Christmas and Fantasy

'Tis the season to consider what we as Christians feel about Santa Claus.

Now, I know this isn't exactly a classic fantasy discussion here, but it does bear examination. I myself have held a varying opinion on the topic in my lifetime, due mostly to a re-examination of the condition of my soul and how that colors my opinion about Santa.

When my firstborn was very little, we were vehement that we weren't going to perpetuate a "lie" to our children, only to have to tell them that we had been pulling the wool over their eyes, building up the false hope that Santa Claus did indeed show up and leave presents every Christmas eve. As the years have passed and subsequent children have arrived in our family, we've stepped back from that position to a degree, mostly because I felt like it smacked of legalism. Granted, we've never actually said anything about Santa Claus coming to our house, and the kids know full well that mom and dad shop for Christmas presents. We talk about the real Saint Nicholas and other historic figures that inspire the idea of Santa Claus.

And yet, somehow the magic of Christmas has still had its way. My boys still wonder if Santa is real. They look at the red suited man in the mall and ask me if he's the real deal. Me, I just shrug and say, "What do you think?" While I'm not using Santa as the nebulous threat or motivator that I know some parents laugh at themselves for doing, I'm also not squashing the little ones' imaginations on it either.

This all brings me to the point I'm trying to make. Where does imagination begin to supplant faith? Can Santa and Jesus inhabit the same holiday without an appearance of hypocrisy?

I heard a speaker recently on just a snippet of the radio program Family Life Today, and on that show they talked about how the story of Santa Claus points to the giving love, the living out of the Christian life that Saint Nicholas and subsequently, Santa Claus can represent. As long as we frame Santa Claus in the bindings of Christ's love, and how giving is an act of love, I think we can leave some room for some fun and imagination.

However, should the pretty boxes under the tree begin to supplant the most important Gift of Christmas (which it is easy to have that happen) much is suddenly lost. Joy becomes replaced with the much more nebulous "happiness." (Think of the root of that word, and how it shares meaning with "mishap" or "happenstance.") Agape, giving love gets pushed out of its seat by materialism. These are the issues of Christmas I want to avoid, and I've come to the conclusion that Santa isn't at the heart of them.

So, readers, tell me: What do you think about Santa Claus? Does he have any place in a Christian observance of Christmas?


  1. Becky, for the last seven years our family has celebrated Christmas with an Advent Story. So we build up to Christ's birth throughout December.

    Santa we don't really mention, but we hang stockings, and that's the only thing 'he' fills. My kids know from the time they are old enough to understand, that Daddy is the 'Santa Claus' for our house.

    We've had the usual in-laws-outlaws who tried to perpetuate the story, but we've fought it pretty consistently over the years. We, like you, didn't want to have any doubts concerning Christ or the truthfulness of the parents when it came to important matters.

    So, we watch the Santa Clause movies and laugh at the magic of Christmas (though I really really hate the 'Mother Nature' comment in SC2 where she says 'by the power vested in me by me...') and the kids all understand that it's just make-believe.

    When we focus on Gifts and Santa Claus and the simple giving and receiving of gifts, Christmas loses its luster, and it becomes a holiday celebrating greed and bribery, commercialism and obligation and revelry.

    When we lose sight of the Most Precious Gift given on Christmas, the Gift of God's Only Son, the real joy and wonder of the season dissipates like vapor. Christmas is supposed to be a time to give Gifts to Him, to focus on Him, and to remake Him the center of our world.

    I think next year we're going to participate in the Advent Conspiracy (visit to see what I'm talking about.) I think it recaptures the true meaning of the holiday.

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful comments, MisterChris! I will indeed check out the AdventConspiracy, which sounds very intriguing. May you and yours see many blessings in the coming year.


  3. Becky, one of our pastors gave a sermon on St. Nicholas last Sunday. His premise was that we keep speaking against St. Nick when he's really like our spy. Our man inside. He can get into places we can't, like the mall and corporate boardrooms. Exerpt: "Coke! He infiltrated Coke!"

    The pastor's point was that we should let St. Nick do what he does, and then when people comment on it, we can take that as an opportunity to explain where that kind of love and generosity comes from. Certainly made me reconsider my position on the matter.

  4. LOL! Ya gotta give a guy who can infiltrate Coke some credit. :)

    I tend to agree as I try to put away my inner pharisee. Just about anything good can be used to point to the Lord, if we can find the right way to frame it, right? It's not even that big a stretch with St. Nicholas.

  5. I know I'm late weighing in here, and you know where I stand on the Big Guy In The Red Suit, B...I see him as Kristen does. He is a ticket in. Kids may know the story of Jesus' birth, and we as parents try to get them as fired up as we can about the wonder and gift of His birth, but for kids, it usually falls flat because they don't fully understand the connection between the child born in the straw and the man Who died on the cross for them.

    But they get enthused over Santa Claus, don't they? So Santa does have a place in Christmas. He builds excitement, infuses magic (and no, I'm not talking hocus-pocus-type magic here, but the real underlying magic of Christmas), gives kids a sense of wonder associated with the second most wonderful day of the year that they can feel directly.

    As a kid, I never *felt* the wonder of Christ's birth. Not until I was older did I tie it in with His death *in my heart*. Kids just don't quite get it. So I use Santa in my stories to get my kids (and adults!) fired up about Christmas, and keep Jesus in there with it, so that later, when the gift God gave us clicks in their hearts, they have an excitement and wonder and "magic" to tie it to.

    Santa works for Jesus, plain and simple. If our kids understand this, as they grow they will be able to understand his proper place in the gift.


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