Is the Santa Claus Story Ok for Christians?

Part of enjoying the holiday season and Christmas is the lead up and anticipation of the day, for when the day comes, you kind of begin to realise the season is coming to an end.

But I love the lights, the trees, the smells, the goodies, the giving and receiving of gifts, the cold, the snow (if it comes), the Christmas movies, the time with friends and family, the delicious and usually huge meals, and so much more. So, yeah, I love Christmas!

And, of course, even more, this is the day the church celebrates the coming of Christ into our world. I don’t see it as a little add-on to Christmas. But I also don’t mind if people celebrate Christmas for all the other great things I mentioned above, things that I also believe bring joy to the heart of God.

Still, one thing that many Christians can struggle with is the idea of Santa Claus (or Father Christmas for Brits) and whether or not we should tell our children about him, as if he is a real person. It is interesting to note that the story of Santa Claus is based upon the real historical figure within the church known as Saint Nicholas. But, of course, most are not aware of the man, Nikolaos the Wonderworker, who was bishop of Myra.

Still, what of the modern day Santa Claus? Isn’t he and the whole Christmas gig too heavily wrapped up in western consumerism? Should Christians celebrate those aspects of Christmas and tell their kids about Santa Claus? Isn’t this lying?

Well, I would start off by agreeing that the tidal wave of consumerism that has hit the west in the past few decades (represented by such events as ‘Black Friday’) has gone way overboard. In many respects, this time of season has become a marriage of gluttony and greed.

But I personally do not have a problem with celebrating Christmas nor of telling the story of Santa Claus, even if one doesn’t add in some of the accounts about Saint Nikolaos the Wonderworker (though I can hear some Christians casting dark shadows on some of the stories of Saint Nikolaos as well).

Why does it not bother me?

Simply stated, I believe God takes great delight in the amazing opportunity of drawing children into magical tales of ‘otherworldy’ accounts. Those stories that begin with, ‘Once upon a time….,’ are the stories that capture our hearts. And, so, there truly is something magical about the whole setting of Santa Claus and Christmas. Or I would say that there should be. If you don’t think so, watch The Polar Express. Absolutely fantastically magical!

This is why you had someone like C.S. Lewis writing the stories of The Chronicles of Narnia (and others). None of it is real. But in these we find remarkably enchanting tales that speak of something greater, somehow giving us a taste of another world. Now, people might be quick to argue that the spiritual overtones are quite obvious in The Chronicles of Narnia. But, with Santa Claus, we have crossed the line.

Yet, for the average person who has never read the Bible, I don’t think things are so obvious in some of Lewis’ works. But here is a series that has captivated the hearts of millions, teaching them something of the eternal (and magical) drama taking place if only the curtain were to part and unveil more clearly this eternal reality.

So, just as in The Chronicles of Narnia, all magical tales can carry a sense of divine undertones, drawing people in to the greater redemptive story of God. This is true in works like The Lord of the Rings and even in non-Christians fantasy fiction and science fiction books. God is quite capable of such, even if an author had no such intentions.

You see, I find no harm in letting children be drawn in to the marvellous stories available to us. Let it be The Lion King or Aladdin or whatever other story (in book or film). But they captivate children (and hopefully us). And I think God meant it that way. In that amazement, I believe children are getting a touch of their creative Father and the age to come that will be beyond anything we could think or imagine. John’s Revelation was simply imagery to explain what is to come. Not the exact, detailed and complete picture.

And so, with good ol’ Saint Nick, or Santa Claus, here is a character who stands as a magical draw into something more than we see here in this world, something special and otherworldly. We don’t have to be afraid of such. Rather we allow children, and even ourselves, to be captured by such a character and story, revelling in the fact that this calls us into the greatest story and character of all time.

So, what do I think of the story of Santa Claus? I think it beautiful, magical, amazing. And I don’t mind if my children see it this way as well.

8 thoughts on “Is the Santa Claus Story Ok for Christians?

  1. I partially agree with you here. I think the question isn’t whether or not Santa is ok, but rather how we sell Santa to our kids. Most parents don’t sell Santa as a fairy tale, but as a very real person with God-like characteristics (i.e. omniscience). In my opinion that is not good practice. Fairy tale good! Omniscient elf, bad!

    • Eric, those are some good points.

      Yes, omniscient like Aslan. Aslan is not real, but is attributed God-like characteristics. Somehow I think we let Lewis off the hook well more than we do for others, simply because it is directly known that he was a Christian. I don’t think Lewis has done anything wrong. But I think we can be a bit inconsistent at times.

      In most fairy tales, we are not told they are not real. If we read The Hobbit, it is presented as very real, especially the way Tolkein narrates. Some of the parables of Scripture are not explicitly said to be not real.

      For me, I don’t think we should lie to our children. But stories are stories to draw us in, to give us that sense of something bigger than ourselves. I know the details about Santa will be worked out differently in each home, and I am very happy with this. But I do feel that, just because someone doesn’t say, “Santa is a fairy tale,” this does not directly put them in the wrong.

      Just some things to ponder.

  2. I was not permitted to read fairy tales as a child because they present inappropriate images of women and their role. Now that I am a Christian, I in general do not find them edifying for any other reason either. If I had children, I would as far as possible not allow fairy tales to be part of their lives. The place they normally occupy is one that I believe should only be occupied by God’s Word.

    Today’s Santa Claus is a great example of this. He has nothing in common with the real St Nicholas. In teaching our children about Santa Claus, we have a truth problem. And I think part and parcel of that problem is that we are attributing to some human figure things that should be attributed only to God. So we also have an idolatry problem.

    And quite frankly, it can result in children falling away from the faith when they find out that this person they have believed in as a real person does not exist (at least not as he has been presented). And if that is true, then why should they believe anything their parents have told them about God or Jesus Christ. Many children conclude that the answer to that question is that they should not believe.

    I admit that the above sounds negative. But I would view it is necessary to abstain from fairy tales and in particular from Santa Claus precisely for the sake of maintaining a positive testimony about the preeminence of God and His grace. So I would say that there is only one word to be said about Christians and Santa Claus: NO. The word YES needs to be said to God and His character and attributes and Word.

  3. Again you have put into words what I have been moving toward the past two years or so. When our kids were young my wife and I opted to NOT tell them of Santa Claus, except to point him out as a fictional character. We never fed into the mythos, and stuck with the “proper” Christmas story. We talked about how we would be lying to them and how they would feel about us after they found out it wasn’t true. (Odd, however, that we propagated the story of the tooth fairy for a number of years. Pretty hypocritical, I suppose).

    However, in recent years, I have grown to see the work of Christ and the hand of God in so much “secular” media, that I think if I had it to do over (our youngest is turning 10 next month), I may have been a bit more lenient with myself in regards to Santa.

    We tend to forget that all “make believe” stories are based on themes that we have embedded in our hearts. We instinctively know that self-sacrifice (even unto death), unconditional love, forgiveness, redemption, mercy, compassion, generosity and a constant vigilance against evil in general are all good things, so we desire to see these thing played out for us just as much as we wish to see them in our own lives. They are found in SO many secular works of fiction, from Star Wars to Les Miserabes. Even works not specifically written with any “spiritual” leanings in mind still contain these themes.

    So over the past couple years I have decided to look for the good (God) in ALL media, while discarding as worthless those things which do not echo those themes. It’s amazing where and how often you can find them. We now share these with our kids as reinforcement of the values that God desires for us. It shows them that even people who are “lost” are still looking for the things that really only God can supply for us.

    You can choose to look at and lament all the bad things we find in media, OR you can help “redeem all things to Christ” by bringing out the good. I think there are good and bad things in the Santa legend. I think we should accentuate the good, ignore the bad, and let kids experience wonder and magic. Let them look for the miracles in life, even the “fake” ones that we as parents generate for them with the Santa story. If we teach them to look for the good, they will learn how navigate this world safely and relate to even the most difficult people in life, while enabling them to show others that all good things ultimately come from the “Father of lights.”

      • Maybe I should have defined that. What I mean by that is the following:

        Let’s say your kid wants a certain item for Christmas. You let them write a letter to Santa telling Him what they want. Of course, you intercept said letter and determine that the item is appropriate and get it for them, but label the gift as being from Santa. Viola! “Miracle”. Santa got my letter and I got what I wanted. Is it REALLY a miracle. No, but it fills them with the sense that miracles DO happen.

        Now, years from now you will eventually tell them it was you that got the gifts but not to deceive them but to show them that God sometimes gives us the desires of our heart when we ask Him, but He doesn’t give it to us DIRECTLY, he uses OTHER people around us to do His work.

        There are so many stories of this very thing in real life. For instance, someone that felt compelled to buy an extra bag of groceries when they were shopping and leave it at someone’s doorstep, only to find out later that that person was desperate for food and asking God for help. Did GOD answer them? Yes. Did HE leave the groceries? No. But He USED someone to fulfill the request. Miracle? YES! Because God was in it.

        So, even a “fake” miracle can be used to teach a valuable lesson about how God uses us to do His will, if we listen to His prompting.

        Not to mention the fact that the look of joy and wonder on a child’s face when he receives such a gift is a gift in and of itself. Again, look for the GOOD!

  4. Sorry to double-post, but I had another thought about this.

    I think there are two ways to go through life and view “the world”.

    We can choose to see “the world” (secular things) as “bad”, and the things of God as “good”, and draw tight and defined lines around each of those boxes. We can then forbid our children to partake in anything that we have put into the bad box while attempting to immerse then in all the things we feel are in the good camp. We are protecting them from influences that may cause them to doubt the truth of the Bible and are keeping them on “the straight and narrow”.

    But what happens as they slowly move away from our influence and control? They don’t know exactly all that is IN the bad box (because you’ve protected them from it) or WHY it was labeled bad. They just know it is forbidden. Well, forbidden things become very tempting. Maybe they will want to see for themselves what was so bad about it. They may find things they enjoy (even noble things) that have been labeled “bad”. If THOSE things are not so bad, maybe there are LOTS of things that have been in the box that shouldn’t be. And conversely, what makes the “good” things good? Some of those things may seem hard or boring or constrictive. They may not SEEM good anymore when you are a teen or young adult.

    Now they will begin to make their OWN boxes of “good” and “bad” and those boxes will likely not contain the same things as the ones you made for them. Plus, what DEFINES what box they put something into? God? Well, they can’t ASK Him. You? You have your opinions and they will have there’s. The church? Well, which one? Denomination? They all have different opinions, too. The Bible? Also open to interpretation and there is such disagreement about which things “apply” to us and which don’t, you could ask 20 Christians and get 20 different answers.

    OR, instead of “good” or “bad” we use the words “valuable” and “worthless”. We allow our children to experience “the world”, but we are their with them to engage with them, and share with them why certain things are valuable — showing us the truths about God and Christ and our need for Him in our lives — or worthless — only showing us the fickleness of “fun”, and the despair, pain and directionlessness that comes from NOT having God as the center of your life.

    Instead of simply forbidding kids from being CONSUMERS of media, teach them to be INTERPRETERS of it. Show them how to find the truth within the lies. When you focus on looking for evil, your will find plenty, and become obsessed with it. If you instead look for the VALUABLE, you will see the worthlessness of those things that are NOT valuable, but they won’t be tempting, because you will be happy with what you have found, because that is your focus.

    Even inherently “bad” media can be used to teach. I watch the NBC show Parenthood regularly and sometimes my 16yo will watch it with me. We don’t watch it to emulate or pull any values from it, but because it is such a clear picture of how directionless and confused typical people without God in their lives are. They constantly make poor choices and have no idea how to do the right thing, even when they want to. They are always afraid, driven by emotions and searching everywhere for answers they can’t find for themselves or their kids. So, first of all, my daughter and I thank God for the direction and stability that He give us. And, secondly, we sympathize with those without Him and it makes us want to love on them and show them the way to true joy and peace in life. For US, it is affirmation and heart-softening.

    But if you look at this show on the surface, it is SO bad. It shows premarital sex, unruly children, drug use, disrespect for parents, adultery, etc., etc. Terrible stuff, right? Yes, but that is REALITY. If you don’t teach your kids how to view that kind of lifestyle through the eyes of Jesus, how will they relate to those people who are lost around them? If they are stuck in their “Christian” bubble, they will not know how to handle outside influences or things that challenge their lifestyle and their moral compass will begin to swing widely.

    So, teaching “good” and “bad” seems great on the surface, but recall that the “knowledge of good and evil” is what got Adam and Eve into trouble in the first place. Knowing what is right and wrong will not be enough in the long run. It takes a deeper approach to life — a centering of God into your life, so that things are not just black and white, but that with each thing that comes our way, we are able to discern it’s value, and how it relates to the truth of our relationship with God.

  5. We are in the Last days…the TV is secular thoughts of corrupted souls. Don’t be deceived. Nothing good from it…it is the world..flesh..demonic luring and appearing as Truth.

    What you are gazing upon are reprobate stories … lies..mythology…fables. There is nothing pure…peaceable…holy coming from TVland. Christmas is an example of corrupt man’s thoughts.

    This is the LAST HOUR…look up…not to the world of fables on TV. Don’t be captivated by seducing TV dramas meant to draw you into their fairytale good guys never die…Santa lives forever mythology.

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