Nothing makes me prouder to be a Christian during the Christmas season than the Santa Wars. One group decrying Santa and all that is associated with him; the other group eagerly pointing out the benefits of Santa for the religious cause. Each group burdening each other with blog posts, newspaper/magazine articles, scientific data, personal experiences/confessions and the like that either attest to or detract from embracing the myth of Santa. It’s beautiful, really; judgment and defensiveness whirling about like the snow in December. Ahhh…The weather outside is frightful…
I typically just stand back and watch the battle play out. It’s got an expiration date: 12/26. So, the Santa Wars are limited and last, typically, no longer than thanksgiving to Christmas.
So why get involved? I’m 8 years into this parenting/Christmas/Santa thing and I’m just getting around to saying something now? Why?
Because, I’m a slow thinker and I’ve finally gathered my thoughts about it. Also, because I’m tired of seeing Christian v. Christian over a mythical figure. Arguing never really gets us anywhere, but I do think there are other things that have more substance that might be a bit more worth our time to argue over (if you have to argue that is…)
So here are my thoughts…the things I’d like to say:
1. We don’t do the “Santa Thing”
I think it’s important to first reveal what “side” I’m on: we don’t do the Santa thing. Why? For one main reason:
I am the worst at lying.
Like: BAD. B.A.D. BADBADBAD I have this strict moral code (one I can’t seem to do away with) that drives me to tell the truth. Trust me, it’s not a “i’m-so-righteous” thing, I actually hate it. This is the “thing” that gets me into horrible conversations with people, because I just want them to have the full truth, and I spend time either spinning my wheels in the conversation or desperately trying to pull out of death spin. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten a little bit better about this conviction, but it requires me to say nothing at all and just nod. Case in point: I met someone recently who was explaining to me that since they were Messianic Jewish they were obviously Kosher. And my inner theologian was screaming at the top of her lungs: WHAT ABOUT JESUS APPEARING TO PETER?!?! But I just stood there: “Hm, mm…I see…”
So, you can see how the Santa tradition would be a hard one for me.
I’m also lazy. I don’t have the energy to even begin to perpetuate the myth and stand in lines to see him, and talk about him, and build the suspense.
The other influential decision is this: my husband and I decided that we just didn’t want to offer anything false around something that is true and is by far the hardest thing to wrap your mind around. An Arch Angel with a prophesy to a young, single woman? God being born? Almighty God now a vulnerable infant? There’s nothing “unmagical” about that story that we felt we needed to add other aspects. The story of the incarnation of Christ demands A LOT of trust; we just didn’t want to have to deal with: oh yeah, we lied about Santa, but NOT JESUS WE ARE TOTALLY SERIOUS ABOUT JESUS! So, early on we just decided we wouldn’t do Santa.
2. Both of our boys believed in Santa at one point or another
At some point, both boys, typically when they were in Kindergarten, came home and professed their belief in Santa. I loved it. They were pint-sized Santavangelists. Part of me–when I wasn’t panicking about how I was going to deal with their new found “faith” considering I’m a rotten liar–was impressed with them. They would come to the dinner table and explain why and how Santa was real. Oh really? We would say. Yes! They would reply, and they would go on and on. When I stepped back from the event and looked at what they were doing I some some really cool things: 1. they felt free to come to us and talk to us about their belief in Santa even though they knew we didn’t believe in like they did. 2. they were firm and held-fast to their beliefs. Zooming ahead 18 years, I saw two young men standing for their faith; I saw two young men feeling the freedom to talk about different ideas that they have from their parents; I saw a family discussing ideas and concepts, all of us having different twists and takes on those ideas and concepts; I saw a family interacting in the framework that is created by the freedom of the Gospel.
It was really cool.
3. I don’t think Santa is Evil
I think at this point you might be thinking that I look down on those (Christian) parents who do do Santa…Well I don’t. I don’t think Santa is evil nor are you “bad” for doing the Santa thing. I don’t think your child will be scarred when they find out that Santa isn’t real and that you’ve been playing along and so they wind up rejecting the Christian story; but I also don’t think that your child will have an easier go at believing the Christian story than mine. Case in point: both my brother and I were raised with Santa; I’m a Christian and he’s an Atheist–possibly the most “unspiritual” person I know. Faith has no correlation to potential receptivity of abstract myths; faith is a gift (period) From God (period) Received through the hearing of the proclamation of the gospel and not because one believed the Santa myth or because one’s parent’s never lied to them about Santa. The only thing we can do to help our children *toward* faith is to both (fervently) pray for them and keep telling them the old, old, good, good story.
4. So, HAVE FUN!
I think Christians forget that one of the hallmarks of the Christian life is joy. I don’t mean some sort of church mouse joy where we confuse contentment for joy. I mean JOY! FUN! LAUGHTER! The doctrine of the justification of sinners by faith alone ceases the every present desire to self-actualize (read: defend why I do or don’t do the Santa thing). We don’t have to spend (read: waste) time defending ourselves and our actions because our self is no longer tied up with our actions and is determined (actualized) in the declaration from Christ: forgiven, brother/sister. When we embrace the need to defend why we do or do not do Santa, we are looking for how our choices, our works justify us. (I’m doing the right thing, I’m making the right choice, so I’m good, right?) So, joy in life is a tangible manifestation of the working out (or the working in) of your justification by faith, of your *real* freedom.
So, if you do the Santa tradition, DO IT! You are free to have fun and enjoy the whole aspect that is the Santa Tradition. You are free to talk of the hooves on the roof that woke you from your slumber with your son the next morning. You are free to remember fondly waiting to sit with Santa at the mall, and enjoy when you see your daughter’s face light up as she, with the same awe and admiration you had at her age, slowly walks up to the jolly man, dressed all in red, who is waiting to hear her heart’s desires. When she looks back at you, enter in with her. And I dare someone (anyone?!!?) to give their kids coal addressed from Santa and then become the heroes of your own story as you unload present upon present on your children: good thing we love you unconditionally, just as Jesus loved us! I mean, seriously, this would be an amazing L/G moment for the whole family. Have memory building fun!
For those of us who don’t do the Santa Tradition, let us have fun, too! Have unrestrained, unlimited fun! It is the season for Joy. True and abounding joy: for Emmanuel has come and has ransomed captive Israel!