It’s been a few months, so you may have forgotten that I am that heartless mother who doesn’t invite the Easter Bunny to our house. It’s time to tell you the other truth: Santa doesn’t come to our house either.
I know, I KNOW. What kind of monsters are we? In case you didn’t know, my husband is an attorney and he’s very good at making his point. It’s highlight annoying. I really think the issue of Santa Claus should come up in marriage counseling right after finances and before family issues. We debated this for several years. That’s right, years. I didn’t really cave on the whole “Santa is a story” plan until last year when Big Brother started asking some serious questions.
And that was Ty’s hook: not lying to our kids. To be honest, I needed more of a reason than that. My family has a policy that you’re allowed (encouraged?) to lie about surprises, ie., parties, gifts, etc. I failed at convincing Ty that Santa falls in to that same category.
However, my almost-four-year-old is very literal. He asks questions like “who made God?” and “how does a water tower work?”I know I’m not alone with the literal/smart combo here, so I wanted to share our approach in case there are other new parents arguing about Santa on the way to church.
The truth is that Santa exists. Or at least, he did. Way back in the 300s – not that long after Jesus’ resurrection – a wealthy man named Nikolaos developed a habit of secret gift-giving. Nikolaos of Myra was known for his generosity with many stories demonstrating how he answered Jesus’ call to give to the poor. For example, he left coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him. There is also a story that he helped a poor father and his three daughters by providing a dowry for each of them so they could marry and not become prostitutes. One version depicts him as throwing a bag of coins through their window once a year for three years. On the third year, the father laid in wait to catch his benefactor and so Saint Nicholas threw the bag down the chimney. Another version goes as far to say the bag went down the chimney and fell in to a stocking that had been drying by the fireplace. Basically, he had a lot of money and spent his life giving it away.
We are not Catholic, I don’t pay homage to a man who is now long dead. I worship a man who rose from the dead about 300 years before the legend of our beloved Santa Claus came to be.
Teaching our children to love, worship, obey and follow Jesus Christ is our most important endeavor. Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of our Savior. Explaining this simple reason for Christmas is kind of complicated as is without adding a tale of a man who flies around the world in one night and you better be good or that elf on the shelf will tell him and let’s be sure your list of presents gets in the mail on time and oh, dear God there has to be an easier way.
Ty grew up knowing Santa was a story we tell at Christmastime. I grew up believing Santa brought the toys I found in my stocking and certain presents under the tree left there by him. I believed in him for a very long time. I still tear up when I watch Miracle on 34th Street.
But I want my kid to know that God is a being we cannot see who sees everything we do, knows the innermost workings of our heart and loves us unconditionally. This is a true story. And it’s a little too close to the other guy we cannot see but who sees us and everything we do and determines if it’s good or bad and then rewards us or gives us coal.
So this is what I tell him: Santa Claus is a character based on a man who used to give people who needed things gifts in secret. His name was Saint Nicholas and he honored Jesus in this way. Kind of like the Magi who brought gifts for Jesus soon after he was born. That is why we give each other gifts at Christmas and why we look for opportunities to give to others all year round. It is in honor of Jesus.
I tell my kids how an angel (first I have to explain what an angel is) came to a woman named Mary and told her she was going to have a baby and He would be God’s son. I mean y’all, that’s crazy. That’s crazy! Yes, I think that’s crazier than trying to explain how a man gets around the world in one night. Amazon is just one day shy of making that happen so that idea is getting more and more realistic. Meanwhile, I’m still explaining that angels appeared to shepherds in a field telling them that big star over in Bethlehem is where the savior has been born…in a barn. I’m speechless. I mean, this is a story I’ve heard forever, so I can rattle it off pretty well. But hearing it for the first time? I don’t need to dress it up with elves and sleighs and cookies mysteriously eaten in the night (we all know that would be me taking my birthing fee). It’s a wild story all on its own and it’s only part of the bigger story of Jesus.
This explanation took many rounds of discussion between Ty and I and it’s one I can really get behind. It’s not a lie but I’m certainly not going to act like Santa Claus isn’t around. In fact, I like explaining how he came to be and his heart for others.
Don’t worry, my kids won’t ruin the magic for yours. Santa just isn’t the focus for us. We don’t ignore him, but he is not the one who receives our honor. In fact, I would imagine that Nikolaos, a devout Christian, would be a bit dismayed to see the focus on him and not on Him.
Yes, I still take my kids to get a picture with Santa at the mall. It’s a picture and a lollipop and that’s it. No, I don’t remind them that he’s not real every chance I get. That isn’t the point. The point is to remind them that God is real every chance I get. And lastly, no, I do not judge anyone for telling the story of Santa Claus that we know and love. Not even a little bit. Really. I highly doubt any (honest) adult has lost their faith in God over Santa Claus.
This is just our way of keeping truth in our house and teaching our children of Jesus. It also gets me out of explaining how my kids got their presents when we don’t have a fireplace.