I was having an engaging conversation with a few of my coworkers about this imaginary old man dressed in a red suit, who children believe bring them presents on Christmas Eve. One of my co-workers asked: “How old were you when you found out?” She was referring to the age we all found out that he really didn’t exist.
“I don’t remember, ” one of my coworkers answered.
“I was 9 years old, ” my voice rang out, “I was devastated.”
Like most children, I believed in Santa Claus. I truly believed in his existence wholeheartedly, and I remember leaving milk and cookies out for him on Christmas Eve before going to sleep and finding an empty glass and clean plate on Christmas morning along with a personal note from him written in large printed letters. I also remember writing a letter to Santa Claus that I put in the mail. I sealed the letter inside an envelope, and on the envelop, I wrote his name and address, which is The North Pole. I clearly remember happily putting my sealed envelope inside the mailbox. Imagine my delight when I received a response in the mail a few weeks later.
As I grew older, I remember hearing my older sisters say that Santa Claus didn’t really exist, but my my faith remained strong and unshaken. After all, if my parents and teachers told me he was real, then he truly existed, right?
Finally one day, when I was 9 years old, I asked my mother if what I heard others saying about Santa Claus being fake was actually true. Was he really just a story? Given my age, my mother told me the truth and my heart sank. How could my parents and the other adults in my life lie to me and string me along for all those years? I remember being taught to believe the reality of the story of the Angel Gabriel, Mary and Jesus. Was that just a story too? A lot of questions arose in my mind and I felt cheated. Even as a child, I detested lies. I was taught to always tell the truth and was now finding out that my parents been fooling me for all those years.
I remember telling one of my teachers when I found out. She said, “Oh but Jennifer, it’s still fun to believe.” I tried to embrace that idea, but it never erased the other questions that came into my mind. There was a brief period in my life, where I questioned the existence of God. It was a year before my confirmation and I remember asking myself, what if it was just a made up story? It wasn’t until I had a powerful dream one night that I began to feel more secure in my faith.
But now that I am an adult, I can’t help but look around at young children today during this time of year as they eagerly wait for Santa Claus to bring them their Christmas gifts. My nieces and nephew are young and believe he exists. While visiting my two older nieces, ages 8 and 5, they introduced me to the Elf on the Shelf, a little elf sent from Santa Claus to be his eyes so he can see who is being naughty and who is being nice. Apparently, parents are supposed to move the elf each night to give the illusion that the elf is watching.
“It’s a girl, ” my oldest niece told me.
“Oh wow, ” I said, trying to sound enthusiastic.
“We can’t touch her, ” she explained to me.
“Why not?” I asked, “Will she explode?” She had me curious now. I really wanted to know what kind of lies kids are being fed these days. My niece explained to me that if the elf were to be touched, the life inside of her would leave. I really didn’t understand it, and again, I began to remember when I was her age, when I believed in Santa Claus and the elves who helped him at his toy shop. I remember being told that Santa could see me at all times. He was practically like God. After my two-second trip down memory lane, I thought to myself, “I don’t want to be around when she finds out the truth,”
When I find myself among children and Santa Claus pops into the conversation, I prefer referring to him as St. Nicholas, the 4th Century bishop of Myra in Asia Minor, known for his generosity and who had a reputation for secret gift giving. A truly humble soul, whenever people thanked him for his generosity, he always gave credit to God. I believe his spirit visits us all during the Christmas season. Today, December 6th, is his feast day.
But Santa Claus, elves and Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer? While I am completely fine with children hearing the stories, I would not encourage them to believe this to be a reality. Imagine my shock when I found out that the letter I received in the mail from Santa Claus was actually from the post office! Sure, my parents consumed the milk and cookies and wrote the letters that I found on Christmas morning, but now the post office was in on it too? That was just taking it too far. It is amazing how a little harmless fib can grow into a whopper. Have we forgotten the Eighth Commandment altogether? It states “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” aka YOU SHALL NOT LIE! I don’t care if you think it is fun to encourage them to believe that Santa, his sleigh, his reindeer, and his elves are real, it’s still a lie. Why? Because it isn’t true.
“Oh Jennifer, you are making too much of this,” people tell me, “You are taking this way too seriously.” Then they add, “Santa is what makes Christmas more fun and magical for children.” Hold on a second. Where is Jesus Christ in all this? It seems that Santa Claus is steeling His thunder! Children seem to be more into Santa Claus than their own Lord and Savior! Santa has become like a God. I mean he is watching you all the time and you have to be good because Santa is watching right? But the holiday is called CHRISTmas. Jesus is the reason for the season, not Santa Claus.
In addition to creating a false idol, Santa Clause just adds more commercialism to Christmas. Christmas has seemed to become more about just receiving presents. When I hear children talk about Christmas it is mostly about what they want to get and very rarely about what they want to give. They have made their Christmas lists of all the things they want Santa to bring them and this is encouraged by adults.
I realize that the majority of people see no harm in children believing in the existence of Santa Claus. After reading this post, you most likely think I am nuts and sound like a 21st Century pharisee, but please be assured that I am not trying to force my thinking on you. My job here is not to convince, but to inform. I am simply presenting a different view based on my own personal experience. Perhaps you will agree, perhaps you won’t. I am putting it out there for your consideration.
As a child, I did enjoy the stories of Santa and Christmas was certainly a magical time, but I think children can experience the magic of Christmas without being fed lies. Even at my age, Christmas is still a magical time of year as I eagerly await the coming of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Looking back, I wish that that as a child, my focus was more on Christ and less on Santa Claus. That’s just my two cents.
And I close by saying this: May the peace of our Lord be with you now and always, and may the New Year be filled with health and joy!