What do you “do” with Santa at Christmas, as a Christian parent?

My good buddy and fellow young dad, Brandon Jones sent me the following question, and it’s a great one!  It spurned on quite a long response from Dianna and myself.  I asked Brandon’s permission to share our conversation here on LikeTreesPlanted, and he happily agreed.

This will be a two-part post, just sharing what Dianna and I have chosen to do with the question of “What do you ‘do’ with Santa at Christmastime, as Christian parents?”  You can link to part two by clicking here: How do you help others understand what you do with your kids regarding Santa at Christmas?

Brandon wrote:

Kat and I wanted to hear how the Cash family handles Christmas and Santa. Mckinley is finally old enough that we have to officially decide if we are going to do Santa or not. We are torn, because we both grew up believing in Santa and have fond memories of it, but we just aren’t sure how wise it is to do with our kids. We don’t necessarily have an issue with it being too secular or anything, we just really hate the idea of taking so much of the focus off of Christ. We are wondering if there is a way to do Santa, but balance it in a way that keeps focus on Jesus. Any thoughts?

Santa! Yes – that’s a great question. We don’t “do Santa” with our kids. But we don’t make a big deal out of NOT doing it either.

We’ve taught them who the real St. Nicholas is/was – a servant of God who secretly served the poor by delivering anonymous gifts to them (often at night). He is a symbol of generosity and charity – therefore, a beautiful emblem for Christmas. The example of Saint Nick is not one to be thrown out; we should celebrate him as we do any classic saint who has contributed much to the Kingdom of God!

So we don’t ignore, downplay, or even dispute the existence of “Santa Claus” with our kids. But we treat him for who he was: an historical figure, and a real person, who lived out his faith in a beautifully generous way in celebration of Jesus. Our role at Christmas (and year-round) should be the same.

So, we don’t deny the role of Santa in Christmas, we just shift the focus from him to the real star of Christmas: Jesus! We’ve also taught our kids not to make a big deal out of believing or not believing in Santa, but a big deal out of Jesus’ birthday! We refer to December 25th as “Jesus’ birthday” around them as as often as we call it “Christmas”.

The story of Saint Nick also helps us teach our kids another important lesson at Christmas: the focus of Christmas is giving, not getting. “Why do we give presents at Christmas?” is a question I ask our kids 1000 times in December: “Why do we give each other presents on Jesus’ birthday? We don’t give each other presents on other people’s birthdays? So why do we at Christmas?” Because Christmas is about giving. God gave His Son at Christmas. So we honor God’s great Gift by giving each other gifts!

Early on, we feared the reaction that people might have when they ask our kids: “So! What’s Santa bringing you for Christmas this year?!” But it just hasn’t ever been weird or awkward like we thought it might be. They would usually just bypass the Santa part and answer the question, like: “I’m getting a _____ for Christmas!” or “I hope I get ____!”

If I’m around when the question is asked of our kids “What are you getting for Christmas this year?”, I’ll wait for them to answer, then I’ll ask them a follow-up question: “What are you giving at Christmas this year?” just trying to help our kids re-focus on giving.

We also make a big deal (with our kids, not with others) out of what we are giving to Jesus for His birthday. We’ll plan it together… talk about what we want to give to Him as a family… what Kingdom works we’d like to support together as a family in honor of Jesus’ birthday… It’s pretty fun what small children will come up with when you ask them straight up what your family should give to God’s Kingdom in honor of Jesus’ birthday!

So… all that rambling is to say that we don’t so much try to deny or ignore the “getting” and the “Santa” portions of Christmas, so much as we just spend WAY more time talking about the “giving” and the “Jesus” parts of Christmas. Does that make sense?

8 responses to “What do you “do” with Santa at Christmas, as a Christian parent?

  1. My first post got sent too soon. I pushed a wrong button.

    I think our families are related! Everything you mentioned we do! We do hang a stocking for Jesus and talk about what we will give Him. We struggled too about what we would do. We never took the kids to see Santa. We thought about it and then one day a note got sent home from the school. Apparently Isaiah got into a heated argument at recess about the existence of Santa! He was in Kindergarten and was telling everyone Santa was dead but Jesus is alive, and Christmas was Jesus’ birthday!
    So after that, knowing he was going to make sure his brother and sister knew there was no Santa we didn’t even go there.
    We do talk about St. Nicholas and who and what he did.

    Thank you for sharing!

    • Ha! Great story, Jenn – thanks for reading and for sharing your own insights! Dee Dee Galloway just posted this in response on facebook, and I thought she made an excellent point, too: “We also told our kids about the real St. Nick. I struggled with the fact that I wanted everything that came out of my mouth to my kids to be the truth. Pretend is one thing, but if the other party doesn’t know you’re pretending, is it really pretend?”

  2. Another thing that helps take the focus off Santa and the “getting” aspect of Christmas is an awkward holiday clothing choice. Kudos to both you and Brandon for redirecting the focus in that regard.

    • Haha! YES! That was from one of the greatest Christmas parties ever: a “Tacky Top Party” hosted last year by our good friends Colleen Meeks and Jim & Shelley Walls. Much hilarity & merriment were enjoyed by all!

  3. Pingback: How do you help others understand what you do with your kids regarding Santa at Christmas? | LikeTreesPlanted·

  4. Typed a multi paragraph comment, and WordPress ate it faster than Santa eats cookies :).

    In short, we skip Santa, too. We enjoyed the tradition growing up, but couldn’t make it work with the truth we work hard to impart every day. So, we ditched Santa, the tooth fairy, and the Easter Bunny. But our kids still get a quarter for every tooth lost and a basket of candy Easter morning, they just know they are from us. We have started different traditions, and hope they help our children’s faith grow deep and strong. We certainly celebrate imagination and fiction, just not tied to Christmas and Easter. There is too much really good stuff to concentrate on during those times to leave room for elves on shelves and such! At least for us :). We get the traditions and the desire to pass them on from generation to generation. We have have just chosen a different path. Our kids will get to decide whether or not to pass them on to our grandchildren!

    We do a Jesse tree during the advent season. It uses Old Testament scripture to point toward the coming Messiah. We have a book we use, but Ann Voskamp has a free version on her website. I didn’t experience advent growing up, but very much enjoy time set aside daily to concentrate on portions of God’s word that help prepare our hearts for Christmas!

    I will never forget the evening my younger sisters discovered there was no Santa, no Easter Bunny, and no tooth fairy. They were in tears, completely devastated, and angry. They felt betrayed! My mom had gone to great lengths to have fun with those traditions- baby powder bunny prints and notes from Santa to say thanks for the cookies. I remember holding my breath, waiting for them to ask if Jesus was just pretend, too. I can only imagine how tough that night must have been on mom, too. That event certainly shaped my part of our decision to not include those traditions in our family.

    I am not sure why we never thought to teach about St. Nicholas, but am excited to do that this year! Thanks for the great idea!

    • Thank you for sharing, Molly! I love the personal stories – it really helps communicate the “why” behind “what”. This is good stuff! I also look forward to learning more about Ann Voskamp’s resource on this, too.. Thanks for the great comment!

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