Is Santa coming to town?

I’m on the fence about Santa.  Don’t worry, not about whether or not he’s real–I think I figured that out–but about whether or not he should be “real” to my kids.  Thus far, we’ve been apathetic about Santa.  We neither confirm nor deny his presence.  We don’t visit Santa, we don’t sign presents from Santa, and we don’t write letters to Santa (although they have done all those things at school).  But we also don’t go out of our way to disparage Santa.  We halfheartedly play along.

Stephen is now of that skeptical age to start doubting Santa along with the fairy who left a dollar under his pillow last week…how to respond to his Santa-doubt?

On the anti-Santa side:

1.  Trust–I never thought about this until I heard a friend’s childhood Santa story.  He truly felt betrayed by his parents’ Santa ruse.  When he discovered the truth about Santa, he was crushed, and his trust in his parents was shaken.  They’d told him this story, played it out, convinced him, he believed it, and then–it was a lie?  My parents lied to me?  Not they played a fun pretend game that I figured out, but my parents lied to me.  Where’s the line between pretending and lying?

2.  The man in the red suit vs the baby in the manger

When I was teaching preschool Sunday school, I taught a lesson on how Jesus knows you.  He knows your name, he knows the number of hairs on your head, he knows all the good and bad things you do.  One of my little students looked up at me, eyes wide, and said, “Oh!  Like Santa!”

Yes…but no…because Santa is fake and Jesus is real…wait…which story are they believing when the truth all comes out?  So we were just lying and pretending about Santa, but the Jesus story is true, we promise?

I don’t want my kids to think Christmas is about some guy magically coming down the chimney and bringing them presents.  I want them to know that Christmas is about God miraculously coming down into a manger bringing them salvation and eternal life.

I have Christian friends who are very anti-Santa for these reasons, and I get that.  But I also see the good side of Santa.

On the pro-Santa side:

1.  He’s fun!  Sorry to get all grinchy, I agree that Santa IS FUN.  He’s a jolly old soul, he has a lot of cool songs, a reindeer with a red nose, and like the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy, he’s fun to pretend.  I have good memories of my artistic aunt leaving messages and pictures from Santa, and of course calling NORAD to track Santa’s progress on Christmas Eve.  I do remember Santa as a fun game of pretend.

2.  The man in the red suit vs the baby in the manger

Can Santa and Jesus coexist peacefully?  Can we Christian parents walk the fine line of Santa is a Christmas myth but Jesus is the true Christmas story?  And can the Santa myth actually point toward the larger truth of Christ?

(If you’re feeling nerdy and deep, read this.  If not, skip to the next paragraph…Both C.S Lewis and Tolkien defended their use of fantasy as pointers to the Gospel.  In his essay, “On Fairy Stories,” Tolkien writes:  “The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind, which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels—peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: ‘mythical’ in their perfect, self-contained significance; and at the same time powerfully symbolic and allegorical; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history.”)

So basically, Tolkien and Lewis argued that good fairy-stories are really the Gospel anyway (think Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter…seriously, HP is rich fodder for Jesus allegories).  Remember my preschooler who made that connection between Santa and Jesus?  If Santa helps her understand something about Jesus, maybe that’s not a bad thing.  As I’m writing this, more and more parallels between Jesus and Santa come to mind; I could totally go English major on this, guys.  Fiction helps us understand truth; stories illustrate important life principles.  God knows that; after all, He gave us a big book of stories, and Jesus told stories all the time to explain difficult truths of God.

So maybe Santa will come to the Vogan house, but he won’t be too loud.  He won’t be the star of the show.  He’s just the warm up act.  Santa’s brief visit will be the small fantasy that exemplifies the big fact of The Baby who really came at Christmas to give us gifts everlasting.

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About jennyvogan

Author of "Stephen's Mom," a blog documenting the funny, crazy life of raising four boys while keeping my day job as an ultrasound tech.
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4 Responses to Is Santa coming to town?

  1. Brenda says:

    I love the way my parents did Santa. We “played” Santa like we “played” other make believe games. I knew that it was a fairy story and that it wasn’t real, but we were pretending, and pretending is fun! We put out milk and cookies and hung stockings that got filled over night, but we knew we were pretending. I liked how my parents walked that line between prosanta and antisanta.

    • jennyvogan says:

      Thanks, Brenda. That’s a good idea, to draw the line clearly. I think we always had an understanding that Santa was pretend, too. You’re right, it is fun to pretend (and Santa is pretty much unavoidable in the culture, so I think we need to work with him)

  2. raineality says:

    If you’re feeling nerdy, you could tell them about St. Nicholas, who “became” Santa. Let them know that Santa was derived from a real person who was a good, God-fearing man who helped the needy, so he’s not really fake, just embellished. Personally, as long as I was getting presents, I didn’t care when I finally figured it out, which was probably around Stephen’s age. My parents were kind of like you. They let me believe, but when I questioned it, they told me Santa was really Daddy. I said, “do I still get presents?” When they told me yes, I said, “Okay!”

    • jennyvogan says:

      True, the history of St. Nicholas is interesting. And Santa in Christian fiction, like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and A Christmas Carol. True, to a kid, as long as the presents keep coming, it’s all good! 🙂

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