This is a question I have gotten a few times this Christmas season. I though it best to write up a post with my answer. As Christians wanting to honor and prioritize the birth of Jesus Christ, I’m glad many wrestle with this question. Now that I am a daddy, this question has been on my mind a lot recently too. I want to firm my convictions on this issue before my son Jude is at the age where he understands.
I, like many kids, believed in Santa Claus. It made Christmas a magical time as a young child to believe in a jolly fat man in a red suite who comes and gives presents to good little boys and girls. Looking back on my own experience as a child, it was a lot of fun. I don’t remember how I figured out it was all a lie, but I don’t remember it causing me any serious detrimental harm or anger at my parents. However, despite my own experience as a child, I have decided that we will be honest with our children and tell them that Santa is just make-believe. I’ll start off by saying that I do not believe that if your kids believe in Santa that you are somehow a bad parent or that you are in grievous sin. You can have your own opinion on this and that is fine. However, let me share with you five reasons why we are making this decision with the Deeter children.
1. I Want to Model Truth Telling to My Kids
This is probably the biggest hang up for me. I want to always model truth telling for my children. I don’t want to do anything to intentionally deceive them, even if its in the name of fun. Part of practicing santa (or even the elf on the shelf for that matter), means tricking your children to believe in something that is a lie. And like all lies, you have to keep lying about it to continue that lie. Kids get inquisitive and pretty soon they start probing the elaborate santa conspiracy. “How does he get to all the children?” or “How does he get into houses with no chimneys?” or “How can Reindeer fly?” Pretty soon the little lie of santa stretches into an elaborate web of deception. With my children I want to speak truth at all times, so that when I tell them the must important things that may seem unbelievable, they would believe they are true because Daddy speaks truth. This leads me to my second reason.
2. I Want my Children to Believe the Truly Supernatural
The supernatural is becoming an increasingly hard pill to swallow in our society today. Many deny that the supernatural is even possible. My children will be growing up in such a world in which everything will attempt to be explained by the particulars, science and reason. Yet, the supernatural does happen and God does interact with his world. The lie of santa is a supernatural one, in which one man is omniscient (he knows all the little boys and girls and how good they are) and omnipotent (he can travel the world in one night). If my children see that I may lie about the truthfulness of santa, will they doubt the incarnation of God or the resurrection of Jesus Christ? I don’t know, but I don’t want to risk it. I want my children to believe in the true supernatural events recorded in the Scriptures, not myths and legends that have no hint of truth.
3. I Want to Put an Ax to Moralism
The whole Santa myth has evolved into monstrous moralism. We teach children that in order to get good gifts and to not get coal, you must be good. So children spend all their efforts all year being good to get good rewards. If anything is antithetical to Christmas, it is moralism. The wonderful good news of Christmas is that God gives us the gift of his son not by our own merits but by his own grace. We receive the gift of salvation through Jesus even though we all deserve a tractor trailer full of coal. I don’t want to encourage moralism in my children any more than their sinful hearts will be naturally prone too.
4. I Want to Keep the Focus on Christ
The whole Santa thing can be a great distraction. I remember that materialistic lust that ravaged me as a child at Christmas time. I wanted stuff, toys, and video games. Looking back, I can see how the lust for gifts far exceeded my love for Christ as a child. My wife Kaitlyn even remembers vocalizing as a young child how Santa Clause was better than Jesus because of the presents. Having children caught up in believing the lie of Santa can greatly distract their hearts from the true treasure of Christmas, the word become flesh.
5. I Want to Have A lot of Fun at Christmas Time
I want to have a lot of fun at Christmas time. I have nothing against Santa being a part of Christmas. We will watch all those wonderful claymation Christmas movies featuring santa. We will put up stockings and put presents under the Christmas tree. I’ll buy them little red santa hats to wear and take them out to see Christmas lights. It will be a blast and a ton of fun, but my children will know from the get go that Santa is make-believe. He is a fun character and a great story, but at the end of the day it is just a myth. We will have a blast celebrating Christmas as a family all the while doing the best we can to keep the focus on Jesus Christ, the wonderful and precious gift of God to us all.