Old Saint Nick: You Should Tell Your Kid’s About Santa
It’s the holiday season. Jack Frost has made his timely appearance to nip at the noses of kids playing football in the backyard and parents going out to buy gifts for their children. Local stores are filled with extra toys, candy and the ever-noticeable Salvation Army volunteer.
You make your way to the mall and pass a fake, snow-covered red arrow that directs customers to the “North Pole.” Looking down the way, you see a fat man with a snow-white beard and a red suit. It’s Christmas time, and a dilemma arises: what should you tell your kids about Santa?
This question has long been disputed by Christians. The tension between sharing bits and pieces of Santa and admitting the truth is one that many have considered morally, theologically and philosophically. Problems that follow this concern surround honesty and biblical teaching.
Concerning whether it is moral to paint the story of Santa Claus as true while shielding them from real, difficult truths, theologian John Piper claims that “foisting on our children an entire fabricated framework for understanding Christmas … is different from helping our children handle as much truth as they can in an age-appropriate way.” Piper makes clear the importance of intentions when sharing the story of Santa Claus.
Is he a tool to coerce children into good behavior? Is his story — of riding a big red sleigh and delivering presents to everyone in one night — something you tell your kids as truth? If your teaching of Santa and your teaching of Jesus could be personified and invited to dinner, how would they interact? Would one be a passive savior, a symbol of heaven with no requirement for change? Would the other be a moral list-checker who rewards the good with toys and punishes the bad with coal?
The question of whether you should teach your kids about Santa is much more nuanced than a simple Christmas tradition might allude to. Though the holiday should focus on the coming of the Messiah, I contend that you can, and dare I say should, teach your kids about Santa in a way that brings both Christmas fun and, more importantly, a good biblical lesson.
The most important aspect to consider when teaching kids about Santa is what that teaching can tell them about Jesus. The most important man your kids should understand — as deeply as their little minds can go — is the God-man, Jesus Christ. Start there and don’t wait until Christmas or Easter to teach them about the Savior. One way that children might be able to better discern the reality of God from the fantasy of Santa is how real you make Him year-round. If Jesus is part of everything and Santa is only around for one month, you clearly display which one is more important.
Concerning the question of morality, it would be problematic, perhaps even blasphemous, to leverage Santa Claus to get your kids to obey. Santa is not the one with the ink and quill and definitely not with the authority to judge sin and goodness. That right belongs to God alone, “For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecc. 12:14). Nor does this fictitious savior have the capacity to enlighten the heart of even a child. Whatever gift he might give is significantly less than what Christ has to offer (Phil. 4:19).
This does not mean you take away Santa entirely. It means you use him as a teaching moment; Santa is a fictional story that makes the true story of Christ precious and important.
When teaching your kids about Santa Claus, make clear distinctions between what is reality and what is not. It won’t do harm to fabricate letters and gifts and bites out of cookies from the holly jolly man, but limit the level to which your child elevates him. Have fun with Santa, but glorify Christ.
No moral right belongs to Santa. No gift comes “from Santa” that has not first been bought by the Savior. Use the fun fiction of Ol’ Saint Nick to show the ever-true worth and glory of a crucified and risen
Bower is an opinion writer.