“Do your kids believe in Santa?”
During the holiday season, this is a question we are asked over and over again. We are parents to little ones and [especially in faith circles] individuals are always curious as to where other parents stand on this particular issue.
Before I became a mom, I was an elementary teacher, and the topic of Santa Claus was handled very carefully in my classroom. The majority of my teaching experience is with second and third-graders, and in that age group, there is always great variety in how families approach the truth about Santa and his elves. My typical m.o. was to encourage students to save their questions and discussions about Santa for home…I wanted their parents to address this topic in whatever way they had chosen. It was not an area where I felt I should interfere, and I most definitely discouraged students who knew the truth from sharing their knowledge with “the believers”. I did not want to be held responsible for ruining anyone’s Christmas with their family.
However, I have to say that it continues to amaze me that this aspect of Christmas continues to be such a hot-button topic! When you do not agree with another family’s approach to Santa (or Elf on a Shelf), there can be great offense taken.
I hear grown adults saying that they “still believe”….because “If they don’t believe, Santa won’t come.”…and they explain how they insist that their older children “still believe” or Santa will not leave any presents for them under tree. I have listened to countless conversations where parents describe their panic….and the great lengths they have gone to [in the middle of the night] to ensure that Elfie has “moved”….and followed through with his/her late night shenanigans. Friends, I have to admit…this entire thing has gotten unbelievably out of hand.
What happened to teaching children the history of who St. Nick really was? What happened to simply including his character in our Christmas celebrations in the same way we include other imaginative, make-believe creatures such as snowmen, Gingerbread creations, Christmas mice, etc?
Even in many Christian homes, the daily holiday focus is not on the Christ child…It is on elf shenanigans….and telling Santa what you want for Christmas…and scattering magical reindeer food out in the front yard. Social media is full of photos with Santa, letters to elves, presents from Elfie, but what about Jesus? What about the Savior of the World? What about the hope that Christ brought in to the world with Him? What about acts of kindness and generosity that can be shared with others this Christmas season because of Him? What about those things?
Some of you may feel I’m wanting to strip all of the fun out of Christmas, but let me explain. There are few things more fun than a child’s imagination. I love the way our children enjoy make-believe. We encourage this type of creativity and love experiencing these kinds of magical things with them, but even at their young age, we are honest with them. When something is real, we tell them it’s real. When something is make-believe, we tell them it’s make-believe. We want them to be able to easily distinguish between reality and fantasy. This year, we’ve painted reindeer; we’ve read books about snowmen that dance at night; we’ve laughed about a picture we saw where Santa had gotten stuck in the chimney; we’ve watched a Mickey Mouse Christmas movie; we’ve waved at Santa in the parade; but we tell our children that it’s make-believe…just like Curious George…just like Daniel Tiger.
From an early age – when our children ask us questions – we want them to know that they are going to get a completely honest answer. We want them to understand the importance of always telling the truth, and we want to model that for them. We do not want to ever have to sit down and explain to them that “Mommy and Daddy were fibbing about____________”. We want them to feel that we can be trusted. We want them to know that their hearts and minds are completely safe with us.
A nauseating sense of entitlement is raging all around us…in children and adults. We want our children to have a clear understanding that they will not always get what they want. Just because they wish for something to happen, that doesn’t mean it will. Just because they believe something with all of their might, it doesn’t mean that good things will happen for them. Real life is full of disappointments and unfilled expectations – Even in their early childhood, we want to begin to provide them with realistic expectations.
We want to create a family atmosphere that fosters gratitude to the One who gives us all good things and contentment with what God has given us. James 1:17 – “Every good and perfect gift is from above… from our Heavenly Father.” He is the One who has provided daddy with his job….He is the One who has allowed us to have a home and vehicles…It is from His hand that we are clothed and fed…It is because of Him that we can give generously to others. We refuse to tarnish this truth…no matter the season.
We want the holidays to include an incredibly strong focus on others. We don’t ask our children “What do you want for Christmas?” We don’t provide them with catalogs, on-line pictures, etc. to use for picking out what they want for Christmas. We don’t assist them with setting up gift registries to share with our close family and friends. So what do we do instead? We consistently ask, “What would like to do for (insert name) for Christmas?” “What should we make for (insert name) for Christmas?” “What should we give to (insert name) who is hurting this time of year?” These are the questions we ask – We want to encourage our children to look outside of themselves – even at Christmas – and find the true joy that comes from living an others-focused life.
I realize that for many parents, the long-time traditions of Santa and the new experiences with Elf on a Shelf are simply viewed as fun traditions…experiences from their childhood that they want to share with their children. I realize that the enthusiasm for these things is not out of any intention to harm or be deceitful. I understand that many families who encourage belief in Santa [and his elf helpers] always throw birthday parties for Jesus and very much focus on the Savior as well throughout the holiday season…but when asked whether or not our kids believe in Santa, this would be my long answer.
As always, thank you for reading and thank you for your continued respect and kindness.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like to check out 5 Non-Toy Christmas Gift Ideas for Kids: