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Don’t Preach Santa At Home

December 22, 2009

Noel Piper gives us three reasons why:

First, fairy tales are fun and we enjoy them, but we don’t ask our children to believe them.

Second, we want our children to understand God as fully as they’re able at whatever age they are. So we try to avoid anything that would delay or distort that understanding. It seems to us that celebrating with a mixture of Santa and manger will postpone a child’s clear understanding of what the real truth of God is. It’s very difficult for a young child to pick through a marble cake of part-truth and part-imagination to find the crumbs of reality.

Third, we think about how confusing it must be to a straight-thinking, uncritically-minded preschooler because Santa is so much like what we’re trying all year to teach our children about God. Look, for example, at the “attributes” of Santa.

  • He’s omniscient—he sees everything you do.
  • He rewards you if you’re good.
  • He’s omnipresent—at least, he can be everywhere in one night.
  • He gives you good gifts.
  • He’s the most famous “old man in the sky” figure.

Read her whole argument.

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6 comments

  1. I think we’ve got be careful here. On the one hand I fully agree with teaching our children to distinguish between the gospel which is historically true and fairytales which are not. We have always made that clear to our kids – that the Bible story is true and really happened, but that Father Christmas is just made up for fun.

    However, having watched Disney’s adaptation of Dicken’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ recently I was reminded of Dicken’s attack on a joyless Christianity that said “Bah humbug!” to celebrating Christmas. According to the Angel Christmas is ‘good news of great joy’ – which is undermined if we spend all our time stopping our children from having fun at Christmas. Now, Dicken’s got it wrong but I think some of his criticisms still stand. There is a strand of (usually) middle-class evangelicalism that is suspicious of anyone enjoying themselves. I’m sure Tim Keller would have some applications from Luke 15 to make here!

    I think Colin Buchanan (pbuh) got it just about right in his kids’ song ‘Jesus is no fairytale’. Colin treats children with a lot more discernment than we often give them credit for.


  2. We’ve always had Santa in the house for the kids (not so kiddy-ish anymore at 17 and 15) but never made too big a deal of it. Santa was the one bringing pressies, that was about it. We still have the ritual of leaving out a glass of milk and something to eat for Santa on Christmas Eve. And the kids’ pressies are always labelled as ‘from Santa’.
    Yet both would profess to be Christian. The older one especially, even now at uni where she’s involved with the CU and is a regular church-goer. The younger one makes no secret of her Christianity, even at school among her peers.
    So, I’d go along with John’s comment above and express concern at the “Bah! Humbug” attitude from some Christian quarters. I think kid’s see through Santa far earlier than we would like to think and to suggest that in ‘exposing’ the truth of Santa we undermine their potential for faith in Christ is pushing things too far. I’d love to see some empirical evidence of it rather than the scaremongering from some. There are far more serious issues which will undermine faith than this one.


  3. I couldn’t agree more with the appropriately named Noel. It’s getting harder and harder to keep the real Christmas uncluttered from all the traditional nonsense and sentimentality and, anyway, isn’t there enough Good News in the true Christams story – why do we need to augment it with anything else. This isn’t a ‘bah humbug’attitude, it’s a recognition of the fact that compared with the ‘glad tidings of great joy’ everythign else is tawdry and worthess.


  4. What traditional nonsense do you feel clutters the real Christmas? The sweet nativity scenes perhaps, with the donkey and the clean and tidy stable? The three wise men? The star that no-one else seems to remark upon? The mawkish and sentimental Victorian carols? Our current presentation of Christmas, even within the Christian tradition is far from ‘real’.


    • John, I totally agree with you; the real Christmas has been shrouded in all this as well and that frustrates me as much as anything. My concern is that the Santa issue is yet another one that does nothing to help focus our hearts and minds on the stupendous reality of “our God contracted to a span”


  5. May I say what a joy it was for me to stumble across this post today! It’s wonderful to see someone post something that was so important for my Dad to present to me as soon as I was old enough!

    I struggle with my convictions along this lines and how I’m often criticized for my convictions.

    I enjoyed the read.



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