When I was a child, I did not believe in Santa Claus. I believed in Jesus. My family viewed Santa in much the same way as we viewed Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Santa lived in the storybook called The Night Before Christmas. His face showed up in stores and on TV. His name appeared on the gift tag on one of my presents under the tree. The others were from my parents. On Christmas Eve, our Christmas celebration focused on Jesus.
As an adult, I had to decide how I was going to handle the Santa and Jesus issue with my own children. One of my core parenting values was this: I will never lie to my children. One of their father’s core parenting values was this: Christmas is all about fun. We needed to find a way to blend our values for the sake of our children. We asked ourselves how we could keep Jesus as the center of our Christmas celebration in the middle of a culture that celebrated Santa everywhere we turned. Could we find a way to enjoy Santa without losing the true meaning of Christmas? That is the challenge that every Christian parent faces at Christmas.
We ended up celebrating Santa as a fairy tale character to be enjoyed, but not believed in. We celebrated Jesus as real – true God and true man. We enjoyed stories of Santa. We believed in Jesus. This allowed us to have fun with the character of Santa without having to tell lies along the way. This was important to us because we worried that as our children became old enough to realize that we did not tell them the truth about Santa, they might not trust us as we told them the truth about Jesus.
Fun Things to do with your family
Here are a few things parents and grandparents can do during the month of December to have fun with Santa and to honor Jesus, too:
- Have fun with Santa at Christmastime, but give Jesus top billing all year long. Save Santa talk for the month of December. Talk about Jesus every day all year long. Over time, children will realize your family’s priority.
- When it comes to presents, remember that children are concrete thinkers. They can touch and see the reality of presents. Jesus’ love is not so concrete to them. We need to work hard to make Jesus and His gift of love come alive in the hearts and lives of our kids as we love them and celebrate His birth.
- Invade your kids’ lives with the reality of Jesus. Take them to church weekly. Pray with them. Let them see Jesus in what you say and do. Do not be Santa to them, granting their every wish and desire. Instead, be a reflection of Jesus’ love for them.
- On Christmas Eve, have a “Happy Birthday, Jesus” party complete with a birthday cake and candles. Light a candle and read the story of Jesus’ birth in Luke 2:1-20 together. Sing Christmas carols as a family.
Today we have children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. We have enjoyed sharing the make-believe world of Santa with them. But, even more, we love to share the true, life-giving message of God’s love story for each and every one of us – the story of His own Son born in a manger in Bethlehem long ago and still with us this Christmas and always. Merry Christmas to all!