The Great Santa Debate

Every year since we’ve had kids, I see parents struggle with Santa. Should they tell their kids about Santa? Should they play along with the game? Or should they dogmatically tell their kids there is not Santa from the beginning?

I love this picture of Santa kneeling at the manger. A picture is worth a thousand words. We now know that Santa loves Jesus. Children see and understand this with no explanation. But that only solves one problem.

So should you play the Santa game or not? Each couple must decide for themselves. Our children are grown and married, so the subject doesn’t affect us again until we have grandchildren. At that point, their parents will have to decide what they think is appropriate.

We’ve been all over the board on this and we’ve learned a lot. When the kids were little, we played the Santa game. It was fun and harmless. They knew Christmas was all about Jesus, but like the wise men, Santa brought gifts. Then around five or six, we told them that Santa was a make believe game and not to spoil it for the other kids.

Our line of thought was that if we told our children that Santa, the Easter bunny and the Tooth Fairy were all real and they discovered otherwise, would they then think we were lying about Jesus?

Christ has always been the focal point of our Christmas. We’ve always had a manger scene. One year we had a birthday cake for Jesus. But at one point, I was so fed up with the Santa stealing the lime light, I banned him. Then I realized that Santa, like the Easter bunny, was part of our culture and wasn’t going away.

We posted a poll and here are the results: 27% tell their children he’s real; 55% tell them it’s make believe; 5% ban Santa; and 11%are still struggling with the issue. So, let’s open this up for discussion. What are you doing about Santa this year with your little ones? If your kids are grown, what did you do with Santa in your house when they were small?

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17 thoughts on “The Great Santa Debate

  1. We were the only family of believers in our extended family, and all our children’s cousins were staunch “Santa Believers.” We didn’t want to alienate ourselves from family or be “too holy” to share their traditions, so we told our children that Santa was an angel sent from heaven to give gifts to boys and girls who loved Jesus. A prisoner of hope,Megan

  2. We ignored the Santa issue till the kids were about 3 and 4. Then they decided that Santa was real. We then debated whether or not to tell the truth. Part of the debate revolved around my husband and myself both growing up in Christian homes believing in Santa and neither of our faith being shaken because of it.The issue was resolved the following year when my husband said that we were definitely going to let the kids believe in Santa. His reasoning was that Santa is one of the few times in life when children will experience an invisible someone giving them gifts for no purpose other than that he loves them. Totally unmerited. Hence, no stories of switches or coal in the stockings for bad boys and girls. Santa always came, regardless. We thought it was a good “advent” for later Christmases, when the magic is worn a bit. When people (including parents) have proven that all of life is based on performance and works. But that God doesn’t work that way.

  3. Hi Jan!We did Santa exactly like you did. He is a charecter like Mickey Mouse or Barney. He is fun and we can play along, but he is not real. Jesus is the reason for the season. As you can tell by reading my blog and seeing my lastest post about my Santa collection, I like Santa. I think I just think he is a cute charecter. I also like snowmen. I am picky about my Santa collection though, I only want old ones or ones that talk to me. It is a collection to me just like a salt and pepper collection or a Bell collection. I think my kids wished they believed in Santa once in a while, but now that they are grown they totally agree with how we did it. We also told them not to ruin it for the other kids. I have felt really sad and almost disgusted with people that really make the lie even bigger by making noise on the roof or leaving footprints on the carpet. I just couldn’t lie to my children like that knowing that in a matter of years I had to break their hearts. Thanks for the discussion! I hope we hear more about Deena soon, I know she is supposed to go home Sunday. Merry CHRISTmas! :0) Sharon

  4. My mom always had the reasoning that you did, Jan. Exactly, in fact.So, because we grew up pretending there was a Santa, but not actually believing it, I didn’t even know how to teach my kids to believe it. They have always known he isn’t real. We do talk a little about the real St. Nick sometimes, though.I did go through a phase of being so sick of Santa stealing the praise and attention that I was in agreement with The Church Lady and called him Satan Clause and totally banned him.But I got over that pretty quickly. He’s not banned here, but neither is he a big part of Christmas for us.

  5. I honestly don’t remember believing he was real. He’s always been a fun legend. A story, an icon. I have a 21 month old, and I’m gonna do the “fun legend” approach with him. We are a family of books and stories. My husband comes from a high church tradition that looked at the real St. Nick and how he honored Jesus. that’s the way we’ll go. I love the icon of the jolly old man, more of the “olden day” variety than modern. But Jesus is number one.

  6. I enjoyed our conversation this morning Jan. I got the new post up linking to the Santa article. there are some really good comments here. 😉

  7. Our kids know that we “play Santa.”He is make believe, just as many of the things they play at are. It is fun that Mommy and Daddy get involved.We make a big deal about Jesus. Balloons, streamers, b-day cake,as well as all the other Christmas fun.They know who and why we celebrate.

  8. My logic is we teach our children to believe in Jesus…we cannot see him and it takes faith to believe. So we say Santa is real..it takes faith to believe. So later we tell our children..nope he is not real…so what is to keep them from thinking..Is Jesus real? We joke about Santa..but everyone knows that Santa is not real. He is not “banned”..just a tale or character..in a story.

  9. We have always told our children the truth about St. Nick. We’ve never told them there is some fat elf fairy that lives in a frigid place, makes toys for everyone, and flies around in a magical sleigh. Instead, we tell them about a man who went about doing good and thus, brought glory to God. We’ve told them how disappointed and heartbroken the original St. Nick would be with that his persona has become. We explained that St. Nick personified Christ as a giver who saw people in need and gave. We have said anyone who has a heart like that has the heart of St. Nick. Where someone mentioned not wanting their children to believe Santa was real only to find out he isn’t to be confusing and possibly create doubt with their children, I didn’t want our children to think God’s love or the gift of salvation was based on how “nice” they are. I wanted them to understand it is faith, not performance, so we never went there. Honestly, Santa has not been eradicated. The children talk about him, and Robert asked him for a toy for Anna this year because we couldn’t find it. However, they both are smart enough to realize years ago that the myths of Santa don’t work. They just know there are folks with loving hearts who do good things and give because it’s the right thing to so, and those folks are all Santa as far as they are concerned.

  10. This was a toughie for me when my children were little – I didn’t grow up in a church-going home…so I wasn’t sure. But my hubby did, and they did the “santa” thing and he turned out alright! ;-)I think the most important thing, no matter which side of the debate you are on…is that you make Jesus #1!

  11. I agree with Momma Roar. My folks did Santa, and we figured it out on our own. To me it was totally illogical. To me, and I think most children, there is no connection between Santa and Jesus. Having said that, we know one woman who was devestated when she found out there was no Santa and her parents were “liars”. However, from other conversations, I think there was more “devestating” stuff involved in the family dynamic than merely the question of Santa’s reality.

  12. I believe in Santa. Have you ever read the book, Polar Express and the Christmas bell. Do we hear it and believe? Our children need to believe in the miracle of Jesus birth and the reason for the season. I believe we can intermix Santa and Jesus and hear the bell of Christmas. We believe.

  13. Niki – You did a great job answering Max’s question and I love the way you handled it. I grew up making “fairy rings” out of stones with my Grammy and I never felt like fantasy was wrong.I think we all played Santa. We all played Grinch too and gave each other “White Elephant” gifts.Flea – I think your DH has a point about a gift freely given.The year we banned Santa confused some people and sent the wrong message to outside family members. But the kids ‘got’ that he was not the focal point.Sharon – My DH has a Father Christmas collection and only collects ‘old’ Santa’s or antiques. I also agree that when the kids REALLY want to know, like Niki’s Max, then it’s time to stop and tell them what’s up.Kay – we studied St Nick and I love what he did. We can set him up as an example of a real man doing God’s work.I understand being tired of Santa. That’s why we banned him that one year. D- I think you are on the right track.Denise – I love celebrating Jesus birth as part of the tradition.Monday – yes. That was our thinking. I’ve been thinking about this and now I’m thinking that Santa is a once a year thing. God,is part of our lives all year. Just considering the other side. :)Jerri – I love this part of your comment: “They just know there are folks with loving hearts who do good things and give because it’s the right thing to so, and those folks are all Santa as far as they are concerned.” What more could you ask for?Momma Roar – I agree. If Jesus is #1 then it will all fall into place which ever side you’re on.Amy – I agree that you can do both. I think if Jesus is top billing, it’s all going to work out. I also know, being on the other side of parenting, that the issues that seem big when the kids are small, are rally minor details. In the end you will ask yourself if you raised them to the best of your abilities and if you trained them to love Jesus. All else is irrelevant in the end. Our kids turned out great because God worked it out in spite of our inconsistencies and inadequacies. He is, after all, Lord.

  14. What great responses from everyone! We have tried to keep the focus on Jesus. We believe very similarly as MondaythroughSunday, that we didn’t want to tell our kids one thing and then go back on it later. So instead of focusing on what not to do. We focused on Jesus. Since our kids were little we have reenacted the manger scene. We all move Mary and Joseph everyday. By Christmas Eve they are all in the stable and Christmas morning they run to the manger scene to see that Jesus was born. They are teenagers and love doing this even now. I guess, we wanted them to be for something rather than against something. That is our take on Santa.

The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time. - Psalm 34:19

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