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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I Saw Mommy Killing Santa Claus

Do you believe in Santa Claus? I don't and as far as I can recall, I never have. Now the troubling thing is that some of you will think I had a deprived childhood for not experiencing the "magic" of Santa. Well, it gets even worse. We never taught our son anything about Santa Claus, other than that he is make-believe (gasp!). But don't worry, I won't spoil it by wearing my "Santa is Dead" t-shirt to church on Christmas Eve.

I never used to have a problem with Santa. I always thought of him as a fun and harmless goofy thing to do at Christmastime with the kids. But more and more these days I am beginning to really hate the big guy in the red suit. Now I hesitate to say anything because I know that I will offend some very pious and excellent Christian parents who do enjoy the whole Santa thing. I'm not throwing stones at you or saying you're a bad parent or anything like that. But I am suggesting you reconsider the whole Santa business.

You see, I think that 50 years ago - or even 20 years ago - Santa Claus was indeed fun and harmless. But today, I'm not so sure. Fun, yes. But harmless?

Well, let's put it to a test. Go grab ten random 5-year-olds and ask them if they know who this man is. Ask them to tell you who he is AND why he comes. Write down their answers.

Next, have the same ten random 5-year-olds tell you who this is. Who is the person in the center of this picture? Ask them that AND ask them why he came. I am convinced that unless you grabbed all ten of these kids straight out of a truly superlative Sunday school program (such as ours), fewer than half would be able to answer the first question correctly and not one will be able to answer the second question. Oh, if you repeated this test a dozen times, you might find a nano-percentage of children who actually know what you're talking about, but most simply will not.

Then again, maybe you'll prove me wrong. I could be full of beans. But I suspect that today's children know a whole lot more about Santa Claus than they do about Jesus Christ.

And if I'm right, then Santa Claus is not harmless fun. He has supplanted Jesus as the reason for the Christmas celebration in the minds of most children, even Christian children. And if that is the case, then Santa Claus is a false god, an idol, the anti-christ, and anything but harmless.

Last night, I was in a video store looking for something to pass the evening and the store was playing the recent film Polar Express. Admittedly, I only saw/heard about 20 minutes of it, but what I witnessed disturbed me. And I mean "disturbed" in the sense of watching baby harp seals being clubbed to death. All this stuff about Christmas is about believing - believing in what? Santa. Santa this. Santa that. And at the end, the movie makes him into a Titan demi-god who grants wishes and makes children's dreams come true. Some folks have a word for that. It's called a religion. And this business that Christmas is about nostalgia, friendship, being nice - that's a false American 20th century religion invented by Macy's, Coca-Cola and Frank Capra.

Do yourselves a favor and commemorate the birth of Christ and that alone this Christmas.

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The Cubicle Reverend said...

And guess who gets to play Santa giving back Christmas to Jesus?

Funky Dung said...

1) Don't drag poor Mr. Capra into this.

2) I agree with much of what you say, but I'm not as sure of what I'll end up teaching my future children.

3) On a slight tangent, you might find this interesting: How the Christians Stole Christmas

john said...

Pastor, I think the real St. Nicholas would whole heartedly agree. I believe it would grieve him to see how he and his charitable acts are commemorated today, becoming more important to the world than Jesus. After all it was his faith in Jesus that inspired him to do his charitable acts of giving that started the "Santa Clause" legend.

A good post for today, which is when St. Nicholas day is observed!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Pastor Stiegemeyer, for bringing up this topic of discussion.

I'm the mother of 3 children, all of whom are now past the Santa stage. As they grew up, we "did Santa" in intentionally limited doses, mainly because we associated Santa with the overly materialistic aspects of the Christmas season. Santa would bring each child one thing, but beyond that, we didn't make a big deal out of Santa. Certainly did not make Santa the focal point of Christmas. Never brought the kids to sit on his lap at the mall. I always thought that was a little creepy anyway, especially after having had the childhood experience of sitting on the lap of one who reeked of Jack Daniels... in a scenario reminiscent of A Christmas Story!

That said, if I had to do it all over again, I would not include Santa in their upbringing.

What makes me most uncomfortable is teaching our children to believe in Santa, then later having them discover that Santa is not real. How then are our children supposed to trust us as we teach them that God is real? Or that Jesus Christ is real?

My children and their Christian faith do not seem any worse for the wear. None of them ever said, hey, Mom, you lied about Santa, how do I know you're not lying about Jesus? But I find the potential very unsettling.

I also don't particularly care for the "he sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake" part of Santa. I thought that God was the only one who could do that.

My mother-in-law has always pushed the Santa thing with our children way past our comfort level. When they were little, she game them that Santa and the Christ Child book & figurine, carrying on about it as though it made the most profound theological statement of our time. We thought it was just abysmal. After that first Christmas, the items quietly got lost in a box somewhere in the basement.

My mother-in-law is a very devout Roman Catholic who attends daily Mass at her rather traditional parish. Two years ago, as we spent Christmas Day at my in-laws, she raved about her parish's Christmas Eve children's Mass the afternoon before. In almost quivering awe, she described how, at the conclusion of the Mass, they had a man dressed as Santa Claus walk up the aisle and kneel before the manger. She truly thought this was the most wonderful thing she'd ever seen done at a Christmas Mass. Santa Claus incorporated into a Christmas Mass? My husband & I found the idea disturbing. I would be interested in hearing comments about it from you and your blog's readers.

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

Cubicle, I dunno. Who?

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

Funky Dung,
On the one hand, I love Frank Capra movies. "Meet John Doe" and "It's Wonderful Life" both STILL make me misty-eyed. But on the other hand, I despise the hyper-sentimentalism which is infecting Christianity and I think movies like the two I just mentioned are partly responsible.

As far as what you should teach your future children, I'm confident you'll make responsible choices.

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

Thanks for the note. And I'm glad you noticed the St. Nicholas connection. Our family always celebrates December 6 and so it's no coincidence that this post appeared today. God bless!

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...


I know exactly what you're talking about and feel the same way. I certainly don't condemn Christian parents who enjoy having a bit of fun with the whole Santa Claus thing. Playing make-believe with small children is one of the joys of parenthood. But I sense that culturally, we're crossing some kind of line now. What used to be a fun sideline is taking on more and more prominence in the way the holiday is observed.

It's like having an Easter Egg hunt. They're fun and I enjoyed doing them. But when they become the main thing, they become bad and should be rejected.

It sounds to me, however, that you have done a fine job maintaining the right balance in raising your children. God bless!

Carl said...

I would have to say, "the most
wonderful thing I've seen done at a Christ-mass" is that the Holy Supper of our Lord is given to His people". Nothing can compare--not even "Santa" kneeling before the manger!

Anonymous said...

I agree with "Anonymous." I raised three children and refused to teach the santa lie for the same reason: if they discover I am lying about santa, the tooth fairy, the easter bunny, etc., why should they think I'm telling the truth about Jesus? After all, they can't SEE Him. I took alot of heat from family members, but I'm not sorry. Speak the truth ...


David said...

I think there are worse things than Santa teaching our kids to be crass consumers. What theological point does Santa teach our kids? I think we can do Santa right,but popular Santa is taught wrongly, even if he didn't crowd Christ out of Christmas.

In many ways, what's happened to Santa Claus is symptomatic of what's happening in churches. The gift of the Gospel is often turned into Law. Our gift of forgiveness is predicated upon our good behavior. Naughty Christians don't get Gospel gifts. It's no wonder our Santa Claus story has become so weighed down with moralism; our Christ story has become that way, too.

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

David, as I said in my post, I think that 20 or 50 years ago, the Santa myth was fun and harmless. Today, it's morphing. Because of the increasing paganisation of our culture, things that are permissable to us might not be beneficial.

This Pastor's Wife said...

I wrote some time ago about an experience at my husband's seminary field work church. I was horrified.

As a child I enjoyed Santa, but then I did not grow up in a Christian home so Santa was Christmas. When my eldest was born we did Santa .. one year. That was it. I've gone from welcoming to uncomfortable to dislike to hatred of Santa over the last 10 years.

I was doing some Christmas shopping this last weekend and ran across some Brachs chocolate covered marshmallow santas. Not easy to come by any more these days for some reason, and I wanted one. Growing up this treat was a family staple in our home and our grandparents. I hadn't had one in years. They looked so yummy, but I just couldn't. I couldn't buy them and I couldn't eat them. Surprising even myself, the thought of ingesting Santa (no matter how fictional or chocolatey he is) was one I couldn't stomach.

Anonymous said...

i have to say that i believe you are all crazy. i think santa is just trying to show the children of todays society a good example to follow. Jesus is a great example, however children seem to be straying away from Him. i also think we have more important things to be worrying about besides santa "corrupting" our children.

merry Christmas, and God Bless.

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