Long before our daughter could say the word “Christmas,” my husband and I engaged in the “Santa Claus” debate. While he believed we should tell her the “truth” by teaching about the Nativity and the season of Advent, I believed there also was a purpose in the value and lessons sparked through the magic of Santa Claus. Then, it happened: she entered a Christian preschool at the age of two. Nearing the month of December, she came home talking animatedly about Santa Claus and her excitement about the arrival of Christmas. While she wholeheartedly believed in fairies, unicorns and other magical beings, it took a mere two seconds for her imagination to run with the flying reindeer, the elves assembling toys in a workshop and the myth of a man who delivers presents around the world on Christmas night. Without a word from us, she believed Christmas included magic. And, the answer is always, “Yes!””
Any child, truly, can have a combination of reality and magical plausibility. Child psychologists agree believing in Santa is a normal and healthy part of development. None of us can ignore the great influence “Santa” has brought into our lives through television programming and favorite movies, or the sight of him found around every corner, street and in most yards. Isn’t it possible that Santa also represents family togetherness, peace and an added joy to the Christmas season?
The Truth Will Be Learned
Many parents are challenged with the idea of deceiving their children every Christmas. Admittedly, I have told my daughter, now five, that her favorite magical creatures are not real; yet, I have not offered the truth to Santa Claus’ existence. Why? I believe for two reasons.
- While St. Nicholas became famous for giving gifts and money to the poor, the essence of his story—despite being greatly exaggerated—is fact.
- The idea of Santa does not alter the story of the Nativity or the truth that Christmas celebrates Jesus’ birthday. In time, she will question the story of Santa and view the spirit of Christmas in other fulfilling ways.
Bringing Families Together
There will always be magic in twinkling lights and the season of Advent. With Santa Claus in our lives and in our children’s hearts, the time is sweeter, perhaps more joyous. And, as adults, it’s hard to deny our children the great tradition of watching movies and television programming, making wishes and writing letters, and giving homemade gifts to the less fortunate, good friends and loved ones. Julie Simpson writes, “Three years ago, my three children come up with some form of project, such as creating a Christmas-themed art project, baking cookies, or making homemade cards and giving them to a specific person, or people, in need. It makes them feel good to become the secret messenger of goodwill, and as my youngest daughter calls it, “acting just like Santa.”
Expanding the Magic
“He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.” While you may have just provided the tune alongside the words, each of us knows the lyrics of “Santa Claus is coming to town.” The question becomes, “How does he know?” Since 2005, one of Santa’s helpers has expanded the belief in Santa’s arrival and encouraged children to “be nice.” In over 2.5 million households, an elf, once named, discovered sitting on a shelf, will be instantly given the magical ability to fly nightly back to the North Pole and inform Santa about the child(ren) he or she observes. While it sounds complicated, this specific magic comes with a book of rules. This newest family tradition has brought a flavoring of fun for for children, who wake to find the location of his or her elf, and to the parent, who must show a sense of creativity each night for almost a month.
Without question, the magic embedded in Christmas is important to children, and adults, too. We start as believers well before we stand in his shoes and become St. Nicholas.