As Christmas draws near, my mind is bombarded, as always, with memories of Christmas’ past and those dearest of memories often include that jolly fellow, Santa Claus.
In the house I grew up in, Santa had a deep impact on our lives. We baked cookies for him and left carrots for his reindeer; my siblings and I would write letters and our parents would pretend to mail them. It was magical!
We knew the guy at the mall wasn’t the real Santa, because the real deal had a ton of preparing to do so close to his big night ride. However, that never bothered us; we accepted Santa as a loving Christmas being who was an entity entirely separate from Christianity but who, nonetheless, shared Christian values and attributes.
Every year newspapers and magazines publish long, in-depth articles discussing the ethics of parents “playing Santa” with their children. Some parents condemn the use of Santa because they feel like they are lying to their children. One thing I’ve often heard is, “I don’t want to lie to them because I don’t want them to lie to me,” but I don’t see playing Santa as lying to your kids.
To me, “playing Santa” is allowing children to believe in something magical while they’re still young. Soon enough the real world is going to smack them in the face with things like taxes and credit scores, so what’s the harm in letting them be young and innocent?
I’ve heard parents nix the Santa issue because they don’t want their child to believe in magic, a pagan concept. To that I ask, what are miracles? Do miracles not fall into the same category as magic? Early Christians certainly believed in magic, so why shouldn’t we? If childhood isn’t the time to believe in fairy tales and magic, then at what point do those things become relevant?
Allowing children to believe in something bigger than themselves without any definite proof is important. As Christians, we are taught to have faith in God without the need of proof. The fact that God loves us despite our imperfections is a good foundation for developing a sense of self worth in children. Santa, likewise, reinforces this concept, and, even though he didn’t send his only son to die for our sins, he gives out presents to show his love for us.
The fact that Santa was a real person with qualities similar to our modern notion of him helps to validate our Santa Claus tradition. St. Nicholas, a bishop in modern day Turkey during the fourth century, was a wealthy man who secretly left gifts to people in his community. Over the centuries his story was elaborated on and embellished until the modern idea of Santa Claus was born.
Giving gifts on Christmas is done in memory of the gifts the wise men brought to the baby Jesus. To me, Santa strengthens this spirit of self-less giving and generosity. His legend reminds us to continually give to others, especially those less fortunate, in the name of Christian love.
Because St. Nicholas was real, because miracles do still happen, because self-less giving is vital to Christianity, and because faith is an important concept for children to grasp, I will play the Santa game with my niece and my future children. In a world full of tragedy, a little more love certainly can’t hurt.
This is the opinion of the author and does not reflect an official stance of The Beacon or of Blue Mountain College.