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My Love/Hate Relationship with Santa Claus

'Santa Claus with reindeer at the beach: Panama City Beach, Florida' photo (c) 1956, Florida Memory - license:

So I have a bit of a love/hate thing going on with Santa right now. I’m wondering if anyone else has dealt with this tension in the past, so I’m just going to put it out there and see what others think.

We’ll start with the hate, naturally.

Erik and I are both products of Santa-less homes. He was never part of our Christmas traditions, and we didn’t know any different. So when we began our own traditions with our kids, we had no category for Santa. In fact, when our daughter was 2, she somehow morphed Santa and Noah into one jolly, animal-saving being. I remember pushing her in a shopping cart around Lowe’s and, upon seeing a life-sized Santa figure, hearing her shout, “Noah says ‘Ho, Ho, Ho!'” Naturally, I did nothing to correct this. (Incidentally, I may have also allowed my young son to believe the bear says “wuah ha ha” for far too long…parents just do this when their kids say cute stuff…I’m banking on no permanent damage being done).

So we’ve never really been Santa people, and it’s never been much of an issue. But this year my daughter is in kindergarten, where Santa reigns supreme. By the end of September she had already told a classmate Santa wasn’t real. So we had many talks about how it’s not her job to tell other kids that, and we need to respect the traditions of their families, etc. And I believe that, really. I hoped we could all just get through Christmas peaceably.

But then she came home one day telling me how Santa is real after all. She’s seen his workshop, and his good kid/bad kid list. She only hopes she can get her name on the good list. Of course, I then asked her how many bad things she’s allowed to do and still be on the good kid list.(For example, would not believing her mom be enough to put her on the bad list? She did not appreciate this question).

This post isn’t a rant about my daughter not believing me, nor is it about our society perpetuating a lie. I mean, I’m not exactly thrilled about the whole setup, but that’s not really the issue.

It’s not even really about Santa. We’ve taught our kids about the real Saint Nicholas and we’ll continue to reiterate the truth within the legend. This is a good, valuable message.

But the naughty/nice thing is just the worst. It’s the worst because it’s just like us to crave a list like this. And it’s super convenient for having a peaceful December. The fear of coal-filled stockings is a real thing, friends. I’ve seen small children reduced to tears at just the thought.

So this is where the love part of the love/hate thing comes in. Part of me really loves Santa because I’ve never had an easier way to share the gospel with my kids as well as other parents/friends/teachers.

A couple of days after we decorated our home for Christmas, I put the kids’ wrapped presents under the tree. I’m not always (read: never) on top of things like this, but this year I’m so thankful for the miraculous gift of preparedness because it has come in incredibly handy with our kids. When the discussion of Santa and his lists came up, I was able to point my daughter to the presents under the tree. I’m so thankful for the wisdom of God allowing me to tell her this:

“Do you see those presents under the tree? They are from your dad and me. They will be there every day until Christmas morning. It doesn’t matter how good you are, or how bad you are. You will not lose those presents. You cannot earn them–they are a gift from us because we love you. With Santa, you have to be good to earn gifts. But you and I both know we can never be good enough on our own. And that’s why Jesus is so much greater than Santa. God knew we could never be good enough on our own, so He sent Jesus. Jesus was good in our place, and when we trust in His goodness and His love, instead of our own, then we get His sinless record before God. We get to know God! So Santa really isn’t so great after all.”

So I know this isn’t the end, and we will probably have this discussion every Christmas for years to come. And while part of me hates the thought of forcing my kids to choose whom to believe, part of me loves that inherent in this discussion is a clear gospel presentation. I pray for opportunities to declare the freedom of gospel grace in place of the karma of Santa Claus.

Note: This is in no way meant to condemn anyone who does Santa with their kids. I know lots of people who do it for fun without the naughty/nice lists and have a great time with their kids, not taking away from the true message of Christmas. So please don’t read it as judgment.

But I am wondering how other parents tackle this topic with their kids. If you have thoughts or ideas, I would really love to hear them!

9 responses »

  1. Elizabeth Beavers

    I’m not a parent as you know. But, I do remember what it was like being a kid and being a very, very poor kid. I do not remember actually believing in Santa; at least not really, really believing. Mama and Daddy always put the presents under the tree on Christmas Eve and we woke up to ONE present, usually, and some fruit, nuts and candy in a sock (not a pretty stocking). I will never forget when I was 7 and got a doll AND a doll bed (I still have the bed). Some how, I do not have a true memory of a true belief in Santa. Daddy said he didn’t like the idea of his kids thinking Santa wouldn’t bring them as much as he brought the other kids. But, there was this secret thing, too about the gifts under the tree on Christmas morning. Also, they were not wrapped. Mama and Daddy always taught us about Jesus’ birth and not so much about Santa. This is just a different perspective I thought to share with you. Most of my friends do Santa and Jesus and their kids seem to have a good perspective on the whole thing. So, maybe it’s all in how it’s presented.

    • Catherine Parks

      I agree, the presentation is the battle. I think it can totally be done well–both Santa and Jesus. Unfortunately most of the movies and songs we have about Santa make him into a god-like being.

  2. Imagining you and Erik with baseball bats, roaming the mall destroying Santa displays.

    Kidding of course-challenging article. When I was a child-my imagination postulated things much more complex and surreal than Santa. In my case, it wasn’t hard to debunk Santa when I was 100% convinced I was the Terminator.

    • Catherine Parks

      Haha. Well if you *are* the Terminator, we’ll need your help while we ruin other peoples’ Christmases.

      I think if Santa weren’t what he currently is, I would have no problem with it. C.S. Lewis included him (as Father Christmas) in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Lewis was all about kids having robust imaginations and believing in magic. But I’m pretty sure he would hate the moralistic semi-deity we’ve made Santa into.

  3. Great subject Catherine. I was raised in a Santa home and believed that in the jolly good man until I was probably 10 or 11 (A lot of denial once I hit double digits).

    LC and I decided not to do Santa with our children but to have fun “in the spirit of” Santa. We have fun laughing at the bearded one when we go out but they know that it’s more of a tradition…much like a Christmas Tree. We have had great conversation about The True meaning of Christmas, Grace, The real Saint Nick. So far, child #2 is the one that, despite our requests to respect others, declares the illegitimacy of the man who can distribute gazillions of presents under trees in one night.

    Whether it be Batman, Jedis, or St. Nick, we make sure that they know mom and dad think the magic part is silly, funny, and simply not real and insert Gospel where needed.

    Merry Christmas to your family!

  4. Pingback: Do you ever wonder?? | Susie's Little Blog

  5. Michael (formerly poop n' flush)

    Good thoughts Catherine. I believed in Santa until maybe 6 or 7ish I think. But I feel that there was always a weight that my parents placed on Jesus that they obviously didn’t with Santa…so there never was any kind of confusion for me as I grew older. I almost think I sort of thought of Santa as like an angel or a servant of Jesus or something. Where I disagree with people on this subject is when they take it to the extreme side either way. I love the idea of explaining the difference between the presents under the tree and santa’s gifts. (in my house, santa’s gifts were never wrapped…they just showed up early christmas morning)


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