My Facebook feed has been alight lately with Jesus-loving parents wrestling with what to tell their kids about Santa Claus. They state understandable reasons: Santa blurs the line between fact and fiction (read: lying), he promotes rewards based on works (the opposite of grace), but mostly that he just creates too much competition with a baby in a manger.
Since I’m a pitiful, in-recovery people pleaser, it immediately made me feel embarrassment that we DO Santa at our house. It made me second guess our decision. Am I a bad Christian because Santa Claus comes to our house? (Oh my word: I am!) And is my son is going to grow up and have to go to counseling for whatever symptoms result from being told that Santa is a fake?! (He is!) Conclusion: I AM A TERRIBLE PARENT!
After praying through some self-imposed guilt, I reassessed the situation. I totally respect the decision not to do Santa. I wrestled through many of the points made by families who don’t and I completely support that choice. I’m not trying to convince anyone that they SHOULD do Santa. I just felt like Santa had been getting kind of a bad rap this Christmas and thought maybe he needed a bit of a pick-me-up. A grown-up Santa letter, if you will:
I loved you when I was little. I loved looking out the car window coming home from the candle-light Christmas Eve service, my parents in the front seat tuning in Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time” and me scanning the darkness with my little sister in the back looking for any sign of you. I loved crawling into bed and thinking about what presents I may have under the tree the next morning. I loved the secret tradition my sister and I started with telling each other one present we got the other. On Christmas Eve, we always got to sleep in the same room. (I still really miss not doing that actually, but I don’t think our husbands would go for it.)
I still love you now as an adult. I love the expectation of joy and suspense and curiosity my child and others exude this time of year. It hypes me up even more than I already am which is hardly believable, because I really, REALLY love Christmas.
I know that you don’t intend to overshadow Jesus and I don’t think you do in our household. We LOVE telling the story of the birth of Jesus, singing songs about his birth, and minimizing your role by focusing on the human manifestations of Jesus: the giving to the needy, the celebration of his birth with our church family, the gathering of loved ones. I don’t remember how I even found out that you weren’t real, but I know that by the time I did, I realized that it was something I’d been slowly unfolding in my brain for a while and it wasn’t really the shock I think most parents fear. I remain grateful for the memories my parents handed me by pretending. (I did, however, draw the line at your co-worker the Easter Bunny. He’s completely ridiculous and he skips over our house.)
Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that we’ll still put out milk and cookies for you this year. I know you understand why some families don’t and I don’t think Jesus is angry that we do. I really, really love my Jesus and all that his birth in that manger means to my broken, messy self. Now, one could justifiably argue that the whole commercially driven, holiday gift giving culture has gotten way out of hand, but I don’t think it’s fair to blame you for that. We’re a pretty imperfect society, you know, and while I look to Jesus to be my savior, I am grateful to you for providing another way for us to look on the bright side of things. Merry CHRISTmas, Santa.
**Sidenote: If you,like us, are Jesus loving parents who also do Santa up, I’d highly recommend the book Santa’s Favorite Story, by Hisako Aoki.