It’s December! Yeah!!! Christmas is coming and so is Santa. Well, maybe not! Some families are deciding that Santa has been over marketed and so they are choosing to say “Not at our house” to the big guy in the red suit. I can understand why many young Christian families are turning away from Santa and teaching their little ones more about Jesus and the real reason for the season we call Christmas. I also can understand the turn-off to the marketing schemes of retailers who only are interested in profit and how to capture your money. I get it that you don’t want to lie to your child so you explain that Santa is a myth built around a real person from many generations ago. I get it! But to be honest I miss that dear old jolly man in the red suit. Let me tell you why.
When I was a child we had one family in our school that did not allow their children to believe in Santa Claus. I always felt sorry for those kids because they were not permitted to attend our classroom Christmas party. They didn’t participate in the annual Christmas program at school because some of the songs were about Santa Claus or his elves or his reindeer. They didn’t get the longed-for traditional paper sack filled with oranges, nuts, and candy given at the end of every program by Santa. They never decorated their home for the holiday. They seemed odd and strange and weird. I asked my classmate how he felt about his parent’s ideas on Christmas and he said that he didn’t agree with them because Christmas was about a child, the birth of Jesus, and about children and he saw no reason why he had to be left out of everything. I felt sorry for him.
I knew the story of Jesus birth and even as a child I believed more in Jesus than I did in Santa Claus. Maybe that was because my parents didn’t make a big fuss over Santa or the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy. I don’t think that it harms a child to believe in Santa or the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy as long as they understand reality and fantasy are two different things. Reality is hard and fantasy is fun and the world of children is to be fun and engaging and a time of great learning and growing. They only have about twelve years of fantasy to enjoy and the rest of their life will be reality. Why not let them enjoy those few years of fun?
Some people have told me that they loathe the commercialism of the Christmas holiday and feel that Santa drives the greed home to children through television. To be honest I don’t like that the television commercials target children by creating strong desires to have everything that is expensive for parents to buy. But then I don’t like Viagra commercials either. I would rather have toy commercials than sex pill commercials. I can see the need for self-restraint and teaching our children to be responsible about money and stuff and so forth. I actually think that Santa Claus helps teach little ones to not be greedy if he is used as a tool to do so. I had my children write letters to Santa and then helped them to see that perhaps they had been a little too greedy in wanting ten things. I helped them narrow down their desires and usually allowed them to write five things but taught them to expect only three because Santa had a lot of other children to give toys to. I also taught my children to be thankful for what they had and not be desirous of what others had that they didn’t or to be too proud they had what others didn’t have. Santa helped with that teaching as well. Maybe I am just weird!
Some parents have told me that they don’t ever want to lie to their children. I commend them for this because I agree that we as Christians are not to lie to anyone especially our children. I asked myself if I lied to my children when I allowed them to believe in Santa and I don’t think that I ever told them he was real. What I told them was that Santa was someone who must really love them and wants them to have some new toys, clothes, books, and basically a happy Christmas. That was certainly not a lie because I did all the Santa shopping. But I must admit that back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was a Mom to my three oldest there wasn’t as much emphasis upon Santa as there is today. The marketing for Christmas wasn’t as prolific as today. The Christmas movies didn’t begin at Halloween, and the desires of children weren’t stirred up as much as today. Why, we didn’t even have Facebook or Twitter or even cell phones back then. Santa probably rode on a horse and not a sleigh! Okay, maybe it was only twenty some years ago, but you get the point! Today the peer pressure is the same when it comes to what children want and think they will die if they don’t get! That seems to be in every generation!
So what are we to think about Santa and his elves and the world of fantasy that continues to go around this universe? I think that we can go to the Bible for some advice on this subject. Let’s look at how God feels about celebrations and gifts.
The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘These are my appointed festivals, the appointed festivals of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies. Leviticus 23:1-2, (New International Version or NIV).
Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.” Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them. Nehemiah 8:9-12, ( NIV).
Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Xerxes, near and far, to have them celebrate annually the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. He wrote them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor. So the Jews agreed to continue the celebration they had begun, doing what Mordecai had written to them. Esther 9:20-23, (NIV).
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:1-4, (NIV).
These passages show that we are to be a festive people. We are to praise God for the wonderful gifts that He gives and we are to pass on the blessings to others as well. The second and third passages show the establishment of two types of celebrations. Nehemiah had lead the people to complete a wall that was in need of repair that surrounded a city and at the end of this hard task they celebrated. Esther saved her nation of Jewish people from extermination and to this very day what she did is celebrated in Israel and around the world in Jewish communities. God was involved in both stories and praise is given to Him during these festivities. I also included one of my favorite passages from the New Testament to show that we Christians are expected to give goods and money to others but we are to do so without outward signs of praise for ourselves. There are many more examples of the Jewish people giving thanks to God and exchanging gifts with one another and bringing goods and food for those who have little or none (Leviticus 23). God is a gracious God who pours down many blessings to everyone whether they are Christians or not. We are to be gracious as He is.
So what do these scriptures have to do with Santa Claus? Probably nothing, and yet to me a lot because Santa is a tool that I used to teach my children to be less greedy, to be kind to others, to have some small hopes realized, to believe in something good and kind and caring. In the end each parent must make their own decision about Santa and if you are one who chooses to not include Santa into your holiday celebrations I will respect that and honor your wishes. If you are a parent who decides to keep Santa in your holiday celebrations then I will respect that and honor your wishes also. You see, as Christians I think we have the freedom to keep Santa or get rid of him and I trust God will guide your heart in your decision on the matter. The important thing is to honor God, celebrate the birth of Jesus, and exchange gifts with those you love as a way to honor our King’s birth. Merry Christmas Everyone.
Until next time…Katherine