Monday, December 24, 2007

Yes, Ally, There is a Santa Claus, But...

I don't know how old I was when my belief in an all-knowing, all-seeing bearded man in a red suit, able to discern who's been naughty or nice, went up in smoke. I don't remember it being especially traumatic, it just seemed like another rite of passage. I still got gifts at Christmas time, and that's all that mattered.

When I became a parent, I knew old St. Nick would have to be dealt with. At the same time, I didn't want to be dogmatic about it. At least I'm not as radical about it as this guy.

Here's my problem with the whole Santa thing: As a Christian, I don't want to imbue the guy in the red suit with attributes that rightly belong to God. I don't have an issue with my daughter thinking of Santa as a fictional character who shows up in stories around Christmas time. What I don't want her thinking is that he's a real person, because later on, the result might be disappointment and confusion. She may wonder what else we've been lying to her about. I distinctly remember a comedian recalling this time in his life by remarking that when he found out Santa didn't exist, God and Jesus didn't stand much of a chance.

So what do we do? Well, unless we went to live in a cave, we knew we couldn't shield Ally from Santa all throughout her childhood. I knew Ally would have friends and family who took Santa Claus very seriously. We simply choose not to put too much emphasis on Santa's gift-giving qualities, his omniscience and his ability to violate physical laws of space and time. Instead, we try to portray him as a fictional character who symbolizes a giving spirit, the spirit we're supposed to have as Christians. I like the way the author of the article below from Christianity Today puts it: an attitude of "benign neglect".

We also try to focus on what we're really celebrating at Christmas. Not the fact that we can be hyper-consumers who contribute to the retailers' bottom line but that God Himself became incarnate as a baby, grew up and lived among us.

The following article was published in Christianity Today in 1999. It neatly summarizes how we feel about the Santa Question. I commend it to you, dear reader, along with our wishes for a happy and blessed Christmas.

The Santa Question


Blogger Tim said...

When our boy Daniel was old enough to start noticing the jolly old elf, we told him matter-of-factly from the very start that the Santa Thing wasn't actually true, but rather that it is just a fun story that people like to tell at Christmas time.

Because we didn't make a big deal out of it, he accepted this without any problem, and it hasn't been a big deal in his interactions with other kids in his social circles.

Nowadays (Daniel's almost 10 now) we even joke back and forth about whether or not Santa will put coal in one of our stockings. I've been able to explain the difference between the cultural and Christian sides of Christmas, and Santa has just become another player in the cultural side of our family's observance of the holiday.

11:08 AM  

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