Why I Wouldn’t Teach My Kids About Santa
I don’t actually have a problem with Santa Claus. In fact, I enjoy the general holiday cheer, even if it isn’t specifically Christian. I’m fine with songs like ‘Santa Claus is Coming To Town,’ ‘Frosty the Snow Man,’ ‘Silver Bells,’ etc… Its all good fun. But of course, I appreciate the Christmas songs that contain robust theology even more. Taken as a whole, I simply enjoy anything that is associated with the month of December and all the nostalgia of Christmas time. I say this because I want to be clear that I am not a Christmas curmudgeon, a Grinch, or a Mr. Scrooge. I actually love everything about this time of year, including Santa. But I know for certain that when I have kids I will never specifically teach them about Santa Claus.
I’m fine with my children watching Santa movies and picking up bits about Santa Claus lore along the way. I’m not at all interested in sheltering them from the broader culture’s Christmas tradition. Basically it all boils down to the fact that I don’t want to lie to my children. I’m not terribly concerned about ‘distracting’ them from Jesus’ birth. This is a real concern to be sure, but I don’t think that general Christmas mythology about talking snowmen, flying reindeer, or Santa Claus is inherently problematic. As long as Santa remains within the world of cartoon characters, action figures, and comic-book superheroes then I have no problem with Santa. The issue for me is the idea of lying to my children at such an impressionable age. As skepticism brews in various post-Christian parts of the world, I wonder if Santa mythology might perpetuate the abandonment of faith among children reared in Christian homes (for earlier discussions about this issue on our blog see Part One and Part Two of Tanner’s posts on the documentary Divided?). When you’re young, you believe everything your parents tell you. In many ways, your survival depends on this. For instance, you don’t cross the street, as your mother told you, and so avoid getting hit by a car. And again, you don’t drink the cleaning solution under the sink, as your mother warned you, and so you avoid poisoning yourself. What your parents tell you is important for your survival. Furthermore, your parents shape your developing worldview. They instill you with values and traditions that will carry with you for a long time. So when a family teaches their children about Santa and convinces them to believe it for a number of years there is potential for major cognitive dissonance. It might seem like I’m making too much out of something innocuous, but it sets an unnecessary precedent. Questions could immediately come to a child’s mind: if mom and dad lied to me about this, what else have they lied to me about? This thought is ultimately what deters me from ever teaching my children about Santa.
But the one thing you will hear me teach my children about Santa Claus is his role in the Council of Nicaea.
Yep, its true. St Nicholas was an ardent supporter of the Council and strongly opposed the heretical teachings of Arius (who believed that the Son of God was a created being, and not eternally co-existent with the Father and the Holy Spirit). In fact, at one point St Nicholas ran over to Arius and slapped him across his face! Now that’s a Santa Claus I could tell my children about: the kind who jealously loves Orthodox Trinitarian theology!
So, what do you think? Am I being too dramatic? Would you teach your children about Santa?