It seems like more and more families are skipping the tradition of Santa Claus with their kids. It’s an honorable decision, and I agree with many of the reasons, but it’s so hard to do in this world these days. With Pinterest and the dangerous amount of ideas for families and gift-giving traditions, holidays like St. Patrick’s day are becoming an ordeal. How do we get down to the nitty-gritty, when our kids are pounded with images of Santa everywhere?
Whether you do Santa or not in your house, I am certainly not here to judge, but I think there are so many good parts and lessons to be learned about the story of St. Nicholas. Things that get missed in the aisles and aisles of decorations and goofy Santa and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer faces. And it’s not just that Christmas isn’t really about presents, because let’s face it – that’s a really hard concept to grasp when you’re a kid and you LOVE presents! Here are a few of my thoughts on the subject that I think can be applied no matter what your Christmas traditions are…
One of the most important lessons to be learned is that “Santa Claus” loved Jesus. The real story of St. Nicholas is fascinating. He was a very giving and generous man who took what Jesus said, to “go, sell your possessions and give to the poor,” (Matthew 19:21) literally. He was known for having very little and giving much, and for his love of caring for children. What a great example of sacrificial living this can be for our kids to learn about. Always pointing out that Nicholas was emulating Jesus can be a neat way for them to connect their faith with what they hear about Santa from kids at school and on TV.
Another lesson is that many of the “extras” that come with the Americanized version of Santa are just for fun; explaining that things like the sleigh, reindeer, coming down the chimney and elves, are all part of the imagination of storytellers. Being a very creative child, this was not hard for my little mind to grasp when I was old enough for my parents to explain the real story – and my brother and I played into it fully knowing it was not real. For some kids this could be difficult so you may avoid Santa all together, only you know what is best for your family! But just as we encourage creative play in dressing up and pretending, that part of the Santa story can be good for them too, when they understand it is all for fun.
The last point I want to hit is, to me, the most important. When it comes to Santa I cringe when I hear a parent threaten a child with the phrase, “if you’re not good, Santa won’t bring you any gifts.” Or the question, “do you want coal in your stocking?” in reference to misbehaving. Using Santa as a way to manipulate good behavior is dangerous in my opinion – and here’s why: If we teach our children that Santa loved Jesus and he lived his life following Jesus’ teachings, will they ever question whether Jesus will punish them when they mess up because that’s what Santa does? Will they become afraid or give up when they feel there is no mercy when they aren’t perfect? Will they learn that they have to earn the gifts through good behavior?
The truth is that Nicholas gave freely to the poor and to the children because that is what Jesus does for us. Jesus loves us, even when we aren’t perfect and he will never give up on us. He gave us the most important gift, something none of us could ever do enough “good” to earn, and something none of us truly deserves. He gave us the sacrifice of Himself, when we should have gotten “coal” instead.
This is such a tricky season of the year for little ones, but I think it can have a profound impact on them when they learn what it really means. Even though they are young, their minds are being formed and the truths they carry into adulthood are too. They pick up on a lot more than we realize!