Sunday, December 11, 2005

No Santa for us

Over the past two years, my wife and I have done some thinking about Santa. We decided that we are not going to participate in the American tradition of telling our children that a fat man in a red and white suit comes down the chemny and leaves presents. Everyone we know does Santa (in varrying degrees and forms). We grew up doing Santa. But now, no Santa for us. Several factors have contributed in our decision:

1. Santa has the tendency to obscure the true meaning of Christmas. Santa is not evil, just the tendency to idolize him at Christmas time. Alcohol is not evil, just the tendency to overuse it. If you ask most American children to draw a Christmas picture, they will most likely include Santa or reindeer (an obvious sign that these children have been taught that Christmas = Santa).

2. Santa is a lie. No matter how you slice it, you must admit this one fact about Santa: He does not exist. Now, I know that there was once a man from whom Santa originated. But the historical story of a generous man has nothing to do with the jolly good fellow who knows when you are sleeping and knows when you've been bad or good. For all parents who do Santa, there comes a point when you have to admit to your children that you lied about Santa (and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy). I do not want to have to admit that to my daughter.

3. Santa obscures the character of God. The modern day child must admit that God is not unique in many of His attributes. Who cares that God is omnicient (all-knowing) when Santa is also? Who cares that God is timeless when Santa is also (can be everywhere at the same time)? I'll be honest: I want Karis to be in awe of God. I want her to stand in wonder of His majesty. And I want this to happen as early as possible.

Other Random Factors:
4. It is bad parenting to motivate obedience using anything but God. "You better be good or Santa might not bring you that red truck you want."
5. Our chemny is too small and I hear that reindeer hoofs shorten the life of your shingles.

I'm going to get myself into a heap of trouble on this one. Fire away.

22 comments:

Sarah said...

Thats awesome!!! We are not going to do santa either....we have some good friends that don't celebrate Christmas with Santa either.....but they got in trouble when thier little boy started telling other parents that they were lying to thier children!!! (he is five)...LOL!!!
1.We just want our children to glorify God on Christmas and thank Him so much for the birth of His son!
2.When children find out that there is no Santa, they are so dissapointed. Why do that to your kids?
3."Santa" rearranged spells "Satan"!!!! ha ha ha.....

those are just a few reasons....but we are on the same page as you guys!

denbigh cherry said...

Justin

Hey bro....right on!! This is my first post to leave on your site, but I've been visiting it since you sent me the link. This has become quite the hot topic between us and our family/friends who see nothing wrong with it. Stephanie and I don't have children yet, but have already begun talking about traditions we want to incorporate and traditions we want to do without. For the same reasons, "lying to your kids", "taking away the focus of Christ", etc. But how about this one? Let's tell our kids to believe in someone they can't see, tell them that good things come from him if you're good, and then eventually come clean about it and say he's not really there. Then let's tell them about Christ, whom they can't see, who gives all good gifts, and expect them to believe in Him. How have we let this junk go on for so long?? I'll go even one further....for some reason I've felt compelled to do some studying on Santa and his true origins because of all the "drama" our decision is bringing forth. In my studying, I found that the Catholic Saint from whom Santa came from, "Saint Cristopher", in fact did not exist at all. In fact, even the Pope had him removed from the Catholic Calendar (the feast of st. christopher) because there was absolutely no proof he ever existed. If that's not enough for you, "Santa" actually is closer in comparison to the Pagan Nordic "god" Thor than to a Catholic Saint. The Norse can trace Santa back to their culture further than any other....and he has nearly every characteristic of the pagan god Thor. (long white beard, red suit, hammer as a tool/weapon, etc.) If we could somehow transport someone from the Old Testament to our present times during Christmas, they'd probably accuse us of pagan, satanic worship...and i think they'd be pretty close. Sorry to make this response such a book, man. But this has really got us fired up lately. When is the body of Christ going to stop doing things just because we've always done them and start doing things that truly honor our King?

justin said...

Sarah and Denbigh, great comments.

Denbigh, you should comment more often!

Stephanie Cherry said...

2Ch 14:2 And Asa did [that which was] good and right in the eyes of the LORD his God:

2Ch 14:3 For he took away the altars of the strange [gods], and the high places, and brake down the images, and cut down the groves:

2Ch 14:4 And commanded Judah to seek the LORD God of their fathers, and to do the law and the commandment.

2Ch 14:5 Also he took away out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the images: and the kingdom was quiet before him.

2Ch 14:6 And he built fenced cities in Judah: for the land had rest, and he had no war in those years; because the LORD had given him rest.

Here is some intersting reading of Santa being compared to Satan who is the great imposter of Christ. May the only person we teach our children to pray to for their hearts desire be that of Christ Jesus

http://www.av1611.org/othpubls/santa.html

Tony K. said...

IN DEFENSE OF SANTA
(I am writing this because I want my presents – saying Santa is a fake only gets you a lump of coal.)

Santa is not all bad. I agree that the arguments made in the post and comments above are heavy. But it smells like IDF. Most of these arguments could be made for celebrating Christmas at all. Especially on December 25th. So let’s declare Christmas August 8th (also my wedding anniversary). Now that would be counter-cultural!

Imagination and pretending is normal for kids. My son was Aslan all weekend. Sometimes he’s Luke Skywalker or Frodo (Mr. Underhill if you’re a Black Rider.) Most kids will naturally transfer Santa to the pretend category by kindergarten. But playing Santa lasts for many more years.

Obviously, no one should build a tradition on lies. But to bleach the imagination out of your child’s life is wrong. Find a middle ground. Santa is not real – but can we pretend? Remember, Father Christmas even makes a cameo appearance in Narnia.
(Santa, if your reading this I actually do need new socks this year. But your can keep the neck ties.)

Phillip M. Way said...

Good post.

I think we do need to tell our children the truth about Christmas and about the origin of the Santa Claus figure. In looking at how our society views Santa, compare these "verses":

He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake


For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and He ponders all his paths. (Prov 5:21)

The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry. The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. (Ps 34:15-16)

The real problem with Santa Claus is that many people make a god-like character out of him (all seeing, all knowing, etc) and in doing so they wreck the message of grace. After all, Santa gives you things because you were good and deserve them!

We must remember that the reason we celebrate is GRACE. God sent His Son to seek and save that which was lost. ANYTHING that obscures the message of the gospel and the incarnation of Christ should be removed from the celebration!

~pastorway

justin said...

Good discussion Tony. I appriciate your humor.

I must say that I think there is a fundamental difference between kids "playing" various fictional characters and them believing Santa really leaves them presents and sees them when they are sleeping. I agree that we do not need to hinder our children's imagination. However, I draw the line at outright lies.

You also make good points about the celebration of Christmas at all.

Sarah said...

I don't see any reason to not celebrate Christmas. I think that we just need to emphasize the reason for Christmas to our children. Teach our children to praise God for His son and for His grace and mercy! I think that we just need to be better stewards of the day. There is nothing wrong with giving them gifts. We do that all of the time on every occasion. I think we should just not make that the emphasis. It is our job as parents to teach our children who to worship on Christmas. If you shower them with gifts, and make that the big deal. Then that is what they will worship. But we need to make the day about worshiping Him in spirit and truth, and to serve Him - taking another perfect opportunity to teach them to consider others as more important than themselves. You can use gift giving as a teaching tool. We are to be givers and humble receivers. To instill in our children to be so thankful! I cannot wait until Naomi is old enough to understand these principals. To teach her to be a good steward of her money- to give to the Lord and to others. Teaching her to make things- that the price of the gift does not matter. It is the thought and heart behind the gift. Like Justin said- to give to those without expecting anything in return. I think this is an awesome opportunity to teach our children to be more Christ-like. It’s just a matter of us making a point to do that.....But I still think teaching them Santa is a big lie and destraction from the truth just like the Easter bunny and Tooth fairy!

Rob Tombrella said...

wow--this seems pretty thick. I don't know if I want to weigh in just yet--but I will have to agree with Tony's comments about imagination. I now have 2 little boys (both under 12 months) so the Santa debate will be for another day--BUT...I know that pretend will be a regular activity in our house. We plan on reading all the Narnia books, pretending to be Spider-man, and fighting with light-sabors. I think much of the problems that come from Santa (and I honestly know of no clear evidence of crisis that comes to children when they learn that their parents have lied to them)is the way he is presented in the family. I would like to think there can be a happy pretend-Santa in a home that makes a sharp distinction between "play" and reality--where Christ is valued as real. I admit that I can be pursuaded to the Scrooge-side, but I ask you the question---must I sit down with my children one day and say, "sons, I want you to know that radioactive spiders don't really exist. All those times I told you I was swinging from my web--well, I lied to you--and I'm sorry. Also, when I told you that cough syrup was candy, and not to eat watermelon seeds because you'll grow one in your belly--sorry--all lies." So I agree with avoiding Santa if you feel it will minimize Christ in your home, but not on the basis of pretending being deception.

justin said...

On the whole "pretending" thing: I still think the fundamental issue with Santa is that he is a lie. Pretending to be a super-hero is not a lie because no parent teaches their kids that Spiderman really exists. Here is where the rub is: Santa intercects our lives and alters our actions, Spiderman does not. Spiderman is relegated to the make-believe world (imagination), Santa is not (he actually does bring the presents under the tree). No kid has ever got himself in trouble and hoped Spiderman was going to rescue him. But, kids really do expect Santa to bring them whatever is on their "list."

Seeking to be the best parent possible,
justin

Rob Tombrella said...

Agreed--if Santa doesn't stay in the "make-believe world" as you put it--it is probably crossing an important line in a very holy season. But if you as a family can keep him there (and I don't know what that would actually look like--i can still remember my mom showing me the tools he used the night before to build my bike) I think it could be safe.

Sarah said...

I just wanted to say thanks to Stephanie for posting that site about where Santa originated. There is good info about where Santa comes from.....I was just joking about the whole rearranging the letters of Santa to spell Satan, but they have a whole section about that on the web page! I really liked what you guys have been saying about Santa taking on attributes of God...honestly, I have not thought about that. I was not that strong in my conviction on this issue before the blog. It was just something we decided not to do because we did not want to lie to Naomi and take away from Christ on that day. But Justin, I know how hard it will be for all of us to get our families to understand our belief on this issue. So at what point in explaining this to family do we start dancing on that legalistic line?

Phillip M. Way said...

I still get stuff in a stocking from "Santa" given by by in-laws. So I would not say that we need to take it any further than our immediate family. Teach our kids the truth. Teach them what others say about Santa. And if family members want to do Santa stuff, fine. Just let the adults know that your kids know the truth, that it IS just make believe.

The reason I think we should leave Santa out of our immediate family is simple. Like many abuses around this holiday, it can easily obscure the message of the Incarnation. Christmas is not about gifts, reindeer, Santa, the tree, etc. It is about celebrating the birth of Christ!

So while we do not do Santa, it is not a hill I am willing to die on with the rest of my extended family.

Tell the truth to your kids. Tell the rest of the family that you have told your kids the truth. Your kids will appreciate it, and even if grandparents disagree, at least you are not perceived as being ready to fight ot the death over this issue. I think fighting and splitting families over Santa is just as wrong as allowing Santa to be a god-like fairy that must be placated through good behavior in order that we might get more stuff! Both circumstances take away from the truth.

We have been reconciled to God and to each other through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. The gospel might offend, but we never should!

~pastorway

Stephanie Cherry said...

We have a black (relevant) neighbor who is one of the godliest people I know. We asked her if she did Santa with her kids. She emphatically stated she did not because she wasn't going to have some white man taking credit for all the stuff she bought with God's money. That was the best defense I have heard and we won't let the "white man" get credit either.

Tony K. said...

Good comments all around. You guys (TNIV - people) have me thinking.

Sarah,
I think our kids will remember the parts of Christmas they liked most. They will love what brings them the greatest delight. We say Jesus is the true meaning of Christmas. But we bait their joy with toys. Why are we surprised that they don’t believe us.

Justin,
I think most Christian parents are careful with the Santa. We pretend like Santa brings the stuff. But the gifts are from real people like Mamaw & Papaw. We don’t do the whole good/bad thing either. We touched on Santa when we read Narnia last month. I like his role in there. Its balanced, fun and doesn’t take away from Aslan at all.

Great topic. Your point is more needed than mine on this issue. But balance is needed.

Philip,
Good point about the in-laws. Maybe tell them to play along. It’s a way for people to give them stuff without getting credit. Like Jesus taught about anonymous giving to the poor.

Tony K. said...

Some leftovers.

Santa is a big issue in our children’s church this year. We have one family that does not do Santa. So their son comes to church mocking the other kids for believing a lie. Not what they were going for.

In our culture too many kids “worship” Santa. But the idolatry of stuff is much worse. We talk about idols of the heart. An idol is anything you love/want/enjoy more than God. Last year we had family worship on that topic before the presents. My son is learning to ask these questions about his affections even now. Sometimes he will say, “Dad, I love these logos but not more than God.”

Good conversation. Thanks

justin said...

Phillip, your point is much needed. I also am not willing to die on a crusade to sack the North Pole.

I never anticipated 17 comments on Santa and only 3 on the example of Spurgeon's mom.

Tony, the TNIV joke is funny (people instead of guys). I'm going to have to use that one.

Sarah said...

Well- I dont think my family would split over the fact that we do not "do Santa" or us telling them that. I just kinda wanted to know at what point do you have to just let it go? My daughter is only 16 months right now, so she wont really understand all of that this year anyway. Its just that next year it will be hard....she will be confused when I tell her there is no Santa if everyone else is telling her there is....so I guess if the fam doesnt respect our wishes....then we just say nothing and when she is old enough to understand, we will just explain it to her..but I do agree its not something to make a huge deal out of,as long as your children know its not real..Like I said earlier as far as the gift giving- my daughter will worship what I teach her to worship....if I shower her with gifts, then she will worship that on Christmas....so I am not really worried about that part of it.....our hearts are to teach her the right way to worship on Christmas as we seek the right way to worship!

Another point my mom brought up was when she was growing up, her fam did not have a lot of money. So she always wondered why Santa brought eveyone else so much, and brought her so little. She thought that she had done something wrong....so that shows you how our world wants us to think that you are blessed if you do good, but not blessed if you are bad! I want Naomi to know that she is not getting a super amount of things on Christmas because that is not what Christmas is about- not because she wasnt good enough to recieve the gifts.....

ha ha Stephanie! My husband's response to this issue has always been "santa aint got no job, man!" in his "thug voice" he cracks me up with that!

anyway- great discussion! thanks everyone!

JO said...

We raised our girls not to believe in Santa because when I became a christian God began to show me that when the childern get older an find out santa is not real then they begin to question if Jesus is real because of all the similarities. We don't want to confuse our children. Its not about pretending its about believing and building their faith in Jesus. Children will easily put their faith in Santa because it is built up by the adults and they trust them. Is that how we want to start them out in life? I didn't. I enjoy reading your blog keep it up.

denbigh cherry said...

after reading some of the great comments left above, i am compelled to add just a little more........i'm really not on a mission to "convert" people to the non-belief of Santa. but I do think that we are still missing one of the major points of who this character is. i have absolutely no problem with imagination, fantasy, and make believe. our children need to be free to be creative and pretend! the last thing i want for my children is for me to not allow them to be children. but if my kids start pretending to be someone evil, like a character from a dungeon's and dragon book (not that i'd ever let them read that), i would be so very concerned. i'd explain to them the difference of pretending to be spider man, a hero that helps people and my personal favorite as a child, and pretending to be something blatantly against Christ. this is the point of my whole argument! i'm not against Santa because of the make believe factor, i'm against him because he is of pagan origin and has more characteristics of satan than we realize!! may we open our eyes and see this character for who he is.....a tool of the deciever and the enemy. i realize how crazy this might sound to some of us. i admit that 10 years ago i would have called myself a fundamentalist nut to believe this. but it doesn't take much study to realize how wrong santa really is. fantasy is fine when it's not rooted in paganism.

Anonymous said...

Both of my girls grew up to be fine Christian women who married Christan men and are raising their children to love Christ. They both enjoyed believing in Santa when they were young yet knew that Christmas was about Christ's birth. When they were old enough to ask if Santa was real, we told them that WE were Santa and they both thought that was very, very neat! There is no reason why, if taught properly, they cannot know Christ AND enjoy Santa.

Tony K. said...

Justin,
I just linked this post again from my new address. www.tonykymmer.blogspot.com
Thanks again for the fun conversation.