Santa Claus died when I was four. The story I was told is that his plane crashed while he was on his way to deliver gifts in the Caribbean.
Previously there would have been little tokens of pencils and notebooks given out in our schools at Christmas courtesy of ‘Santa Claus’. After that year, nothing.
There are children all over the world who have never heard of, much less see Santa. Yet every Christmas the media pushes the myth of Santa Claus that gets ever more elaborate and complicated as the years go by.
It used to be that he was a just jolly, benevolent, old man that gives out gifts each year on December 24 and spends the rest of the year making toys.
Now there are depictions that show him working a regular 9-5 jobs some of the time. There are tales that there is a limit on the number of Christmases Santa can work (much like a presidential election).
But here’s the thing, as people who are following Jehovah, what are we supposed to be doing? What should we be teaching our children about Saint Nicholas?
Let’s talk about five of the things that Santa Claus does and the questions we should be asking ourselves as Christians:
1) Saint Nick gives gifts to “good children”. All year long he compiles this long list of all the world’s children (a list that he supposed checks twice). It was estimated in 2014 by UNICEF that there are over 2.2 billion children in the world.
That’s a lot of data for one person to collect, not to mention that it’s an awful lot to keep straight.
While Saint Nick is compiling his jambalaya list, I have a few questions to ask: what are the criteria for being on the naughty list? What does he use to determine who gets what gifts?
And why does it always seem as though the people who need the least get the most? Where’s the justice?
As Christian parents we teach our children that “all have fallen and come short of the glory of God”, does that make us bad? Is Santa going to absolve us from fault if we apologize and repent of our old ways?
2) Father Christmas climbs down chimneys landing in the fireplace to deliver his gifts. At any other time of the year a man who enters other people’s houses by way of any other entrance except a door would be called a thief, so why is this situation different?
Why are we confusing our children by teaching them conflicting messages? How do we explain that it’s okay for Santa Claus to enter our homes without our permission (and in a highly questionable way), but it’s wrong for everyone else?
And another thing – what about those people who don’t have fireplaces and chimneys?
Okay, so maybe he has a workaround for that (I once saw a movie where Santa Claus got sucked down a little pipe and created his own fireplace to land in), but what about those countries that have no snow? Will Santa still come? How will he get around?
Children desire consistency. It’s how they learn. A lesson that is learnt in one environment will be applied across the board – at least until they learn discernment.
3) “Naughty” children are given coals in their stockings. Just what exactly are they supposed to do with this lump of coal? What about those children who got nothing?
Are we telling them then that they were so naughty that Santa didn’t even think they deserved a lump of charred wood?
4) Father Christmas spends all year making toys. How many toys would he have to make each day to meet that quota? Let’s do the math. Assuming that Santa never takes vacation or has a sick day.
He doesn’t take any days off for the week but works every day, he would need to produce 6 043 956 toys each day. That’s a lot of factory time! and that’s assuming that every child only gets one gift.
5) He rides on reindeers. Don’t these reindeers get tired? Hungry? Sleepy? Since there are so many countries and so many children, and only one night to do it, why doesn’t Santa does FedEx the gifts or send them by special courier?
That would definitely guarantee that everyone gets their gifts regardless of where in the world they live.
When we laud Saint Nicholas as the ‘Lord of Christmas’, we take away the benevolence of God and attempt to bestow it on a fallen human being.
We give God’s ability to judge into a hand that will judge according to human standards. How then do we teach our children to “judge not” when we give Saint Nick carte blanche to label our children as “naughty” or “nice”?
We have elevated Father Christmas to godlike status. In order for Santa Claus to accomplish all that he has to in one 24 hour period he would have to be super-human. One could even say that Santa is omnipotent. Is this a lesson that we want our children to learn?
How do we live in the world maintained by Hollywood and advertisers while teaching principles from the Bible? Is it possible to straddle the fine line between these two ideals?
The answer? No. we cannot. We either wholeheartedly support the story that Santa Claus is the king of benevolence who is papering the world with gifts.
Or we tell the story of Jesus birth. Christ was born in order to redeem us from our sins. He died on a cross to save you and me. For that reason we ought to be grateful for every second that we’re alive.