You don’t want to lie to your kids, right?1
So what do you do with Santa?
There are great parents who choose to exclude Santa from their family’s holiday traditions and great parents who embrace him wholeheartedly. Before I explain our decision and thought process, know that acting intentionally and thoughtfully is the real win, no matter what you decide is right for your family.
I work at a church called Crossroads where we major on the majors of faith and minor on the minors. That means if it’s a major central and clear directive of God in the Bible, we take it very seriously and without room for compromise. But there are a number of minor issues related to faith that good and godly people are split on because they are not as directly addressed in the Bible or as central to the practice of faith.
Santa is most definitely a minor.2
That said, here’s why we let Santa in our house:
1. He’s safe for faith. A reason you may be considering not including Santa in your family traditions is that you don’t want to create confusion in your kids that may threaten their faith in Jesus. After all, if you include Santa, one day, you’ll have to explain to your kids that Santa is fake, but Jesus is real. This could be confusing to a kid and create doubt in their minds about Jesus. I relaxed on this when I remembered that my parents did Santa with us, and discovering he wasn’t real didn’t affect my belief in God at all. In fact, I’ve never met a single person who ever actually experienced any faith hiccup at all because of Santa. It’s an unvalidated fear—and at least for me, I’m ignoring every single one of those that I discover in life.3
2. He brings the magic. Some Christians like to get bent out of shape about stories that have magic in them. But while the Bible does warn against actual witchcraft—it’s full of magical stories. In fact, I’d argue that one of the main steps to anyone coming to faith is accepting that the fullness of reality is more fantastical and magical than what we can see and understand in the physical world.4 I want my kids to embrace what the Bible describes as an epic struggle between good and evil—a story full of beings from other dimensions, prophecies that become real, and power far beyond our own. And I want them to believe that seemingly impossible things are possible like redemption, transformation and even defeating death. Fantasy literature (the story of Santa included) is the best tool for making big and meaningful truths like these simple and understandable. If the fact that they are made up stories bums you out, you’re not going to like the teaching of Jesus which is full of stories He made up called parables.5
3. He’s an extremely useful contrast to Jesus.
Santa is karma. Jesus is grace. Santa gives gifts based on behavior—Jesus gives gifts based on love, grace, and forgiveness. They have entirely different motives and actions.
Here’s a great conversation I just had with my 9-year-old, Ben, literally as I’m writing this article. He came up to me complaining about his younger sister, Gracie, who was clearly in the wrong. He wanted to respond meanly to her, so I asked him a few simple questions:
Me: What does Santa do when you’re bad? Ben: Give coal.
Me: What does Jesus do when you’re bad? Ben: Love you anyway.
Me: Who do you want to be like? Ben: Jesus.
Me: So, how do you want to respond to Gracie? Ben: …Be nice and love her anyway.
Massive win! I want Ben to understand that the Gospel of Jesus is NOT karma. And I want him to understand how much better the gospel is than all other religious and cultural narratives that could frame his worldview. We include Santa so we can have these conversations.
Last tip: Don’t lie to your kids.
When asked directly if Santa is real, we never say yes. Our answer: Santa is a really great story. Our kids get the place that Santa holds: an enjoyable story that adds fun—just like dozens of others they love.
1Unless they discover you “wrestling.” Then you definitely want to lie in order to avoid the therapy bills later.
2Santa is not actually in the Bible. I know, #shocked.
3As Brian Tome often says, America is the land of the fear. We are constantly swimming in headlines and half stories shouting about unvalidated fears. OUT.
4And even in the physical world, science (particularly quantum mechanics) is discovering things that we would say are “magical” are real: like particles being in two places at once and moving from one place to another without traveling in between. Kids need to believe the world is more magical than at first glance because it is.
5You could argue that the parables Jesus made up lack magic. True, but maybe that’s because His actual life was full of it—and His next chapter, recorded in the book of Revelation, is going to have more fantastical stuff happening than any movie ever made.