Friday, December 23, 2011

The Santa Thing

When I was a teenager, I babysat my two cousins a lot. They did not believe in Santa. Why? Because my aunt did not want to lie to her children. I thought it was the stupidest thing ever. I thought she was ruining their childhood and robbing them of belief and magic. It is funny now that I am in the position of having people say the same about me.

First off, none of this is a judgement on what other parents have decided to do. I think holy people of good faith can disagree on this subject; this is just what Geoff and I know to be best for our family.

St. Nicholas was awesome. He was a tremendous miracle worker whom God used to multiply food and even raise 3 children from the dead. He was a very generous Bishop who did much to take care of the poor. This is a Saint that certainly deserves our veneration. His Feast is Dec 6th and will be observed in our house. Christmas however, is (should be) all about Jesus. I think no one would argue that this holy and sacred day has instead become has all about "Santa Claus" and materialism (another blog in itself).

Going to Mass on Christmas is not enough to thank God for the amazing gift of our newborn Savior. The whole day, our whole lives should be lived as a thank you. Christmas is about giving the gifts of ourselves in return to the God who created us, and gave His life for us. It shouldn't be taken so lightly.

Here is where my problem with the whole Santa thing really comes in though. As Christian parents, nothing is more important than getting our children to Heaven and instilling in them the love of God. From a young age we tell them that God exists, that He made them and loves them. They can't see Him (with the exception of people like St. Gerard), or really KNOW He is there, but they believe because the people they know and love more than anything, their parents, tell them it is so. God gives us gifts like virtues and graces, to help us through life's trials. As they get older, society, pagans, and heretics are constantly on the attack, saying God doesn't exist and that one is wasting his or her life living for God. Not to mention the evil one and his minions are constantnly prowling looking for an opportunity to devour the soul. It is going to take a strong faith to withstand that.

On the flip side, we tell our kids Santa is real. He has cool powers and bring them wonderful gifts like trains and dolls, just the thing they really really wanted. He brings them such joy and all the world is his advocate. No one hates Santa, and goes around telling kids he doesn't exist. He is in songs, movies, and commercials that are everywhere for a good two months of the year and is just so jolly and loveable. He gives them gratification now, not the promise of future joy and eternal happiness (which seems so far away).

Now when our children find out the truth about Santa, which is obviously inevitable, I think it stands to reason that most will begin to question deep down, what else their parents have been lying about. It seems to me that the first seeds of doubt about the existance of God will be born in them. I mean, if Santa isn't real, and all of the world is behind him, what then does that say about the God that so many hate?

Now don't get me wrong, it is part of our faith journey (ownership) to question, but not at such a young age. When it really comes down to it, there is a battle going on between life and death for our souls, and the souls of our precious children. I don't want to give the devil any one-ups. I know our children won't be missing out on anything by not believing in Santa Clause, afterall God IS wonder and awe; but instead they have all of Heaven to gain.

Again, this is just what Geoffrey and I know, after prayerful discernment, is the right thing to do in our family. I'm praying our extended families honor that decision. Also I don't think less of people who choose differently; I think kids can be raised to believe in Santa and turn out perfectly holy adults. I believe however that there are enough battles for their soul, why fight a possible big one at a young age when it is completely avoidable? Sorry Santa Clause, you aren't real and my kids will know the TRUTH.


  1. Thanks for sharing this. Until this year, Santa was never a question, I always just assumed we would "do" Santa for our kids. Now that I have seen that some families don't, it makes me wonder whether it is something that should be part of our family traditions or not. Gus is young enough this year that we don't really have to worry about it one way or another--even if he gets gifts from Santa this year, he won't remember for next year. So this is good food for thought.

  2. We started out doing the "Santa Thing", and it was fun for the first couple of years. We always connected Santa as St. Nicholas, as this IS the true roots of Santa, and celebrated St. Nick's feast day. But we also said, when they ask us if Santa is real, we won't lie, we'll tell them the truth. They asked at what I thought were pretty young ages - 6 & 7 (the baby at the time was 2 so it didn't matter either way for him!) And it was the 6 year old who had the courage to ask! Honestly, by that point it had gotten pretty stressful for us, as parents to make the whole Santa Thing happen. What a relief for US they asked so early. When we told them the truth, they weren't even the slightest disappointed! We changed our family tradition then and there - they would receive the first gift of Christmas on the Feast of St. Nicholas, three gifts at Christmas because that's what Baby Jesus received, and the last gift of Christmas on the Feast of the Epiphany - our way of trying to tie together the Advent and Christmas seasons. We also remind our kids each year WHY we give presents in the first place - to show our love for each other like God showed His love for us in sending us the gift of His Son, as well as to have just a tiny, tiny, earthly taste of the joy and happiness that awaits us in Eternal Life BECAUSE of God's gift of His Son to us. Mostly our time is focused on being together as a family building relationship together, and spending time with extended family and sometimes even close friends to do the same. Again, with the reminder that this is another element of God's gift of His Son = to build our relationship with Him. I am sure we are still stuck in some of the materialism too, but we are working on that! THANKS for starting this conversation, Dacia! A Blessed and Merry Christmas to you and the family!

  3. It was important to my wife to share the joys of finding presents and remembering joyful moments, but I could not think to spread something I knew to not be real. I further delved into trying to understand the difference with that when I pretended to become action heroes or role play. Some compromising allowed us to rather say things like mom and dad have to give money to Santa. I saw some benefit as they have the capacity to discern more that they learn we cared enough to play and let them imagine while allowing them to see that we were the ones providing the presents.

    However, the issue still wasn't solved in my mind as to what to do. I guess it is similar to learning that a parent to be may say they will never do something on Sunday like play board games, but later realize that having children brings a newer understanding that the worth of being together and building bonds around the dinner table is more valuable than holding on to certain ideals made outside of the situation. Don't get me wrong, it is important to have commitments to your beliefs before the situation arises such as deciding never to drink before you wind up being offered the drink at a party in front of your friends. The challenge being learning to live through light and truth rather than rule and law (which does not mean that the laws of God go unfilled either).

    The resolution came to me after I learned more about childhood development. What is real and what is not is not as easily discernible at young ages. They cannot easily tell whether the actor portraying Jesus on TV is really him or not or if Superman is less strong than Jesus. That is why it is a benefit to them to learn and see through play and stories. Later, as they are able to have better mental capacity, they learn the truth and can discern between it and falsehood. I realized what mattered was not as much if I role played Santa or not, but what I did with that to teach them about goodness. To a 2 year-old Jesus and Santa are about the same reality, even though we have faith to know the difference. Its not so much a black and white issue that a parent cannot teach truth when that parent is perpetuating a falsehood.

    I had to learn to rather to see it from their perspective. There is no way in a 2 year old's mind to know whether a person saying he is an angel is telling the truth or a lie. (That is why they look to you to increase their protection, learning, and safety). So I realized to let go. I try to provide them the light they can handle just as much as God does in my ability to understand it at that moment, and as they live by it they increase in their capacity to receive more light.

    It is your personal decision, but even though I feel like I am saying a lie of Santa I realize rather that I can use the opportunity with the younger ones to lead them to look for what truth exists about serving, providing for those who have less than you, helping Santa give to others, relating the story to learn more about Jesus, and the like. Just as some said that they instead explain the story of St Nickolas, so there is the opportunity to learn about Jesus better. It is still hard for me to talk about Santa acceptably, but is much easier to know that a 2 year old's world isn't "real" vs "unreal" yet and the right things in it will provide the benefit of learning what is "good" vs "bad."

    As they grow, if they question it later, well that is good too! Why? Because I want my child to be able to ask God for himself to know He is real and answers you. If he relies solely on my telling him what is real and not, he won't be able to live it on faith himself. I don't mean to say I don't teach him about God, but I do hope he will ask if God is real or not and take it up as a matter of his own conversion and prayer with our support as he grows up. I couldn't be where I am unless I asked for my prayers to be answered as to what faith to hold on to and what to become.