Two years ago, Big Brother told us there was no Santa because reindeer can’t fly. Interesting five-year-old logic. We hadn’t made a big deal about Santa. Each year, we placed one unwrapped gift for each child near the tree on Christmas morning, and we let the kids believe that those gifts were from Santa. We never left cookies and milk for Santa or food for his reindeer. We have never had an elf in our home. We have never told the kids to be good or Santa wouldn’t bring them anything.
A wise friend told me several years ago that they had told their son the truth about Santa when he asked at five years of age because kids believe in Santa in much the same way they believe in God. With Santa, we convince them to believe in an invisible being because he will bring them toys, and this can be fun for us and magical for them, but then they find out the magic was make-believe. With God, we teach them to have faith in an invisible being because he loves them and wants to bless them, and this can be amazing and life-changing for all of us, but if something happens to challenge their belief in God, will they also think He is make-believe? In other words, will they think we are lying to them about God if we have lied to them about Santa? My parents gave us Santa gifts and also taught us about Jesus, and I never doubted the existence of God, but I have learned in the last few years that faith is one of my spiritual gifts. I think it would depend on the child, the way Santa was presented in the home, and how the parents answered the child’s questions about Santa.
Santa wasn’t the focus of Christmas at our house, and we didn’t want to lie to our children, so we told them the truth when Big Brother asked if he was right about Santa. He was disappointed, but he was fine once we reassured him that he would still have presents under the tree every year. He now enjoys learning about different Santa-figures and how different cultures celebrate Christmas, and he loves picking out gifts to give others. Big Sister was only three when we stopped “doing Santa”, so she didn’t care and nothing really changed for her.
However, we had started an annual tradition of visiting the most wonderful Santa at a large shopping center about 30 miles away. We have gone and waited in line every year since Big Brother’s first Christmas. I didn’t think the kids would still want to go since they knew he wasn’t really Santa Claus, but they asked to go last year and this week. The kids have fun shopping and eating while we wait for our turn. Big Sister talked to Santa this year, but she still wouldn’t get close to him. Both babies cried, but Sissy stopped quickly. After a few pictures, Grandmother and I grabbed the babies, and Big Brother sat on Santa’s lap and talked to him for a few minutes.
So we choose not to believe in Santa, but we haven’t removed him completely from our Christmases. I like to think we have just put him in his proper place along with Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph, the Grinch, and Scrooge. These are all a fond part of my childhood Christmas memories, and I won’t deny my children this fun. They know these people and things aren’t real, but it’s still fun to watch the movies and visit Santa each year.
We teach our children the true meaning of Christmas–that God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). They enjoy reading Jotham’s Journey during the weeks of advent. They look forward to Christmas Eve candlelight services at church. They love giving gifts to others in response to having received the most wonderful gift of all–Jesus our Savior. I love this quote by Stuart Chase: “For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.” I pray that you also will believe in the God who sent his Son to save us from our sins. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).