Note: For some of our readers this post may touch a nerve. Please know we write in a spirit of deeply wanting to see the story of Jesus magnified far above all other stories.
For centuries societies have played out the Santa Claus and Easter Bunny stories. Now there’s even an Elf on the Shelf to add to the Santa story, and it’s helpful to consider…
Is this telling of tall tales really good for our kids?
For many families, these stories are an integral part of the holiday traditions that bring great, connective fun between parents and kids. (And at Connected Families we certainly do love connection between parents and kids!) Although many kids have believed the Santa ruse and then discarded those beliefs without detriment, it’s still helpful to be aware of potential downsides of these fun spoofs and what parents can do to avoid them.
- Materialism in young people is on the rise, and Santa and his elf buddies can be complicit by keeping the focus at Christmas on copious amounts of glitzy, glowing stuff. What a distraction from the joy-filled arrival of a Savior to a spiritually impoverished world! In the same way at Easter, that fluffy, floppy-eared candy dispenser distracts us from the price that Jesus paid for our sin to offer us eternal life.
- These stories are usually perpetuated through some fairly clever deception. Unfortunately we live in a day and age where lying and manipulation is popularized and accepted in pop culture, and young people have never had such low levels of social trust.*
Because of these elements, we challenge parents to keep the fun and connection, but be carefully trustworthy as you talk about the most important remembrances of our faith that hold such beautiful, spiritual truths.
This may not be as hard as it seems….Parents can keep Jolly Old St. Nicholas part of Christmas without any hint of deception to do it. You see, St. Nicholas was a real person. He loved Jesus and gave gifts to the poor and needy. There was even a holiday in his honor on December 6th. The details are sketchy, but we tend to think that honoring St. Nick could be a good part of the story – with no need for deception.
If we make the St. Nick story part of the celebration, we err on the side of full honesty. The gift-giving bearded man dressed in red enhances rather than distracts from the Jesus part of the story, with no concern about how kids may one day interpret it all. In addition, St. Nick’s story is a “materialism buster” as we help kids focus on the joy of giving instead of just receiving. There are wonderful opportunities, such as Operation Christmas Child, for kids to be like St. Nicholas.
If your family has loved the Santa story, but you’d like to minimize the downsides and do more to honor the real spiritual value of the holidays, you can explain this to your kids: You’ve played a fun game but have decided to do it differently from now on. Highlight the importance of truth in a day and age when so many people are untruthful about so many things. If you want to keep your tradition of Santa, and Elf or Easter bunny, you can let them know it’s just really fun pretend. Keep making it fun. Then – tell them the Truth! Read Luke 2 with great wonder, or focus on the historical figure of St. Nicholas. For a fun explanation of where the story of Santa Claus came from, consider showing the videos made by Veggie Tales creator Phil Vischer – especially number 4 & 5 in his series “12 Questions of Christmas.”
Then – promote Saint Nick as he really was. Celebrate this generous believer from the past, and make this a Christmas where more than ever you seek and humbly proclaim Truth, and delight in sharing this journey with your kids.
How do you address the story of Santa Claus in your home? Let us know in the comments!
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