The Santa Debate–To Believe or Not To Believe?

 I believe in Santa Claus.

There, I said it, and I’m not ashamed.

The idea of the jolly man who slides down a chimney to bring toys to all of the good boys and girls of the world has created magic and the spirit of Christmas in me since I was a child.

And even when I found out that Santa wasn’t “real,” I still continued to believe in the “magic” of the Christmas season.

One of the things I looked forward to most about being a parent was using that magic to get to share the joy of Santa with my children.

Yet, although we love and believe in Santa in our house, we also emphasize the real meaning of Christmas, which is of course, the birth of our Savior. Without Christ’s birth, there would be no reason for Santa in the first place.

Christ is the most important in our home. He always will be and there is no doubt that it’s His birthday we celebrate. Yet, because He came to bring us salvation, we can celebrate with joy, even if that involves a little happy “magic.”

However, there are a LOT of parents in my generation who have chosen not to “do” Santa with their kids. Here are some of the reasons I’ve heard:

Some don’t because they feel that telling their children to believe in Santa is lying.

Some don’t because they believe that telling their children to believe in Santa equates with telling their children to believe in Jesus, and when one is discovered, there will be doubt in the other.

Some don’t because they don’t want to have to go through the trouble of Christmas Eve as Santa.

And others I know don’t because, “If I’m spending all this money on my kid, why should Santa get the all the credit?”

The second reason listed above is the one I hear most often, and I have to be honest, that one really has me puzzled. I’ll wait to share my opinions until I hear what y’all have to say.

So, I pose the question to you (with the hopes that we’ll get some really good responses of all kinds!)

Share with me: Is it okay for Christian parents to encourage their kids to believe in Santa? What do you think about Santa and why do you DO or NOT DO Santa in your home?


Filed under Parenting

22 responses to “The Santa Debate–To Believe or Not To Believe?

  1. Santa is completely a personal conviction. There's no right or wrong. It's not like an explicit thing in the Bible. So it definitely comes down to personal conviction. I love that you didn't come across judgmental here. Because I here non-Santa people talking judgmentally about Santa people and sometimes, even more so, I hear Santa people talking judgmentally about non-Santa people. When it's a personal conviction and we ought to agree to disagree. Because the minute we start arguing is the minute the watching world sees and thinks, "Those Christians just can't get along."Ryan and I haven't decided on Santa yet, so we're just ignoring it. Great choice, huh?My whole issue with Santa is that to a kid, Santa will always trump Jesus. We can hem and haw and say, no, he won't! I'm going to emphasize Jesus. But developmentally, the fat man from the North Pole who hangs with elves and flying reindeer and gives lots of presents will trump Jesus. No matter what we say or do. So that's why I'm hesitant.Also….I wonder…why, when we have the greatest news in the world. Our Savior is born. God in the flesh. The angels, who are these terrifying creatures, bow down and worship this baby because this baby is the King…why do we feel like we need to add to that amazing, crazy, insane news by adding a fat, jolly, fake man to the mix?Another hesitancy I have is that Santa feeds into a kid's belief that if they're good, they get gifts and if they're naughty, they get coal. As if being good makes us deserving. So yeah, this comment makes me sound like I'm personally against Santa. But I also have reasons why I think Santa would be fun and great. So my personal conviction is as yet to be determined. But I'm leading toward no Santa. But celebrating St. Nicholas day and talking about who that guy was.I absolutely loved this post from Jen Hatmaker about Santa. I resonated with it. It is seriously a must read!

  2. I meant, I'm LEANING toward no Santa. Not LEADING. And instead, we might celebrate St. Nicholas day. Still not sure…need to speak with the hubs on this one first.

  3. Katie- I love your thoughts on this. Thanks for sharing!! And I agree–it's definitely a personal conviction.

  4. Katie- And by the way, I loved that you pointed out that it's a dumb thing for Christians to argue about or be judgmental about.I do hope, though, that all who choose NOT to do Santa will also teach their kids not to ruin it for other kids. Now that my son is in school, I know it's a matter of time until someone opens their mouth–it happened to me as a kid.

  5. Those are all the reasons whey my parents didn't "do" Santa with us. We never believed. I honestly don't remember feeling disappointed about it and I never told other kids it wasn't true. I guess it was just the way it was. I still watched Christmas movies and colored pictures of him. We just…knew.My hubby "did" Santa. One unopened gift by the tree, the big ticket item, and then everything else wrapped from his parents. We've adopted this tradition.Santa isn't so much as big a deal as getting presents. My son is just as excited to bake him cookies as he is to bake the Happy Birthday Jesus cake we make every year. We read the Christmas story, we have a nativity.I guess I can see both sides. 🙂

  6. I worked with a woman at one time who didn't do Santa for reason number 2- if your kid finds out you lied about Santa- then what is to make them believe you are telling the truth about Jesus. So instead Jesus left her son presents at Christmas. I felt that took the reasoning of not doing Santa and confused it far more. We did Santa at my house as a kid. It was fun. I loved it. But you know what else I remember as a child? Our nativity scene at the house. My brothers and I fought over who was going to arrange it. I also always remember going to the Christmas Eve service at church. In fact, I remember going to church consistently as a child. Unless you were sick or out of town, going to church to learn about Jesus and participate in worship was a priority at our house 52 weeks a year. Jesus was important to my family all year long. I think Katie makes a point- to a kid- Santa is probably going to trump Jesus. Who wouldn't prefer the magic man who brings presents? Human nature has a greedy side. So yes, I think you can run the risk of Santa being more important to a kid during the holidays- at least for a season of their life. But if you "train up a child" the consistency of the good news and the greatest love ever shown to mankind will take priority as they grow older.

  7. I'm still not awake enough to give an in-depth answer :). Basically, we're pretty laid back about Santa. My son likes to watch Christmas movies with Santa, but we don't really push the Santa thing. My parents never tried to convince me to keep me believing in Santa, and the whole thing wore off pretty soon. Santa can be a small part of Christmas as long as Jesus is the real focus.

  8. My oldest is four, and he asked last week if Santa is alive. This year has been the first year we've had to decide – Santa or no Santa? I have a friend who doesn't do Santa because she feels it will lead to her children not believing in Jesus. Telling them Santa is real, only to reveal one day that it's really mommy and daddy leaving gifts, is risking damage to their belief in Jesus. She was the first person I'd met who held that point of view, and at the time I thought it was ridiculous. You can teach your kids about Jesus being the focus of Christmas and still have healthy Santa fun.Now that my kids are demanding information about Santa, I've come to the crossroads, and I've decided to stand somewhere in the middle. We've talked about St. Nicholas and all the good he did…how he believed in Jesus and how he did what he did because he wanted to share Jesus' love with others. We've read the Christmas story myriad times (and not just at Christmas), we read our Bibles together, we pray together, we memorize verses together…so Jesus takes priority all the time, and it's not too much of a concern that Santa will override Him for a few weeks out of the year.Having said that, I did tell my kids that St. Nicholas died many years ago, but lots people thought what he did was such a good idea that they also starting disguising themselves and secretly leaving gifts for people, especially those who didn't have much. That's why all the men in red suits at the mall are being Santa – they want to be generous to others and share God's love. I've told my kids they will still get presents from Santa at Christmas, but that we will also give presents to people who have much less than we do, because that's what Jesus taught us to do.So we'll be taking the kids to sit on Santa's lap, where they will tell him what they want for Christmas, but I've also asked them to tell Santa what they're planning to give others for Christmas. You can believe in Santa without being greedy by encouraging (and modeling) generosity.

  9. I'll go with Katie on this: It's a personal decision. Not worth division or judgement between friends and fellow believers. I like to discover the "why" behind people's decisions. There's always a why.We did't tell our children Santa was real — he was relegated more to the realm of Micky Mouse and Donald Duck and the like. I believed in Santa when I was a child. I mean, I BELIEVED in Santa. And I was heartbroken when I found out he wasn't real.That played into my decision (my husband and my decision) to go the Santa is fun but he isn't real decision. There's more to the why, but that's the short version.

  10. Jenny – I also agree that it needs to be each family's decision with no JUDGING!!I do have insight into reason #2 above because it happened to me. My parents really pushed Santa – my mom had a friend write the notes so the handwriting would be different, and when I came home from school with doubts because my friends told me the truth about Santa, my mom would reassure me that Santa was real. I stubbornly held onto my faith in Santa until – and I'm ashamed to admit this – sixth grade. What finally changed my mind was the sinking realization that one man couldn't possibly know what every child on earth was doing or travel the whole globe in a 24-hr span. Hmm, sounds like "omnipresence" and "omniscience."Within a few years I came to a serious crisis of faith in God. My parents swore up and down and sideways that God was real – just like they had about Santa. God was everywhere and knew everything. In 9th grade I came to the same sinking realization about God. I'm so thankful, God never gave up on me – He placed amazing youth leaders in my life, and even a miracle – to show me He was real.So, yes, I was nervous about telling my children about Santa. My husband's family had always been straightforward about it – Santa was a great story, but St. Nicholas lived and died – and he lived for Jesus. So this is the tactic we took for our children. Santa is not banished from our home, but my kids never "believed" in him.This led to a funny incident when my oldest son was in 1st grade. I was volunteering in the class for the Christmas party, and the teacher came up to me, barely containing her laughter. Seems my tell-it-like-it-is son (he's majoring in mechanical engineering now, so you get the picture) told the other kids that Santa was dead. Oh dear. We had a little talk that evening.

  11. I love reading about what all of you do in your homes!! Everyone does their own thing a little differently. It's fascinating–and all of you have made one point more than any other: no matter whether Santa has a place in your home or not, Jesus is always most important.I was raised to believe in Santa (so was my hubby) and when I did finally find out the truth (because some nasty little girl told me and then I had to ask mom & dad to confirm) I was devastated. Then I was double devastated when I realized that this "truth" also applied to the Easter Bunny & the Tooth Fairy. However, not once–not ever–did I equate the non-existence of Santa with the truth I had been raised with as a child. In this, I'm more like Marie's comment above– Christ was an all the time thing while Santa was only talked about once a year.I don't see the harm in doing Santa with my kids. However, I do dread the day when the "magic" of it is gone. But Jesus is an all the time thing. I don't like to say, "Santa is watching you," because then it becomes more about being good to get presents (as Katie mentioned) and not about doing the right thing as Christ teaches. I want to always make sure to put an emphasis on our behavior being linked to Christ living in us–reflecting his love, not being good to get stuff.Sarah- thanks for sharing your story. I guess you've proven what a lot of parents fear, and in this it's a good idea to take a different approach with the whole Santa idea.April–I love your idea about also telling Santa what they are going to give to others. I think that's fantastic. By the way–did I see you at the Ludy House last night? :)Jess- we don't go overboard with Santa gifts either, although a lot of people I know do. Our kiddos get one big gift and then a couple of small things from Santa and that's IT. After all, we don't want to teach selfishness and greed, either. In fact, my 5 yo already knows better than to make a Christmas list with more than a couple of items on it. 🙂

  12. Keep the comments coming! I'm really enjoying what y'all are saying, and I'm getting some great ideas, too! 🙂

  13. I'm somewhere in the middle on this.I grew up in a Santa-less home, and the magic of Christmas was still there. I still clambered downstairs to see the gifts that Mom and Dad put under the tree, and I still loved the lights and music just as much. My dad was really intentional to not push it because he said he always felt betrayed when he found out he'd been lied to all those years.That said, I wasn't sure how I wanted to approach it once I had kids. As it turned out, Grandpa and Grandma (not my dad, lol) started pushing it before I could decide. 🙂 I've sort of brushed it off…We have Santa stuff around our house, but I don't necessarily push it as reality.Things got interesting a couple weeks ago when my son asked me point blank, "Is Santa real?" I sort of sputtered and himmed and hawed and thought, "Shoot, now what do I do?" And in the end, I just couldn't bring myself to say he was real. I said, "He's a real person who lived a long time ago, but he's not alive anymore. But isn't it fun to imagine him?!" And that was the end of the story. My son still talks about him as if he's real. I guess time will tell if he's separating reality from imagination. 🙂

  14. Oh for sure! If I end up telling B-man that Santa isn't real, I will for sure make him be silent about the truth at school. He's not gonna be a spoiler.

  15. On a slightly different note….is anybody else weirded out that Santa is spelled the same as Satan, only with the "n" in a different place? Should this play into my decision? 😉

  16. LOL. Only you would think of that.

  17. I love all the comments! Yes, the Santa decision is a personal one. My husband and I decided to try the Santa thing with our son….but he figured everything out by age 5. So, we told him the truth but asked him not to say anything because many children still believe. Oh well, we tried!Merry Christmas!Ruth

  18. Growing up in Jewish home, I didn't have any Santa history or traditions, but my husband remembers the day his parents told him there was no Santa, and he did question the reality of Jesus. Because of that, he didn't want to start a Santa tradition. Our decision worked great. Santa was a character in the category of Mickey Mouse or Big Bird. It was very exciting to meet such a character. And Christmas was always about Jesus' birthday. We now observe the Advent Conspiracy ( and we get excited about giving gifts to those in need. We still do stocking stuffers which is great fun, and allow our generous extended family to fill in any special requests.

  19. and can I add this – There's a wonderful book called "Santa Are You For Real". It tells the story of Nicholas through the eyes of a boy & his dad. And my daughter learned the hard way not to mention the "realness" of Santa when a little boy knocked her down over the issue. The next week in church, she leaned over to a girl next to her and whispered out the side of her covered mouth "Don't even mention Santa to him." pointing to the boy. [so cute!]

  20. i think i might be the only one who falls into the "it's harmless" camp. perhaps because i had no crisis of faith (regarding santa or Jesus). deep down, i knew that santa hadn't been real when i found out for sure. yes, disappointment. no, trauma. that said, my husband and i frequently say santa is watching her through the month of december (well actually earlier in november, right after thanksgiving). i'm not worried about santa eclipsing Jesus, b/c i read her the Bible all the time, talk about and pray to God with her and for her. God is a huge part of her life everyday. santa is just a few weeks a year.

  21. Jeannie- I'm seriously glad to read this from you. 🙂 Thanks, chica!!

  22. Jenny – if you don't feel convicted about Santa, then you have nothing to worry about, chica! Nothing at all!I totally see where Jeannie's coming from too.See, this is why I haven't made a decision yet….

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