To Santa or Not to Santa...
There you are...the Christmas Spirit is in the air, you are shopping, you are getting ready to bake Christmas cookies with your little one, and you bask in the glow of the beautifully lit Christmas tree. The doorbell rings, and there are your friends, your religious friends, with their golden-haired offspring, ready for the playdate. You can tell something is wrong, and once the kids are occupied, your friends, your religious friends, sit you down for a talk. In no time flat, a Bible is produced and you are shown that you are putting your child in danger of the fires of hell, and you yourself are perilously close to having an appointment for a weenie-roast with the anti-Christ yourself. Santa Claus and the other trappings of Christmas, you are told, are pure evil, Pagan lore, and a sly ploy to lure the innocents away from God.
You are polite and you don't show your friends, your religious friends, the door. You offer cookies, but at the withering looks your reindeer cookies earn, you sit down quickly. In the pit of your stomach there is some doubt beginning to gnaw, after all, Christmas is Jesus' birthday, and there was no gastricly challenged man in a red suit anywhere near that manger. Additionally, you feel funny about convincing your kids about Santa anyways, because you realize that the lengths to which you must go to continue this belief become more elaborate by the year. At the same time, you remember your in-laws who rented the Santa costume already, and you know that grandpa is ready to play Santa for the kid when you come over.
With your friends, your religious friends, disapprovingly looking at you, and with the Bible on the coffee table all but accusingly pointing at you, and with your child, whom you love more than life itself, in the next room, you are questioning everything you hold dear, and the Christmas Spirit is threatening to disappear. What is the Christian parent to do?
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Continued from above.
I am glad you asked. First of all, thank your friends, your religious friends, for their advice. Offer them some non-offensive cookies, make it through the afternoon, and then angelically wave good-bye as they and their golden-haired offspring depart at the end of the playdate. Next, bake some cookies with your child, have some fun, write some Christmas cards, and once your young one is tucked into bed, get out your Bible and let's take a look at what it really says:
Santa Claus equals Satan Claus
Your religious friends may have made this point. They are not alone! Dial-the-Truth Ministries states in an article by Terry Watkins:
"You ever noticed how easy it is to transform "Satan" from "Santa"? Just move the "n" to the end.
Continuing in this vein, the author quotes Psalm 99:3 in support for the supposition that:
"Our English words "saint, sanctify, et al" comes from "santa". Sounds like Satan's "I will be like the most High" plan is at it again."
So, does your affection for Santa Claus cookies transform you into a spawn of Satan? No. Let's get real: anagrams are a lot of fun (and a great way to keep the kids occupied in the back of the car while traveling), but when seeking to rest your faith and theology on anagrams, you will find yourself on shifting sand (not rock). And we all know that the wise man built his house on the rock. Still not convinced? Ok, at the risk of sounding blasphemous to your religious friends, what is the anagram of "God"? See? Not a good thing to base theology on.
Lying to your Children about Santa will make them question the Veracity of God
This is a big one. No Christian parent wants to be a stumbling block to their child's budding faith. On the other hand, will the Santa Claus story truly prejudice a child to disbelieve in God? The answer is a resounding "maybe." Not what you were hoping for, but truth be told, it is quite possible that a child will learn to distrust a parent when s/he realizes that a story mom or dad staunchly held to be the truth, suddenly turns out to be a lie. Additionally, it is quite possible that a child may be angered by this deceit and by being led on. On the other hand, when children view the average television fare these days, they see the folks dressing up as Santa Claus, and somewhere along the way the kids are able to make the connection pretty early on.
Santa Claus is an Example of the Paganization of the Holiday
Bad news for your religious friends here: Christmas is a holiday born of Pagan lore. Sometime around 10-4 BC, probably on the evening of the Feast of Tabernacles (October), in a stable where Passover lambs were raised in the city of the shepherd David, a boy was born to a virgin who was descended from said shepherd. At an angel's command, the boy was named Jesus. It is fairly well established that Jesus was not actually born on December 25, but that this date coincides with the old Roman Calendar's feast of Dies Natalis Invicti Solis -- the Day of the Birth of the Unconquered Sun (Saturn), which incidentally coincides with the Winter Solstice. The Roman church chose to celebrate the birthday of Christ on 12/25, thus mixing the age old pagan traditions with the relatively new Christianity as a way of 'converting' souls to Christ, and making the celebration more palatable to the pagans. As you can see, Christmas was never a purely Christian holiday to begin with.
By now you are probably wringing your hands. Whoever claimed parenting was easy? Here are some suggestions:
1. Only you know your child; I don't, and neither do your religious friends. God gave you the privilege and obligation to raise your child. It is your duty to train your child in the way s/he should go, so that when s/he is old, s/he will not depart from it. It is up to you to impress God's commands on your child and to talk to your offspring about God at home, on the way to the grocery store, while waiting at the doctor's office... (Deuteronomy 6:5-7). Ask yourself, would telling your child that Santa Claus is real jive with these Scriptures? Would it cause problems for your child, in keeping with the warning of Matthew 18:6?
2. If you do decide to tell your child that Santa Claus is real, don't go the n-th degree to keep this belief alive. A child should be able to overcome a little disappointment relatively unscathed if they find out that this is a game that adults play, but if the lie is kept going with more and more elaborate schemes and protestations, there will possibly be a backlash.
3. So you have told your child Santa was real but s/he is beginning to question the story and now you want to "fess up" ... but you are biting your nails and dreading the talk. Don't; instead, simply tell junior that when s/he was little, s/he loved to play "pretend" and "dress up." Explain that when s/he was little, s/he enjoyed pretending that Santa Claus was real, and that adults love to play "pretend" and "dress up" for the Christmas holidays. Tell your little one that s/he already knows that Christmas is really a celebration of Jesus' birthday, and that folks everywhere have invented fun ways of celebrating this wonderful day. So yes, Santa Claus is not actually a real person, but he represents the things that are good and worthy, such as kindness, generosity, and fun...just like God.
4. Instead of saying that Santa is real, just tell your child that adults like to play "dress up" during Christmas, and like to play "pretend" with kids. Explain that Santa is not real, but just a fun game we play during the holidays. You can still have pictures taken with Santa (it's ok for junior to know that it's just someone playing the part), bake Santa cookies, and have Santa Christmas cards. I can tell you from personal experience that children love to be included in the grown-up game of "Santa" and will love to "pretend" to believe Santa is real.
Still wondering what to do? Easy! Read your Bible and pray. Understand the full impact of Deuteronomy 6 and Matthew 18, and then decide for yourself how to best parent your child with respect to the Santa Claus persona. Personally, I choose door number four.