My daughter the Santa believer

December 14, 2010

We tried to be those parents. We tried to tell our daughter that Santa Claus isn't real.

We knew that this could get her in trouble at some point, that chaos would ensue if she destroyed the innocent faith of her kindergarten classmates with a declaration of Santa-atheism. Yet we did it anyway, perhaps to always tell her the truth about the world, perhaps to preserve the religious focus of the holiday. Whatever our reasons, the project didn't work.

Early on she went along with our attempts. She even laughed at the silliness of Grandpa suggesting we put out milk and cookies on Christmas Eve. But as she matured to the more social age of four, everything changed. Her assertions to her Sunday school class and preschool that Santa isn't real were met with uniform disagreement; she was outnumbered. Every single other child she knew believed in Santa, so the logical conclusion must be that her parents were wrong. She informed us without hesitation.

But around the same time, my daughter decided that the Christmas story--as in the whole Mary, Joseph, angels and baby Jesus tale--is just too far-fetched to be real. So I was stuck with a preschooler who believed in Santa but not in the Bible.

Strangely enough, I was okay with that. I didn't care that the preschool constituency was against me; my daughter's conversion woke me up to what it means to convey truth to her. I realized that our understandings of truth are communally created--the truths I want my daughter to understand have to make sense within the communal narrative of her world. The truth of the Christmas story is about more than historical veracity. And the Santa story provides space for meaning as well.

There will be time to explore the complexities of the historical Christmas story, but for now I am content to work within my daughter's understanding of the world to kindle faith and encourage a love of meaningful truths.


Santa belief

I'm so glad to read that your experience with your daughter has caused you to reconsider the communal "truth" of Santa. My husband and I have found that the "Santa" story provides a child-size picture of the Gospel of Grace, whereas the Biblical Christmas story is difficult to grasp even for grown-ups. In Santa, children have unmerited favor (I know, I know, there's the whole "naughty or nice" thing, but how many parents actually withhold gifts for behavior problems?), realized in gifts freely given and accompanied by hope, anticipation and joy. Sounds like good news to me.....

We've always tied Santa Claus closely to the historical St. Nicholas and Who he served, and only allowed our children to ask "Santa" for three gifts (the Magi), reminding them of Jesus's first birthday gifts. As they have developed spiritually, it has been a natural transition for them from Santa to Emmanuel. After all, if you can't believe in the unbelievable grace of Santa Claus as a child, the ground may prove unfertile for the unfathomable Grace of God as a grown-up.

St. Nicholas

Yesterday I shared the story of St. Nicholas for our Children's Time during worship as I have over the years. I must confess it is with a great deal of personal satisfaction that I announce to our wide-eyed young Santa Claus-believers that St. Nicholas was a minister just like me. The congregation has always appreciated my reference to him as a Bishop when I remind the children that in our tradition (United Methodist) it is the Bishop who sent me to be their pastor. We may not be any more successful in rooting out all the commercialism and selfishness of Christmas in our day any more than the ancient church was in rooting out all the paganism it tried to defeat in replacing the annual celebration of new life that comes in the return of the sun with the new life that comes in the birth of God's Son, but we have to try. I am personally amazed how much of the Gospel "sneaks through" in the popular cultural expressions of "peace on earth, good will to all" in the greeting of "Merry Christmas!" that seems to be spontaneously shared by believers and non-believers this time of year.
Bill Davidson
Newport News, Va

But what if,just what if

But what if,just what if Santa Claus is real.I heard him on my roof 33 years ago and i know it was not my mother.I believe his spirit is real and he works throught the kindness of others.And maybe,just maybe he visits a few people himself.


You should probably come clean and tell her that there is no god either..fairs fair to be honest.

Both made up figures.

do the world a good deed and stop peddling these lies to your family.

The world without any religion is the world we need.