Santa & Jesus Revisited

Before the hate mail begins, please hear me out. There has been some confusion regarding my Luke 2 post last week (here), and I want to clarify. If you thought I wanted to “kill Santa”, then either I missed the mark, or you missed the point.

I am Pro-Santa. My EC and I have been dragging our kids to the mall for 24 years to see the jolly old elf, and get a photo. Santa visits our house every year. He leaves wonderful presents. He eats the cookies and drinks the milk we leave for him. One year he even left a roll of wrapping paper on the roof where the kids just “happened” to see it.

Santa is awesome.

My complaint?  I do not like the current efforts to use Santa as a metaphor for Christ in books, paintings and figurines. I also don’t like the image of Santa praying at the manger. Why? Stick with me, and I’ll try and explain it.

We live in a world where very loud voices tell us that there is no Christ, and that he is only a mythical figure created by man. (Think Korihor –  Alma 30). I know that these voices are wrong, that there is a God, that there is a Christ. Personally, I don’t like using a mythical person (Santa) to represent a real person (Jesus). I don’t like the mash-up of myth and reality. My concern is that blending myth and reality dilutes and distorts the reality. Eventually the myth will be exposed – will it diminish the reality when that happens?

I am more for letting the reality and myth co-exist for the holiday season. Independently. I also don’t think that we have to find a religious parallel to justify every single Christmas tradition. I have heard stories about how candy canes, Christmas trees, yule logs, bells, poinsettias, pumpkin log etc. all represent some religious aspect of Christmas. (OK, I made up the pumpkin log thing) I think Santa  can be a fun tradition without straining to find symbolism with Christ. Mostly because I know that the symbolism has all been conjured up after the fact. The tradition of Santa doesn’t stem from symbolism of Christ – never has – either anciently or when Clement Clark Moore wrote “A Visit From St. Nicholas.”

Yes, Santa exemplifies the spirit of giving. But comparing his red suit to the Savior’s robes? Please.

I prefer leaving Santa in the realm of fantasy, like Spiderman, Transformers, and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Magical powers, kind and caring, helping people. They can all display Christlike attributes without directly being compared to Christ. Thankfully, you don’t see books about Spiderman stopping by the temple at Lincoln Center for a quick session before he goes off to fight crime.

It seems to me that some people feel the need to “deify” Santa, and fabricate Christlike comparisons in order to justify participating in a commercialized tradition, and to ease a conscience that says “you are lying to your kids!”  Personally, I don’t sweat that part of it, but some people do. I see it as the whitest of all white lies. Does it damage the kids? Apparently scientists have been looking into this for over 100 years. Here is some research from a few years back:

The scientists conclude with a fascinating rhetorical question that I think comes into play:
“If children attribute the same supernatural powers to Santa as they do to God, why do they stop believing in Santa, but continue their belief in God?”

To me the obvious answer to their question is that one is real, the other myth, and the kids are able to tell them apart. Let’s not make that harder for them.

To restate:
One is God, the creator of our universe and Savior of mankind. The other is a mythical elf with word of wisdom issues. Please don’t confuse the two. Jesus deserves better.

Now let the hate mail begin.

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  1. I am currently writing a children’s book for kids who are in the crossing-over period with Santa. In it I give him a genealogical twist. Santa tells his son Nicholas about the original St. Nicholas who was a very Christ-like Bishop of Myra in the fourth Century.

  2. I like the picture. I interpreted it to mean that the all the hype and crazy and fun of Christmas (Santa) takes the time to be still and revere the true meaning of Christmas– as should we. Kinda a reminder to everyone that while it’s a fun time–the true reason for the season still is greater than all the glitz and glamour that you see around you.
    But I do tend to be one of the ‘lets-all-just-get-along’ gang.

  3. I’m a little late, but haven’t missed Christmas yet, so good posting!! I think both the anti-Santa crowd and the Santa-Jesus-fusion crowd are straining at gnats and swallowing the wise men’s camels.

    We love Santa at our house and it’s a much more a “twinkle-in-the-eye” sort of thing than our deep love for the Savior. Whenever the subject of Santa came up with my kids (and now with my grandkids), I belt out a “HO! HO! HO! I’M SANTA CLAUS!” and they say “No, you’re not!” At some point they just start ‘Ho-ho-ing” with me. They are all fairly well-adjusted and even the grown ones still go to church.

  4. I wholeheartedly agree with you.

    There’s nothing wrong or harmful with teaching children about Santa Claus. But mingling the legend of Santa with the reality of our creator could lead to all sorts of confusion.

  5. melly42, I was thinking the same thing you mentioned: many, many of our gifts at Christmas are things our kids would be getting anyway (pjs, underwear, socks, etc).

    That said, my hat’s off to a family who can convince kids to bypass gifts in favor of service. That’s something special, I’m sure.

  6. I had an additional thought. While I agree that Christmas can become too commercialized and that kids can be overindulged at Christmas time. Many businesses and their employees really rely on this time of year (it is called Black Friday for a reason). I use it as a time to get my kids the
    things that they really need or I would like them to have (I mostly let the Grandparents get the fun stuff). We have fun with Santa, but my kids know why we celebrate Christmas.

  7. Santa makes me smile. The game makes me grin. it’s just good fun.

    Jesus is the reason for the season. We should respect Him as such.

    The two can exist and peace should still abound. Peace on eareth goodwill to men and also Santa lovers.

  8. I’m going to be lazy and say that what Mindy (near top of comments) said is exactly what I would say. : )

  9. I’m with Dana- as my family tries to leave more of Santa and commercialism stuff behind we find more room for Christ. We also try to focus on Christ all year long. We happen to not do Santa at our house but we try to teach the kids not to spoil it for others. But, I honestly can’t figure out how you are able to do both and not end up with small children who really are only thinking about the Santa part. I’ve taught Sunbeams for many years and every time I get to the Christmas lesson I ask them what Christmas is all about. The answer EVERY time from EVERY kid is the same- “SANTA and PRESENTS!”
    Obviously as children grow older they figure out that there’s more to it, but I recall mainly focusing on what I’d get, what feats we’d be having and the stress of finding presents for everyone and their pet rattlesnake. I’m really hoping to avoid that with my children and my way of doing so is to leave Santa out of it.
    Great picture though, and great post.

  10. Absolutely, Christ should be our focus year round and we should be thankful always. I merely pointed out the shift in our behavior from November to December. By “our” I mean a large part of society – obviously not you. 😉

    Are you saying you don’t see the shift?

    I’m not saying Santa is evil, we’ve decorated with cute Santa’s and have had visits from Santa, but each year our celebration has evolved into something a bit different from the year before. It started years ago with limiting our gifts to three. We realized our celebration wasn’t based on getting gifts. PHEW! We sweated that one! 😉

    This decision like many others is going to vary from family to family. Some have prayerfully considered the Santa/Jesus thing and have felt prompted to take it or leave it.

    Personally each year we seem to leave behind more Santa, which allows more room for Christ.

  11. Personally…(Here we go!) I see no reason why there can’t be both. Having Santa in the mix doesn’t diminish the true spirit of Christmas. You can still have fun and still teach of Christ. Our son’s favorite movie right now is “The Restoration.” Why? Because he loves it when he gets to see Christ in it. But we didn’t need to take Santa away to make that happen. We just try to emphasize every chance we can, the importance of Christ. But to each there own! I just know from my experience you have have a Christmas completely centered on Christ and a dash of Santa fun on the side.

  12. I would hope that our gratitude and focus on the Son of God are not merely seasonal events that have to be focused on during November and December. Shouldn’t that be the “norm” or the status quo?

    Adding a brief season of treats, toys and celebration to December does not need to diminish our gratitude and love for the Savior – they are not mutually exclusive.

    I would suggest that if you need to use December to increase your focus on the Savior, then you haven’t been doing it right the other 11 months.

  13. I grew up with Santa and never confused the two. But honestly the excitement of Santa coming was because he was bringing presents. If he didn’t bring presents then a creepy old man would just be coming in your house for no reason. EWW! (grin)

    Just this past Monday night my youngest learned the true identify(s) of Santa. I feel relieved that this is now behind us.

    I have pondered this for the past month especially, reading past talks from Christmas Broadcasts. There is regularly a warning or pleading to focus on Christ and to remember what the holiday is for. Why? Because “THINGS” take the focus off of Christ.

    This year we are serving others but not by giving them gifts. We are giving our time and love to others in an attempt to be more Christlike.

    I find it ironic (and sad) that we spend November counting our blessings and being thankful for the bounty and even excess we have, and then – BOOM – the day after Thanksgiving, it changes to “I NEED ______ (more stuff)” or “MY KIDS NEED _______ (more stuff)”.

    I am of the opinion that this is easier to prevent by celebrating the Son of God, than a big jolly man with a bag of toys and things of no real worth. (ouch)

    Just had to go there…. Merry CHRISTmas!

  14. Yup! But I’ve never heard the MoTab sing about the Easter Bunny or Halloween. 😉

    I’m certainly not anti-Santa – though reading through some of my comments it may seem that way. Most of them are said in jest – so hard to make that come across in writing!

    Question – why do you keep changing the picture at the top of your post?

  15. MMM, you nailed it again! I love the common sense you display in your blog.

    We love the magic of Santa in our home! We love the Christmas movies about Santa (i.e. the original Miracle on 34th Street is fantastic). I wouldn’t trade the magical part of it! And we’re not asked to give it up. We’re asked to always remember Christ and His birth.

    @ Cheryl, Awesome Pres. Faust talk on Santa!

  16. Yes, the Church does celebrate Christmas in December.

    And the Mo-Tab sings that “Santa’s on his way, he’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh.”

    Sounds like tacit approval to me.

  17. I like that you brought up the April thing. I have told my husband that too when people give me a hard time about Santa.
    The world has chosen to celebrate His birth at Christmastime and we go along with that but in our home we celebrate His birth all year long.
    I love Santa. There. I said it. To all those who hate him or are anti-Santa or refer to it as lying to your kids… I just don’t buy into that. I loved it as a kid. I never mixed up the two. I wasn’t crushed when I found out about Santa.
    I love continuing the tradition with our children and I am with you that I hope their kids don’t ruin it for mine.
    I also don’t like the Santa praying to baby Jesus pictures. I think it is easy to keep them separate.

  18. Hahaha! I have thought that many times! Christmas in April. And believe it or not, I have known at least one family who did do that. We love Santa, and he comes and brings presents, and we leave cookies and milk. I really love the magical feeling it brings for the kids. And although they are only 3 & 4, they understand that Santa has nothing to do with Christ and that Christmas is to celebrate the birth of our Savior. I’m so glad we’ve established that distinction.
    I’m sorry for clogging up your comment section; I just really love your blog and all the awesome people who leave comments! I promise I am a good mother, and have a life and don’t sit at my computer all day. Promise!! 🙂

  19. John: I’m with you. It was a magical time of sleepless nights and excitement. The Santa experience is one of my fondest childhood memories. AS I type that I start feeling like the narrator of “A Christmas Story”.

    I’m kind of surprised at the number of comments from “Anti-Santa-ites”. It is truly OK if you forgo Santa – I’m just glad my parents let us have the experience, and I emerged with an intact testimony.

  20. Thank you, Paul! I always wonder what the heck is going on in people’s homes if their kids only hear about Jesus at Christmas and thus confuse the truth between Him and Santa. Doesn’t make sense to me. Especially since we talk about Christ every single day of the year. Usually more than once. Or twice.

    If my kids ask me point blank about Santa, I’m honest with them –but then I get to recruit them into “playing Santa” with us and we make it fun for the little kids. We never force them to hang out with Santa at the ward party or write him letters or leave him cookies (although they like to). In fact, we don’t really talk about him; all of our scripture reading and story telling has to do with either Christ, service, or some family that was destitute and had a great Christmas anyway. They are learning how to be like Christ –Santa isn’t taking that away from them. Just like how the Easter Bunny (which they dont’ believe in, anyway) doesn’t take away from the Resurrection of Christ, and the tooth fairy doesn’t take away from….ummm…the reality that my kids only get 25 -50 cents a tooth?

    Whatever the case, and whatever the decision people make, frankly? It doesnt’ really matter. Parents who love their kids (everyone who commented here and beyond) are just trying to do the best they can. And can they do it with Santa and other mythical childhood magic? Of course! Can they do it without it? Of course! I only get riled up over this subject when I’m told that lying to my kids makes me a bad parent. And yes, it’s happened (not here, though).

  21. To go along with Linds’a comment about opposition in all things I can’t believe nobody’s mentioned that Santa has the same letters as Satan….oooooo…..

    TOTALLY kidding about that btw. 🙂

    I grew up with Santa. My dad LOVED creating the magic of it all – having us sprinkle food for the reindeer, leaving a plate of cookies for Santa, and he even went so far as to wake us up early Christmas morning by throwing pieces of wood onto the roof so they sounded like Santa’s reindeer pawing, then we’d hear bells ringing and a big “Ho, ho, ho!”

    My mom would roll her eyes and just mutter her usual, “I had children so your father would have someone to play with.”

    When my husband and I got married we decided to forego the Santa thing with our own children. I can honestly say though that the “magic” of Christmas is still the same for them. When we happen to have Christmas at my parents’ house my dad will do his usual that he did with me growing up. Some of my sister’s kids still believe in Santa and my children know not to spoil it for them. But my parents have also told us privately that our kids showed more selflessness and love and respect to all and they attribute that to them never having believed in Santa. They haven’t been taught to “ask Santa for what they want” (it’s all about me, me ,me!) but instead have learned to focus on giving (it’s about serving) instead.

    There’s really a book that tries to show Santa is a symbol for Christ? Yikes!

  22. I remember as a kid not being able to sleep for being so excited for Santa to come. I remember straining to hear footsteps on the roof. It’s one of my favorite memories. I really miss that magic feeling. I love the Santa part of Christmas, and it’s fun pretending I still feel the magic of it. I don’t really believe in magic. I believe in the Atonement of Christ. Confusing the two was never a problem for me, even as a child.

  23. I am excited to celebrate my Saviour’s birth every year. My family also enjoys a wonderful connection with the mythical Santa. I’ve even published a book about him! The two will never be confused. Great post. No hate mail here!

  24. I’m a Santa believer. Still am at 53. Our story (and we’re sticking to it) is that when our kids come to us with questions about Santa we spill the beans: we all are Santa.

    My sister took a different approach. She and her hubby never talked about Santa at home, and didn’t attribute gifts to him. They didn’t dis Santa; they just didn’t talk about him at home. That worked, too.

    My dis-like mail (I’m too nice to write hate mail…) would go to spoiler parents who feel it’s their obligation to have their children be the guardian of other children’s innocence. That goes for those who dispel the Santa myth or any other childhood myth.

    As for teaching the truthfulness and reality of the Savior: How can Santa get in the way of that? Santa is a one-month-a-year thing. Christ is a 24/7/365 deal. Duh.

    Great post.

  25. I can understand your point of view on being able to have both coexist without intermingling them.
    Do you hear a ‘however’ coming on?
    However, I can also see that there is a lot of focus on the commercialism side and someone is trying to get people to remember the true ‘reason for the season’. Yes, I have been labeled as being too politically correct or neutral on some issues. I guess I can say that I try to not necessarily except, but understand each individual view.
    Like you, our family carries on both the fun and real.
    Enjoy the season as you like.

  26. Oh MMM…
    (I don’t know how to make a link..I’m a dork) 2Nephi 2:11 states “For it must needs be, that there is opposition in all thing.”
    These people are providing a service for you by mashing up Christ and Santa. They are giving you an opportunity to choose which side you stand on. Good job choosing wisely. Try not to be too hard on them, either they know not what they do, or the Lord knows it’s okay to allow people to choose a side. (the Easter bunny nearly made me snort diet coke out of my nose)
    Jesus and Santa are celebrated on the same day (if you “do” Santa) it’s up to individuals to separate the two. I can’t think of a better situation where the contrast is so stark, where we get to choose.
    Santa is fine….Jesus Christ is best. That’s my choice, too.

  27. WHAT??? you are such a SPOILER!!

    Are you seriously telling me that Obi-Wan is NOT REAL!?!?!?!?

    If you say Yoda is fiction – I am OUTTA HERE!

    (Appreciated the clarification. I understood, fuzzily, what you were saying last time, but this one is much more clear and concise – AND SPOT ON, until you had to go rouge and bring in the StarWars reference. (starwars is CLEARLY the best LDS teaching tool to discuss things like good vs evil, how Satan carefully leads his prey to the dark side with half truths and feel good messages, the power of the force, life after death, and repentance and redemption, etc…) 🙂

    Merry CHRISTmas to all, and to all good night!

  28. Oh my goodness. I was googling a picture I wanted to show you (I haven’t found it yet…it goes along with the whole santa and Jesus picture that I abhor, but the one I’m looking for isn’t about Santa….anyway, I digress) and I found this:
    Terrible. But I think its a good representation of what you were saying about melding the truth with myth. Not cool.

  29. I do think combining the 2 can confuse kids and they should remain separate. Jesus is the reason, Santa is just the extra magic and fun to go with it. I have no doubt Jesus is okay with that.

  30. You articulated my thoughts very well! I really, really dislike those depictions/pictures of Santa and Jesus. Blech! I did, however love one of your last lines… “The other is a mythical elf with word of wisdom issues.” Well done!!!!

  31. My observation is that whether or not we are fans of Santa, it’s another great opportunity to have a conversation about the Savior. Furthermore, symbolism of Christmas tradition objects fall under the category of “all good things come from our Father in Heaven”. The tricky part is making sure as fans we don’t become fanatic.

  32. I got what you were saying last time… and I still think you’re absolutely right this time too. No hate mail from me. 🙂

  33. Like JWW we are pretty anti-Santa. But I tell my kids that other parents lie to their children and that my kids shouldn’t spoil it for them.

    Sometimes they spill the beans and one year I got a furious call from the other Mom we carpooled with telling me that my children had just informed hers that Santa isn’t real. To which I could only say, “Well, he isn’t.”

    Also, I can’t stand the Sacrament Meeting talk where the speaker gets up and rattles off a list of how everything Christmassy is symbolic of something Biblical (“. . . and kissing under the Mistletoe reminds us of Mary kissing baby Jesus”) Let’s just all embrace the godless commercialism of it all, OK?

  34. I grew up with Santa and we were doing it with our kids, but then our little ones were terrified of Santa (at the mall, worried about him coming in the house, anywhere) and so we rethought why we were forcing it on them. So, we told them that the presents come from people who love them and we didn’t teach the later kids about Santa. It may have been nice to have loftier ideals (we’ve taken on some of those later), but that was the reality. I admit that some of my kids told shocked neighbors that Santa didn’t come to our house.

  35. We believe in Christ. Santa is fun. And that is exactly when I knew when my daughter was old enough to know the truth about Santa–when she asked me in two consecutive questions if each was real. So, we discussed that Christ was real, but Santa, the Easter bunny, and the tooth fairy were not. They were just for fun, but Christ would always be there for us. I have never regretted how we handled it. Also, she felt special being trusted with the information that some other kids still did not know.

  36. I am not anonymous and I will also say we don’t like Santa here.

    I am a FIRM believer (as is my Dh) that he has no place in our celebration. I respect that some people need to have him in theirs, but ours is so much better since we took him out. It has been over 8 years and I can’t say that my family misses him AT ALL.

    In fact, next year we are going present-less. (I am a go-getter and I was done before Halloween) We donated most of what we bought this year. The best part? It was done with the full support and urging of our children! (ages 12, 10 and 6)

    These photos make my skin crawl, and that one at the top you doctored with the EB, awesome.

    Thank you for your views. It really is brave. (the hate mail is not fun)

  37. JWW: A couple of things:

    1) If you are being anonymous, it’s better not to sign off with your initials.

    2) That is just fine if you don’t want to have your kids experience the Santa tradition. But please make sure your kids aren’t the ones running around telling my kids that it’s all a lie.

  38. How did you get to be so wise? When I grow up (I’m 53) I want to be wise like you. We’ve taught our family has been about the same as yours. I don’t like to compare the two figures either, it never seemed right. Thanks for your post.

  39. I’m glad they can co-exist and I agree, there is no comparison between the two. And we love you MMM. No hate mail here.

  40. Actually, I’m not a huge Santa fan. We don’t do Santa at our house and never have, and guess what–we NEVER have a hard time remembering the “true meaning of Christmas.” Nothing detracts from it. I get accused of being no fun, but for me, it’s all about exactly what you said here: It’s FANTASY and I don’t ever want my kids to think the STORY of Santa has anything to do with the REALITY of the Savior, the atonement, or the gospel. Those AREN’T made-up stories, and I don’t want my kids to ever think they are. We still have GREAT Christmases with age-old traditions like trees and gifts and stockings and gingerbread houses, but they KNOW those things are traditions, and we never (dare I say it? yes, because I’m anonymous) we never combine those traditions with a lie about someone who lives at the North Pole who will bring them gifts if they’re good. No one will ever love them more than the Redeemer, and no one will ever give them a better gift than he did. That’s all we need. It’s still my kids’ favorite holiday EVER.


    P.S. I’m too afraid to check back to see if anyone commented after me. I can’t do hate mail. You’re braver than I am.

  41. No hate mail. I’m just embarrassed I didn’t realize this was your intent with the last post –I think I would have replied with a different line of thinking. But this still deserves an AMEN! Because I agree with this, too. As much as I dislike people claiming Santa Claus should be completely done away with at Christmas in the name of truth-telling, I don’t like this, either (the attempte at combining Jesus and Santa).

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