Traveling home from the Christmas Eve service, I sat in the back of the car looking up at the sky. I was looking for Santa and his reindeer. I was probably around eight years old. I stared intently at the shimmering lights. Star after star glimmered in my sight, and then suddenly, I captured the most hopeful scene. A running stream of lights dancing across the heavens; I just knew, at that moment, I saw Santa and his reindeer! Excitedly, I pointed and told my mom, “I see Santa! He’s on his way to our home. We have to get there soon and go to bed!” As we rushed to our apartment, we set out the cookies, and snuggled in our bed; sleep was hard to come, but in time, with a smile on my face, I slept in the cherished feeling, “I got to see Santa!”
Then the year of disappointment came; I was watching T. V. at our babysitter’s house. A Christmas cartoon about Santa advertised; I must have said something about wanting to see him. My sitter sat down in front of me and said, “Santa is not real. He is a lie. Your mommy buys all your toys and hides them from you.” In disbelief, I knew she was wrong!
I’m sure she meant well. She thought she was doing the right thing to tell me the truth, but her news left me deflated. I chose not to listen to her. But later that week, when I wanted to play dress up, I went into my mom’s closet and pulled out her clothes and shoes, and then the most horrible sight stood before me. I saw all the toys I asked from Santa, right there, exposed clearly, in my mom’s closet! I remembered my sitter’s words. She was right. And I was crushed! That year the magic of Christmas dimmed, and I never forgot that feeling!
My mom grew up with the same story about Santa; she only wanted my brother and me to experience the magic she felt as a child. Telling her kids about Santa was not an attempt to lie but to have fun and make the season a bit more electrifying.
Being a young mom of four, I remembered the magical air of Christmas when I was young. I loved Christmas (and still do!). The anticipation, the beauty, the love, and the hope illuminated a piece of my life each year. I wanted the same for my children. I wanted them to love Christmas as much as I did. But based on my experience, I struggled with telling them that Santa was real.
What was at the heart of my struggle?
- Honesty is a core value of mine. Telling our children the truth about everything in life was and is essential to me. It was crucial that our kids could trust what their daddy and mommy said. (For us) Telling our kids about Santa seemed to violate this value.
- Christmas is special, and I wanted it to stay that way. Trees, lights, reindeer, cookies, and presents are nice, but they only fill Christmas with a temporary hope. There was no need for my children to meet a day when the ‘magical’ feeling of Christmas ended. Jesus is forever. And His supernatural hope grows the more our faith in His truth does. I wanted each child of ours to know Him. I never wanted them to question His existence. Like Santa, we can’t see Jesus. But Santa is fiction. Jesus is real. I could envision their confusion if they believed in both. I never wanted to place a stumbling block in their faith.
- I wanted a simple Christmas. Let’s face it, standing in line to sit on Santa’s lap was indeed a deterrent for me. I don’t like lines. I don’t like crowds. And I don’t like doing things in which I don’t believe. I’m a bit of a purpose-driven gal. With all that said, instead of putting our energy into chasing Santa, we focused on Jesus. We read the Christmas story from the Bible, illuminating one part of the story each year: the stable, Gabriel, Mary, Joseph, the animals, the angels singing, etc. We also read a few favorite books each year; the kids looked forward to going to the Christian Bookstore to pick out a new one to add to our collection. We kept the season fresh as we enjoyed accounts about faith, hope, giving, serving, and life. Our favorite book was One Wintry Night.
Did we neglect Santa? No.
By now, you might think I’m against Santa. I’m not. I don’t want anyone reading this to think I condemn you for choosing to share the magic of Santa with your kids. Let me tell you how we kept Santa in our Christmas.
While Santa is not real, he does have an origin. I read to my kids the story of St. Nicholas. We learned where he came from and why so many love him.
We also believed in the imagination that God created in each human being. So, we decided to have fun with Santa. We told our kids St. Nicholas was real, but Santa was not. However, they could pretend with their great uncle. They set out cookies for him every Christmas Eve, knowing full well, their uncle was the one to devour them.
He made candy houses with the kids and inevitably put Santa and his reindeer on top of the house. They loved this time with their uncle. It was all in fun. Relationships became the more prominent purpose, here. They knew the truth, but they enjoyed the pretending. More than anything, they loved their great uncle! And that was a win for me!
Please hear me, if you choose to share Santa with your kids, I do not disapprove of you in any way. I have no intentions to tell you what to do. Instead, I just wanted to share my story with you in case you are unsure what to do with Santa like I was as a young mom. In my younger days as a mother, I read an article another woman wrote telling her take on Santa. With gentleness and grace, this mother’s story helped me in my struggle; I hope to do the same for you.
We all agree “Jesus is the reason for the season” and thankfully, we have the confidence that He lives beyond Christmas. While Santa comes and goes, Jesus is the same today, yesterday, and forever. We get to enjoy Him in our lives continually!