Is it Okay for Children to Believe in Santa Claus?

santa claus with baby

Is it Okay for Children to Believe in Santa Claus?

Year after year, children are excited by stories of Santa’s arrival and the gifts he will bring. Parents and grandparents amp up the fun with Santa suits, cookies under the tree and letters to the North Pole. It all seems like harmless holiday fun, but is it really okay for children to believe in Santa Claus?

Here are a few things to keep in mind as we enter this holiday season with hopes of stirring up the “magic” of Christmas.

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Santa Is Real

Right along with decorated trees, shiny lights and gingerbread houses, Santa is a Christmas tradition who is here to stay. He makes an appearance in every cartoon and every Christmas movie, both children and adult ones. The guy gets around!

This is the mythical version of Santa, though. It’s just a fun story many of us enjoyed as children and passed on to the next generation. But Saint Nicholas, the man on which the myths are based, was a real person. Believed to be born around 280 A.D. in Patara, he was a very generous man. He used his money to help people in need and was greatly admired for his kindness… sounds a lot like the heart of Christ to me!

Eventually this man’s legacy became the pop culture icon of a chubby guy in a red suit who squeezes down chimneys. I think maybe he’d find this new version of himself comical, perhaps even belittling. There’s so much value for our families in the true story of St. Nicholas. After all, who couldn’t use another example of an ordinary guy who did extraordinary things for others?

Way back before having children, my husband and I decided we wouldn’t pass along the pop culture version of Santa Claus to our little ones. However, they will know that St. Nicholas is real, that he did incredible things. I pray this inspires them to have hearts of servants, to give generously, and to know we can help make a difference for kids who don’t get to experience the joy of receiving gifts.

If you enjoy the traditions of Santa Claus around this time of year, find some ways to honor the man behind the myth. Romans 13:7 says, “Pay your obligations to everyone… honor to those you owe honor.” The actual story of his life is a blessing to us, and for that we owe him more than a few chocolate chip cookies.

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<strong>Christmas Time Is Already Magical</strong>

Christmas Time Is Already Magical

With all the lights and frills, it’s easy to get caught up in feeling like we have to make Christmas great. I do it too—pull the ornaments from the attic, shake out the tree skirt, hang the lights. It’s so much fun! I love this time of the year.

But culture has convinced us that without all of that and without the kids believing Santa is bringing gifts, Christmas can’t be special.

Admittedly, I had started to put too much emphasis on myself and how much I could do to make my house “feel” like Christmas. There’s nothing wrong with decking the halls and creating beautiful Christmas scenery in our homes, but we have to remember those things are just accents to the real significance of Christmas.

Santa and decorations should never outshine Jesus in our homes, at Christmas time or anytime. Whether or not Jesus’ actual birthday was December 25th, it’s the day Christians have decided to celebrate His first coming into the world. That’s a big deal!

I can honestly say, before this year I had never put Christ at the center of our celebrations. Sure, I’ve always known “Jesus is the reason for the season.” I’ve told my kids time and time again that we should express gratitude for our gifts and thank God for making it possible. But the truth is, the season has been more about the festivities, the family time and the gifts.

This year we’re doing things differently. We’re celebrating Advent for the first time, and the kids love it. Prior to last week I didn’t even know such a thing existed. Now here we are with our nativity set each night of December talking about the world before Jesus came and reading scriptures that prophesied His coming. It’s incredible!

Our children look forward to our discussions and candle lightings each night, and the most exciting part is they don’t know baby Jesus is part of the nativity scene. Right now He’s “in Mary’s belly.” I’m eager to see their faces when we pull Him out on Christmas morning. With this small addition to our yearly traditions, I’m grateful to be showing them what’s most important.

There’s so much excitement based on truth that we don’t have to rely solely on Santa and lights to create a moment. Let’s be excited about the birth of Christ again! For us adults, it may be a story we can recite with our eyes closed, but to share it with our children and make it the focus of the holiday is something very special.

Have fun setting up your Christmas space. After this year, we deserve it, but remember to make everything come second to the true wonder of Christmas: “Word became flesh.” (John 1:14)

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God Is Watching – Not Santa

While I don’t believe there’s anything inherently wrong with pretending Santa brings gifts, I do think it can go a little too far. We don’t want presents and fictional characters being motivators of good behavior. Jesus is the standard. God’s word is the blueprint. We already have a model by which we should live and a way to see how we’re measuring up.

The last thing we want our children to believe is that being on good behavior, or being Christ-like, is a means to get more toys and stocking stuffers. We give them gifts because we love them and choose to celebrate this holiday. And we want them to behave well because they love us and Christ and choose to follow His lead.

While I enjoy the traditions of Christmas as much as most people do, I’m watchful of things that can subtly step in the place of God if we’re not careful. One of my favorite Christmas songs growing up was “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” I still sing along when it comes on the radio. But when listening with my children, I point out the parts of the song that aren’t true.

“He sees you when you're sleeping, and he knows when you're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.”

Children are so impressionable. We have the humbling role of guarding their hearts and pointing them to Christ. We don’t share truth with them to ruin their fun. We do it because we want them to glorify God in all things.

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<strong>How to Shift Your Focus</strong>

How to Shift Your Focus

You don’t have to scrap all of your holiday traditions, not at all! Just find ways to expand them. Celebrate the first coming of Christ all month long. Tell the story of His birth, and help your kids see the joy in the greatest gift of all time.

If you choose to have your children believe in pop culture’s Santa, just make sure he’s second to God. Portray him as a fun Christmas character rather than an omnipresent behavior monitor.

You can tell the story of the real Saint Nicolas, and when your kids see Santa in movies or in the mall, help them remember all the great things the real guy did to help the world around him.

Whatever Christmas looks like for your family, make Christ the center. You’ll be glad you did! It won’t take away from your fun. It’ll only make your memories sweeter and even more meaningful.

Related: Listen to our new podcast, The Characters of Christmas with Dan Darling. You can find all of our episodes at LifeAudio.com. Here's Episode 1:

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Jasmine Williams Headshot SizedJasmine Williams, founder of Built To Be, is an agent of change with a passion for Jesus and a love for family. As a wife, mom of four, homeschooler and seminary student, she knows the challenges and rewards of living purposefully for God even through life’s busy seasons. 

Jasmine is pursuing her M.A. in Biblical Studies and seeks to inspire parents to embrace their homes as places of ministry, where they welcome God’s presence and raise children to be disciples of Christ. Visit her website, builttobe.com, and connect with her on Facebook for more encouragement.