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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!

Real Life

This week I intend to do some real blogging for the first time in several weeks. I’ll be reviewing a book or two (if I can finish them!) and sharing some things God’s been teaching me lately.

In the meantime, here’s a little update on our “real life” here in Nashville:

My oldest started Kindergarten this year, and we’ve all adjusted to it now, although I worry every morning that something will happen to my car on the way to school and I’ll have to get out of the car and expose everyone to the unseemly sight of my son and I in our pajamas. So far, so good. Last week I went on a field trip with my daughter and let me just say, I have so much respect for kindergarten teachers. I was exhausted after just 3 hours with 19 kids. Having our kiddo in school has opened the door for a lot of good conversations, and we’re thankful she loves school so much.

I’m enjoying the opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with my youngest. He is really coming out of his shell now that he has the opportunity to express himself without his loving, helpful sister always speaking for him. We spend our days having coffee dates with friends, doing chores, going to Bible study, and visiting our local children’s museum. And watching TV…that happens too.

Speaking of Bible study, the ladies in our church study are going through Nancy Guthrie’s The Wisdom of God: Seeing Jesus in the Psalms and Wisdom Books (Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament) and it is excellent. She is a wonderful writer, and there are no softball questions in the discussion guide (you know, the awkward questions that everyone knows the answers to, but no one wants to say it). We use the study guide in combination with lectures from women in our own church, and I have been privileged and challenged to teach two of these–on repentance in the Psalms and on Proverbs. More on that later this week, as God used Proverbs to teach me quite a bit.

I’m generally an introvert, but the Lord is stretching me and helping me come out of my shell and spend my days in conversation with others. I love seeing the unity of hearts as we share what He’s doing in our lives. And I love the reminders to lean on His wisdom and not my own, something I frequently get wrong. He has encouraged my soul through some sweet friendships–some new, some old–and I’m thankful for this season of being able to spend time during the day with other women.

I’m resisting the urge to participate in any kind of early Christmas activities. My son insisted on listening to Christmas music a couple of weeks ago, but thankfully that was short-lived. I have to confess that I get burnt out on Christmas as it is, so starting early only serves to make it worse. We’re trying to take our time and enjoy Thanksgiving this year, but I know I’m just one peppermint mocha away from losing my resolve.

So what about you? Do you indulge in early holiday festivities? Read any good books lately? What’s going on in your life?


Blogging Break

Due to several factors I’m going to take a break from blogging for a couple of weeks until after the holidays.

Today I’ll just leave us with this prayer from Scotty Smith (read the whole thing here):

Father, there’s really nothing merely “merry” or “little” about Christmas, and it certainly isn’t a day about denying or hiding from our troubles. For in sending Jesus to us, you’ve underscored just as desperate our condition is; but also how matchless your generosity is.

Indeed, the size of our Christmas has absolutely nothing to do with how much discretionary money we have to spend on bigger and better gifts, rather, on how big our gospel is. How I praise you that every Christmas is huge, majestically huge, irrespective of any economy or currency.

Advent Resources

My blogging has been spotty for the past couple of weeks due to the fact that we have now finished both of our family “Christmases.” The Strode fam celebrated over Thanksgiving week, and we did the Parks family this past weekend. So it’s all over. And I have to be honest–I’m kind of thrilled.

Erik sometimes calls me Scrooge when December rolls around. I mean, I get excited and we do fun things, but generally by the time December 20th comes around I am sick of it all and ready for January. I think it’s just the stress of doing it all, and figuring out how to reconcile all the commercialism with what we really want our kids to understand about the season.

Last year we had six family Christmases, which meant six times to open presents, which naturally made for a pretty greedy, materially-focused four-year-old. We decided we just couldn’t do that again. So I’m so happy things worked out this way for this year. Now that the gift-giving is (primarily) over, we can sit back and enjoy Advent.

My friend and former college professor, John Stonestreet, wrote a great article about Advent here. I’m learning the joy of expectation and anticipation, and I want my kids to see that too–not anticipation for presents, but for Christ.

A couple of other great Advent resources are:


Ann Voskamp’s Advent Jesse Tree Devotional and Ornaments – This is a free download of an Advent devotional. Technically it started on Nov. 29, but we are catching up as we were gone over the weekend. Last year I made all the ornaments with ShrinkyDinks and now the kids (well, Sophie really) enjoy listening to the devotionals and guessing what the ornament will be.


Jesus Storybook Bible – This great Bible storybook has 24 stories leading up to the birth of Christ–perfect for Advent. And, it’s just as encouraging (probably more-so) to my heart as it is for the kids.


CBC Advent Devotional – My church is putting out a weekly Advent devotional, with readings for each day. You can download the PDF from the website–just look for the image that says “What Child is This?”


Desiring Virtue Christ-Centered Christmas Series – This is a great blog series on ways to help your family worship Christ and understand Advent.

No matter your age, marital status, or family size, many of the resources can be a benefit in enabling us to wait in expectation for Christ–not just to celebrate the Incarnation, but to wait for His return.

Obviously this post has nothing to do with weddings, but I wanted to take a little break this week and write about something else. Let me know what resources you use in observing Advent!

*All images used were taken from the linked websites and are property of the individual website owners.