In defense of Santa. Or, Why Jesus doesn’t kill the fun.

As an adult, every year I struggle with capturing the special-ness of Christmas. I’m going to an Advent Bible study this year, I muse over the meaning of carol lyrics, read my Bible. I try to concentrate on the birth of Jesus because, really – Best. Gift. Ever.

This year it dawned on me that in the (recent) past I’ve tried to (in my mind, at least) not enjoy the *other* (read: secular) parts of Christmas too much – presents, decorations, cheesy music – because I didn’t want to cloud the “reason for the season.” The War-On-Christmas folks have drummed that pretty deeply into my psyche, I guess.

I mean, a real Christian would spend all of December just meditating on the awesome circumstances of and meaning behind Christ’s birth, and talking constantly to her kids about it. Right?

This is a more recent worry for me. When my sister and I were growing up, my parents didn’t (and still don’t) seem to be at all troubled about whether Santa bringing presents at Christmas was going to make us forget our Savior.

Annnnnd it didn’t.

My parents had us at church every time the doors were open, my dad is a deacon and my mom is the longtime church organist. Our faith was a central, immutable part of our upbringing.

And now as adults, my sis and I both have solid relationships with Him. I try to keep Jesus at the center of my life. I don’t always succeed because I’m not perfect, but I know what He’s done for me and I know that I love Him more than anything.

But you know what I also know? That I have fond memories of lying awake way past my bedtime on Christmas Eve, wondering if Santa had come yet. Giggling with my sister at the top of the stairs Christmas morning while my dad got the video camera rolling, and then racing down the stairs to see what Santa brought us.

I treasure those memories, and I’d like for my sons to have similar ones. But it’s paramount to me that they have strong relationships with Jesus as they grow up, and Jeff and I are raising them as best we can to instill that.

And yet I don’t want them to see Jesus as the fun-killer. I don’t want them to see that we don’t get visits from Santa or the Easter Bunny or whatever because those (fictional) characters take away from the true meaning of those holidays.

I don’t mean to say any of this as an attack on people who choose – especially for religious reasons – not to have Santa visit their kids. I know several parents who’ve chosen this; they’re my friends, and they are people I love and respect.

It’s just that I see so much online — mommy blogs, you’re always the culprit — about the faceless “they” who are trying to take the Christ out of Christmas. (ugh, I hate that phrase.) And how if we’re good parents, we won’t let our children be confused and distracted by the big guy in the red suit.

So I wanted to write, as an imperfect but wholehearted Christian, in defense of Santa. In defense of the stuff that shouldn’t matter: twinkle lights and presents and elves (except this one) and reindeer and the North Pole. Maybe you’re thinking those things have enough proponents. And they do, but maybe not in Christian circles. You’re asking: What about the baby, poor and ignored, who was born in a barn?

He is the center. He’s the reason. But he didn’t come to kill all the fun stuff.

Early Christians co-opted pagan holidays in order to bring the Good News to the masses. That probably didn’t go over well with the purists of the time, who probably thought (and rightly so) that Jesus deserved his own holidays uncluttered by secular festivities. But it helped spread the love of Christ.

And isn’t that what we’re all here to do?

This Christmas I’m working on not feeling guilty about enjoying the fluff stuff or about talking excitedly with my boys about Santa. We’re talking about Jesus just as much or more (I hope) than Santa. My 3-year-old sings “Away in a Manger” beautifully. My 17-month-old loves “Up on the House Top.” We’re singing both around our house.

Jeff and I decided to try this year having Santa only bring three presents for each of our sons – to represent the three gifts from the Wise Men. They’ll still get gifts from us and our extended family.

In this case, Santa was the one killing the fun. (Photo by Jeff White Photography)

My boys visited Santa earlier this week. In this case, Santa was the one killing the fun. (Photo by Jeff White Photography)

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, no matter who does (or doesn’t) come to your house.

Anna Claire

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