Monday, November 28, 2011

Inquisition Monday: Santa

Betttina asked on Twitter,

Inq Monday: (no rush!) How do you teach your kids that Jesus is real but Santa isn't? Thank you!

Before I get to the question, I wanted to share what prompted this question. I bought Christmas stamps and tweeted that I got the Madonna and Child stamps of Raphael's Madonna of the Candelabra. Sadly, the Christ-child isn't nursing on the stamp, but he is sticking his hand down Mary's shirt. That's a sure sign of a nursing toddler! Also, I'm pretty sure Isaac has the same hair and chubbiness that the Christ-child has in this depiction. Anyway, yay for nursing toddlers.

So onto the question.

We actually teach about Jesus and Santa in the same way. Jesus was a real, historical person. As was St. Nicholas. There is truth to both stories. And both of them have myths around them that are probably false. Was Christ born anywhere near December? No. Does Santa really come down our non-existant chimney? No. But is it fun to pretend Christ's birthday is in December? Yep! And is it fun to pretend that Santa comes? Yep.

We actually have it pretty easy. My father-in-law is a mall Santa and so we tell the kids, "Grandpa dresses up like Santa. It's fun to put on costumes and pretend!" About stockings I tell them it's a fun game that Mommy and Daddy play to put presents in stockings. I don't think it detracts from the "magic." Kids love pretending and the fact that your imaginary friends aren't real doesn't mean those hours of playing were wasted.

When the kids get older, we'll mention the history of St. Nicholas. I might even do the shoes-out-for-St. Nicholas Day-tradition this year if I feel like being on top of things. I know one mom that does all of the Santa stuff on St. Nicholas Day so Christmas is just for gifts from friends and family. This separates the Santa tradition from Christmas. I don't think I'll do that, but it's an option if you're interested.

As far as teaching about Jesus and other biblical figures, I'll definitely say that I don't believe the Bible or even the Book of Mormon to be historically accurate. Take the Gospels: there is good evidence that some of the Gospels were written using other Gospels as a base and that there was artistic license taken by the authors. Does that diminish the truth of being kind and loving? I don't think so. I believe that the scriptures can be inspiring and uplifting without needing to be strictly accurate. So when we talk about scriptures stories in which historical accuracy is in question, I am careful in my words. I'll say, "In one story, Jesus...." or "In the book of..." I also do this when I teach nursery at church or when giving talks. Maybe the semantics aren't very important, but I like to be as truthful as I can.

I know some of my readers also teach the Santa tradition is a fun game as opposed to the idea that Santa really comes. What parts of the traditions do you keep or toss? Also, when I taught computers at an elementary school, during the week before the winter break, I let the younger kids play on this site about St. Nicholas. If you are interested in celebrating St. Nicholas Day, that might be a fun place to get ideas!


  1. My husband and I are a few years away from having kids, but we've discussed this subject a little. I really like how you've chosen to approach it.
    The question I have is- do you worry about your kids telling their friends(who might believe Santa really comes) that Santa is a fun game to celebrate the tradition? (Because I totally cried when I learned Santa wasn't real. I was that kid.)

  2. I love St. Nicholas' Day! This year my daughter will be getting a game (which unfortunately does not fit in her shoes) and that is it. When other people ask my daughter what she wants Santa to get her for Christmas, I tell them that he already came and it kinda freaks them out. Unfortunately my daughter has really latched on to the Santa idea. I think this year we are ditching the stockings also.

    Our struggle this year is trying to figure out when to open our gifts. In the past we have opened them on Christmas Eve but because we have early church on Sunday I don't want Ravenna to stay up very late.


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