Santa can be a divisive issue. It seems kind of crazy…that a pretend gift giver in a bright red suit could be so controversial, but there are lots of opinions about the jolly guy. Christmas specials insist that he ceases to have power when we stop believing…a false idea some Christians transfer to God. Others lament that children lose their innocence when their belief in Santa wanes. And yet I remember a pastor of mine that once shared that they didn’t tell the “lie” of Santa to their child because what if the child grew up to believe Jesus was a lie her parents told her as well? I thought this line of thought was intriguing since I grew up with Jesus and Santa and clearly could tell the difference in how my parents talked about them.
Now I am a parent, and I have to figure out what to do about Santa. I realized quickly that obliterating Santa from the start was going to be a tricky enterprise. Strangers, family members, adults of all sorts would ask my kids if they were ready for Santa…before they even knew who he was (My two year old had no reference for Santa.). It was easier to play along. But even then there was a problem. In my family’s tradition of Santa, he was in charge of delivering the things one needed. Parents got the joy of delivering toys and things wanted. My kids were often confused that Santa brought them socks and their friends new bicycles.
My very clever daughter figured it out last year. “Is Santa real?” she asked. This is not a question that comes up unless your kid knows something is up. I decided to come clean.
“Well, he was real. The story goes that he was a wealthy man. One night as he walked through the streets at night, he noticed a window was open of a poor family with no money for the dowry for their many daughters. Santa took some coins and threw them in the window, and they landed in the wet socks hanging to dry at the fire place. The girls now had money to get married! He did things like that because he followed Jesus. But he died a long time ago.”
“But the magical guy…he’s not real?” she asked.
“No…but he sure is fun to pretend in. Adults like to pretend he is real because he is so much fun, and we don’t want to ruin that for them. There aren’t many times adults get to use their imagination like that.”
She loved that answer. It made sense. Mostly because it is true, I think.
This year she asked an interesting question, “Mom, can I be Santa this year?”
I told her yes. I know it is unorthodox, but she is super excited to pick out toothbrushes and underwear for everyone. She already has been researching everyone’s favorite candy. I can’t help but notice she seems more excited about “Santa” this year that she ever has been before.
I don’t know if I am doing the right thing. Often we don’t as parents. I do know that I am proud to have a daughter who still likes to pretend and allows others to pretend as well, who knows that Santa was a Christian, and who wants to give like he did. Maybe that is enough.