What do we do with Santa?
"What are you looking at?"
"Oh the silent majesty of a new winter's morn, the clean cool chill of the holiday air... Christians posting all over social media that Santa is an anagram of Satan."
It's that time of year again folks. Let the war begin. What do Christians do about Santa? No little amount of ink (or digital type) has been spilled giving a myriad of opinion on this. Part of leading our families well will mean we have to navigate the Santa issue at some point.
One important consideration - This is something that I categorize as a "freedom of conscience" issue. In other words, people who love Jesus and are committed to Him in their lives can have different opinions on an issue without compromising Christian fellowship. When it comes to Santa, I think we have three options:
1. No Santa - I read a really helpful post from Desiring God that advocates this position. And I'm not opposed to this perspective. The point of Christmas is all about Jesus, and for Piper putting something else as competition to the majesty of Christ is a dilution of the season. In this view, Santa becomes a carrot dangled for morality (he's making his list and checking it twice to find out who's naughty or nice) to get kids to behave so they can get stuff for behaving. Also in this view is a concern that by promoting fiction as truth it will cause breakdowns later or in other areas of a child's life. Many of you reading this are in this camp. My best friend and his family don't do Santa, they do a huge birthday party for Jesus, complete with funfetti cake. It's awesome. I love their conviction.
2. Santa as a Side Note - In this perspective, Santa is a part of the Christmas celebration, but he comes as a secondary emphasis to Baby Jesus. Families who follow this thread will take their kids to see Santa, will leave cookies & milk (we've toyed with leaving coffee but that might be too obvious), but will spend attention and focus on Baby Jesus. They'll sing carols, do Advent, talk often about Baby Jesus, and use the backstory of St. Nicholas in teaching their kids about giving at Christmas. Our family does this perspective: we reduce Santa's giving to one gift, we make sure to remind our kids that Santa loves Jesus and wants Sam & Gray to love Jesus too, but we try to avoid using Santa for behavior correction (although it has slipped before, don't judge).
3. Santa as Centerpiece - Families who do this will make Buddy the Elf look like the Grinch. Everything is about Santa. There's Elf on the Shelf. There's tons of gifts at Christmas from Santa. Jesus is included in the discussion and is focused on in the family celebration, but the majority of the time of year is on the "magic" of Christmas. Families who participate in this perspective will not see a big deal with emphasizing Santa with smaller children.
However you and your family choose to celebrate Christmas and incorporate Santa is something to give careful thought to, have discussions with your spouse about, and walk in knowing that people will do it differently than you do. Part of our responsibility with freedom of conscience issues means that we will not unnecessarily judge those in another perspective. The important thing for us all to remember, regardless of what we think about Santa, is that Christmas is all about the Baby King who would be the sacrifice for our sin.
How has your family navigated the Santa issue?
Side Note - Our family tries to do these things to keep the emphasis on Jesus, you can use these if you want, or not. It's ok.
1. We make sure to do Advent devotions which include Scripture reading, songs, and prayer time. You can get a number of them for free online.
2. Santa gets credit for one gift, not all of them. For us we want our kids to know that Mom & Dad are the ones who give them the most gifts. It doesn't always work, because my oldest is convinced Santa has an unlimited budget so why can't he get the giant LEGO set.
3. Jesus is the real hero at Christmas. That's what we often come back around to at dinner, during bedtime talks, and whenever the situation presents itself. There's no mistaking who Christmas is really about, and why it's so wonderful to celebrate Jesus' birthday.
4. Our family keeps our church and our involvement as crucial. Our kids are in the Christmas skit, Carrie sings in the musical. We sit together as much as we can in church to sing Christmas hymns. We look forward to Christmas fellowships when we can make it to celebrate with people.
5. We do everything to make it as fun as possible. We do a Christmas flip at our house, just about every room is decorated, we have lights on the house, and we drive around with hot cocoa to look at lights. We sing Joy to the World and Jingle Bells, we all have Christmas PJs, and it's a big deal for each of us to take the boys to do stocking shopping.
6. We trust God with our boys' hearts and minds. Eventually they'll learn that there's a reason Santa and Daddy have similar handwriting. And when that day comes, we'll trust that they'll be old enough to understand that it was in good fun, but that they have a bigger Christmas Hope, Jesus.
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Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.