Throughout the years, I’ve heard many Christians say that allowing children to believe in Santa is wrong for various reasons. Some believe that children shouldn’t believe in a myth because that myth insinuates that the Nativity story is inadequate. Others believe that giving gifts at Christmastime promotes greed, that celebrating Santa means promoting materialism and a commercialized Christmas. You even have those that believe that Jolly Old Saint Nicholas is the Satan anagram. And can you really blame them for their reservations? Drive through any neighborhood and you’re guaranteed to be confronted by something festive lining the streets–Santa Claus in plastic light-up form, dancing reindeers, elfs and inflatable, but festive cartoon character, all of these things seemingly dimming the light of Christmas. So the question is raised. Should Christians celebrate Santa Claus? The answer is yes. And here’s why.
Contrary to this belief that Santa Claus is the “Satan anagram” among other negative things, Saint Nicholas was a saint. While many people know Santa Claus as the joyous, white-bearded figure, dressed in red and white who brings gifts to the homes of good children on the night before Christmas, many who celebrate Christmas, particularly a secular one, know little of the origin of the modern figure. The Real Saint Nicholas was a historical Greek bishop and gift-giver of Myra. He had a reputation for helping the poor and giving secret gifts to those in need, there is so much we can gain from his story. He promoted Christian values. He was recognized as a Saint because of his kindness. He was a defender of Christ, even to his death. This should be celebrated. If Christians embraced the spirit of the real St. Nicholas, instead of getting lost in the materialism of the season, they would see Christmas in a whole new way.
While the Santa Claus many have shared with their children is in fact a myth, his story points to many truths that we can all learn from. Yes, the Nativity Story should never get lost in the commotion of Christmastime. At this time, we commemorate the birth of our Lord and Savior. But Saint Nicholas’ story shouldn’t get lost either. Just because we teach our children about Santa Claus doesn’t mean it has to conflict with the teachings or celebration of Christ. Perhaps the problem isn’t Santa or the myth. Maybe it’s the way we allow retailers and advertisers to seize Santa, for their own purposes. The truth is the Santa Claus many celebrate today is not reflective of the biblically motivated actions of St. Nick. Popular songs promote children to stop shouting, putting and crying in an effort to earn not only Santa’s favor but his gifts. The real St. Nicholas actually fought back at materialism. St. Nicholas was born into a wealthy Christian family during the third century. When his parents died in a plague, he inherited the family fortune. But instead of hording or blowing through the money, he obeyed a radical call to Christ and gave that money to the poor. He continues to be recognized and revered for his generosity to those in need.
Another area where many parents fall short is when it comes to their promotion of Santa Claus as a tool of manipulation. Many parents will use the ideas of gifts from Santa to manipulate their children in a way that is pleasing to them. As Christians, we should discipline our children in ways that don’t take from God’s power. We shouldn’t discipline them because their actions are an inconvenience or embarrassment. Remember, we are favored by God and are deserving of His gifts. We should never promote a myth to promote a form of moralism not consistent with the teachings of Christ. Ephesians 2:8-10 tells us “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” We are saved by God, not by ourselves.
Don’t abandon Santa Claus. While we should never lose sight of the Christ in Christmas by exclusively focusing on Santa , we can embrace Saint Nicholas and the Christian values he embodies including kindness, generosity and forgiveness. He reflected Christ in the way he lived. Isn’t that what we also want to reflect in our own lives? Remind yourself during the Christmas season the true character of St. Nicholas – a kind-hearted man who gave to the poor, children, and those in need, who demonstrated Grace in all facets of his life until his death. He was a true reflection of what it means to walk in Christ’s light. He should not be forgotten, especially at Christmastime.