When I was young, my dad worked for a global manufacturing company, and every year his employer would host a big Christmas party for the employees and their families. This particular year, I was happy to go but perhaps not as excited as I might have been in years past.
I enjoyed seeing this glimpse into my father’s world, what with his social encounters with coworkers and all. And I certainly didn’t mind all the snack food either, being a growing boy with two hollow legs. But I was starting to catch on to this whole Santa thing.
I hadn’t quite fully embraced the truth, but I was precariously positioned right on the cusp. I had a strong awareness that the variably sized red-suited men that could be found in malls, each with different voices and too-white beards, were frauds. Well-intentioned frauds, I figured, but they definitely weren’t the real deal.
Plus, how would it even be possible for one chubby old man to be in this mall and that department store, and this particular Christmas party at the same time. In my youthful magic-believing logic, I could accept a single intensive night of the man’s labors once per year, hitting every house in the world in such a short period of time, but it seemed overly impractical to expend that same sort of energy at that same pace for weeks leading up to the big day.
It was far more likely that Santa, the real one, had hired a network of men in red suits to collect the necessary information and send it North.
Ah, the mind of a child.
So, I wasn’t enthusiastic about seeing yet another fake Santa. So when my parents asked me if I wanted to go see him, I declined. The guy looked convincing enough, but while a real beard went a long way toward a persuasive image, it made no mere man Santa.
After the party, my dad asked me why I declined to visit with Saint Nick, and I explained myself.
Then, he reminded me of how big his employer was. “They can afford to get the real Santa down here,” he explained. Perhaps noting the undeterred suspicion in my eyes, he added another little tidbit that (for some reason) sold me on it: “If you went back onto the roof of that building, you’d find reindeer droppings.”
I was devastated. All these years pouring my heart into fake Santas and when the real one comes along, I blow it with cynicism.
Within a few months later, I learned the full truth, and I never once begrudged my parents for lying to me. I thought it was harmless fun. In fact, I happily perpetuated the ruse for my young nephews and nieces and fully intended to do the whole Santa thing with my own kids when I grew up.
A New Creature
Later, I grew up and became Christian. I now knew and appreciated the real “reason for the season” on more than an intellectual level. I was a bit squeamish about institutionalizing a lie in my future home, but only because of the idea of lying. I still saw no real harm in it, so I decided if I could get past the lying bit, I’d still have led my future kids to believe in Santa. I heard all sorts of uproar in both directions, but neither side was particularly compelling to me. I didn’t want to lie (lying was still sin), but that was my only hang up.
Then, a few years later, I asked a good friend to explain the reason behind his position. In three simple sentences, he rocked me to the core with sheer horror.
Tell your kids Santa exists but you can’t see him.
Tell your kids Jesus exists but you can’t see him.
Now tell your kids there’s no Santa and you were lying.
The implications of those three sentences struck a chord in me that no hours of debate before had. I would never again entertain the idea of propagating the Santa myth with my own kids.
I won’t make that decision for other parents, which means teaching my kids that while there’s no Santa, some kids believe there is, and it’s not our place to tell them otherwise. A tricky balance, teaching children to be responsible with knowledge.
I don’t condemn any parent for doing the Santa thing. It’s entirely possible that the Holy Spirit hasn’t given everyone the same conviction He’s given me. Yet James 4:17 (NIV) says:
Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.
I’d better listen, personally. And I’m glad to finally have the issue settled.