Leading up to Halloween, we posted a series that represented the views of a few of our faculty members on whether or not Christians should participate in Trick-or-Treating. It was a great experience for us, and we got a good response from our readers.
So we’re going to try it again. This time we’ll take on the question of whether or not Christians should tell their kids that Santa Claus is real. In today’s post, our president, Joshua Walker, explains why he was careful to tell his children that Santa is not real. In tomorrow’s post, our librarian, Yvonne Wilber, will explain why she encouraged her kids to indulge in the magic of the Santa myth.
Many of you will have made up your minds on this long ago. But maybe some of you could use some help in thinking it through from a couple of angles. And all of us should be able to benefit from seeing godly Christians disagree in a loving, intelligent, and Christ-centered way.
Joshua Walker’s post:
Spoiler Alert: If you believe in Santa, don’t keep reading.
Let’s be honest—being a parent is one of the most difficult and significant roles that we could ever take on. And we tend to do it with almost a complete lack of intentional training. As I tried to find my way as a young parent, I decided on a couple of things, one of the most important being that I was going to strive to be brutally honest with my kids. God defines Himself by truth. I decided that I wanted my relationship with my kids to be defined by truth. I have endeavored to have a very transparent life and explain the way the world really is to them to the best of my ability and to the extent their minds could understand it.
That doesn’t mean I tell my kids everything about everything. There are times I tell them “that’s not appropriate for you at this age,” and then often later have a conversation that begins with, “remember those things I told you weren’t appropriate at your age? Well, now you’re old enough…” I think there is a value in their innocence and naiveté. They don’t have to grow up too quickly.
It was on this basis that my wife and I decided what to do regarding Santa Claus (and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy for that matter). We decided that we’d be honest with them, so we explained the history of St. Nicholas, how he was a real person, and how there was a tradition that had developed of wicked parents horribly deceiving their children with regard to this person still being alive (ok, we didn’t really say “wicked” or “deceiving” but I thought emotionally charged language might help my case (I’m kidding, we honestly don’t believe it’s evil to let your kids believe in Santa)). We also went on to explain that it was important for them to not go on a crusade to tell other children the truth about Santa Claus.
As I considered the possibility of teaching them to “believe in” Santa Claus, it always bothered me deeply. First, isn’t it weird that we use the phrase “believe in” to describe people’s “faith” in Santa or not? If we’re going to model faith, one of the first ways we do it shouldn’t be in something that turns out to be a myth! Second, it seemed to me that telling them something that everyone knew was untrue and that they would eventually learn was untrue would undermine much of what I was trying to accomplish as a parent. If I had worked hard to convince them of something that was untrue, then what other more important things that I had taught them would they question?
My kids are 8 and 10, so the jury’s still out on what this has produced in their lives. As far as I can tell, my kids haven’t been deeply harmed by not believing in Santa Claus. They aren’t “weird” kids who don’t understand how to interact with “normal” kids. In fact, I think they’re quite culturally aware of things like this because we’ve had to teach them how to interact with people who believe lots of different things in an understanding and loving way.
As a side note, my kids still get money from the “Tooth Fairy.” They walk up to me with their tooth and say “Hey tooth fairy, can I give you my tooth?” and I pull out my wallet and give them a dollar for it. Then we laugh about it. Welcome to our world…