Dec 14, 2010

to santa or not to santa?

Last week, my Sunday School class tackled the question of whether or not Christians should participate in the Santa thing.  Of course, we reached no conclusive answer as the Bible does not specifically condemn the big man in red, so I have posed this question to almost everyone I know.  I have asked my students, other teachers, my friends, anyone who will listen to me.  To be honest, this is not a question to which I had given much thought before Sunday.  Santa seemed like just a fun, harmless American tradition.  But, we ARE lying to our children.  Consider the ethical and moral implications of that one.  I said that to someone today and her response was "wow, that's harsh."

I can think of almost as many arguments for Santa as against him.  Santa does seem to put the birth of Christ on the back burner, at least for the younguns.  We are definitely actively lying to our children, and we are encouraging consumerism and greed.  How do those younguns decide what to ask Santa for?  They watch commercials on TV!  Advertising has a powerful pull on American culture in general, and I hate to think that I would willing push Cara in that direction.  Right now, we stick to Veggie Tales and Sesame Street videos, but I am very much aware that I cannot shelter her from advertising forever.  And then there's the whole traumatizing experience of discovering the truth about Santa.  One of my students said (and I had never heard this before) that she felt GUILTY when she realized that her parents were giving her all of the "Santa" gifts because she hadn't done anything to deserve them.  Wow.  Very few of them reported feeling angry or betrayed by the lie, but several said that they kept up the guise of belief because they thought it made their parents happy.  Hmm...one good lie deserves another...

HOWEVER, Santa cultivates magic and imagination in childhood.  It's almost like playing a special game with children.  They are so in awe of the magic and anticipate the big event with such joy.  Who really wants to take that away from a child?  Doesn't Santa encourage childhood innocence in a way?  Anything is possible...the American dream...or something?  All of my students adamantly protested when I said that I was considering not playing along with the Santa thing.  They seemed to think that it was a right of childhood almost, something with few to no harmful effects.  And then there's the tradition of sitting on Santa's lap every year.  My mom has a hilarious picture of my sister when she was maybe four years old.  As the big sister, I sat on Santa's lap first, and he asked me what my sister's name was, and so I told him.  When it was Allison's turn, he said "hello there, Allison," and she turned to the camera with an adorably shocked face and said, "he knew my name?!?!?!"
this moment of cuteness would not have been possible without the big fat Santa lie
I have to admit that I love the idea of seeing Cara run down the hall on Christmas morning to a dazzling display of everything she ever wanted.  I want to give that to her, and I want her to feel the magic, in a way.  There is also a part of me that wants to step back from popular American culture a little and teach her that baby Jesus is the most important part of Christmas.  That giving to others, especially the less fortunate, brings the true joy of Christmas.  And does it diminish any of the joy on Christmas morning for her to know that Mommy and Daddy gave her all of those presents because we love her so much?

In the grand scheme of things, I don't think it matters.  Santa belief is really only possible when children are too young to remember a whole lot, and at that age, they can't fully process the meaning of the birth of a Savior anyway (not that the groundwork shouldn't be laid).  When I think about my most memorable Christmas, it was well after the Santa myth had faded for me.  I was in the 8th grade, and my school's junior BETA club was sponsoring a trip to New York City.  Who is crazy enough to take 50 middle schoolers on a bus to New York?  Really?  Anyway, I really, really, really wanted to go.  All my friends were going.  My parents told me that they couldn't afford it, and I understood.  I never went without a need met, but I knew we didn't have extra money to throw around, so I accepted this explanation.  On Christmas day, I got up earlier than my brother and sister and went downstairs to check out my stash.  In my stocking was an envelope and in that envelope was a plane ticket that my mom had made.  "Trip to New York" it said.  And I cried.  I actually went into my parents' room and woke them up crying.  I had never been so surprised and never felt so loved.  I'm not sure a future Christmas will ever be able to top that moment for me.  And none of that was Santa.

11 comments:

  1. personally i would say santa but inform your child of the backgrounds of the whole gift giving and the meaning behind christmas ie its not all about getting everything you could ever want like it's portrayed in the media i could understand the dilema of the blatent lying to your child but if you were going to take away santa you would also have to take away the easter bunny the tooth fairy and cupid and what self respecting parent could ever provide a life for a child devoid of the tooth fairy it's all a matter of principle do you take the christian road and seclude her from the evil media ridden world called america or do you let her take a step in the real world and run the risk of potentially scarring her for life when you tell your beloved child you lied to her year after year and santa was all a ruse for you to get more presents either way cannot be completely the right decision so an educated person would chose a comfortable compromise ie santa with the truth behind him

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  2. I missed the discussion, but I have been asking many people the same thing about Santa, Christmas, etc. I found this article http://onfaith.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/panelists/mark_driscoll/2010/12/what_we_tell_our_kids_about_santa.html

    Love the story about your NY trip. That is precious & priceless!

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  3. It's really tough! My husband came from a family who didn't do Santa or presents or anything for Christmas. It was all centered around Christ. On one hand, that's awesome because THAT is truly what the holiday should be about. But on the other, like you said, it's so hard to imagine taking that excitement and magic away from our children! Christmas has always been the BEST day of the year for me, even after the magic of Santa faded away. It's never been exciting for my husband. I can't help but want to try to incorporate BOTH into Christmas for my children. I just haven't figured out how to go about that yet. :)

    Good post! I've been thinking all the things you posted!

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  4. I agree that Santa doesn't seem like a big deal. Christmas almost has a duality to it, where on one hand you celebrate Christ's birth and on the other you celebrate your love for family and friends. That said, I never really believed in Santa, but I had family who did and I don't think it made Christmas less meaningful for them.

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  5. interesting article here: (really freaking long, but seriously, interesting)

    http://staff.kings.edu/davidjohnson/Sample%20Chapter%20_5_,%20From%20Whence%20Santa%20Comes.pdf

    my thoughts- I was a skeptical child and stopped believing before most other kids my age, however, I still got presents and Christmas was still awesome and exciting.

    I think the whole Santa thing is weird... but not necessarily wrong. You can teach your child about all the good virtuous stuff as well as lie to her about Santa for a few years. I'm sure she won't think you are an evil lying mother, however, if you don't tell her, she might be confused when all the other kids at school talk about this giant red guy who brings presents!

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  6. I think as a Christian parent, that HAS to cross your mind! I've spent some time thinking about that recently since Penn is actually old enough this year to "get it" and I've developed a few points. First, we're scaling back on gifts all together this year. We're doing stockings (mostly snacks, juice boxes, and other useful things)' they'll be getting three presents from us (something to wear, something to play with, and a fancy toothbrush (I know...lame, but it was in a nice box for wrapping), and presents from "Santa" (something to share, two or three fun things, and some winter clothes). It may not sound scaled back, but it is. We have fun with Santa. It helps that he is based on a real person with a Christian background and we talk about that.

    I'm of the belief too that you shouldn't just leave the "birth-story" of Jesus to December. It's fun to add Santa in the mix, but I'm actually thinking about leaving up my Nativity after Christmas this year. We try talking (as deeply as you can get with a 1 and 3 year old) about Jesus whenever it pops in our brains, and believe it or not...we end up talking about Jesus way more than Santa:)

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  7. My cousin Kris wrote this in a FB note (as her response to this post), and I thought it was really thoughtful and sweet.

    "I just have to say that I have done Santa ever since Katy was little (and that's a loooong time lol). Brandon doesn't believe anymore but even when he was little, we did the whole Santa thing as well as teach about baby Jesus and his birth. Now we have Kaya and McKenzie (who obviously won't get any of it this year, but... you know). We actually just went this evening and let the girls sit on Santa's lap and Kaya was so excited that she's even ok with missing her school holiday party because SHE got to see Santa.

    We also teach about baby Jesus and we talk about needy children (especially in these hard times). This year we were so fortunate to be able to purchase a gift for the Giving Tree at Kaya's school and something for the Toys for Tots box (that the Marine's put together every year and we participate in every year). I think it is extremely important for kids to be "happy with what they get" since not everyone is so blessed. This is the lesson that I am trying to teach my kids everyday.

    With all that said, I also LOVE this time of year and always have. I love giving to... everyone. I understand that Santa isn't really real, but he is in Kaya's heart and the look on her face melts mine. It really is a magical time of year and as long as she believe's in the magic, I really want to keep that magic alive.

    What you have to ask yourself if you take away the idea of Santa is... will you take all the magical creatures away? The Easter Bunny? How about the Tooth Fairy? The Diet Dr Pepper guy (just kidding)? But, seriuosly, Santa is a part of MOST children's childhood and I can't imagine mine without him or his magic. I can't imagine Katy's without him or Kaya's for that matter. It brings me joy to give that to my kids and when they're older, they'll know it was me, but for now, the magic of the season lives in my house."

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  8. Here is my 2 cents ... I was just thinking about the other magical creatures it would impact if you took Santa out of the mix, so that is funny that someone else was thinking that way!

    I heard this idea from someone else and am attempting it this year, since Clayton is old enough to know what's going on. Christ received 3 gifts, gold, frankenstuff (cause I can't spell), and myhr. So three gifts should be sufficient for my children ... a Garment (we usually give pjs), a Family present (something the family can all enjoy, like a movie or craft), and something for the Mind (like a game, puzzle, book, etc). Then, in terms of Santa, giving 1 big gift and stocking stuffers. Especially with small kids, how many things can they play with at once?? The past two years, Clayton has opened a gift and wanted to play with it before moving on to the next. It makes for a long day of opening presents. So why not just give him one thing that he will love and enjoy. Besides, grandparents spoil and will have tons to give!

    We have also been blessed enough this year to give to others in need and talking about this with Clayton has been fun!

    Christmas time is a most precious time, and as important as it is to make sure the season is centered around Christ, so is the remainder of the year. Enjoy this special season of spoiling your loved ones as much as you can and want, with having your LIFE cenetered around Christ all year long!
    (just my opinion! :) )

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  9. I really appreciate all of these thoughts and opinions. To be honest, I still haven't decided exactly how we will handle this one, although I am a big fan of how Veggie Tales explains the story behind St. Nicholas. Thank you all so much for sharing your experiences and insight.

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  10. This is a little late for Christmas but I still wanted to comment b/c I love what we do with our kids! They both only get 3 presents...3 presents were good enough for Jesus...and 3 presents are good enough for Mason and Annie. This is great b/c they still get a magical Christmas morning and we do not have to go off our budget trying to buy everything under the sun to have on display Christmas morning. We have told our 2 that Santa lived a long time ago and we pretend that he comes to visit on Christmas morning but that the best present of all is Jesus.

    It also makes it easier to buy only 3 presents b/c we know the grandparents can fill their other requests for goodies.

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  11. @Brannon, the three gifts is a great idea. I have heard of parents getting more specific in what those gifts will be, like something to wear, something to read, something to play with. Do you guys do that?

    I like your take on Santa too, because you're telling the truth. I'm really glad we have another year to think about how to handle all of this! Santa didn't really register with Cara this year.

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