I noticed that I was getting some traffic related to this question that is linked to my recent post comparing and contrasting Santa Claus with Jesus, arguing that in spite of atheistic pot shots about the difference between belief in Santa and belief in Jesus is that kids grow out of belief in Santa, the fact is that there is historical evidence for Santa- and even more evidence for Jesus.
But these searchers want to know if Christians should promote the belief in the commercialized myth of Santa.
Personally, I would answer as ‘No. No, you should not.’ The reasons are varied. For one thing, I think that the general rule is that parents ought to tell their children the truth about reality. Believe it or not, but I have actually encountered atheists- in real life and online- who indicated that finding out that ‘Santa isn’t real’ undermined their certainty in the existence of God and in Jesus’ resurrection. You don’t have to believe it and you don’t have to agree with these atheists in the extension of their logic, but nontheless, there they are.
As indicated in the previous blog entry (linked above) I think that there is value, however, in pointing out that there was in fact a historical person behind the Santa story. I expect that this will have the opposite effect of what I just described, where young people will see that their parents tell the truth, but also that just because something is old doesn’t mean it isn’t true or valid. Though no one when pressed admits that they are dismissing something (ie, like the idea that Jesus even existed) merely because the data is old, in actual attitude that is precisely why they are dismissing it. Examples of this are a dime a dozen. By explaining that can distinguish between fact and fantasy from the historical record most of the time, one puts themselves in a position where they can lay important groundwork for trusting the New Testament accounts.
You might say that it seems a little ridiculous to be worried about such things when we’re just talking about something as innocent as Santa Claus but the facts are what they are.
Ironically, though in my household I adopted this position in regards to my own children, my oldest child has rebelled against my patient explanations and insists, nonetheless, that Santa Claus- the commercialized myth- exists. He also felt that it was important that I go along with it- and to some degree we are. When he confronted me about it (and yes, he did confront me, at the ripe old age of six) I insisted that he at least have some reasons. He promptly produced his reasons and in my opinion that’s good enough for now. Ie, it is not ‘blind faith.’
So, you see that despite my own counsel I’ve found that in my household it had to be toned down a little bit. But I think this is telling, as well. The fact is that humans love Myth, they love the fantastic, and they eagerly wish that there was a flying gift giving Santa Claus- as well as pixies, faeries, and superheroes with superpowers. This is an indication about the true nature of humanity, to be repressed at our own peril. In fact, I think its safe to say that the natural tendency is to believe in the fantastic and it requires persistent stomping by adult cynics to get rid of- if it can be gotten rid of at all, which I am not convinced is possible. Even atheists love Myth, so much so that besides enjoying many of the great myths of our time… Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, Dune, etc, they’ve created a few of their own.
Understanding this is why I haven’t berated my son for continuing to believe ‘in Santa Claus.’
Anyway, the upshot of it all is that whatever you as a Christian father or mother do, you should understand that what you do will have consequences and you should be strategic about it. Don’t assume it is just ‘innocent’ and be prepared to anticipate the consequences of which ever direction you go.
As my World Religions prof said in college, a ‘Myth’ is no more than a story that some people think is true. The most fulfilling stories are not only the ones that are true, but the ones that are true and deeply satisfy our created nature.