Friday, December 12, 2008

The Uncomfortable Christmas

As the Christmas season is already upon us and Christmas day is soon approaching I am particularly concerned about one issue...Santa. As a family, Laura and I are trying to decide whether or not to tell Ellie about Santa (Laura is in favor and I am opposed). There are reasons for and there are reasons against but none of them seem to sway me to make a definitive statement contrary to my current opinion. Because of this I am thoroughly uncomfortable this Christmas in respect to how we celebrate it with Ellie, to that end I am also extremely thankful that she will only be about 9 months old and probably won't remember it so I have another year to stall in case we don't make up our minds.

I am well aware that regardless of decision, culture, school, family, and friends will all tell Ellie about Santa and I am OK with that but I (just me, not Laura) am not comfortable making it a part of our immediate families tradition for a couple of reasons. Lets take a look at what message Santa conveys to children...

1) Santa is omnipresent - Maybe not omnipresent but at least he possesses special abilities so that he can go to every single house in the entire world in a single night.

2) Santa is omniscient - He knows every good or bad deed you have done all year.

3) He judges children on their works - The quality and quantity or presents (rewards) each child gets is based on how good he/she was this year.

4) He answers petitions - Children may ask Santa for anything they want and he uses his discretion to determine if the child is worthy.

Perhaps I'm being pedantic but Santa sounds a lot like a god figure, he even has some characteristics of God and this is troubling. What are the potential consequences of telling a little kid about Santa you may be asking. The problem isn't when the child is 2 or 3 but when they turn 8 or 9. An 8 year old is absolutely capable of understanding the gospel to a point where they can trust Christ as their savior but may not have a complete theological grasp of the character of God. Now, to that child the characteristics of Santa seem very similar to the characteristics of God and they may not be able to make the distinction between God-attributes and Santa-attributes. Suddenly the child thinks God judges us and blesses us based on our performance rather than out of the grace we have through the glorification of Christ through his death and resurrection.

But Zach, Santa is good for kid's imaginative development you may say. I agree that Santa-like figures may have the ability to make a child's imagination run wild with fantastic ideas and adventures. This is great. My question to you would be, what's wrong with my kids imagination the rest of the year? We don't talk about Santa any time during the year except December. If you are the exception to that statement then you are probably using Santa as a bargaining tool to get your kids to behave and that is just wrong. All year long children play with imaginary friends and dream up awesome adventures, they don't loose this ability because its Christmas.

But Zach, Santa represents love you say again with growing disdain for this blog. Perhaps this is true if that's what you have taught your children but couldn't we simply explain that God is love and he became flesh to prove it and that we give gifts to show others how much we love them and to reflect that same love? Don't tell me explaining how a fat guy with reindeer can go to every house in the world in a single day is easier than telling your kids simply God loves us and this is one way we celebrate.

Don't be mistaken, I don't think anyone is a bad parent for telling their kids about Santa and I certainly don't think you should avoid Santa but perhaps Santa should be more of a festive figure like pumpkins are for Halloween. I just think our official Christmas celebration should be more Christ centered. Every child will probably believe Santa to some extent because he is so popular in our culture, there is no need for us to reinforce or encourage that belief in our home.

Despite the contentious tone of this post, the verdict is still out I am open to hear any argument. for or against


wfseube said...

Watch the original "Miracle on 34th Street" again (I'm sure you've seen it before). Yeah, Santa is very secular and holds some attributes that are "god-ish", but I don't see any harm in a little non-Christian fantasy, as long as you maintain perspective on the key aspect of Christmas (which you already know).

Bobby and Brooke said...

My vote is to teach her about Santa and about classic love stories like Romeo and Juliet! ;)

The Good Family said...

Did you not grow up having Santa visit you on Christmas Eve? Didn't you still end up being able to believe in God and have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Ellie is going to learn about Santa whether you teach it to her or not, so I think it is important that you introduce it to her along with the true meaning of Christmas. I just think you're overthinking this one a little! Don't stress yourself out! :)

Anonymous said...

I have pondered over this for several days as so has Norman. We think you should research Santa, and how he came about. Then I think you would get it ( Parenting and Santa ). The girls are just fine growing up with Santa. They both know what Christmas is really about. I found a letter to Santa from Grace on the fireplace mantle Sunday night. She asked him for a doll and a PUPPY to keep inside, and that she would be nicer than ever if he would bring her one and she was his biggest fan, and how much she loved him. We have taught the girls that we pay Santa and we give him a list and he takes it from there. They have grown so far to be wonderful children who believe in God and they know all about baby Jesus and academically they are honor roll, AG & AIG including there after school activities. You turned out fine and you believed in Santa . I think you are putting a little to much thinking into it. Honestly I never thought about not telling them about Santa. Oh and if you think Ellie will not remember this Christmas, think again. Grace remembers her 1st Christmas . I don't know if it is because of Juliann or if she just really remembers. Her and Ellie are right together on the age for their 1st Christmas. Grace's birthday is April 4th. STOP THINKING SO MUCH AND ENJOY HER AND CHRISTMAS. Oh and what about THE EASTER BUNNY ????????

Norman & Catina Bryant

Anonymous said...

I know this is old, but I feel like weighing in on it anyway. Disclaimer: I don't have kids.

My biggest problem with Santa (and the Easter bunny, and the tooth fairy) is that you're introducing "invisible/imaginary" characters into the kid's brain, and then eventually, knocking them down as fakes or fraud's. Think about it - by the time the kid's in double digits, you've knocked off the diabetic bunny, the fat guy in a leisure suit, and the creepy tooth collector. The problem is that the kid then lumps God into the same group of "invisible/imaginary" characters that parents use to control their kids.

But, I know you a little bit better than to assume you wouldn't clearly distinguish Santa from God. Shoot, start out telling your kids the FULL truth about Santa. Tell them you bring the presents, but we got the idea from Nicholas of Myra (who, by the way, was a Christian - or at least catholic). Tell your kids that he's a good example of somebody who gave to others, but he's not God, he doesn't have magical powers, and he's certainly not still bringing toys to you today. It's more likely that worms have pretty much consumed him entirely by now. I paid for these toys and you're going to thank me for them, dang it! OK - leave out those last two lines.

I think there's a responsible way to handle Santa, but it's going to be different from what other kids believe about Santa. Your kid will likely be "that kid" whose parents couldn't just play along, and who ruins it for everybody else. Be encouraged.

Miss James said...

Zach (and Laura too!)...Just wanted to let you know that even without kids, Mike and I have already had this same talk. I think we're pretty firmly against Santa, for lots of reasons...Several of them the same ones that have been mentioned already by you and others. Our other concern, though, is that we don't want to encourage materialism. I read a really great book a while back that talked specifically about Christians and the American Christmas culture...It really helped me to firm up some of my preference level beliefs. I know that there are always ways around it and that there are plenty of people who play Santa and their kids turn out just fine...I trust that you two would always teach your children well whether you include Santa or not. Just think about why you'd be doing it and remember...We are called to be different from the world we're in.

Also. I don't use this blog anymore. My students can't handle it. So don't go looking for any exciting information.


Norman heard the story of how Santa came to be on the radio, one of those am channels he likes to listen to. ( There is a book about this also ) Their was a family in Turkey that was very wealthy. Their last name was Nicolas. Their was a poor family that lived in the village so around Christmas time (which wasn't known as Christmas back then ) the son of the wealthy family heard of the poor family not having any food, and no money. So one night he left his house and went and threw a bag of gold coins in their window which happened to land in their socks that were drying by their fireplace. Thus Nicolas was born. He continued this tradition every year. He did get caught but he told the poor family's father that all the credit for what he had done for all these years should go to Christ. Then the Greek Orthodox church made him a bishop which made born Saint Nick !!!!!
( There is where Christ And St. Nick came from around the 4rth century AD ). Then St. Nick moved it's way to Russia, Italy, Greece, all European nations. Germany called him Kris Kringle because Kris meant Christ like. This is how the tradition of SANTA was born. The three Kings brought gifts to baby Jesus .There are many other things that went along with this . It is just entirely too much to type. The Coke Cola company back in the 1930's wanted to put a picture with the name so they came up with the picture WE ALL KNOW AS SANTA !!!!!! There is nothing wrong with the tradition of Santa and the Easter Bunny, or The Tooth Fairy and even the one fiary I never knew of The New Year Fairy ( It is something Norman's family has done for ages ) I will explain it to you when I see you . Christmas is to commercialized now. The girls know that. They know it is better to give than to receive. I am older (and of course I think i am wiser) probably than any other who have posted a comment. I know how having your child not believe and keeping her from this could affect her during parties and such in those pre-school and elementary days. Norman and I will talk more with you guys about this over the holidays. OUR GIRLS STILL BELIEVE IN SANTA !!!!!! I do think Juliann has her doubts but Grace is a true believer!!!!!!!!!

Norman & Catina Bryant

Mark said...

Katie and I agree with you. I think we're going to tell Brook that some people celebrate Santa during Christmas, but we choose to celebrate Jesus. We don't want her to be the kid that spoils the fun. But the stakes are too high. Here are two of many reasons.
1. When your child finds out Santa is not real, their ability to trust you could be hurt. A child usually starts asking at the age of 5 if Santa is real. Do you lie to him until he's 9 and then drop the bomb?
2. Santa promises to give good material gifts to kids that have good behavior. So a kid is good he gets good things. A kid is bad he gets coal. A child can easily confuse that with the grace of God. I was thinking, what I would do if Brook told me she has to be good this year so that Santa will give her a new Elmo cd. Why would I let my child believe such a lie? Especially a lie that could bring confusion to essential elements of the gospel.
I just don't see a need to tell your child about Santa (for the Christian). As usual, the truth avoids mass confusion. Maybe our girls can be in the same class and respectfully tell their classmates that they celebrate God coming to Earth during Christmas!

Anonymous said...