For the past few years, my husband and I have wrestled with our presentation of Santa Claus to our young daughters.
We have watched well-meaning Christian friends decide to forgo the tradition altogether. We have hesitated to follow suit because we cherish our childhood memories of St. Nick but we are careful not to use Santa to control our children’s behavior.
We don’t have an Elf on the Shelf (although I do love the idea of Kindness Elves), and we don’t remind our children that “Santa is watching” when they misbehave. We take care not to present Santa as a substitute for God.
Why I want my kids to believe in Santa
We do not consider creating the magic of Santa for our children to be, in any way, shape or form, lying.
Sure, being Santa creates a bit more work each year for us as parents. (I cut myself a bit of slack by letting my oldest know that I sometimes help Santa out here and there.)
But the tradition of Santa Claus is, after all, based on a very real person who gave everything he had to serve those in need in a very real way.
We want to our kids to see St. Nicholas as a symbol of the selfless generosity of Christ, of God’s sacrificial love for all mankind, not as an omnipotent disciplinarian.
The Saint Nicholas Center describes Bishop Nicholas’ life as one of constant giving:
Obeying Jesus’ words to ‘sell what you own and give the money to the poor,’ Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.
It seems very fitting that The Salvation Army bell ringers wear Santa’s garb each holiday season, as they ask for donations to help the homeless population they serve.
Remembering my mother at Christmas
My mom loved the traditions of Christmas–the tree, the music, the food, the lights. Most of all, she loved Santa–the embodiment of selfless generosity in the most special of seasons.
Luckily for me, she embraced my Methodist grandmother’s love of holiday traditions instead of her Church of Christ upbringing’s rejection of such “worldly” symbols. My favorite Christmas decoration is the handmade Santa my mother bought in Fredericksburg, Texas, when I was a child.
A good German girl, my mom always insisted that we exchange all (non-Santa) gifts, have Christmas dinner and drive around looking at Christmas lights on Christmas Eve. But Christmas morning was all about the magic of Santa Claus.
Opening a stocking filled by my mother was always like opening a treasure trove of my new favorite things.
She was the world’s best gift giver and Santa’s greatest helper; she had finding the perfect gift for everyone down to an art. My mom cared enough about people to get them something they would actually enjoy, not just something she would like to give them.
Like Santa, she practiced selfless generosity.
Perhaps this is why Christmas always makes my heart ache a little more and makes that empty spot in our family a little more obvious. I strive every year to fill her shoes in making Christmas Eve and Christmas morning a special time for my family.
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. – Proverbs 3:27
I want my kids to believe in Santa, because in continuing traditions that my mother held dear, she remains a part of our celebrations.
I want my kids to believe in Santa, because in continuing traditions that St. Nicholas began, in giving selflessly to others in need, we emulate the selfless generosity of Christ.
How does your family see Santa?
Let me know in the comments.
A version of this post originally appeared at LaurenFlake.com on December 17, 2015.