Should We Tell Our Children Stories of Imaginary Figures?

I recently saw a social media post where someone said, “We don’t do Santa. We don’t want to lie to our kids about an imaginary old man.” As much as some find it disturbing to tell such “imaginary” stories, I find it just as worrying with (self-righteous?) statements of this nature.

When people say they don’t tell stories of imaginary figures, I want to ask them if they know of and tell the story of Saint Nicholas of Myra. My guess is that they probably don’t know much of Nicholas’s story and the great works done by him in the name of Christ. And I find this problematic when it comes to those protesting an “imaginary old man”.

What’s my point?

Many may say they won’t tell imaginary stories about imaginary figures, when, in all reality, they actually don’t stay true to their own stated conviction. We all regularly tell such stories to our children, whether by our own memory, reading those stories from books, or watching them on film. It’s what humanity has always done. Yet, what I find of most interest is that many protesters rarely know and tell the accounts of real people who lived in real history, like that of Saint Nicholas.

Do you see the hollowness of the declared “stand”? We don’t tell real stories of real characters, outside of perhaps someone in our own lifetime, but we perpetually tell imaginary stories of all types (sans St. Nick for these protesters).

But what if we can embrace both? It doesn’t have to be either/or but rather both/and.

Let us learn the story of Saint Nicholas and many others. Let us tell the story of Saint Nicholas and plenty others. Let us read (and watch) the host of imaginary stories that are available to us. Let us tell the abundance of imaginary stories we have been told ourselves.

Both draw us into the work and wonder of God. They do. Think of amazing people in the great works of fiction and inspiring characters within the annals of history.

Oh, and don’t stress about children wondering which are real and which are imaginary. They’ll figure it out one day, as they listen, learn, read, and grow. And you’ll guide them, I’m sure. Oh, and I’ve yet to find one say, “Well, if that story my parents told me is imaginary, then how do I know that Jesus story isn’t also imaginary?”

Tell the story of Christ. And tell all the other stories, real and fictional, as well.

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