the year!

This time of year brings about so much festivity and celebration, magical moments, and times with loves ones. This time of year also brings with it a certain plump, white bearded guy who causes a lot of controversy in Christian circles: Santa Claus.

This is Isaiah’s 4th Christmas, but for the past 3 he has been a little too young to understand or have much exposure to Santa other than last Christmas when he was just two years old and was able to point out Santa and recogonize who he was. But last Christmas we were in Uganda and we didn’t see Santa too much there… although we did run into him at the mall one time! Santa’s a little darker and a little skinner in Uganda! =)

Now that the kids are older and we’re back in the States, we’ve had to decide what exactly we want to teach our children regarding Santa Claus.

As of now, this is what we’re planning to teach our children about Santa:

1. Santa is a “real” part of Christmas even though he is a “pretend” guy

Did you know that St. Nicolas was a {real} guy? The records of his existence are sparse, but from what we can piece together St. Nicolas was a Christian man of wealth and privilege born in the third century. He was known to frequently give gifts to children, sometimes even hanging socks filled with treats and presents. Nicholas grew to be a well-loved Christian leader and was eventually voted the Bishop of Myra. The anniversary of his death, December 6, 343, became the St. Nicolas Holiday, where gifts were given in his honor. Since this holiday was so close to Christmas, the two eventually merged together as one.

Saint Nick was a wonderful man who loved and served Christ. But the Santa we celebrate today, although derived from St. Nick, has been distorted and embellished. As they get older, we want to explain to our children who St. Nicolas was and how we get from him the Santa that is now around today. We want to explain to them that some parts of Santa Claus are real (he really was a guy who was very generous and gave out presents) but that a lot has been added to the story of Santa to make it a fun Christmas tradition that is not real (Santa does not really deliver presents to every boy and girl around the world in one night, reindeer do not really fly, etc).

We’re not going to try to deny that Santa exists. In the U.S. he’s everywhere at Christmas time! Santa is at the mall, on your wrapping paper, on the radio, on your Christmas PJ’s, on TV, etc. It would be hard to keep our children from seeing him! Is he a “real” guy? No. But he is a “real” part of Christmas! And we want our kids to have fun enjoying the “pretend” things about Santa during the Christmas season.

2. Santa is not a “bad” guy

We believe that you can make Santa a {fun} part of Christmas while still teaching your children who Santa really is. This year Isaiah and Eloise sat on Santa’s lap and Isaiah was so excited to ask him for a “big monsta truck” for Christmas. But he also knows that Santa doesn’t really bring him presents and that his asking is just for fun.

We want our kids to have fun with Santa during the Christmas season while still knowing that all that’s said about Santa is not true. He’s not a bad guy who needs to be avoided during the Christmas season. But he’s also not real and doesn’t do all the things some kids think he does. We want to help our kids discover that middle ground, where they can enjoy Santa while still knowing that he’s just a fun, make believe part of Christmas.

Have your kids seen the movie Cars or Cinderella? Those characters do not really exist nor is it possible for the things in those movies to happen in real life. Yet we let our children watch those movies and develop their imaginations while explaining to them that cars cannot really talk nor are there fairy godmothers with the power to transform pumpkins into chariots!

We believe that, just like other “make believe” kids characters, Santa Claus can be kept as a part of Christmas and enjoyed by our children while still allowing them to know that he’s not a “real” guy and doesn’t really do all that people claim he does.

3. Santa does NOT bring our kids their presents

Are you kidding me? All the thought, time, energy, and money that goes into buying and wrapping presents and you think I’m going to give Santa credit for it?? =)

We will tell our children that their presents come from mommy and daddy, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, etc. People they know and love have worked hard all year long to buy them presents and we want them to be appreciative. If they want to ask Santa for something while sitting on his lap that’s fine but we will explain to them that it’s fun to ask Santa for presents but it’s really mommy and daddy (and others) who supply them under the tree Christmas morning.

4. Our kids are to be “good” because their parents tell them to be, not so that Santa will bring them presents.

There is no “naughty” or “nice” list in our house. Our children will get presents even if they have been little terrors that year. We do not give to our children because of their behavior and we certainly won’t scare them that if they are not obedient we will not give them any presents.

The tradition of giving gifts on Christmas started with St. Nicolas giving gifts to children but, as Christians, we carry on the tradition because we have been given the greatest gift of all, {JESUS}! God gave us the gift of Jesus when we were undeserving. We were on the “naughty” list. I’m so thankful that God didn’t give us coal instead of his Son!

We give as an extension of the gift that we have been given through Christ Jesus. Thus, we will give to our children each year no matter what. And we will not bribe our children into obeying by threatening to give them less or worse gifts. We will not tell them to be good because their “Elf on the Shelf” is watching or because Santa will give them coal if they are bad. We aim to teach our children to obey because it pleases God and their parents, whom God has put in charge of them.

Elf on the Shelf- a new family tradition we started this year!

5. Jesus is the {real} reason we celebrate Christmas 

Santa can be a fun part of Christmas but he is NOT the reason we celebrate Christmas. Christmas is Jesus’ birthday and on that day we celebrate the most wonderful gift of all that God our Father gave us! We want to teach our children that lots of fun Christmas traditions come out around Christmas time ( Elf on the Shelf, Santa, cutting down our Christmas tree, presents, etc.) and those things are fun to enjoy but the {REAL} reason we celebrate is because of a {REAL} guy named Jesus born in a stable so many years ago.

This year we are going to start the tradition of making a birthday cake and singing happy birthday to Jesus on Christmas. We will read the Christmas story on Christmas day and as our children get older we will incorporate other things that help us make Christmas a celebration of Jesus’ birth.

All year long, we teach our children about the Lord, His faithfulness, His “realness”, His love, His laws…. And we continue through the Christmas season as we teach them about His birth. With all that we pour into them about the truth of Jesus over the year we’re not worried about Santa coming in and overshadowing their belief in God during the Christmas season.

So, why not just allow your children to think that Santa is real and really does all that’s said of him?

We don’t want to lie to our children. If Isaiah is playing a game on my phone and I tell him that I need it to send a quick text message and then I will give it back, then I will use it to send a quick text message and then give it back! I won’t tell him a lie to get him to hand over the phone so that I can keep it for good. If we tell Eloise not to touch the stove because it is hot, then it is hot. We will not tell her that the Christmas tree or the computer is hot so she doesn’t touch it.

My point is… We want to teach our children that they can trust us because we will always tell them the truth. We don’t want to deceive them about who Santa really is and have them find out several years down the road that we didn’t tell them the truth. Why would we lie to them about Santa and expect them to believe us about Jesus?

The way we’ve decided to go about handling Santa with our children is a personal decision that we’ve made as a couple and we feel it’s the right thing for our family. {But} we understand that there are many families out there who go about Santa in a different way! And I’d love to hear from you how you go about handling Santa in your family!

 SO how about you? What do you teach your kids about Santa Claus? I would love to hear!
And…these pictures don’t have Santa in them but I still had to share them. Isaiah and Eloise in their matching Christmas jammies!! =)


I love how they love each other. Isaiah is such a sweet big brother with her!

P.S. If you’re interested in reading the opinions of some others out there, here are some links to follow:

2 thoughts on “Santa: Friend or Foe?

  1. Agree with you! This is the way I was raised and this is how we are raising the boys. Like you our goal is to have children who trust us and will come to us with questions expecting a truthful answer. Why would I destroy the trust of my innocent children when the found out Santa isn't real?

  2. I'm so late in responding to this but thanks for your comment, Rebekah! As parents we have the often difficult job of trying to determine what is the best way to raise our kids and the best things to teach them, etc. It can be hard to know what to do sometimes but I think we just have to move forward and do what we feel is best with the Lord's help! I'm glad to hear that you were raised this way about Santa and turned out ok. 😉

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