It’s my favorite time of year. No really, I’m obsessed. I love all of it—the music, the movies, the Christmas trees, the ornaments, the wrapping paper, the bows, the giving, the parties, the games—everything. But what I love most of all about Christmas is the magic. I love seeing families reconnecting, reminiscing, and reminding one another through gifts and hugs and words of the love that exists between them. Nothing brings me more joy than seeing expressions of wonder and ecstasy on the faces of children drinking in the mysteries of Christmas.
And Santa Claus. I LOVE Santa Claus. I love him because he is jolly and kind and patient and rosy and magical. But mainly I love him because he is a shining representative, or token, if you will, of all that makes Christmas so wonderful. I still write a letter to him every year, thanking him for the joy he brings to every little boy and girl who are allowed to believe. Occasionally I come across articulate articles saying that parents shouldn’t “lie” to their children about the mystery of Santa Claus. While I disagree with them, I genuinely admire their sincere pursuit of righteous judgment. I’m here today to offer you an alternate opinion on the subject.
You see, I not only believe it’s okay to encourage your children believe in old Kris Kringle. I think it’s important–necessary, even–for them to believe in Santa. Gasp! Hannah Giselbach! Are you suggesting we LIE TO OUR CHILDREN?! Calm down. Give me a minute to explain this. Here are 3 reasons why I believe in Santa (and my kids will too):
1. It’s Not A Lie.
Waiting for me to admit I know he’s not real? Don’t make me do that. I love him too much. But okay, for the sake of argument, let’s say he’s not physically real. I know there are TONS of well-meaning parents who passionately believe it’s wrong to tell their children stories about Santa because they think that’s lying. They’re afraid their children would perhaps grow up with a broken trust in them because they didn’t immediately dispel the Santa myth right away in the name of loving honesty. But for those of you who believe it’s necessary to tell your children Santa doesn’t exist, have you thought about whether you can really be consistent with being so literal about everything? If you’ve told you’re children Santa isn’t real, you should also tell your little girl when she plays with dolls that the dolls are not REAL little girls…They can’t REALLY talk. When you take your kids to Disney world, you should tell them that each character they hug is not REALLY Snow White or Cinderella or Peter Pan. They’re just young adults with really cool internships. And while you’re at it, you should tell them that none of the stories behind the characters are true, either (well, maybe Pocahontas but the Disney version doesn’t count). When you take them to a play, you should lovingly remind them that none of the people on stage are who they’re claiming to be, and the story is made-up. You should tell them they shouldn’t play with action figures unless they understand they’re made of plastic and can’t really save the world by defeating evil.
You get where I’m going with this. The thought of having an intervention every time your children use their imaginations is ill-advised and rather silly. Why, then, are we so afraid to let our children imagine and pretend when it comes to Santa Claus? Pretending isn’t always lying. One very sad and dismal day, your children won’t play with dolls anymore. They won’t run, elated, arms flailing when they see Mickey Mouse at Disney World. One day, your children will grow up and understand that all the things they used to play with and pretend with are not actually real. I beg of you, don’t take away that magic prematurely. It will happen when it happens. And I’ve never once met an adult who felt betrayed by their parents who “lied” to them about Santa when they were children. Not once! I have, however, met adults who feel deprived of a major part of childhood because their parents felt the need to dispel their belief and encourage their questioning doubt at a very young age.
Let me remind you of a heartwarming moment in America’s history. In 1897, a little girl wrote to the New York Sun asking if there was a Santa Claus. This was the reply (Go ahead, grab a box of tissues and read it all):
“DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus? VIRGINIA O’HANLON. 115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.
“VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge. Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished. Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world. You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”
Let your kids be kids. There’s plenty of time for them to be grown-ups once the fairies have danced away and your backyard swing is still. And please stop mixing up pretending and lying. There’s a big difference.
Also, from a spiritual standpoint, keep in mind that God (as our Father) has often revealed Himself to us in METAPHORICAL terms that are not literally true (shepherd, fire, rock), but these terms stand for things that are literally true. Santa Claus (we shall admit for argument’s sake) is not literally true, but he stands for things that are literally true. “Father” itself is a metaphor for God. God, in His divine wisdom, revealed himself to us in our own HUMAN language, which is capable of expressing at best a rough approximation of God’s nature. That language is true and helpful nonetheless. Santa Claus is a great way for kids to learn generosity, faithfulness, joy, kindness, and a myriad of other wonderful qualities.
2. It’s SO Much Fun. I was one of the lucky kids whose parents made the choice to make Christmas the most magical, most mysterious, most wonderful thing in the world. My brother Caleb and I would write letters to him together, go to the mall to get our picture taken every year (even while I was in college), set out cookies and milk on Christmas Eve, and thought of him every time we even considered disobeying or talking back. It was exciting and mystifying and merry. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without that magic. I cherish those memories and always will. I always pity children who despairingly look up at me with sad eyes when I mention Santa and say, “I know the truth. My parents told me.” Christmas can still be fun for them, but never to that magical degree of happy, hopeful believing. Let your child be one of the delighted, rather than one of the deprived. There is very little fun left in the world that is not accompanied by some kind of trade-off–some disappointment–or sin. Even sports, while fun, involve disappointments. Believing in Santa Claus in theory, involves pure fun with no drawbacks. The more you believe, the better the experience. The same is true with belief in God, which brings me to my next and final point…
3. Your Children Need to Know They CAN Believe in Things They Can’t See. Kids are so smart. They soak in every little thing. So when you tell them (or imply, even) that they shouldn’t believe in things they can’t see, things that seem unrealistic, or things that are magical, you run the risk of messing with their belief in things you WANT them to believe. While I understand there’s no scientific evidence Santa exists—as opposed to the hundreds of scientific evidences proving the existence of God ( see www.apologeticspress.org )—when children are struck with the understanding that magic like Santa doesn’t exist, they’re probably not going to be able to make that distinction quite yet. When they feel all grown up now that they debunked the magic of Santa, they’re going to have a hard time believing in God when peers or even adults tell them that God is no more real than Santa. They might start to piece together logic (however flawed) like this: If it’s impossible for Santa to fly all over the world and deliver toys to every child in one night, surely it’s impossible for this whole world to be created in just 6 days. Or…If I can’t believe in Santa’s sleigh because nobody’s ever seen it fly, why should I believe in God? Nobody’s ever seen him.
Instead, children need to live in homes where the idea that incredible things can and do happen is allowed to thrive and grow…because, in all reality, God’s miracles are the most mysterious, most wonderful things in the universe. Your children don’t need to hear that amazing, impossible things can’t happen. Christians are necessarily believers in miracles—not just that God exists. We believe that incredible, magical things like the Virgin Birth, the flood, dead people being raised again, and all kinds of other phenomenon actually happened, and will happen again when the miracle of Christ’s return occurs. God is living proof that wonders can happen, and hearing otherwise will put doubt in the hearts of your little ones before they’re able to see the difference between real wonders and imagined wonders.
I’ve rambled on long enough. I’ll leave you with this small portion of the defense speech from the courtroom scene in the film Miracle on 34th Street (1994) which I think suitably expresses the beauty of giving children the permission to believe:
“Your Honor, a lot of people believe in Mr. Kringle. Including millions of children. If you rule against him, you won’t destroy anyone’s belief but you will destroy the man they believe in. Mr. Kringle is not concerned for himself, if he was he wouldn’t be here. He is in this regrettable position because he is willing to sacrifice himself for children. To create in their minds a world far better than the one we’ve made for them. If this is, as Mr. Collins suggests, a masquerade then Mr. Kringle is eager to forfeit his freedom to preserve that masquerade–to subject himself to prosecution to protect the children’s right to believe.”
There’s my two cents. Please understand this is all merely my opinion and it is not my intent to bind that opinion on anyone else, and please don’t misunderstand me to have said it’s a sin not to do Santa Claus in your home or any other such nonsense. Merely an opinion. But even so, you better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout….well, you know the rest. Merry Christmas!