This was first posted in December of 2003.
As Christians, Jane and I are a tad ambivalent about the whole Santa Claus thing. It’s not that we’re afraid that our kids will confuse Santa Claus with Jesus Christ—not in the short run, anyway. It’s just that we don’t want our kids to class Jesus Christ with Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy in the long run.
At the same time, Santa Claus is a Christmas tradition of long standing. I got to sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what I wanted for Christmas, and I always got a present or two marked “From: Santa”, and I’m sure Jane did also. If my mom was at all ambivalent about the whole thing she didn’t show it; the only concession to logic was her admission that the folks in Santa Claus suits that I saw ringing bells and sitting in department stores were “Santa’s helpers.” That made sense to me; after all, Santa was at the North Pole making toys, he didn’t have time to race all over town ringing bells.
So for the last few years we’ve been walking a careful line. On the one hand, we’ve not gone out of our way to tell the kids about Santa Claus and the chimney; on the other hand, we’ve not tried to tell our kids that Santa isn’t real, either. We’ve let them come to their own conclusions.Some people teach their kids about God this way.
Last night, we visited a neighborhood in Torrance that’s famous for its display of Christmas lights. It was spectacular. And in front of one house was, yea verily, a real live Santa Claus sitting on a big red throne. He was doing the whole Santa thing. Kids would tell him their special desires, their parents would snap a picture, and then he’d give them a little candy cane.
David, who is six, likes to work all the angles. He’d recently announced that he didn’t believe in Santa Claus; still, he was up there with the other kids, and was happy to rattle off his entire Christmas list.
James, on the other hand, streetlights shining down on his reddish-blond hair and his blue eyes and his freckles, walked up to Santa Claus and said, in his most serious voice, “You’re fake.”
I should add that there was nothing accusatory about James’ delivery; he was simply pointing out a fact that the man might have overlooked and would probably want to know.
The man recovered well; after a few speechless moments, he allowed as how he was one of Santa’s helpers. James was not particularly impressed by this, and didn’t tell the guy what he wanted for Christmas, but he accepted a candy cane anyway.