Santa Truthers

If you’re teaching your kids about Santa, you’re afraid that your children will meet one of those kids in school or on the playground.  You know the kind… the ones who purposefully burst the holiday bubble by telling everyone Santa is a conspiracy theory at worst or a myth at best?

On the flip side, if you’re not raising kids who believe in the big fat man with the red suit, you fear your kids will be the one to ruin it for the rest of the class.

How should we — as parents — deal with “Santa Truthers?”  We asked some friends, and this is what they said:

Nancy French responded:

I’ve taught my kids that it’s wrong for them to ruin the fun of the rest of their Santa-believing classmates, but maybe parents should use the opportunity to come clean.  If their child comes home with questions about Santa’s legitimacy, perhaps it’s God’s way of saying, “Here’s another chance.  Why not teach them about that manger scene.   You know, the whole God-made-flesh, Immanuel, God-is-with-us theme that used to be more prevalent during the holiday than little elves-on-shelves and other strange deceptions.”  Parents should realize that the so called “magic” of the season is not due to the cookies left on the plate that mysteriously have a bite taken out of them in the morning.  Rather, they should really seriously think about the underlying meaning of the season, and not agonize over their kids’ realization of the truth.  Instead, look at it as an opportunity to really talk to their kids about the meaning of Christmas.  (But it’s okay if you don’t feel like invite the know-it-all “Santa Truther” to your Christmas party!)

Tara responded:

We don’t do Santa Claus in our house.  Our family doesn’t give gifts on Christmas, so it would be tough to make him seem like a swell fella.  We’ve explained that lots of families have fun pretending that Santa is real, and that it would be mean to ruin the fun for them.  Still, I live in fear each December and January that my secret-spoiling children will blurt out the cold, hard truth.

Zach has almost blown it a few times, but I’ve been able to jump in, shoot him the evil eye, and make it all go away.  Ezra is less of a problem; because Ezra believes in Santa Claus.

He doesn’t get presents.  We’ve told him that Santa’s not real.  But he’s a true believer, none-the-less.

He talks about Santa, dreams aloud of all of the gifts Santa is going bring, and delights in the gifts that the big guy brings others.  Over the years, as he has become a bit zealous about Jesus, he is less into Santa.  But Ezra definitely has what Christians call “the gift of faith.” He loves a good story, and he wants a story big enough to live in.  Maybe we all want that.

While we don’t give gifts to each other, we do actually buy gifts. We buy gifts “for Jesus” with the boys’ sharing money (1/3 of their allowance).  This year, they decided to donate some of their money to the Salvation Army near our house, and they will contribute to the offering their Sunday School class is taking up to buy sheep for a family in a developing country through Heifer project.

Our church buys gifts for boys and girls whose parents are incarcerated. Working with an organization called Prison Fellowship to host an “Angel Tree,” we talk to the parent who is still home and find out what the kids want and need.  This year, the boys and Jeff will again deliver gifts to Angel Tree families as part of the service that they do once or twice a month for homeschool.

When I asked how it went last year, they both said, “Cool!”

It’s always hard for me to process that kind of reaction.  Is it cool that my boys have a fun service experience at the expense of some child’s very painful reality? Okay, expense is not the right word, but I am always working out how to do this well.

We do it in spite of my concerns because Jesus said, “What you do for the least of these, you do for me.”

And while I often respond, “Well, Savior of the World, why don’t you do something to eliminate the problem of having so many people with so little,” sometimes I just settle in and give him the gift he asked for.

Because like my son, I just love the story.

David French responded:

I didn’t want to tell my kids about Santa… because when it comes to Christmas, the truth is better than the fiction.

What do you think, readers?  How do you respond to “Santa Truthers” in your school or community? What do you teach your kids?

About Nancy French

Nancy French is a three time New York Times Best Selling Author.

  • Christa

    I am a Christian and we do the whole Santa Claus thing at our house. I became a Christian as an adult when my boys were 7 and 1. I’ve never given any serious thought to kicking Santa out and in fact I’ve been dodging my now 10 year old’s probing questions. I don’t have any real desire to end the fun of Santa’s story in our household, but even if I did the implications from family and friends would change my mind. They are already suspcicious that church-attending and Sunday school teaching are sure signs that we are completely different people. If we stopped celebrating Christmas in the traditionally American way with Santa and a tree and gifts, they would freak out. I’m still trying to find ways to explain my faith to my non-believing friends and family. Doing something like this would make that harder, not easier. So, for us we read good children’s books that make the story of Jesus’ birth understandable and convey the true source of the magic of the season and we leave cookies out for Santa.

    • Denise Dampierre

      Dear Christa,

      I live in France where we talk very little about Jesus and a lot about Santa. The fact is that many people who only have Santa for Christmas hate the holiday. I didn’t believe it when I first heard it…but then I listened to them talk about what they would offer to someone who has everything or is already so spoiled…and how they hoped they would not receive these horrendous gifts for which they would be forced to smile.

      I don’t necessarily directly confront Santa, but there are ways to invite your family and friends to consider the benefits of Santa. You might have a few questions ready: what’s the best thing about Christmas? What’s the worst? What could make the best even better? What could reduce the bad of the worst?

      The answers will point to Jesus.

      For you, Christa, this holiday, I wish you the gift of even more confidence in Christ. You might already have a ton, but since God is infinite, there’s always more to get! As I have trusted Christ more and more I have learned that it’s OK to be a chic Parisian who does do things differently from the crowd. People do think I’m weird. Jesus was totally weird in his day. But in the eternal perspective, it’s the folks who judge us that are really lacking in normalcy. Our difference out of love for Christ (now it does not have to be an anti-Santa campaign but it could be you not mentioning his name–the kids will say it enough–and you not bringing in his picture–on the advent calendar!!) can be remarked without being offensive.

      Merry Christmas…Ho Ho HO!

  • Lori

    I grew up having Santa. My mom in to my 20′s said, “If you don’t believe, you don’t receive”. She collects and displays Santa year round. I gave my life to Christ at 27. God has slowly worked on my heart to glorify Him in how we celebrate and approach all of life. I explained what we were doing this year. Everyone is different and has varying family traditions. She was a little hurt, but respects how we are raising our children. My boys are 2 and 6 months this year and we have found so many great ways to have fun through out December learning about Jesus birth. We are going to throw a big birthday party for Jesus on December 25th. I agree the ‘magic ‘ of Christmas is that God came in flesh as a baby to die for our sins. That truth is better than any hiding elf or man in a red suit. Saint Nicholas, btw was a Christian and I don’t think would ever want to over shadow the truth.

    • Nancy French

      Interesting, Lori! I’m thankful for your parents not trying to force the issue.

  • Jean Yih Kingston

    Justin Bieber’s mom told him there was no Santa and he doesn’t seem to have any regrets about it….

    • Tara Edelschick

      Jean, I was super-psyched to read all about JB and then the link doesn’t work. Rats.

      • KAPOW1998
        • Jean Yih Kingston

          Thanks KAPOW1998!!

          • Nancy French

            Wow — that is interesting!

            Jean, I forgot how you dealt with it with your kids?

      • Jean

        Along with celebrating the birth of Jesus, we do the whole Santa thing and last year we even brought in the Elf on the Shelf (as if I needed just another thing to add to the mix)!! I think this year may be our last Santa year because our nine year old still wants to believe, but I think he’s having his doubts. I have to say I’m sad – mostly because it means my kids are really really growing up. I grew up in a Chinese immigrant home where there was no Santa AND no big Christmas celebration of Jesus’ birth (I’ve said recently – my childhood felt like Advent all the time and never Christmas), so I like to do it all big – lots of decorations, good food and desserts, presents and hopefully lots of wonder and delight which I pray will translate into something good in their relationships with God.

  • Nancy

    I seriously do not understand Christians who feel compelled to take Santa out of Christmas. The implication is that if we do Santa, we obviously do not do the birth of Christ don’t tell our kids what Christmas is all about. It’s insulting.

    We did Santa, and we did church and the Christmas pageant and the meaning of Christmas and Advent and all that goes with it. My children understood what Christmas was/is all about, and at the same time had some fun.

    What’s wrong with a little fun? I don’t think being a Christian means we have to take the fun out of everything.

    • Tara Edelschick

      It’s true, Nancy. Sometimes we Christians can kill a good time for no good reason. But I’m not sure that taking Santa out of Christmas necessarily means that Christmas won’t be fun.

      I think New Year’s Eve is fun. So are my birthday, Thanksgiving, and having sex with my husband. And Santa isn’t part of any of those.

      Just sayin’.

    • KAPOW1998

      Nancy – I think we mostly agree, to a point. I think Santa is a fun thing. I see no harm in celebrating Christmas in the American way (tree, gifts, Santa) and also ensuring we highlight that the reason for Christmas is Jesus. I think where it gets a bit concerning (to me) is when the kids get older and start questioning the truth of the Santa and the parents begin to very deliberately perpetuate the myth. At some point, if the child asks for the truth and a parent directly denies it, I wonder if it does damage to the parent/child relationship when the truth is known later. And frankly, I think it can do damage to the child’s relationship with Jesus. I can easily see how a child, when the truth is finally revealed, would then move on to question whether Jesus is real, too – after all, he’s also wonderful, generous, kind – and just as invisible as Santa. Why should a kid believe us about the truth of Jesus if we lied to them about someone so meaningful as Santa? I guess, as a Christian, that’s what makes me nervous about Santa. So – in my very humble opinion – Santa, sure – lying to keep the myth going, not so much.

      And, just to add – my kids have been SWORN to secrecy on the Santa story. They CANNOT, on pain on death, tell another child that Santa is not real. That is up to the parents to reveal.

      • Nancy French

        I agree, KAPOW, it does get a little ridiculous when you go to such efforts to perpetuate a myth…

      • cypher20

        I will have to second Kapow as well. Our daughter is less then a year old, so we’re not dealing with it this year. We don’t plan on doing Santa with her, though I will tell her that others are playing a game and to just leave them be. I know we’ll have plenty of fun, my family was never really into Santa and my wife had a traumatic Christmas when she realized Santa wasn’t real. Now if someone invites “Santa” to a Christmas party, I’m not going to avoid the party or anything like that. Finally, have to agree that lying to perpetuate the myth is too much.

  • witness1911

    Totally agree with most of the sentiments expressed here RE: making JESUS the reason for the season, not some man in a red suit spreading pagan beliefs. This is also why our children don’t celebrate birthdays or wear synthetic fibers. With our hearts focused on the LORD, this time of year is much less stressful. Frankly we had a much longer and more difficult conversation about why dancing is sinful.

  • Mary Eileen Keane

    We have a 25 year old intellectually disabled “child” who still believes in Santa and we tell him the hagiographic story of Saint Nicholas to explain who Santa really is. We tell him that Saint Nicholas was a Roman Catholic bishop who felt sorry for a man and gave him his entire fortune. We tell him that Santa works for Jesus, as do all good priests. That Jesus is the most wonderful gift the world ever got and Santa (which is Spanish for saint) gives us all gifts on Jesus’ birthday because it’s a birthday party and we remember Jesus on his special day that way. Before anyone opens anything, we sing Happy Birthday we set a place for the birthday boy at the table, and at the end of our Christmas meal we have a birthday cake. We tell him that Santa looks different all over the world and wears alot of different outfits and if the bishop is celebrating mass that day, we tell him that that is what Saint Nicholas really wears. And that’s how we do it.

    • Tara Edelschick

      Love it!

  • Jeannine

    Gee, such a big issue this is! I grew up in a “Santa” family, and so did my husband. When we were old enough to figure out that Santa was a fantasy, we were not traumatized. The same went for our own children. My siblings and I all grew up to be practicing Catholics as adults, and my husband is a Catholic convert; I mention this because not one of us has a problem with understanding the real meaning of Christmas! The Santa tradition is fun; it arose from a society far more Christian than our society is now; a legend or story is not a lie.

    • Margaret

      But when a child is told to believe in something that is not true, that’s a lie. It just is.

      Stories and legends are wonderful, as long as they are presented as such. When a parent encourages a child to believe in Santa as a real person, the parent is lying to the child. Not everyone is traumatized or becomes distrusting of his parents when the lie is revealed, of course. From my own experience, I see that most people get over it without damage to their family relationships or psyches. Some don’t. And some parents (like me) just don’t want to set the precedent of lying to their children.

      Christmas can be plenty fun without believing in Santa. We haven’t banned Santa from our house – when the kids were little we still read about him, we put Santa ornaments on the tree, etc. But he was and still is a character in a story.

  • Rebecca Cusey

    I’ll just throw this out there…I’m so uninterested in the question of whether or not to “do” Santa. The question itself seems trivial to me. Some do, some don’t. Let’s have eggnog.

    Not to put down the excellent discussion on this page, but I can’t be the only one who responds to the whole controversy with a yawn.

    Now if someone could plan my Christmas dinner, buy the last gifts, write my final end of the year articles, and pack my family for travels, we’d have something there! Santa?

  • Ashley

    We talk to our girls about how Santa is just a fun thing to pretend, but we like to focus more on Jesus. I grew up doing Santa, so I have definitely seen it done in a way that wasn’t over the top. My parents totally focused on Jesus. We prayed and read the story of Jesus before we even opened presents. My husband, however, didn’t grow up doing Santa and feels really strongly about it. It was hard for me to give up some traditions at first, but the Lord has changed my heart. I want our kiddos to know that we have always spoken truth to them. I want them to focus on Jesus and to know that the whole reason we do presents is because of the gift we were given in Jesus. What I DIDN’T WANT is for my kid to be THAT KID. The holier than though kid that says, “Well, we don’t do that!” I wanted them to know the truth, but not have an attitude about it. It’s not like Santa is some evil thing that should be avoided at all costs. It’s just something that people pretend and that we choose not to, so we can focus more on Jesus. We told her that if one of her friends is talking about it, that she isn’t to say anything because it’s up to their parents to decide what they want to do in their family. We still do presents (not overboard though) and still do stockings, but instead of thanking Santa, we make sure to thank the One truly responsible for any blessing we’ve been given. We also try to focus a lot on what we can give to others and how we can serve others. We do that all year, but especially focus on it in December, as those are the gifts that we like to give Jesus.

  • Susanna

    Rebecca, I agree. I was on an online board where adults were comparing their experiences with Santa. The upshot was that some were told that Santa wasn’t real, and they appreciated the honesty of knowing this. Others were told that Santa wasn’t real, and they felt cheated out of a fun childhood tradition. Some were told Santa was real and resented their parents perpetuating this falsehood. Others were told Santa was real and enjoyed the myth with no long term confusion or harm. Perhaps it was all in how the parents approached it as much as the personalities of the individuals, but there’s clearly no one right way to handle this. It seems that each family should do what is right for their family situation and not worry about what others are doing.
    We do play along with Santa but always tell our kids Santa is just for fun. They want to believe. When they ask if he’s real, I just ask them back, “What do you think?” In time, the truth will come out, but I see no harm in letting them enjoy this childhood magic as I did when I was young. (And I’ve never confused the fun of Santa with the reality of God. Never.)
    To me, arguing over what is better is like the arguments people get into on whether being a stay-at-home mom or a working mom is better. What is better for some is not for others and getting into arguments of absolutes is pointless. No one will convince everyone else that her way is best. While it’s great to share what works for you (which might give others ideas on how to approach this), that doesn’t mean it’s going to work well for everyone. That’s why I like hearing what people are doing (as they’re sharing here) but don’t like hearing people telling others they are wrong (as I’ve seen on other boards).
    If some child should “spill the beans,” I can only hope it’s in a way that doesn’t hurt my children’s feelings. I can handle the discussion of the truth of Santa, but I have a difficult time when another child is being mean or a bully for any reason.
    Merry Christmas however you celebrate!

  • Kathleen

    I have never understood how parents can insist on lying to their children about Santa. My girls were taught about St. Nicholas and the beginnings of the Santa story. I never told them the gifts came from Santa, they got gifts from mom and dad because we love them. They assure me they never felt robbed or wronged by this approach and our family loves Christmas and all the trappings. No need to make an issue of it, just tell the truth! As for my kids letting the truth slip? If they had I would have seen no reason to be concerned or sorry. Should we ever, ever scold a child for telling the truth? Of course not!

    • Mandy W

      Just a question… If a child tells another person she is fat would you reprimand her? It’s the truth, but it is rude. Let kids figure it out on their own and with their parents. A child letting it slip and a child purposefully telling other kids is very different.