Thursday, 23 December 2010

To Santa or Not To Santa

It seems that this is the greatest modern controversy facing Christian parents.  It is a subject rarely spoken of without some very emotional responses when differing opinions collide within one family.

My husband and I both grew up in homes that included the Santa element of Christmas.  I think it was just what our parent's generation did, without much questioning.  It was simply the way Christmas was and few would have been inclined to veer from it.  A generation later the world had become quite a different place and as parents, we were being confronted with all manner of issues to scrutinise, including this one.  We chose to take Santa out of our Christmas, and I'll explain why in a moment.  Our choice did, however, cause a bit of a stir.  Once my parents returned to Victoria and my brothers began their families we realised that we'd made quite a controversial decision.  They all expressed some version of dismay that we would deprive our children of one of the most important things of Christmas and felt that we were judging their choice.  It was a sticky conversation and one I vowed never to repeat within my family. This year, it was raised in Dh's family.  Quietly.  Not amongst the large throng that is our family.  One member of the family was genuinely interested in why we made our choice.  One member of the family was horrified.  I chose to direct my comments to the one who had inquired and moved on quickly.

Neither my husband nor I made our choice based upon looking back over our childhoods and deciding things needed to be improved or that our parents had been less than diligent.  Certainly, that never entered my thinking as we considered what choice we would make concerning Santa.  Our choice to exclude Santa from our festivities was made for two reasons.

Firstly, we wanted to focus on the real reason for Christmas.  We wanted to be able to celebrate the birth of Christ with our children without having to navigate a maze of distractions in the process.  Our world is filled with opposing worldviews and religious sects that skew the Word of God just enough to confuse us.  For me, the wonder of Christmas is not a jolly old man in a red suit coming down my chimney (yes, I do have one!), but rather that God chose to send His son to us as a helpless and very human baby because He wanted us to have a very personal relationship with our Creator.  This post at Couragous Homekeeping includes an excerpt from 'God Came Near' by Max Lucado.  It is this sense of wonder that I most want my children to connect with.

Secondly we considered the issue of parental integrity.  Please don't misunderstand me here.  I'm not saying that my parents, or my in-laws, were not people of integrity.  As I mentioned, the world is a different place now than it was when we were young.  It is because of the changes in our society that this became something for us to consider when deciding on whether or not to have Santa.  It was (and still is) very important to me that our children know that we don't lie to them.  About anything.  Even things like Santa.  I believe that as we conduct ourselves, as parents, with an integrity and authenticity that is not swayed by popular culture our children will have an added measure of certainty in the way they are parented by us.  Of course they won't always like our decisions, but we will always have that firm foundation on which our children can rely.

Finally, I want to make one thing very clear.  I do not believe there is any judgement to be made based upon whether or not a family should include Santa in their festivities.  Whenever we disucss this with our children I am very concerned that they too refrain from making judgements and they receive very strict instructions not to spoil things for other families.  I believe this to be an issue of personal choice and should never be reduced to 'right' or 'wrong'. 

And just so you know, the kids still get a Christmas stocking and all of the fun that we enjoyed as children.  They don't miss out on a thing.


Joy McD said...

No Santa at our house either :) But stockings.. yes!

Angela said...

My parents explained to me that Jesus was the greatest gift, and because of that, we give gifts. They explained too about the trad story of Saint Nicholas - and how he had become 'Santa'. they stressed I was never to tell other children he wasn't real - because it is important to respect the beliefs of others. But Santa was not a part of our family celebration [I was born in 1955] I followed this practice with our own girls [1982, 1984] and I think they will do the same when they become parents.
Lets face it - when they discover you made up all that stuff about Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, they may accuse you of making up the God stuff too - and that would be awful!!
Stick to your principles - and God will honour your faithfulness to Him
Christmas blessings xx

debbie bailey said...

My experience exactly, Angela. I remember how mad I was when I found out there was no Santa. I also remember thinking that if they lied about Santa, what else have they lied about?

We decided when our children were babies that we wouldn't perpetuate the lie with our own children. We have plenty of fun anyway.

And like ya'll, we want the emphasis to be on Jesus and his birth and not on Santa and materialism.

Good post!

Jodie said...

Tracy, I hope you and your lovely family have a blessed and relaxing Christmas Season! I really love reading your blog and enjoy our friendship very much! See you in the New Year, love, Jodie. xxx

Left-Handed Housewife said...

We have always had Santa with our children, though I very much respect the reasons for not and sometimes wonder if we made the right decision, for the reasons people have mentioned. But the flip side of the Santa question for me is that believing in magic enlarges our imaginations and helps us feel wonder and awe. It teaches us some things worth knowing. We all believe in magical things as children, no matter what. Part of growing up is learning that the magical things aren't real. But when we realize that God is real, well, that's another kind of excitement.

My two cents! An interesting, thoughtful post, Tracy.