Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bah, Humbug: Why Our Family Doesn't Pretend Santa Claus is Real

I realize that questioning the legitimacy of Santa Claus so close to Christmas is controversial. I fully anticipate being labeled a "legalist", "grinch", or just plain "weird". However, I hope that parents (and especially Christian parents) will extend me grace as I explain why my wife and I don't pretend Santa is real with our children. If you disagree with us on this issue, please know that we do not think you are bad parents nor do we look down on you. I assure you that we will extend you grace as you also try to make parental decisions that you believe is best for your family.

A Point of Clarity
Before I give our reasons, I want to clarify that my wife and I do not reject Santa outright. I do find it comical that if you move the letter "n" two places to the right the name "Santa" becomes "Satan". With that said, we don't think he's the devil. We know that Saint Nick is a historical figure and that "Santa" is derived from the word "holy". We have no problem with movies, toys, or decorations that represent Santa. Our issue, and the focus of this blog, is telling our children that Santa sneaks into the house on Christmas Eve to bring them gifts, when in fact he does not. And here are our 3 reasons why: 

Intentionally Deceptive
One reason we don't pretend Santa is real is because we think that it is wrong to intentionally deceive our children. The 9th Commandment emphasizes the importance of always giving an honest testimony and the New Testament places a premium on telling the truth (Ex. 20:16; Eph. 4:25). As parents we want to obey God's Laws as well as teach and model that obedience for our children. We never want to give the impression that deceiving others is an acceptable practice. 

Spiritually Confusing
As Christians, we frequently discuss with our children spiritual realities (e.g. God, Jesus, heaven, hell, angelic beings). These are things that actually exist, but we we cannot physically see them. If our children believed Santa was real and then learned that he was not it could potentially raise doubts in their mind about the validity of these spiritual realities. We do not want to risk potentially harming our credibility with our children when it comes to teaching them about things that are unseen. Granted, this risk may be small, but we want to eliminate any potential dangers of our children rejecting the spiritual truths taught in Scripture.

Additionally, we want our children to trust us. Listening to one's parents is not only pleasing to God its the mark of wisdom (Prov. 4:1-2; 6:20; 23:22). Therefore, we do not want to deliberately do anything, as little as it might be, to jeopardize that trust. Also, the way we interact with our children is the lens through which they will view their relationship with God. And since God is totally trustworthy, we ought to strive in every way to earn and keep our children's trust. 

Unintentionally Ungrateful
Like any parent, we want to raise grateful children. In order to instill this in our children we have a particular practice in our home when it comes to opening presents. Before unwrapping the gift, our children first open the card from the giver and thank them for the gift about to be received (we also model this when we pray before we eat). The danger of believing in Santa is that there is no one to thank. The person who actually gives the present does not receive a "thank you". Telling our children that Santa brought them a gift unintentionally makes them ungrateful. 

If you fear that telling your children the truth about Santa will "spoil" Christmas, then you have to ask yourself "What am I teaching my children about the focus of Christmas?" I admit, if Christmas is all about getting gifts from Santa, then telling them he is not real could be devastating. But if you are teaching and demonstrating that Jesus Christ is the perfect Gift, who came to rescue hopeless and helpless sinners then Christmas will always be full of joy, even without Santa Claus. 

What do you think? Am I way off base? Do you pretend Santa is real or not?


  1. Great thoughts, man! We approach the "idea" of Santa much the same way in our home, for the very reasons you summarized. I like the "receive, reject, or redeem" approach to engaging culture and it seems as though Santa would fall under the "redeem" category for us. We ask ourselves - how do we have fun with the idea of Santa, without falling into the cultural obsession with him, and at the same time keep Christ at the center of Christmas? I agree that this is a good challenge that all Christian parents should wrestle with!

    1. Thanks for the encouraging word Derrick!

  2. Lucas and I aren't parents yet, but we have thought about this a lot, and we are on the same page with you in a lot of ways. I really like what you said about not completely ignoring Santa or rejecting any fun silly Santa activities, but talking about him for what he is, imaginary. I think that really steers clear of legalism.

    1. Hanna, glad to hear you and Lucas are already thinking through these issues together. Praise God! Rachel and I think you two will be awesome parents!