In Defense of a Santa-y Christmas

There’s been a lot of talk about Santa and Christmas here at What She Said, and I want to chime in with a semi-outsider’s point of view.  Confession: when I see Christians discussing how to interact with culture and raise children in the midst of it, I often find myself saying, “Thank You God for not making me a Christian until I grew up!” Because even now, as a believer, it seems to me that Christian Culture takes strange stands against things God just might be using, robbing life of joy and making our faith look kind of well…terrible.  I believe God can use Santa to help us understand Him. Here’s why:

In my family growing up, our Christmas celebrations were pretty secular.  And they were WONDERFUL.  My mom is a genius at Christmas: each year she turned our normal little house into a place where magic could happen, setting the stage for possibilities.  There were special decorations, cookies with sprinkles, and yes…presents.  A few under the tree in the days leading up to Christmas Eve, and then on Christmas morning, HEAPS of festively wrapped packages, more than I could have asked for or imagined.  (Biblical reference intentional)

I don’t know when I realized the truth about Santa.  We didn’t have a fireplace, but rather a woodstove with a door that latched tightly from the outside. I do remember thinking at one point, “I don’t like Santa’s chances here…”  But I’m comfortable with mystery (a skill that serves me well as a Christian) and so I decided that Santa must know about our home heating choices and have an alternative plan.

We were not wealthy, and our presents were not the “must have” toys of the moment. But they were “must haves” for us, because Mom and Dad put a lot of thought into how to spend their Christmas budget.  The presents were perfect because they were personal, not just piles of stuff. And each gift, whether it was a stocking stuffer of Chapstick, a sweater I’d admired months ago, or a new toy, was tagged with a special little note or sticker, personalized by Mom, acting as Santa’s scribe. Each year, we experienced something truly special—magical, personal—that happened to us, in our house. In a way, these Christmases taught me to believe.

Now admittedly, my Mom loves Christmas, and so all of this was fun for her rather than a chore.  It might not be everyone’s thing.  But to Christian parents, I ask: might Christmas—the secular, Santa version, filled with presents—be a chance to teach your kids about exceeded expectations, possibility, and celebration? And how God loves and knows us personally? It takes a lifetime to understand what Jesus’ life and death and life mean.  It’s not the worst idea to start kids off with the best part, and work in the rest of the story from there.

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