Every year, during Christmas week on my radio show, I devote an
hour to defending Santa Claus. It may seem odd that I have to, but many
parents in homes that celebrate Christmas have misgivings about allowing
their children to believe in Santa.
Their arguments against Santa go as follows:
1. Christian children should be taught to focus solely on the
religious meaning of Christmas, and Santa Claus detracts from that.
2. It is hypocritical, if not dishonest, of parents to allow
children to believe in something the parents know to be untrue.
3. Once children realize Santa doesn't exist, they will question
everything else they were told to believe in, including God. If Santa turns
out to be make-believe, maybe God is, too.
4. By having children give Santa lists of presents they want,
children learn to be materialistic.
5. If the gifts they receive are attributed Santa Claus,
children will not be grateful to their parents for those gifts.
These arguments are all well-intentioned but wrong, as a
response to each argument will show.
1. Belief in Santa does not necessarily detract from the
sanctity of Christmas. It does so only if Santa is the only thing celebrated
on that day. Any family that includes prayer, ideally with co-religionists
at a house of prayer, and speaks of the deeper meaning of the holy day, has
nothing to worry about. On the contrary, religious homes need to include
enormous amounts of joy and fun in order to raise children who will love
their religion and love God.
2. Parents are neither dishonest nor hypocritical when they
allow their children to believe in Santa. Is a parent who tells a child that
the Tooth Fairy left a dollar for the child's tooth dishonest? If a child
meets Mickey Mouse at Disneyland, must an honest parent say to the child,
"That's not really Mickey, he's just a paid employee in a Mickey Mouse
Of course not. God forbid parents should eliminate all pretend
characters from a child's life. And as for truth, we tell children whole
truths when they are old enough to understand them, which usually means once
they ask. Otherwise parents would tell young children the anatomical details
of sexual intercourse in order to explain how they were conceived.
The issue of parental truth-telling only arises if you answer
falsely to a question your child asks. If your child directly asks, "Is
there really such a man as Santa Claus?" it is wrong to say yes with no
further explanation. A parent should come as close to never lying to a child
3. It is pretty hard to imagine that anyone ever stopped
believing in God solely because they discovered Santa Claus is a pretend
character. You might as well argue that young people become atheists when
they realize Barney isn't really a dinosaur or that no duck talks. Only if
you, the parent, believe that God is no more real than Santa will your child
ever link the two.
4. If you are worried about your child becoming materialistic,
limit the number and price of gifts he or she can request of Santa. As one
young woman told me, her mother used to tell her, "Jesus only got three
gifts, why should you get more?" Or tell your child that Santa takes the
most gifts to poor children who don't have nearly as much as he or she does.
5. No matter whom the gifts come from, kids have to be taught to
be grateful for them. If your child is grateful to Santa, then gratitude has
been learned, and that is what matters. Needing the gratitude to be directed
to you is self-serving. Let your child learn to be grateful to you for all
you do on the other 364 days of the year.
If your family does not celebrate Christmas, none of this
applies. But if it does, let your little children enjoy Santa. It is one
more thing that contributes to their innocence. And the longer you enable
your children to be innocent, the happier and healthier they will be as
adults. They will have a whole lifetime to learn that Santa -- and a lot
more -- isn't real. Why rush?