I grew up believing in Santa. There are many photos of me through the years sitting with my older sister and a variety of jolly old men with long white beards wearing red velvet suits. Though clearly terrified in one or two of these photos, the rest prove I managed to reconcile myself to believing in the man with the magical sack of toys and his amazing flying reindeer.
Fast forward to a summer vacation in which we visited some extended family members. I remember where I was sitting in my cousin's house the day he informed me that Santa wasn't real. The image of that moment in time is burned in my memory, as what I had been told as truth suddenly wasn't true anymore, and I wondered what else in life was a lie as a result.
When I had kids of my own, I decided early on that I didn't want to deceive them into thinking there really was a magical man who would bring them whatever they asked for.
Our kids have never believed in Santa, but my husband, Craig, and I haven't promoted an anti-Santa protest, either. We taught the girls from the beginning that he (the Santa of our current culture) is a made-up character that began from a kernel of truth about one generous man.
The position we've taken hasn't been the most popular in our social circles. We are usually viewed either as Scrooges for not embracing the Santa culture or as borderline pagan for even giving Santa some face time through decorations in our home. It never occurred to me that a third way of doing things could actually be a redemptive one.
In his article "What We Tell Our Kids About Santa" for The Washington Post, pastor Mark Driscoll writes:
"'Tis the season . . . for parents to decide if they will tell the truth about Santa. When it comes to cultural issues like Santa, Christians have three options: (1) we can reject it, (2) we can receive it, or (3) we can redeem it."
Driscoll goes on to explain the three views and why he and his wife have chosen the third way and what that looks like in his family. His primary concern relates to the issue of lying to our children. He elaborates:
"We teach [our children] that they can always trust us because we will tell them the truth and not lie to them. Conversely, we ask that they be honest with us and never lie. Since we also teach our children that Jesus is a real person who did perform real miracles, our fear is that if we teach them fanciful, make-believe stories as truth, it could erode confidence in our truthfulness where it really matters. So, we distinguish between lies, secrets, surprises, and pretend for our kids. We ask them not to tell lies or keep secrets, but do teach them that some surprises (like gift-giving) and pretending (like dressing up) can be fun and should be encouraged. We tell them the truth and encourage them to have fun watching Christmas shows on television and even sitting on Santa's lap for a holiday photo if they so desire."
This issue has been our primary one as well and I think Driscoll makes a great case for truth-telling with our kids. The entire article is worth a read through if you have the time.
So this Christmas, if one of my kids spills the beans to one of yours, my humble apologies. They may just be trying to redeem the culture of Santa as their parents are.