Maybe you even remember a traumatizing moment in your own childhood when someone told you that Santa Claus wasn't real. When that happens, our mistake may have come from allowing others to form our children's view of Santa Claus. Maybe your parents had honorable intentions with their promotion of him, and you've even watched movies or TV shows that fed this fantasy in the mind of your child. By letting others teach our children about Santa Claus, we ultimately allow them to form our children's view of not only Santa Claus but also the true meaning of Christmas. So, how do we instill faith into our children about Christ when they've been deceived that Christmas is about Santa?
Decide Early on How You Will Handle the Subject of, "Is Santa Claus real?"
Many families, Christian or not, are comfortable promoting the fanciful figure of Santa Claus as reality. After all, there's only a brief period in a child's life when he or she is able to believe the unbelievable with complete abandon, right? But what happens when they discover the truth? I was never afraid my children would no longer believe in Santa Claus. I was afraid they wouldn't believe the true meaning of Christmas.
Start with the True Meaning of Christmas
It's important that we build up the faith foundation of our children. They need to know that the true meaning of Christmas is more important than the presents under the tree. So, before we open any presents, let's gather around the Christmas tree and read about the true meaning of Christmas from these passages:
It is vital that we take every opportunity to reinforce our children's understanding of God's love and the reason for Jesus' birth.
Don't Confuse Santa Claus with Saint Nicholas
Santa Claus is a fictional character—no different from, let's say, Big Bird, Mickey Mouse or Forky. So, let's not confuse the fictional Santa Claus with the factual Saint Nicholas.
Saint Nicholas was born into a family of modest wealth and taught the importance of helping people less fortunate than himself. Very noble, and something we all need to teach our own kiddos! Orphaned as a young teen, Nicholas found comfort in his faith and religious studies. He was ordained as a priest at the young age of 19, and became Bishop of Myra shortly thereafter.
Nicholas was imprisoned from 303 A.D. to 308 A.D. because he wouldn't worship the Roman Emperor Diocletian as a god. There in prison, he encouraged his fellow prisoners to remain steadfast in their faith as well. However, the then Bishop (later Saint) Nicholas was primarily known for his kindness, generosity, and wisdom, much like the fictional Santa Claus.
Explaining Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas
The modern-day Santa Claus is a mix of facts and legend about Saint Nicholas, religious traditions from around the world, and the imaginations of writers and advertisers alike—mostly advertisers.
Just one example of this is that some people believe the red robes Bishop Nicholas wore inspired Santa's jolly red suit.
Though Santa Claus is a fictional character, he has actually contributed a great deal to our Christian heritage. Look at the bell-ringers that stand outside department stores, many times dressed in red, collecting money during the Christmas season for those in need.
Also, way back in 1870, Christmas was officially adopted into Protestant churches as part of their Sunday School curriculum when teachers dressed up as Santa Claus and gave out presents as an outreach to children who did not attend Sunday School regularly.
Although Saint Nicholas certainly is not the reason for the season, the celebration of his memory plays a key role in many of our Christmas traditions. Communities around the world celebrate his memory every December 6 on the anniversary of his death.
In the 16th century, when Martin Luther urged believers to refrain from honoring the saints, many Catholics, Lutherans and Episcopalians perpetuated his memory by including Saint Nicholas festivities in their Christmas traditions.
It's interesting to see how the fictional Santa Claus and the factual Saint Nicholas are intertwined and have infiltrated the story of Christmas.
Sharing with Those in Need
Historians credit Saint Nicholas for turning Christmas into a gift-giving season. I'm sure today, retailers appreciate his lifestyle of generosity for reasons other than just being generous to our fellow man. In many cases, it has become their great fortune.
On December 6, people all over the world will celebrate the memory of Saint Nicholas by re-enacting tales attributed to him. One such re-enactment includes hanging stockings over the fireplace and filling them with gifts in remembrance of the time Nicholas saved a widower from selling his daughters into slavery. Legend tells us that he snuck into their home and filled the stockings that hung over the fireplace with gold coins. (I'd appreciate some gold coins in my stocking this Christmas!)
Entire communities, if not the entire world, participate in festivities during the holiday season honoring Saint Nicholas by filling stockings and giving gifts to one another.
Sharing with those in need during the Christmas season is one positive we can come away with from both the fictional Santa Claus and the factual Saint Nicholas. We should be intentional about teaching our children to be generous, share with those in need, not just during the holidays but year-round.
About That True Meaning of Christmas
Building up the faith foundation for our children is important! I hope this Christmas, before opening presents, you'll consider gathering around the Christmas tree and reading about the true meaning of Christmas. And, it's important for us to keep in mind that the true meaning of Christmas isn't found only in the book of Luke. The true meaning of Christmas begins with the fall of man in Genesis 3:1-19 and flows seamlessly throughout Scripture to God's great love for His only Son and for us in John 3:16. It even continues on to the revelation of Himself in the final book of the Bible—appropriately named Revelation. It is vitally important that we reinforce our children's understanding of God's love and the true meaning of Christmas.
Understand the True Meaning of Christmas in a Whole New Way
If you want to understand the true meaning of Christmas in a whole new way, consider reading the Bible through in chronological order of book authorship in the coming year.
If you haven't read the Bible in this order, you're in for a real treat! The plan is great for new believers and for those established in the faith as well.
The Greatest Thing About Santa Claus is When You Catch Grandma Kissing Him!
But seriously, as a child, I never believed that a man called Santa could visit every boy and girl in the world in a single night, land his sleigh and reindeer safely on their rooftops, shimmy his obese body down (and back up) their chimney, leave the exactly presents they were wishing for, eat a plate full of cookies and be on his way... That's A LOT of cookies!!!
However, as a third-grader, I did believe that a man named Jesus could make a way to salvation through faith for every boy and girl in the world in a single, sacrificial act so horrendous that even His own Father had to turn His back. He secured our redemption and gave us just what we needed—Himself, before we even recognized that we needed Him. He knew us before we loved Him, and loved us before we knew Him. Best of all, He will not shimmy His way back up the chimney and out of our lives like Santa. He will always be with us, never leave us, and is the same yesterday, today and forever.
Funny how, even as a child, you can find one thing so impossible to believe and another, by faith, so simple to believe—so simple that even a child can believe. That's the wonder of the gospel, isn't it?!
How have you explained Santa Claus to your children, and how do you keep the true meaning of Christmas alive in your home?
Download Our Merry Christmas Happy Everything Songbook
You can't have a holiday party without a little FA LA LA LA LA and O Holy Night! Are you going caroling? This is perfect! QUICK! before it gets too busy, download this songbook today so your guest will have the words to all our Christmas favorites at their fingertips. This gorgeous, 50+ page, booklet-style printable will be the perfect addition to your holiday party and you can even send it home with your guest as a party favor!
Three ways to put your Merry Christmas Happy Everything songbook together:
First, send it off or take the PDF file to your local office store and print the number of copies you will need for your guest. These can be shared copies, or you can print one for each individual and even send them home as party favors! After printing, here are three different ways you can bind them:
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