Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Is Santa Claus Real???

Well, I grew up thinking he was and so did my husband. I have fond memories of the anticipation and excitement of Christmas Eve and of the joy of waking up on Christmas morning to all the surprises that “Santa” had left. We’ve celebrated Santa with our own kids -read the stories, told of the reindeer and jingle bells and toys for “good little boys and girls.” We’ve hung stockings (on the front door with care-no chimney here) and even gone as far as hanging a special key outside our door so Santa could let himself in (covers the whole no chimney thing). All the while, we taught of the true meaning of Christmas and of Jesus’ miraculous birth. I had no doubt that our kids believed in the Christmas story and understood that Christmas is really all about Jesus’ birthday. We tried to link our gift giving to baby Jesus’ birth (each child gets 3 presents just like the 3 presents that baby Jesus received from the wise men). Yet, I could clearly see that our kids were far more excited about the prospect of presents than about celebrating Jesus’ birth-it’s hard to compete with jolly old St. Nick and sack full of toys.

As the years past, playing Santa started to lose its luster. Putting on the charade became more and more of an effort and we started to wonder why we were even doing it in the first place. We had already dismissed the Easter bunny story (I mean really, a giant bunny stealing and hiding colored eggs and bringing candy for baskets???). It just didn’t seem right. But Santa, that was a different story. St. Nicholas was a real person after all and we were just carrying on the tradition of a generous man right?

This part of “Christmas” is so ingrained in our society and was a big part of our childhood Christmas celebrations that we carried the tradition on without much thought up until the past year or so. We have friends that celebrate Santa and friends that don’t. The ones that don’t, always said, “I don’t want my kids to believe in something that’s not real.” This was where I would insert my rebuttal, “Well then, you can’t take them to Disney World to see Mickey Mouse or Cinderella, because then they might believe that they are real.” I didn’t believe that my kids would trust in Santa for their salvation any more than I thought they’d trust in Mickey Mouse. I just felt like it was all in fun and one day, they’d figure it out like we all did.

I had another conversation with one of my non-Santa celebrating friends on Monday. She said, “You know, we don’t celebrate other people’s birthdays by making everyone else feel special or by giving everyone except the birthday person gifts. So why do we do that with Jesus?” That statement really stuck with me. We’ve taken “Christmas” and made it into something it was never intended to be-a grand marketing scheme to encourage us to get more stuff-the latest and greatest in life clogging stuff.

I actually had anxiety (starting back in the summer) with the thought of “Christmas” coming and the overwhelming influx of stuff that would be entering our home this year. I mean, 5 kids times 3 presents each is 15 presents-and that’s just at our house. Then you have grandparents and great-grandparents (our kids have 5 sets) and well meaning aunts and cousins and even friends that enjoy giving to our little ones and before you know it we’ve acquired more stuff than we could possible keep track of, let alone cherish or treasure or appreciate. How do you teach your kids that it’s not all about them-life is not about their continued entertainment and happiness-in a society that places so much time and effort on insisting on all the stuff?

Our pastor preached about King Asa out of 2 Chronicles this past Sunday. The focus was on how he took down all of the idols that had distracted the people and divided their hearts. He had to remove the “stuff” that was hindering their relationship with God. I began to feel like we had made an idol out of Santa and that he was overshadowing our celebration of Jesus.

So, Nick and I made the decision that we would no longer keep up the tradition of Santa Claus in our home. We started by telling our oldest, Caleb, because he is the most invested with the whole thing and we asked him, “Is Mickey Mouse real or pretend?

Caleb: “Pretend”

“Are Jedi Knights real or pretend (I know I’m stepping on some toes that are strong in force with this one…)?”

Caleb: ”Pretend”

OK we thought, we’re on the right track.

“Is Santa Claus real or pretend.”

Caleb (with starry eyes and big toothless grin): “REAL!”

Oh, the lump in my throat was growing as I knew we were about to crush a childhood dream (he did, for the record, also affirm without hesitation that Jesus was real).

So we explained it all and he got it. Then we told the rest of the kids. Hermela and Meron had already been initiated by the other kids as to who and what Santa Claus was and what all this American Christmas stuff was all about (they’ve been eagerly anticipating Christmas since they first heard of the guy in the big red suit) and even though we’d always down played the Santa story and taught them that it was about Jesus, again, the bag full of toys won out.

It was actually all much easier for them to understand than I had expected it to be. I asked them why they thought that Hermela and Meron never had a visit from Santa in Ethiopia. They had been good little girls, so why had Santa forgotten them? We then talked about how Jesus never forgets us and how He was in Ethiopia and how He had been with the girls there and how He is everywhere and that is how we know He is real and Santa is just pretend. I felt such relief by coming clean about the whole thing (we also nixed the whole tooth fairy things as well-tough day I know, but we may as well clear the air completely).

I always thought it was sad for kids who didn’t celebrate Santa, but now, I see the value of putting the focus back on Jesus. I always justified doing both, but the more that I realize that I want to be more like Jesus, the more I know that there will be things (idols if you will) that I will have to give up and that our family will have to give up in order to remove the distractions in our lives.

As we talked, we started thinking about what kind of gifts Jesus would like for His birthday. What makes Jesus happy? Our kids mentioned, praying and reading the bible and helping others (I added obeying your parents-thought it was a good time to throw that one in as well). I want to have an undivided heart for Jesus and give Him the gift of obedience. I want to follow Him wherever He leads and bring the love of Jesus to those around me and across the world and I want to do that for His glory so that others will be pointed back to Him-the giver of all good gifts.

So, this year, I want to make sure that we're giving gifts to the One whose birthday we are celebrating. I have some exciting details coming up about how you can make an eternal difference in the lives of orphaned and needy children in Ethiopia this Christmas, giving gifts to others and the Lord all at the same time.

The Santa Claus news was really a relief for Colton (he was never too fond of the guy).

*P. S. For my family and friends who still believe or have little ones that do, our kids have been instructed not to spoil it for them. *


  1. Good for you! Honesty is always the best way, maybe not always the easiest, but definitely the best. Our kids (five adopted from foster care) had no trouble giving up Santa when we explained it all to them.

  2. Yes, good for you! We never celebrated with Santa because I just wanted one less thing to distract them from the "Reason for the Season." Then we decided Jesus isn't just the reason, He is the season. And like your friend asked, I asked the kids, "Does everyone buy presents for each other on our birthdays? Then why do we do it for Jesus' birthday?" Made sense to them. I can't wait to see your ideas for gifts for Jesus.