Can you have both Jesus and Santa?

A friend wrote a blog this week about her experience negotiating Santa and Jesus. It got me thinking. I like Santa alright. And I don’t particularly have a problem with him. But do I want to sell Santa to my son?

Growing up, Jesus was clearly first in my home. But Santa played an important role. To this day, dissenting talk about the realness of Santa is not permitted. (Hi mom!) I think I was in high school before I was allowed to come down the stairs on Christmas morning without an escort. (No joke people.)

Christmas is about Jesus. Well, hopefully, if you believe in Jesus. But it is harmful to cultivate a belief in Santa as well?

The spectrum of Santa pushing is quiet large. Some parents tell their kids Santa is hoax at the first sign of logical thinking. But I wonder – do we rob our children of something by never participating in the Santa charade?

Some folks seem to have many memories of their childhood. Others not so much. I have a small collection of memories, most of which are punctuated by a vivid recollection of my emotion at the time. I remember coming to the conclusion that Santa was a charade. I also remember a part of me maintaining hope that perhaps there was a bit of truth to the story, and a surprise might be around the corner. I remember one Christmas Eve, thinking, restless in bed. I was pretty sure Santa was a fake. And yet, at the same moment, I strained, thinking maybe, just maybe I might hear steps above me. I knew, and yet, I didn’t want to let go of the possibility.

Don’t we do the same as adults? Isn’t there a part of us longing for a surprise, for an unexpected revelation in our lives, our communities, for something a little bit mystical, magical, beyond our world? This longing is certainly answered by Jesus. But I think there’s more.

If you’re a Christian, Jesus is King. And certainly all you need. But is it possible that the idea and story of Santa (and St. Nick) might teach us something about the character of God?

Yes, much of the whole Christmas shtick is out of control. But what if we could redeem the thread of truth embedded within Santa and use it as a teaching tool in our families?

The “true” story of Santa Claus begins with St. Nicholas. (And surprise! I’m not even Catholic, if that’s what you’re thinking.) His life was marked  by charity, humility and generosity. From there the legends and stories unfold – giving gold coins for the dowries of poor girls – protecting children – the list goes on.

St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas

Does it matter what is legend and what is truth? What about the other fables and stories of fiction we use to teach our children about life, about God?

The idea of Santa stoked my curiosity as a child. Could there be such a person? Would he actually notice and specifically care about me? Are there really things in the world that I cannot see or comprehend? I lay in bed at night for many Christmas Eve’s wondering. Even with a child’s heart, I longed for much – anticipation, faith, joy.

Hmm. Do some of these questions seem familiar?

My son Wade is still too young to comprehend much of Santa on any level. So I have time to think about my hope for his Christmas experience – Jesus, Santa, and the whole lot.

I don’t have all this figured out, and much will depend on Wade and who he is. Nevertheless, I have hope for him:

I hope will learn about a divine babe and how Christmas is the beginning of a hard, wonderful journey towards reconciliation. I hope he will learn about who Santa might be and that his acts of generosity tell us something about the character of God. I hope he will see Santa as moved and motivated by God’s own generosity…and that Santa could be a small touchstone of what it means to become a Christ follower.

This isn’t simple. Especially if you have  TV, phone or anything else wired in your home. We cannot effectively shut out culture, but we can tailor and protect the messages in our own home. I hope you will think about yours this Christmas.

Who is Santa to you? How do you teach your family the primary importance of Jesus?

Just wait son - there's more!

Just wait son – there’s more!

Not having Santa this year, so Uncle had to sit in the photo - Wade is not pleased

not having Santa this year, so Uncle had to sit in the photo – Wade is not pleased

the biggest Christmas fan I know (mom) with Wade, dancing to carols

the biggest Christmas fan I know (mom) with Wade, dancing to carols

As a side note for little ones, we have been enjoying this book – God Gave Us Christmas. Do you have other holiday teaching books or resources you like? Wade’s favorite holiday activity right now is listening and watching mommy play act the Christmas story with our felt nativity characters. I welcome your ideas and activities too!

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2 thoughts on “Can you have both Jesus and Santa?

  1. We acted out the Nativity the other day, that was pretty cute. I put towels on their heads and they took turns being Mary and Joseph and shepherds and angels. Like I said in my post, I knew Santa was fake from really early on, but Christmas was still a totally magical time for our family, and I hope to be able to create that for our family as they continue to grow in understanding!

    • Awesome idea! I may steal it. I love seeing what other families do. And as I mentioned I think part of the chicken depend on the kid. I will be watching in future Christmases! And hope yours is great btw!

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