December 19, 2011

Christmas Confessions: Should we Lie to our Kids about Santa Claus?

by Clint Archer

I’m no Scrooge. I don’t object to draping tinsel, jetting off Christmas e-cards, or singing inane jingles about jingling bells. I trust that my family understands that–pagan roots aside–the plastic conifer in our living room is not a subtle mark of our allegiance to the forces of darkness. It’s just a (model of a) tree.

We do, however, prefer singing “Hark the Herald Angel Sings” over the misdirected praise of “Oh Christmas Tree,” though I’m not even fanatic about enforcing that.

We tolerate the poetic inaccuracy of “We three kings of Orient are” because it rolls off the tongue better than “We indeterminable number of Gentile scholars of Persia are.”

But… I am nervous about the potential confusion which may cloud a four-year-old’s faith in my honesty. 

Angels on high, a pregnant virgin, God in a manger, a guiding star… are impossibilities. Yet, “all things are possible with God.” [Yes, you need to believe in the virgin birth to be a Christian] We ask our children to trust us on these claims, with their lives. Then we add a fictitious, omniscient fat guy with a red-nosed reindeer to the mix. At a certain age we matter-of-factly disclose that we were just kidding about the chimney intrusion, the Elven workshop, and the works-based naughty-or-nice judgment. “Those parts are make-believe, the rest is gospel truth. Trust me, son.”

Misinformation has a way of taking root in our memories. Do you picture the stable with oxen lowing on a silent night? Were the angels actually singing? Was there a villainous curmudgeon inn keeper? These details are not found in Scripture.

Three kings? Nope. How many seminary students have in their NT survey class been disabused of their favorite nativity character, the little drummer boy?

The popular mythology of Father Christmas, as we call him in Africa, runs parallel to biblical truth in our homes, until it dead-ends in one of the (hopefully) pre-teen years. But has the damage to parental credibility already been done?

A parody of a possible consequence is epitomized by that poor, traumatized kid who laments melodically, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” I doubt therapy was needed for the child to overcome his confusion. But there does exist a subtle long-term danger, namely that of placing impossible fiction on the same shelf as impossible fact, and forcing our children to discern arbitrarily which is which, based on our flip-flopping propositions.

Is it any wonder that adults, who at one time believed their Sunday school teachers, eventually conclude that “The Bible sounds like a fairy tale”? These skeptics were expected to outgrow some of what they were taught by their parents. Why not more of it? Why not all that sounds impossible?

I never want my children to have this existential monologue in junior high: “Daddy told me about a six day creation, virgin birth, Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, angels, and fairies. Then he said he was only joking about half the stuff. I felt gullible for falling for it. Mmm. I wonder if my science teacher is right about Evolution? What other nonsense has been fed to me as fact?”

So what do I tell my children when they see other kids queueing to meet one of the ubiquitous middle-aged, overweight men with fake beards offering a lap and a promise of gifts? I tell them the truth: “Look, it’s a pretend Santa! How fun.” This will be in the context of the conversation we would have had, where I explained that part of Christmas fun is pretending there is a man who lives in the North Pole and gives presents. I’ll also tell them about the real Nicholas who ministered in Turkey. Pretending can still be fun. I love fiction and imagination. I offer them Narnia too. But there is a thin line between fiction and fallacy. 

I want my children to grow up knowing that their dad never, ever lies to them. About anything. This may lead to some awkward moments in life, like a premature discussion about where babies come from. But surely adding a stork to the catalogue of misinformation can’t be a better tactic than opting for truth in every situation.

The precious attributes of God’s omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence, are grotesquely caricatured by Santa-lore. Consider the lyrics that describe what our children think of this demagogue: “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.”

I’m interested to hear your views. In the meantime, I have a nativity set to go re-arrange (the indeterminable scholars from Persia will only arrive in two years time, and they’ll show up at the “house” not the stable). Another bubble burst in the battle for truth; a small price to pay for not abusing the unwavering trust my children have in their dad.

What do you think, am I going too far?

 

Clint Archer

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Clint is the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church. He and his expanding troop of Archers live near Durban, South Africa (and pity anyone who doesn't). When he is off duty from CGate, his alter ego blogs at Café Seminoid, clintarcher.com
  • Josh Mills

    Great article! You hinted at “the list”, but I wanted to ask if you feel it is fair to say Santa also distorts the idea of true “gospel obedience”. No one obeys Santa because they love him… right?

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Great insight. Works-based pleasing of the ‘omniscient’ Santa rubs my Pauline monergism the wrong way too. I’m not against fun though so as long s the kids realize it’s pretend, it can actually function as a great illustration later in life with which to contrast God’s lavish grace through Christ.

  • traciecupples

    Great post!

    I have pondered these points in my own mind, as I’m still unsure what to tell my 2 year old son. So far I haven’t told him about Santa and the capitalist secular machine hasn’t got through to him about it.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Well you know my take on it: honesty’s the best policy. Either that or lock your boy in a TV-less dungeon forever!

  • http://www.ourpassionandpurpose.org Ben Weaver

    Thoughtful article. I have 3 children ranging in age from 3 – 9 years. We have always had Santa but they have always understood that it is pretend. They know any presents they get are from us because of our love for them and not bc of how they act throughout the year. They know about the man Santa is based on, too. My wife and I thought this was the best way bc we did not want to lie to our children, either.

    Oh, love Josh Mills comment about Santa.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      It sounds like you and I are on the same page. I like how you bring it back to the motivation of love. This mirrors God’s Fatherhood. Thanks for sharing.

  • Brent

    Great article. One thing I’d like to add is how can we, as Christian parents, preach that lying is a sin and then intentionally lie to our kids? And then say we did it out of FUN? Does God not take that sin seriously?

    And not only can they lose the ability to discern between fact and fiction, but we can lose our entire platform with our children. “Do as I say, not as I do.” And then we wonder why kids don’t listen to us when they hit the teenage years.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      I agree Brent. A lot of joking relies on deception with a purpose to reveal the truth at a humorous time. I don’t put Santa lore in that category, personally. And even if it were to be considered a “joke”, it’s a serious issue to be joking about, when one considers how closely it parallels revelation about God.

  • Jennifer

    It took us a couple of years to decide what we would say about Santa. I took the approach that I wasn’t lying, I wouldn’t directly promote it and if they asked about it I would say, “What do you think?” No lying there right? Another couple of years went by and the oldest had already started figuring it out, when a neighbor friend who knew all about the truth told my son, “Your parents are just lying to you!” Ouch! It sounds so much worse coming from a kid – but it is true! Much better to be honest from the beginning than have one of your kids friends expose your untruthfulness!

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Wow. That would be an eye-opener. Thanks Jennifer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1556241667 Christa Case Chesnutt

    I was born in the 70′s and my parents didn’t have us participate in Santa. I didn’t realize how avant-garde they were until I grew up and didn’t practice Santa with my own children. It wasn’t even a decision I had to make because Santa wasn’t even part of my makeup. However, I can’t believe the people who have been thoroughly offended because we don’t do the Santa thing. People have gotten angry when they ask my kids what Santa is bringing them and my kids tell them they don’t believe in Santa. They would look at me and start fussing. I always thought that was odd. I mean, these are my kids and these people were the ones lying to them. Shouldn’t I be the offended one? And it wasn’t as if I was being bold about it. Being bold is something I am still working on! ;)

    “I want my children to grow up knowing that their dad never, ever lies to them. About anything. This may lead to some awkward moments in life, like a premature discussion about where babies come from. But surely adding a stork to the catalogue of misinformation can’t be a better tactic than opting for truth in every situation.”—AMEN!!!! There are enough people and things lying to our kids today. I applaud that you are not wanting to be one of them. If it helps, I always told my kids (when it came to the baby conversation) that I was more than willing to tell them, but as soon as they would know, that it would chip away a big piece of their childhood. Both of my girls responded with an emphatic NO until they hit the early teen years. And now I get to answer all kinds of questions! ;)

    Thank you for all your posts and sharing your faith! Merry CHRISTmas! And forgive any mistakes I have made. I cannot seem to find my glasses.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Well said Christa. Thanks for sharing.

    • Krissi

      I’ve had the same thing when people asked my kids about what Santa is going to bring them or if they were ready for Santa to come. We decided to not do the whole Santa thing from the start. I was brought up knowing about Santa, but also knew the real meaning of Christmas and that it was more important then the Santa part. I don’t really feel that it had much of an adverse affect on me psychologically, however, I didn’t really like the idea of lying to my children when I tell them not to lie and also I want them to know the real meaning of Christmas. But the grief I have put up with from people is unbelieveable. We had one older man actually get mad at us and told us that it wasn’t right for us to NOT teach them about Santa! and he was a Christian! At one point we were totally against anything that had to do with Santa, wrapping paper, pictures, movies, hats, everything, that just didn’t seem to work, so now we allow those things, but just explain that the whole thing is just pretend, like the superheros and fairytales. This way they don’t feel like they are missing out on something, but you aren’t having to lie to them.

  • Yanek

    I think that there’s also scriptural support for cautiously approaching Santa. I’m reminded of the verse in Ephesians that says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” And the passage in Matthew that says, “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?” illustrates how our heavenly father parents. Although that passage is aimed a little differently it’s obvious that God is not disingenuous. One of the things I’ve most appreciated about my parents’ parenting has been the moments when they’re genuine and real with me. Purporting Santa would be quite the opposite.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Excellent insight. I hadn’t thought of Ephesians 6, but I agree that it applies. Thanks.

  • S Hollis

    Thank you for so eloquently, and sometimes humorously, articulating this! I wholeheartedly agree! I am so thankful for godly parents who taught us to discern between truth and fiction, no matter how “fun” or “magical.”

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Glad to hear you don’t feel deprived of a childhood experience. My hope is that my children will value our honesty with them more than they value the potential of missed fun.

  • Carol

    Good article. My parents never let us believe in Santa Claus as a real person, for exactly the same reason and we did the same with our children. We have no regrets. It is a great opportunity to teach the true meaning of the holiday and focus on our Lord’s coming to earth as the Man who would one day pay for our sins and make possible a life in heaven with Him forever.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Amen and well said. Thanks Carol.

  • EricDavis

    Totally agree, Clint. Santa is a fun pretend idea…sort of. The difference between him and Mickey, however, is significant. No one ascribes a level of omnipresence, omniscience, and tangible works-based rewards to Mickey.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Exactly.

  • Websmythe

    For sake of the season, I find Romans 14:13-22 to be my guiding star.

    • Truthstands

      Websmythe, if you’re referring to allowing for the fictional Santa, no problem. But if you’re referring to lying about the reality of Santa, I don’t think “lying” is a grey area that matches Paul’s criteria.

      • Websmythe

        Wasn’t talking about lying. Just that it’s all to easy to be a bull in a china shop for the sake of “truth” when its other peoples sensibliites that are involved. Most of the time, there’s usually more than one way to approach a problem.

  • Suzy

    Thank you for this post! This is exactly what my husband and I have been trying to explain when asked why we don’t do Santa. Your article will be very helpful! My oldest is 9 and never once has she mentioned that she is bummed that she doesn’t believe in santa. We make Christmas fun, we do gifts, stockings and a Christmas tree. However it’s never been under the pretense that some unknown man has snuck into our house at night and creeped around leaving stuff and eating our food. Normally a intruder into our home would be met with a very unfriendly greeting ;). I feel that my husband works hard all year long to support us and care for us. It seems ungrateful to give all the glory to a pretend provider. We’ve created traditions for our family that revolve around Christ, church and family. I really do not feel like we are missing out on anything by not doing Santa.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      In South Africa (burglary capital of the solar system), we have the added complication of motion detector alarms. When the kids ask “How did Santa eat the cookie without setting off the alarm?” it forces the parents to add deception to deception to keep the illusion alive. “Oh what a tangle web we weave, when we practice to deceive.”

  • Websmythe

    Somebody asked me what that had to do with Santa. …I find the whole topic contentious. And we are instructed to not be contentious. This is a season of Celebration, not a season of what is Right. Life is more than than what we see with our eyes. For some, Santa may be the only magic that some folks have. No matter how commercial we may think its all become, there are others that still believe in giving and celebrating and being with family. Especially in this season, I think we could be circumspect and forego judgement to extend at least a little “Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward men”.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      To avoid any further risk of being contentious, I’ll refrain from contenting with your contention. Merry Christmas!

      • Websmythe

        Sorry bout that. Don’t ask me why I went sideways. Prob too much stress. Merry Christmas back at ya.

    • http://www.theologicalthoughts.com/ Michael

      “For some, Santa may be the only magic that some folks have.”

      Why stop at Santa? “for some Odin and Thor are all they have. So let them believe the lie, it’s better than nothing.”

      • Websmythe

        When I think of a world without Christmas, without Christ, without anything, I do think that.

  • Steve Meister

    Not too far at all, Clint – preach it! For “not abusing the unwavering trust my children have in their dad,” is the key issue here. I have variously tried to commend that myself, though people usually write it off as being a curmudgeon. Nevertheless, we are teaching our 2 yr old that Santa “a myth that is not in the Bible” (trying to establish Scripture as the Truth).

    I have had parents raise the issue of training an “enlightened” child who makes all the deluded Santa-devotees on the playground cry. But that really is a separate training issue, isn’t it? Specifically, how we can speak in love and grace with people who (wrongly) believe myths – a pretty necessary skill in a Rom 1:21-22 world. Besides, and even more to the point, teaching your kids falsehood just so they blend in with the world is hardly a wise parental tactic.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Ba humbug, curmudgeon! Perhaps your kid will learn that truth is unpopular, but it’s still truth. A good lesson to learn early in life for any Christian.

  • Abraham Armenta

    Woops…now I’m totally convicted – most of all by your comment – “I want my children to grow up knowing that their dad never, ever lies to them”.

    My children do not believe in Santa Clause. However, the tooth fairy has been making many trips to our house these last two years – I have a 5 and 7 year old. And BTW…she’s probably going broke because of all the money she’s bringing in.

    What do you do about the tooth fairy…? I figure it would fall under the same category as Santa Clause.

    …time to ‘fess up to my kids. I wish to join you in “I want my children to grow up knowing that their dad never, ever lies to them”… Thanks brother…for this encouraging and convicting article.

    Abraham

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Ha, that’s hilarious. Sorry to be the one to hand you the pin which will burst their bubble. Perhaps soften the blow by giving them cash as a reward for enduring the loss of a tooth, like an insurance company does when you lose a limb. :)

  • Julie

    absolutely agree!!!!!!!!! Interestingly enough, we caught a lot of harrassment for not promoting Santa….we wanted our kids to really relish in the celebration of JESUS. Will always, always take a stand for Truth. Thank you for putting this in such an eloquent way.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      “All who desire to live godly will be persecuted.” I read that somewhere :)

  • zulubuff

    I had a similar thought several years ago. Basically, is the fantasy worth it.
    http://zulubuff.blogspot.com/2007/12/santa-claus-ho-ho-humbug.html

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Well put. And one needs to ask, is anything worth risking that your kids think you are lying to them about Jesus?

  • Anonymous

    Clint -

    I think Christians should let the tradition and term “Christmas” go (at least in the States). I think we can send a clearer message to our children and our churches by allowing two entirely separate traditions. One is the world’s tradition of Christmas (Santa, Trees, Lights, etc) , the other is “Incarnation Day.” We might as well do the same in the late Spring, let the world have the “Easter” term and tradition, and we celebrate “Resurrection Day.”

    July might be a better month to teach our children and churches the biblical truth of the Incarnation so we avoid all the tug of war with the term. I think we should stop with this “true meaning of Christmas” talk and just fork the term and all its traditions over to the world as a separate baby altogether. It’s not a biblical term anyhow (I think it has Catholic origins as Christ’s Mass right?).

    I remember some years ago when James Dobson exhorted his listeners to write corporations (like Pottery Barn, LL Bean, etc) to use the term “Christmas” instead of “Holiday” in their catalogues, as if there was something redemptive about that. Seems like a waste of time to me, plus going up against the multi-billion dollar marketing machine that has hijacked the term would be really tough. I say we just let it go, and not call Incarnation Day Christmas any longer. It’s too confusing, and it’s not a biblical term anyhow.

    Am I really gonna convince my 5 year old I put up lights on the house because Jesus is the light of the world? C’mon! No, I put up lights cuz it’s fun and it’s Christmas and our whole neighborhood gets into it and it’s a fun way to connect with them. Maybe by connecting with them over Chevy Chase jokes in December I can have a chance to share the truth of the Incarnation with them during our July 4th neighborhood BBQ.

    JD

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Incarnation Day. Like it.
      I never try to change all of society by writing corporations. Some do, and that’s fine. I try to tackle the world with a “as for me and my house” mentality. Any excuse to talk about Jesus is a welcome one in my book.

  • Pingback: Why Lie to Your Kids about Santa? | The Cripplegate |

  • Clothdiapermommy

    Wow, you put what my husband and I stand for into great words! We also prefer. It to lie to our kids about Santa or the tooth fairy and we want her to never question who Christmas is about and the miracle of God in human form. That’s how my parents raised me and I loved it! M

    • Clothdiapermommy

      *not to lie

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      What?! The tooth fairy is a lie?

  • Mike

    Clint I am in 100% agreement that honesty is always the best policy. I had this argument with my dad as an unsaved teenager back in the late 1980s. Even then, I knew that lying to your kids was not a good policy and the Coca-Cola clad Santa myth is not telling them the truth. I told him at that time over 25 years ago that I would tell them about Santa as a make believe person. At the time, I did not know of the actual historic Saint Nicholas. My kids are now 5 & 6 and I have held to my convictions and explained the fairy tale Santa and the historical Saint Nicholas. I definitely do not regret my decision and quite frankly my children are no worse for the wear and they have more respect for me that I told them the truth instead of a convenient lie.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Precisely. Thanks for confirming.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ericnear Eric Near

    This is the way I was raised and am trying to raise my children. My oldest, almost 4, is aware of the Santa Claus character, and though I can’t be sure, I suspect she sees him as a character, like one in her books or a movie, and not a real thing. “Santa” is a guy in a red suit, not a real being who delivers presents to good kids. She hasn’t asked whether he’s real, however, but I’m prepared for when that time comes.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      That approach seems reasonable and informed. Thanks for sharing.

  • Kim

    What an excellant article! My husband and I have 4 children (ages 4 and almost 2) and we have always told them the truth about Santa. However our good friends across the street have children around the same ages who believe in Santa. The little boy was talking about him when I watched him earlier. One of my boys chimed in that Santa wasn’t real, but the other little boy didn’t really pay attention. I stayed out of conversation, for the most part. How do you handle it with the children of friends and family who believe in Santa?

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Great question. We try to respect the traditions of others, even if we dont hold to them ourselves. We draw the line at “playing along” if that involves lying (even to other kids). We usually say, “You should ask you mom and dad about that.” As for what our kids say… “out of the mouths of babes…” I will never tell my child to lie in order to play along with another parent’s lie. I hope that doesn’t effect his popularity, but I’m more about his integrity than anything else.

  • Jmjohnson65

    It’s so interesting because (we have 3 boys under the age of 9) and we have told them all along that Santa is pretend and a fun story. But what keeps happening is they seem to be so easily swayed the other way so we’ll talk about Santa being just a story and the next day they’ll ask again if he’s real. I know it takes many conversations.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Ha. I hadn’t thought of that contingent.

      • kate in seattle

        we always took the ‘santa is a fun pretend” line with our four kids (now ages 14 – 23) However, we are a family with a high degree of “willing suspension of disbelief” and they “believed” in Santa for years. Kids can KNOW that Santa isn’t real and still, in some way, believe. Make allowances for that. Even when we DIDN’T leave money for teeth, they still ‘believed’ in the tooth fairy. go figure.

        • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

          I am a fan of fiction and fantasy, as long as its not toted as truth. That’s what confuses kids. And adults (think of Darwinism!)

  • Sherri

    Thought provoking article! Thanks for putting it so well.

    I am not anti-Santa – I see him as a mostly harmless legend and a cultural tradition, however we chose to never pretend he was real. My main reason being similar to points you raised – once my son realized that Santa wasn’t real, I didn’t want him to think that Jesus might not be real either. I just didn’t want there to be any room for confusion on the reality of God and what He’s done for us, and also on my trustworthiness in telling him the truth.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      That’s exactly me point. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

    When my daughter (3 yrs old) asks who the person is in the red suit and such, we tell her that he was a pastor who lived a long time ago, and who loved telling kids about Jesus. I stole that answer from Nate.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      That works til you see a drunk one ringing a bell!

    • Anonymous

      I do business with Nordstrom in Seattle. I just found out yesterday they have four Santas for pictures – A white one, a black one, an Asian one, and an ASL (for deaf) one.

      So if he is Pastor Santa I guess he’s gone seeker sensitive!

      • Starbucksgirl

        “So if he is Pastor Santa I guess he’s gone seeker sensitive!”

        LOL

  • Laura

    Agreed. We have 3 children (11, 8, 2) and for our older ones we remained neutral. Neither promoting Santa nor specifically telling them he wasn’t real either. Around age 5 or 6 they started having more questions and we told them Santa was pretend.

    Now with our 2 year old I want to be more deliberate with focusing specifically on the true celebration of Christmas, but my husband isn’t quite in agreeance. He feels that since neither of us questioned our faith after being raised in Christian households who also believed in Santa, that our kids will be fine too.

    I feel similarly to you that regardless of the topic, I just don’t agree with lying to my children. I’ve been completely honest with my daughter (11 yr old) with any of her questions regarding middle school life, current events, sexuality, etc. Although I have found that the where-do-babies-come-from talk was far easier than the divorce questions (her dad left me for his mistress)…ha.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Sad to hear, Laura. God has a special tenderness for single moms and kids whose dad’s are out the picture (see Ps 146 for one of many examples). Glad to hear that honesty keeps working in the preteen years.

      • Laura

        Thank you, but all is well! My daughter’s dad and I get along great and I remarried years ago. My husband’s ex left him for the same reason, so we had a lot to relate to. Our marriage is an immense blessing…love it when God gives you a reversal.

        The preteen years are challenging (and so I hear are the teens), but being frank about things keeps the lines of communication open. Kids are so much smarter than we give them credit for, they generally know the truth anyway.

        • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

          Thanks Laura.

  • Michael Coughlin

    Amen. Thanks for a thoughtful explanation.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Pleasure Michael.

  • Ssaalwaech
  • Rachael Starke

    You nailed it, Clint. (Note to self – try daring our music pastor to write a new melody to “We indeterminate Number of Persian Gentiles”…)

    We’ve told our kids that Santa is fun story people like to pretend is real. What encourage me is when I recently asked my youngest (who’s 5 and still likes to play pretend with everything) – “Honey, who’s the better man – the one who only gives gifts to children when they’re good, or the Man who gives the gift of Himself for children who are bad and makes them good”. She giggled and said “Jesus!”, like the question was so silly it hardly bore asking. Indeed….

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Love it. Smart kid.

  • Jason

    What if this isn’t the entire story? Is it possible there is something else here that is somewhat being looked over? Are we Christians making too big a deal about something meant to be fun and seasonal? (after all, who reminds their kids of Santa in May?)

    I don’t care about the Santa stuff, my kids don’t hear me talk about it, but after reading your views I thought the best thing for me to do, according to your logic, is take ALL the books off my shelves and throw them away so my kids don’t confuse a true book with false books. What happens one day when they say, “Oh, the Chronicles of Narnia are fiction . . . well, what about Ahaz, Nehemiah, and Paul?

    The “devil is in the details on this one.” When I figured out Santa was a myth, I thought it was fun. I didn’t think my parents lied, I didn’t think Jesus was false or the Bible untrue. AND the entire time, I never thought Santa was God. After all, what part of the myth promotes Santa as Creator, the one who sustains, King, Lord, High Priest, and all the other Christ-like attributes? I was never told to fear Santa for the forgiveness of sins. When I learned the truth, I thought “he sees you when you’re sleeping” was a poetic way of saying, “your parents know you and what goes on in life.” . . . No one looks around during the Christmas season and says, “The heavens are declaring the glory of Santa. . .”

    Santa never fulfilled prophecy written a few thousand years before his birth, he wasn’t resurrected, then appear before Cephas, his disciples, and then 500 more. God didn’t then write books promoting Santa. . . the Holy Spirit testifies concerning his Word. That internal testimony elevates the integrity of the Word so much so that, with the testimony of creation, each of us, left without God’s grace, will seek to suppress the truth in unrighteousness!! Our sinful hearts should probably cause us to be more afraid then a seasonal figure?

    Maybe we should attack the Santa myth because children in poor families who do not open presents might think they’re bad because they’re poor? That would at least be more socially just?!? What happens when our kids discover the tree, the garland, and most of the Christmas decorations find their roots in paganism AND we knew about it?!?!?

    I want my kids to love the Lord and walk in His ways fulfilling His purpose. I pray they see a dad who upholds the Word, walks with integrity, and repents when wrong — a father who points them to Christ. At some point, their knowledge of the Word and discernment will lead them to discover dad was blind to some things in life and wrong. I didn’t mean to be, I didn’t try to excuse my sin, it was just there. But I pray their faith in the Lord, guided by His Word and accurate views about the Word will be their guide. I play a role, but the ultimate plumb-line for truth is the Bible — not me.

    • Bubbis2006

      GREAT response…we don’t dwell on Santa but we have read stories and watched movies where Santa was included…all for fun and the use of imagination. My children know Christmas is about the birth of baby Jesus but I see nothing wrong with a little fiction and fun throughout the season. “after all, who reminds their kids of Santa in May” EXACTLY! My kids learn about Christ throughout the WHOLE year not just at Christmas!

      • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

        I’m all for fun and fiction, as I stated in the article. And each parent needs to judge where their own kid is at as far as understanding the difference between fiction and reality. One can’t make a rule either way.

      • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

        I’m all for fun and fiction, as I stated in the article. And each parent needs to judge where their own kid is at as far as understanding the difference between fiction and reality. One can’t make a rule either way.

      • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

        I’m all for fun and fiction, as I stated in the article. And each parent needs to judge where their own kid is at as far as understanding the difference between fiction and reality. One can’t make a rule either way.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Hi Jason, it sounds like you’re trying to disagree with me, but if you read the post carefully you’ll see that I specifically address fiction verses lying, and even use Narnia as a case-in-point. If your kids are able to view your explanation of Santa as “a poetic way of saying” that you are watching them, then that’s fine. My kids would think Santa was omniscient. I don’t think Santa is sinful. I think Lying is sinful. It’s hard to sustain belief in Santa with no deception at all. That’s all I’m saying.

      • Jason

        I agree lying is sinful! And I also think Christians overhype this and our circles tend to turn this “molehill” into mountain. I think this review somewhat glosses over the issues by still making the sweeping statements. Even when I believed, I never actually thought Santa was omniscient. My parents explained that was part of the song and a poetic device. I read your article and still disagree with most of the argument. But I’m glad I can keep reading Narnia, but should probably not let them read Harry Potter ;)

        • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

          As long as each parent wisely discerns what their children understand. If a kid started thinking Narnia and the Bible were on the same level of truth, that would be a problem. It’s up to each parent to know their kids.

        • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

          As long as each parent wisely discerns what their children understand. If a kid started thinking Narnia and the Bible were on the same level of truth, that would be a problem. It’s up to each parent to know their kids.

          • Jason

            agreed

        • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

          As long as each parent wisely discerns what their children understand. If a kid started thinking Narnia and the Bible were on the same level of truth, that would be a problem. It’s up to each parent to know their kids.

        • http://eowyns-heir.blogspot.com/ Christina

          If you love Narnia, you’ll love Harry Potter. So much Gospel & Christian symbolism in there on every possible level. If you don’t believe me check out the book “How Harry Cast His Spell” by John Granger, or visit hogwartsprofessor.com. I know this past week I’ve personally been moved to a greater appreciation of the Incarnation through re-reading the end of the final book. I won’t ruin the story by going into detail, but seriously… it is fiction at its finest. I haven’t read a better-written story for children in years.

          • Jason

            My wife loves HP. I look forward to reading them in the future! Thanks for the recommendation!

        • Truthstands

          Jason, it seems like your argument is, “Santa never confused me, so what’s the problem?” This isn’t about your experience. It’s about objective universal truth. If you haven’t before, google Santa and Jesus and you’ll find a multitude of atheists making the argument that Jesus is nothing more than a fictional character like Santa.

          The world connects the two. You didn’t, and I didn’t, by God’s grace alone. Why play with fire when so many are being burned alive by it?

          • Jason

            You’re right . . . I now blame Santa for the Athiests unbelief. Those Athiests look for anything and everything to deny the reality of Jesus. It’s not Santa that causes unbelief . . . it’s that by nature we suppress the truth! They do the same thing most believers do regarding Santa they turn a molehill into a mountain and convolute the issues by making sweeping statements. There’s probably a thousand different ways families and people “play Santa.” This article kind of lumps all of them together without really diagnosing the issues. It’s because I understand Objective Universal Truth that makes me think the Santa mountain is not that big a deal! Next May listen to people talk in the mall and tell me how much Santa is involved!!!!

    • Richard Hall1

      There is a big difference between telling fiction as truth and reading fiction for entertainment or lessons. That is one of the big points in the article.

    • http://www.theologicalthoughts.com/ Michael

      “…best thing for me to do, according to your logic, is take ALL the books off my shelves and throw them away so my kids don’t confuse a true book with false books. What happens one day when they say, “Oh, the Chronicles of Narnia are fiction . . . well, what about Ahaz, Nehemiah, and Paul?”

      Simple. Tell your children Narnia is fiction, and Ahaz, etc. were real. No problem with having books to learn from, as long we don’t treat them as Holy Scripture. The same goes for Santa. Santa as fiction is one thing, Santa as real is another.

      • Jason

        Michael, that’s my point. I think the issue that is being convoluted here is how people view Santa. I think most people treat it as a fantasy / tradition / fun story who are not intently trying to deceive their kids but have fun. Unbelievers don’t honor Jesus during the season because they by nature wouldn’t want to and they are not going to honor him ANYTIME of the year!! But I also don’t think their trying to worship Santa and make him their God! Why would they want Santa to compete with their own desire to sit on their own throne!!

        Teach your kids to discern truth, fiction, myth, fun, traditions and trust the Lord that He will be faithful to his chosen ones!

  • Bronwyn

    Thanx Clint!!!!
    We also (well me more than Ryan!) enjoy “pretend Christmas” with the girls. They know Father Christmas and all his mates are pretend, but enjoy playing the game for a while. But the oppertunities that arrive daily to give kiddies the gospel around Christmas are plentiful and precious, and they can only be used if the kids know that Santa and the his stuff are pretend and Christ and the bible stuff is really real!
    So appreciate and agree with your standing on not lying to your kids (cos that’s what it is, unfortunately, whether it’s “just a little bit of childhood fun” or not). The confusion and distrust it causes later is nowhere near worth it.
    Thanx again!!!! Miss you guys!
    Bron

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Hey Doc, I bet Santa looks even more out of place in the deserts of Dubai!

  • esther

    We keep our Nativity Scene indeterminable scholars from Persia in another part of the house during Christmas time, and we have two of them (one broke)…

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Awesome.

  • Jacqui Cunningham

    I absolutely agree, Thank you for writing this, and getting the point across so well.
    You mentioned your tree… Have you considered a Jesse Tree instead? We LOVE decorating our Jesse tree each year and looking at all the promises and prophesies that are fulfilled in our Precious Lord Jesus.
    Have a Blessed Christmas!

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Hey Jacqui, thanks for mentioning the Jesse tree. Ww did that one year, and it was a huge hit with our kids. I didn’t think to mention it in the article.

  • Richard Hall1

    I agree wholeheartedly. This tradition has taken such root I have been scorned by professing believers for “depriving my kids” of Santa, the alleged joy of Christmas. But as a child I deeply resented being lyed to by authority figures and thought most of their moral teachings were designed to keep me in check until I was old enough to know the truth and then do as I pleased just as they did. Being lied to undermined my faith in them just as their compromising lives. I think it is very dangerous to lie to your children about anything. Your article says it very well.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Thanks Richard. Honesty’s always the best policy.

  • Chazree

    I don’t feel that letting your children believe in Santa changes anything about the true reason we celebrate. I think it adds magic to the season. I do not like others out there accuse parents of lying to their children. I was raised believing in Santa and I never felt like my parents lied to me. We were clearly taught that Christ is the real reason we celebrate and Santa giving presents is symbolic of God giving his son to the world.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Thanks for sharing your opinion and joining the conversation.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Thanks for sharing your opinion and joining the conversation.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Thanks for sharing your opinion and joining the conversation.

  • Jeremiah Main

    Clint,
    You are 100% right!
    As a preschool – 8th grade principal, I did a lot of reading on brain development. One of the areas I was particularly interested in was creativity. I was amazed when I found a body of secular research talking about the loss of creativity when children reach the age of realizing the stories their parents told them weren’t true. The purpose of the research was to figure out how to keep creativity alive into adulthood, but I was blown away as a Christian to see secular researchers lump religious “myths” in with secular myths and talk about children rejecting them all as untruths.
    So know that there is actually research out there that supports your concerns.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Good to know, thanks Jeremiah.

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  • http://www.thehappysanitarium.blogspot.com/ NaomiG@the happy sanitarium

    This is EXACTLY how we’ve approached Santa. We have NEVER lied to our kids, and yes, it has led to uncomfortable explanations at a hopefully age appropriate level of where babies come from. :-) But, we want them to trust us always, and always feel that no matter what happens, they can come talk to us first.

    We’re not Santa Nazi’s however, we watch Elf every Christmas, for example, the girls simply know that the Santa as we know him today is not real, and their gifts come from people who love them very much, and work hard to purchase gifts that they think the girls will love.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      I LOVE Elf. “Watch out for the yellow ones.” And I like that you are not Santa Nazi’s.

  • Sarah Schreffler

    We pretty much do the same thing — Santa does not come to our house. We talk about St Nicholas and how Santa is what someone might write on a tag when they want to give an anonymous gift. And we make sure to go out and “play Santa” for others as well so he can be on the giving end.

    But this year, he’s 4… and he’s ASKED us “Can I write a letter to Santa” and we ask him if Santa is real and he’ll SAY “No” but he still wants to “Play Santa” — we’re still not signing any presents from Santa but have decided to let him put out cookies and milk, write messages to Santa (and not just on Christmas eve. He’s put out 2 already. One was a warning to be careful, though I lost the thread of what Santa was supposed to be careful of!)

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Yup. Fiction can be fun when it’s not sold as gospel truth. Thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1743541290 Stephanie Bridges

    I agree with what you have written. My children fully enjoy the fun of Christmas, the excitement and the fun stories about Santa Clause. I never want them to doubt that what I tell them is the truth. They have just as much fun without having to think someone can come down our chimney.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Ha. Exactly.

  • Dlavertyfamily

    We choose to teach our children to keep the Feasts of The LORD (Yahweh) listed in Leviticus 23. We have been doing so for 20 years and now have the great blessing of having our grandchildren join us in doing so also!

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      I’m just glad that Leviticus isn’t binding on the Church. I LOVE prawns and frequently wear polyester. Thanks for sharing.

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  • Bryce Lenon

    This is excellent, incisive, and right to the heart of the matter. It sums up exactly what I have been going through in preparation for this Christmas season. About two weeks ago my eldest son (7 years old) was spouting on about Santa and I decided to stop deflecting the inevitable and told him that Santa was not real, that Jesus is the unseen one into whom we place our faith, not to give us presents, but to give us the gift of salvation.

    I was feeling exactly what you put into words.

    My son actually didn’t seem that fazed by it. More importantly, I felt that I had been faithful in setting groundwork for belief in the truth of the Gospel.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Glad to hear he wasn’t fazed. Thanks for chiming in.

  • Kathryn

    I am a Senior in college and have been a believer for four years. The Lord has done incredible things in such a short time. Last night I was with 2 friends from high school (also believers) Some how it came up that I didn’t think I would do Santa if I ever have kids. They were shocked and could not believe I would ‘deprive’ my children of that excitement. I did tell them I didn’t want to lie to my kids. It would also be hard for me to act excited about Santa ‘coming’ when the King of the universe is the One who came and is coming back! The conversation went on way too long. I like what you said in one of the comments “as for me and my house”. I told them the only person this conversation is really going to matter with will be my husband.
    But it did lead me in starting to search how others have handled it. Love what you said. Thank you.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      “As for me and my house” is usually a good way to diffuse conflict, as ti shows people that you respect their view, but hold your convictions too tightly to change in one conversation.

  • Sparkie0

    we didn’t lie to our kids. we knew we’d make enough mistakes and that was one we could avoid. a Christian friend told me how they raised their kids to walk with Christ and when one learned the truth about Santa they point blank asked them how they could lie about it. i never wanted to experience that. they never missed out on anything and we taught them that others made another choice and we didn’t counter that decision. our grandkids are raised without Santa too. there is enough wonder and beauty in the truth, they don’t miss out on anything.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Yikes, that is exactly what I never want to experience either. Thanks for sharing that.

  • Wndibrd

    We do the same thing at our house. I tell my kids that I just wouldn’t lie to them.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Good decision.

  • BCook

    I have long wondered why parents were willing to lie to their kids, then get upset when their kids lie to them in return (about activities after school, internet sites visited, the list goes and goes and goes). Wise up, parents! Your kids are learning very well from you. What’s so cute about “tricking” your kids, then hoping they will trust you in the big issues of life, like who to marry, why premarital sex is not a good idea, why they should serve God with their whole lives, not just Christmas and Easter lives. Good stuff, Mr. Archer.

    Side note: grocery lines tell how well I have taught my children. When they are asked about Sata – I mean Santa Clause, and they, without hesitation, answer, “We don’t do Santa. It’s about Jesus,” I stand back and get to enjoy the awkward silence that follows.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Oh the joys of the awkward silence. Thanks for your input.

  • Guest

    Great article Clint! This sounds exactly like I would want to treat it with my own kids someday. Fiction and fantasy can be fun, but kids should understand where the truth is.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Right. That’s a good summary.

  • f213

    I have to be honest, I grew up “believing” in Santa and did not feel like my parents had lied to me for my whole life (up to that point) or that “I was gullible for falling for it” when I found out he wasn’t real. I feel like this article and some of the respones paints a bit of a broad brush. I agree with some of the statements from the writer Jason in that to me, there is no real comparison with Christ and Santa with the prophecies, resurrection, other writings in the Bible, etc. (Also, when I was a kid, I had no idea what “omniscient” meant and so that thought never crossed my mind about Santa and I certainly didn’t think he was God.) My cousins and I always did plays for our parents for Christmas (all of us believing in Santa) and our plays were not about Santa but instead were about the Nativity or using Christmas as a tool to tell a friend about the gospel. As an adult, I love to sing Christian Christmas carols, but I think it’s also fun to sing the so-called “inane jingles” too. Apparently I am in the minority about this based on the comments on this thread, but I just would caution people to remember that just like you want someone else to respect your views, you should respect theirs too, even if they differ from your own. I don’t mean that you shouldn’t have your convictions, I just think we need to be careful. Is this a salvation issue? No I don’t think so. So it seems that instead of arguing about Santa, we need to talk about things that matter to salvation like the virgin birth and the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. And please don’t think I am saying it’s ok to lie, because it’s not, but I just think this is exactly what Satan wants: for Christians to be fighting among each other taking our focus off of what Christ our Savior did for us which is why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.

    • http://www.clintarcher.com Clint

      Well stated. I doubt that you are in the minority worldwide. And I agree it’s not a salvation issue at all. It’s up to each parent to determine the best way they can teach them the gospel. I’m expressing how we view it at my house. Thanks for sharing.