My daughter the Santa believer
Dec 14, 2010 by Julie Clawson
We tried to be those parents. We tried to tell our daughter that Santa Claus isn’t real.
We knew that this could get her in trouble at some point, that chaos would ensue if she destroyed the innocent faith of her kindergarten classmates with a declaration of Santa-atheism. Yet we did it anyway, perhaps to always tell her the truth about the world, perhaps to preserve the religious focus of the holiday. Whatever our reasons, the project didn’t work.
Early on she went along with our attempts. She even laughed at the silliness of Grandpa suggesting we put out milk and cookies on Christmas Eve. But as she matured to the more social age of four, everything changed. Her assertions to her Sunday school class and preschool that Santa isn’t real were met with uniform disagreement; she was outnumbered. Every single other child she knew believed in Santa, so the logical conclusion must be that her parents were wrong. She informed us without hesitation.
But around the same time, my daughter decided that the Christmas story–as in the whole Mary, Joseph, angels and baby Jesus tale–is just too far-fetched to be real. So I was stuck with a preschooler who believed in Santa but not in the Bible.
Strangely enough, I was okay with that. I didn’t care that the preschool constituency was against me; my daughter’s conversion woke me up to what it means to convey truth to her. I realized that our understandings of truth are communally created–the truths I want my daughter to understand have to make sense within the communal narrative of her world. The truth of the Christmas story is about more than historical veracity. And the Santa story provides space for meaning as well.
There will be time to explore the complexities of the historical Christmas story, but for now I am content to work within my daughter’s understanding of the world to kindle faith and encourage a love of meaningful truths.
Tags: belief christmas meaning santa santa claus
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Santa belief new
Posted by Anonymous on Dec 14, 2010 – 05:57 pm.
I’m so glad to read that your experience with your daughter has caused you to reconsider the communal “truth” of Santa. My husband and I have found that the “Santa” story provides a child-size picture of the Gospel of Grace, whereas the Biblical Christmas story is difficult to grasp even for grown-ups. In Santa, children have unmerited favor (I know, I know, there’s the whole “naughty or nice” thing, but how many parents actually withhold gifts for behavior problems?), realized in gifts freely given and accompanied by hope, anticipation and joy. Sounds like good news to me…..
We’ve always tied Santa Claus closely to the historical St. Nicholas and Who he served, and only allowed our children to ask “Santa” for three gifts (the Magi), reminding them of Jesus’s first birthday gifts. As they have developed spiritually, it has been a natural transition for them from Santa to Emmanuel. After all, if you can’t believe in the unbelievable grace of Santa Claus as a child, the ground may prove unfertile for the unfathomable Grace of God as a grown-up.