The other day, I went to pick up my 4 year old daughter, Reagan, from preschool and had an interesting conversation with her teacher. Apparently, Reagan and a couple of girls got into a conversation about Santa Claus. When the conversation started about Santa Clause, Reagan decided that she should inform them of a tragic reality… “Santa is dead”, she said. This sparked a little back and forth between them, which fortunately our well trained teachers were able to defuse and deflect. So, what does that mean for me? Well, I usually get accused of depriving my children of a full Christmas experience or the joy of Santa Claus.
Before I explain what it is that we teach our kids about Christmas and Santa Claus, let me explain why I teach them what I teach them. First, the holiday that we are celebrating is Christmas. The very word Christmas can be broken into two parts which would be Christ (self explanatory) and the suffix mas. Mas is just derived from an old english word that means festival or feast day. So, what does that mean? The day is about celebrating Christ and His birth, nobody else, just Him. Secondly, I try to teach my kids that lying is evil and it’s a sin. When Solomon told us, in Proverbs 6, that “these six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him”, I quickly noticed that lying makes that short list twice. So, if lying is such an evil sin, why would I tell my kids such a fun, festive falsehood like a complete stranger who sneaks into our house and give them presents that their mother and I actually purchased? And why would I continue this falsehood by telling them that instead of placing a few well placed rounds of ammunition in the intruder for this B&E stunt, I offer him milk and cookies? Easy… I wouldn’t! And don’t even get me started on how we teach our kids not to talk to strangers, but yet encourage them to idolize this one. And yes, that draws the logical conclusion that we also have no Easter bunny (again about Christ) and tooth fairy. If you ask my kids what the “tooth fairy” looks like they will tell you just like their daddy, because I’m the tooth fairy they get.
So, what is it that I teach them. Simple, the truth or at least enough of the truth that redirects the focus back to my Lord and Savior. I completely reject the mythical figure and just let my kids know that those are just stories like many movies and the only real thing about it is the main character once lived. But I go on to tell them who Santa Claus is, or more accurately was. The modern figure of Santa Claus derived from the Dutch character known as Sinterklaas. Stories of Sinterklaas made their way to America with the Dutch settlers who landed in New Amsterdam. He, in turn, received much of his basis from tales about the Christian bishop, Saint Nicholas. I tell them that jolly ‘ol Saint Nic wasn’t just a bishop, he was also a believer in the teaching that “freely you have received, freely you shall give”. He isn’t just someone we sing about on rooftops, he is the patron saint of children, sailors, merchants and even the city of Amsterdam. Unfortunately, many of the stories about Saint Nicholas are just like those of Santa Claus, stories. But the one thing that we do no for certain is that Saint Nicholas had a great impact on his homeland and he lived his life to honor God. I find it interesting that although details about his gift giving vary, one thing that remains consistent in them is that he gave to those in need, so that they could honor God, not himself.
Ultimately, I believe this is a personal choice for each family to make. I personally, just want to keep my focus and the focus of my family on the One True gift giver, Christ Jesus. Because without Him, the greatest gift of salvation would not be possible. And no matter when the day of His birth actually took place, the fact remains that “for unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given”. I just prefer training my children by my example of speaking the truth. I also prefer not to spend too much time on depriving them of the “joy” of Santa Claus, Sinterklaas, or even Saint Nicolas. Instead I’m gonna spend my time bestowing upon them the joy in the name “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”