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Why Our Family Says No To Santa



Around this time each year, several christian parents will approach me with the same question “What should we do with Santa?” Well intentioned christian parents are trying to figure out what is the best approach to this cultural tradition. Most christian parents I know recognize there are obvious issues with this cultural phenomenon, and yet there are also varying reasons as to why a desire, to use at least some of Santa Claus, still remains. I’m sympathetic to parents trying to sort out what is best for their children, and thankful for those truly thoughtful parents who are wanting to run their practices through a Biblical grid. That being said, I would like to share why I believe christian parents and families should pass on the cultural tradition surrounding Santa Claus, in pursuit of something far greater. 


When I speak with christian parents, the first thing which I often acknowledge is timing. It would be far better to have this discussion in February, in anticipation for the next year, than in December, when emotions can be high, family pressure may be tense, and the sense of urgency looms large over us. That being said, most parents are forced to deal with it in December, and so it’s worth dealing with head on when it arises, and not to delay it unnecessarily. If you are a christian couple without children yet, or very young children who are not able to understand these concepts, now is a good time to begin thinking thorough what you will do, and why. 


I have encountered 3 main responses to Santa from the christian parents I have counseled over the years. The first response is a full rejection of the Santa Claus tradition and any use of it in their home, and to rather focus on something else during Christmastime. This is our family’s approach, and the position I am advocating for. The second response is to fully embrace Santa Claus, and to celebrate the use of the tradition within their home. Admittedly, I have found a full embrace of Santa to be rare amongst the christian parents I have spoken to, but nonetheless I have met christians who seek to do this. The third response is perhaps the most common, with parents seeking a “hybrid” approach. They recognize there are issues with a full on embrace of Santa, and yet, they want to use Santa as much as they can. Reasons vary as to why parents seek a hybrid option(nostalgia is one common explanation) but it is easily the response I most often encounter. 


With that in mind, I would like to present a few key reasons why I believe all christian parents should pass on Santa Claus entirely, and pursue something greater in their homes this Christmas season. 


Lying Is Sin 


What should easily keep christian parents from a full embrace of the Santa tradition is that it violates the 9th commandment. Lying is a sin, and raising your children to believe in something false is sinful. Some parents may object here, stating that we are fine with children learning about fictional stories/books/shows, but the crucial distinction here is that we do not teach our children to believe them. We don’t tell them fairy tales or stories intending them to be believed as truth, nor do we expect our children to believe them as being real. They are necessarily fictional. Santa is not the case, where a full embrace would have children believe he is real, he responds to their actions, reads their letters, eats their cookies, and provides their presents. For this reason alone, any full embrace of Santa should be rejected.


While I believe most reading this will be in agreement that a full embrace of the Santa tradition is wrong, many I assume will be holding to a hybrid approach. These parents would want a distinction made, that they are not lying to their children. They want to tell their kids about Santa, and use the tradition, but they're upfront with their kids that it is pretend, and that Santa is not real. While these parents may very well be not lying to their children (which is a good thing!), the hybrid approach still presents several problems for the christian household, as we will see in the following reasons. 


Santa Is Confusing 


We are to raise our children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4) and our homes are to be marked by our devotion to God’s Word and truth (Deut 6). While pretend stories might not be confusing in and of themselves, Santa does seem particularly confusing to young children in christian homes. Not every christian will celebrate Christmas, as the holiday is not biblically mandated. For those that do, it would seem particularly important to use the day to focus on the Advent and Incarnation of Christ. In fact, most families using the hybrid approach see this as the main reason for their observing Christmas. It is confusing then, to intermingle Christ and Santa. 


If the focus is to be on Christ, it seems counterproductive to also present another figure, albeit a clearly labeled fictional character, who at the very least will compete with your children’s imaginations and attention during the holiday. Not only that, as we will see in the following concerns, Santa is particularly effective at grabbing children’s focus, but not for good reasons. It seems then we are presenting our children with different narratives, and putting them in a position which at best will be confusing for them as they struggle to sort out what is good and true. 


Santa Is Anti-Gospel


The message of Santa goes directly against the message of the Christian Gospel. Santa says if you do good, you will earn his favor. God, in His grace, bestows his favor on those who are unworthy, through the person and work of Jesus Christ, and then calls them to obedience as a response to His grace, not in the securing of it. Furthermore, Santa is explicitly focused on material gain, and often encourages materialism amongst those who make the focus on the receiving of physical gifts. Christ offers us true life, in His name and through His Spirit, and this gift cannot be matched by all the riches of the world, and indeed is able to withstand even the suffering of tremendous loss in this life. 


Santa is Losing Out On What Is Best


The story of Jesus Christ is the greatest story ever told. The news of the Gospel, and the call to redemption should ring loudly in our homes and our hearts, for is the greatest news, and gift we could ever receive. When we press into the truth of Christ, we find depths that we hadn’t seen before. Whether or not it is tied to the day of Christmas, christians ought to set aside time to set their hearts upon the wonders of who Christ is, and what He has done. We should be filled up with wonder over the Incarnation. Jesus Christ really did take on flesh, and come for His people. That means our sin can’t defeat us, Satan has no accusation which can harm us, and our heart’s deepest longing for what is good, right, and true will come to fruition in glory. 


We can, and should, live into this reality as much as we can today. We should pursue holiness, feast on God’s Word, live in fellowship with the saints, and take the sacraments with eager anticipation and joy. If we celebrate Christmas, it should be a time when we remember that the King came down, and that all the things which we fear will be undone. All our tears will be wiped away, and here and now we can know the joy that is ours in Christ. John Piper gets it right when he says “If being Jesus-focused is a killjoy for your Christmas, you don’t know him well.”


So what should you do this Christmas? I’ve advocated for a rejection of Santa Claus, and the forgoing of any use of the tradition. This should be done in service of our greatest joy. Don’t settle this Christmas for Santa, give your family Christ. Fathers should carve out time this holiday season to bring the family’s attention to Christ. Read Scripture together. Sing songs like I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, Joy to the World, O Come All Ye Faithful, Silent Night, and Come Thou Long Expected Jesus. Be encouraged by the truth that Christ came for us, and that He will come again for us. Use Christmas as an excuse to stoke the fires of faith, and deepen your affections for Christ. 


So go ahead and try it. Be the weird christian family who "doesn't do Santa". Take any comments or jabs that come your way from disagreeing family, friends, or neighbors. You wont regret giving your family what is best this year, and every year to come. Jesus beats Santa everytime, and it isn't even close.




Christmas Thoughts by J.C. Ryle

Advent Devotionals by Sinclair Ferguson

Child in a Manger by Sinclair Ferguson

Birth of Christ by J.V. Fesko

What is the Incarnation? By William Evans