Christmas | Truth & Fantasy


During Christmas, Christians grapple with the delicate balance of nurturing their children’s belief in the profound truth of Jesus Christ’s birth while deciding what to do with the enchanting fantasy of Santa Claus. Some avoid or dismiss the idea of Santa completely. Other Christians embrace Santa wholeheartedly, going so far as to fill out gift tags “from Santa.” For most, there is an ongoing dynamic tension between the truth of Christ’s birth and allowing children to enjoy the excitement and joy stirred by the fantasy of Santa.

The profound and eternally significant narrative of Jesus Christ’s birth is a cornerstone of our Christian faith. Understandably, parents, driven by a desire to impart spiritual truths while surrounded by modern culture, could lash out at the cultural icon. Some may view the jolly figure as a distraction, potentially diluting the holiday’s religious significance. This was my view for many years. I consistently spoke the truth of Christ’s birth and condemned the idea of Santa Claus.

Soon after having our first child, we moved to California. I was an Associate Pastor in a church far more conservative than any other church I’d been part of. Our Pastor said he would speak about the Wonder of Christmas as Christmas approached. As expected, the topic of Santa Claus came up in his sermon. I waited for the anticipated condemnation of the jolly fat man who vied for attention with my Savior on the day we celebrate His birth. That condemnation never came. In fact, my very conservative Pastor spoke about how children grow up too fast. Life and circumstance suck the wonder out of life too soon. He suggested that children often learn the truth about Santa long before they can comprehend the truth about Jesus. His point made sense to me.

As I have grown and developed as a husband, father, Pastor, and teacher, this idea has continued solidifying. There are reasons for refuting Santa completely and for enjoying the fantasy. The most crucial point is that the reality of Christ’s birth is being taught.

There are some best practices I encourage. Allow me to share them with you.

1. Be Consistent: I have wondered about those refusing to enjoy the fantasy of Santa because “it is antithetical to truth” while giving their children Easter baskets or taking them Trick or Treating on Halloween. Consistency in your expressions of faith may be more important than whether or not you allow your child to take a photo with Santa at the local mall. For clarity’s sake, a case against a believer in Jesus participating in the fertility symbolism of the “Easter Bunny” or the myriad of historical issues with believers participating in Halloween activities is at least as easy to make as a case against Santa. Whatever your decision, be consistent.

2. Consider Timing: Many parents enjoy seeing the joy on their child’s face when they discover the coin under their pillow after losing a tooth. They are convinced that the Tooth Fairy took their tooth and paid them for the privilege. No one expects their teenager to believe in the Tooth Fairy. The timing for that kind of innocence is over in their life. With few exceptions, the same is true about those who believe in Santa. They will grow up soon enough. If they are 30 and still believe in Santa – it’s time to gently share the truth with them. Conversely, true belief and understanding of Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection are usually too grand for children to truly understand. By the time they begin to grasp the truth surrounding the birth of Jesus, their belief in the fantasy world will have faded.

3. Enjoy Santa, Teach Jesus: Don’t weave the story of Santa into the story of Jesus. They are not equivalent stories that can share space. One is ultimate truth, and the other is complete fantasy. I compare it to the enjoyment of superheroes. Many enjoy stories of superheroes who save the world. They don’t bring those stories together with the story of the Savior of the world. One we enjoy. The other we teach. The difference between enjoying and teaching comes in how you direct and correct the understanding of content. If your child gets the name of a superhero wrong, you will probably let it go. If they answer a math question incorrectly, you correct that. Why? Because one is fantasy and the other is truth. When Santa is being discussed, there are no ‘truths’ to be ignored or corrected. When teaching Jesus, teach what Scripture says.

4. Live Your Faith: If your faith is in Santa Claus, you will live as if he were real. You’d never teach your child to thank family and friends for Christmas gifts because they came from Mr Claus. You would personally expect gifts from Santa and be disappointed when they don’t arrive. Why? Because you believe in Santa – and are living your faith. If your faith is in Jesus, you will accept His salvation, obey His commandments, love His body, support His church through financial generosity and service, and play your part as a believer within His church. Your children will ultimately follow what you live more than what you say.

Allowing children to enjoy Santa Claus’s fantasy need not diminish the true meaning of Christmas. Many argue that a child’s mind can understand the spirit of generosity and selflessness embodied in Christ’s teachings, as demonstrated by Santa, long before they can truly comprehend the sacrifice and gift that Jesus indeed was. The fantasy of the Santa Claus is precisely that – a fantasy. It can, however, provide a canvas on which children can paint their imaginations. It fosters creativity, kindness, and the joy of anticipation.

Ultimately, the key lies in fostering an environment where the truth of Christ’s birth is clearly understood and the fantasy of Santa Claus is enjoyed and then grown out of. Encouraging children to understand Santa’s fun and fictitious nature while emphasizing Christmas’s spiritual depth can be accomplished. Doing so can allow Christian families to create a Christmas experience that is both meaningful and enchanting for their children, allowing them to embrace the wonder of the season while holding dear the eternal truth it represents.