Monday, December 1, 2008

25 Days of Christmas -- Day 1: Debunking the Big Elf

My friend Stacy issued a "25 Days of Christmas" challenge.
To participate, post 25 ways you celebrate the Christmas season.

We began the Christmas season by talking about the true meaning of the season -- God's gift of grace in Jesus Christ -- and that discussion included a debunking of the big elf. I know my kids at 6 and 8 seem too young to not believe in Santa, but we made a decision a long time ago to be honest on the matter, and Santa's never really been a part of their holiday celebration.

Our very first Christmas as parents, we set out Santa gifts. We felt the societal pressure, and when we suggested we may not "do Santa" with the kids, we felt some familial pressure. We didn't want to deprive our kids of the joy of Christmas, and not knowing what else to do, we caved. I personally felt terrible knowing the truth would eventually come out, so from then on, we decided Santa was not a farce we wanted to keep up with.

Here's why:

We didn't want to spend a great deal of time insisting that our kids behave in a certain way to earn the love, acceptance, and provision of a person they can't see, only to tell them later we'd been lying about that person all along. We particularly didn't want to invest the time in that deception when we spend every other day of the year teaching them about grace, and freely receiving love, acceptance, and provision from a God they cannot see. When we revealed the truth about Santa, we didn't want it to muddle the truth about God. We didn't want them to wonder if the truth of God was a lie too.

Not involving Santa in our Christmas hasn't affected us as we once thought it might. Early on, we shared the story of Saint Nicolas with the kids and explained that the Santa we see is a symbol of that man's generosity. We talked about the impossibilities of the current Santa myth, and really, they don't care one bit about the fact that Santa doesn't exist.

Additionally, we don't run from all things Santa. We admire Santa ornaments, we watch the Santa movies and cartoons throughout the holiday season, and the kids still get the big gift (though it comes from Mom and Dad and not from some mystical creature). We really just don't make a big deal about the absence of Santa, and they don't think it's a big deal.

The only time not believing in Santa has been an issue to the kids is when another adult asks them what they want Santa to bring, or if they're on the good list, or whatever. For the first couple of years they knew the truth about Santa, they'd look like a deer caught in headlights. They had no idea how to respond! I'd generally jump in with a response or encourage them to share what they hoped to get for Christmas. Of late, the questions don't seem to be as hard for them to answer.

This year, as we discussed the holiday season, we went all the way back to Genesis to talk about original sin. We moved forward to the relationship between Abraham and Isaac. We talked about Mary and Joseph, and then about Jesus. We discussed our own sin, and God's gift of grace to us through Jesus Christ. I reiterated the fact that Christmas is not about Santa, nor is it about the Christmas tree, the presents and packages underneath, or even the family we love to see. Christmas is a time for us to focus on Jesus, and to call to mind the time of his birth.

photo credit: Savvy Women Magazine


  • Christy

    Excellent post. I agree whole-heartedly!

  • Emily

    You know I have often wondered about if we should do Santa at our home or not as well. We did growing up, but I don't know if we should with our kids or not. I am so glad you posted about this. It means I'm not the only "Scrooge" out there.

  • amy

    Right on! I am planning to post about this very issue, but I might just link to yours instead - you seem to say it much better than I could! :)

  • Amanda

    There's an excellent post in the December 2008 HomeLife magazine from LifeWay that talks about this very same issue. It gives some alternatives for families who don't want to rule out Santa altogether, but who really want to focus to be on Christ.

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