Why we sacked Santa
Me and my husband made a decision when our children were babies that Santa would not be visiting our home at Christmas. Santa is something that nearly all children enjoy, but what happens when you decide not to partake in this tradition? We have been hit with a surprising amount of opposition and when I recently shared this decision with some friends they looked at me with horror and I think a little sadness for our children. It would appear that Santa is compulsory.
This left me thinking maybe it was about time I explored this more and I explained why we believe giving Santa his notice may actually be good for our children.
Lets start off by reminding ourselves who most people believe Santa is. Saint Nicholas lived in the 4th century. He was raised in a Christian household and grow up to become a priest. He inherited a large amount of money when his parents died and became known for his generosity using this money to help and provide for the community he lived in. He was a humble man who did most of this anonymously slipping small sacks of money and gifts through peoples doors. Legend has it he would do this at night so as not to be seen and was also known to sometimes drop the gifts down the chimney. After his death the children were then told that Saint Nicholas continued his good work by coming back from heaven once a year.
Here is a man who lived his life for others, devoted to God he was a wonderful example of the love of Jesus Christ. I believe this is a man I want my children to know about. I want my children to be inspired and encouraged by his life and his wonderful example. But to do this do I need to tell them he lives at the North Pole? How lost is the simple message of hope and love when you pile on top of it, reindeers, sleighs, elf's, naughty lists and stockings?
Now we have looked at Saint Nicholas that's look at a slightly less friendly guy. Chemosh.
Chemosh goes back in history to the days of Babylon. He was a Pagan Idol / God and believed by Pagan's to bring prosperity and the worship of him in anyway was completely forbidden by God. It is often said that Christmas was actually a Pagan holiday before it became a Christian one and this is fine, as long as we're not overlapping the two. Because as I explain who Chemosh was ask yourself if he reminds you of another Christmas Character? Chemosh was a very large statue of a man with a big fat belly who sat up on a high throne. He was set alight until he burned red. The people then made a list of all the things that they wanted for the year ahead and took their children to meet him on December 25th giving him their list and throwing in their babies to burn as a sacrifice.
There is also another who rears his head at Christmas time and that's Krampus. He is a documented demon beast who is said to know which children are naughty and nice and comes once a year to punish and inflict pain on the naughty children. He is still celebrated today with some cultures having Krampus status in their house all year round to remind children to be good telling them that Santa and Krampus travel together, Santa visiting the good children and Krampus visiting the naughty.
Do Krampus and Chemosh sit a little to close to home for you? Because they do for me and with the Ten Commandments instructing us in Exodus 20 to have no other God and to never make or worship any Idol forms we need to seriously consider what lies behind these traditions and be careful to what extent we allow and encourage our children to immerse themselves in them. However I do not believe we should remove Christmas from our calendar (or even Santa to some extent) and there is still so much that children can take from Christmas time.
Contrary to Krampus and Chemosh, Saint Nicholas teaches us faith in God, He showed the love of Jesus Christ in the way he treated others, this love was and is unconditional and never reliant on a naughty list. I want my children to have a heart for all people, to see the joy in giving to those who haven't asked for it or done anything to deserve it.
Saint Nicholas teaches us the joy of giving what we have. He and we do not have an unexahaustable supply of money and toys like Santa Claus. I want my children to learn gratitude for what they have been given and to understand that when some families get more or less than others this is not a reflection of their worth but only of their wealth. Learning the joy of giving as well as receiving at a young age is important. We very much enjoy putting together shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child where the children learn that not all live with the luxuries we do, I've heard from several parents who pack boxes that they have been asked by there children why Santa doesn't give toys to these children. I need to teach my children that this is not because they have been judged by Santa who favours the rich and judges others as undeserving of a visit. Life is not this simplistic, and finding ways to make others life happier and easier is the real example Saint Nichola gave.
The Christmas message can be so lost and distorted in a society that is demanding and selfish. Where what we can get is more important than what we can give and where people are judged on the quantity and quality of their filled stockings and decorated homes.
And somewhere in amongst all this wrapping paper at Christmas time is a little baby boy born in a manger.
Because isn't this the real man that should make the centre of our Celebrations? The one we become excited about and share stories about. We have replaced advent candles with chocolate advent calendars, instead of thanking Jesus for what we have, we ask Santa for what we don't have and the Christmas eve tradition of Mass has been replaced with carrots and mince pies on bedside tables.
And what about the lie? This is often the biggest part of Santa that worries Christian parents. Santa is an acceptable lie, isn't he? We can put it in the white lie box along with surprise parties, and answering questions like "where do babies come from", or can we? As we teach our children about their saviour. About our eternal God who sees all, loves unconditionally and gives generously does the story of Santa add to this or take from it? As our children come to us trying to understand the sometimes complex road of faith and they rely on us to steer them towards what and who is truth and right and trust us to show them that although physically unseen we have a King who is the way, the truth and the life, does our storytelling through their childhood telling of a pretend man and his helpers aid this trust building or slightly diminish our reputability?
We all know that most children survive Santa and the discovery of his lack of real existence but some children don't and are left genuinely hurt and confused by the deception.
There is only one man that I want my children putting their hopes and dreams, wants and desires on to and he is forever and for everyone, young and old, rich and poor.
Are we taking the fun out of Christmas? I don't think so.
Are we replacing Santa with Jesus as the centre of our Christmas traditions? Absolutely.
So how does this look?
Firstly Santa is not banished from our house and his name is not a swear word. We never correct our young children when they chat about Santa. We allow them to enjoy the fun idea of Santa as their friends do but in our house it takes the format of a story just like the many other bedtime stories they enjoy but know as pretend. Then in the run up to Christmas we sit down with the children and chat with them about who Saint Nicholas really is. That he was a man who lived long ago and did wonderful things. We explain that the world celebrates and remembers him by watching films and reading books, giving presents and filling stockings and most importantly showing his love and kindness through generosity.
We love to decorate our home at Christmas and our house contains films, books and decorations with Santa on them as many houses do but it is also filled with Bible stories and nativity sets and at bed time we prefer to talk about the true story of Jesus, his birth and what it means for us.
We will go late night shopping and the children can visit Santa in his grotto if they ask to but we will also go to our church Christmas service.
Our children will be reminded of the good example St Nicholas gives us but we dont bribed or threatened with naughty lists or lumps of coal.
They will look forward to the surprise stocking that appears at the end of the bed but their presents will say "love from mum and dad".
They will enjoy writing wish lists but know who their are writing them to and we take the opportunity to help them better understand the worth of money and gratitude for what they will receive.
They will enjoy opening presents but also learn the joy of buying, wrapping and giving presents.
And I'm left feeling relieved that I don't have to worry about answering the many questions about fireplaces, time zones and flying reindeer.
I do believe Santa and Jesus can live side by side at Christmas, I see families all around me, including Christian families doing it perfectly well. Each family does it differently in their own way, some in a big way, some more simpler. And yes of course their children will still learn gratitude and generosity but we simply decided to cut out the middle man. He isn't needed for us, and I love to focus on Jesus who is the only one of them who will always be real, living, faithful and forever.
I would never tell parents to not include Santa in their family Christmas, he is a big part of Christmas for many but I would encourage them that Christmas can still be Christmas without him.