Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Santa - yes or no?

As it is coming up to Christmas, some issues that we conveniently ignore at other times of the year rear their head again. And, for us, this year it is Santa.

We decided when we had our first child 5 years ago that Santa would not be part of our Christmas celebrations. Our reasoning was mainly that:
  • We felt it was lying, pure and simple. I know that sounds a bit harsh, but that was our conclusion. We instill the idea in our children that they must always tell the truth, so we must do the same.
  • We didn't like the idea itself - that there is an all-present, all-knowing being (other than God), who judges you purely on your merit, and if you are good you are rewarded with presents. It runs against the entire message of God's grace in the gospel.
  • And practically (and somewhat selfishly!) - why should this pretend person get all the credit for knowing exactly what you wanted for Christmas and getting it for you? No-one loves you more on earth than your parents, who long to give you good gifts.
So, for the last five years, we have managed to avoid most references to him and ignore him in the shops. And, when we told our extended family of the decision not to have Santa, they were supportive, even if they may not have agreed. (As an aside, both G and I were raised with having Santa at Christmas, and yes, we enjoyed it).

However, this is the first year we have a child at school and it is no longer avoidable. Santa is everywhere and the subject of the song for the class Christmas concert. So, for the first time, we are having questions or comments from our 5 year old about Santa:
1. "Santa lives in the North Pole doesn't he?'
2. 'Santa comes at Christmas time and brings lots of presents", etc.

I wondered at first about how to answer, but decided to go the honest and open path, and so said:
1. Well, no. Santa isn't real, he's pretend, so he doesn't really live in the North Pole. But in the pretend story about him he does. (and then went on to explain how Thomas the Tank Engine is not real, even though in the story he lives on the Island of Sodor; and how the Wiggles don't really live in Wiggles World, but with their families).
2. No, Santa doesn't bring you presents, Mummy and Daddy (and other family members) buy you presents so that we can all celebrate Jesus' birthday together.

And for those of you who think we are little too harsh, can I add that:
1. We love Christmas in our family - we have a fun advent calendar, we put up the tree together, all of us have special stockings that I have made, we cook lots of yummy food, we celebrate with family and friends and generally have a great time. I don't think anyone is 'missing out' here without Santa.
2. We try to help them to realise that some other people like to pretend that Santa is real and we don't want to spoil it for them.
3. I know a lot of Christians who do choose to have Santa in their homes and that is fine with me. As long as Jesus is the at centre, everything else is peripherial anyway!


Prue said...

Hi Wendy, I came here via 168 Hours. We were talking about Santa at Bible Study this morning. One of the girls has a school aged son, and she tells him that Santa is a game that adults play - "they tell their kids that Santa is real, but even if you know he's not real, you don't want to spoil the game for the other kids, do you?"

My husband and I haven't really had a conversation about what to do about Santa yet, even though our eldest is almost five. He talks about Santa from hearing about him at preschool, but whenever he talks about him I ask what the reason for Christmas is. "Santa brings us presents?""No. We are celebrating the fact that Jesus was born". I try to bring it back to Jesus, and draw him away from Santa talk. True, it's really sitting on the fence about the whole Santa issue though, and I reckon it's a conversation my husband and I are going to have to have awfully soon!

Rachel Jones said...

I have found the Colin B song "Jesus is no fairy-tale" very helpful here. Santa is a fairy-tale - great to enjoy the story and tradition, but that's all he is. Jesus, on the other hand, is "real as real can be".

This strategy has also proved helpful in dispelling fears about dragons, and wishing to the fairies. My kids get the logic - it's just made up, but Jesus is real, and always with us.

Lucy said...

Wendy we take exactly the same approach, and for exactly the same reasons! I grew up without Santa and I absolutely loved Christmas and don't think I missed out at all. My issue at the moment with the whole Santa business is what I should tell my kids to answer people at the shops who ask them if they're excited about Santa coming - I don't want them to burst the bubble for any other kids in the vicinity, but I don't want to encourage them to pretend they believe something they don't. We're coming up against this alot this year, and I really am not sure what to do. Maybe I just won't go shopping anymore!

Wendy said...

Thanks for your comments, and nice to 'meet' you, Prue and Lucy!

We had another moment today - we were at the Wiggles concert (what fun it is!) and Santa comes out for two songs, and my 5 year old turns to me and says "See, Mum, Santa is real". I left it alone at the time - as he may have just been testing me. Seeing Santa was next to Wags The Dog, Dorothy the Dinosaur and Henry the Octopus I wondered that perhaps I need to explain the concept of costumes a little better...

In the shops in the past I have had to explain to the shop keeper that we don't have Santa in our house - because (prior to this year), the kids just looked at the blankly and had no idea what they were talking about. I will be interested to see what M's response to such a question is when asked now - seeing he at least knows about Santa. But, I'm with you Lucy, I think I'll avoid the shops anyway - purely because they are so awful in the lead up to Christmas!

Melissa said...

We have come across quite a varied reaction to not having Santa in our house. If we were muslim or hindu it would be ok not to have him, but because we are christian, some people think we should have him. After my then 4 year old wanted to "show and tell" that Santa was not real at preschool - we quickly told her that it was a mummy and daddy thing to explain to other kids and that she was to tell her friends to ask their parents if they questioned her about the "realness" of santa. I have also found this to work well with close friends who were horrified that we would spoil their kids christmas by telling that santa was not real. But we are very adament to tell people that we choose not to have santa in our house, we have Jesus instead.

Rachel Jones said...

My best explanation to people is that in our family at Christmas we put Jesus where mist people put Santa (ie the centre) and we put Santa where most people put Jesus (willing to have him "hang around", if he must, but that's all)