Putting the Santa Back in Christmas

I took a bit of time off today to go down and watch Ellie sing some carols at her school.

As much as I’m not a big fan of carols I do see them as a way of reminding ourselves of the Christmas narrative and keeping the reason for Christmas primary and in front of us.

Today was a reminder that we live in a secularised society and that the Christ story is largely disregarded. Of the 7 songs that the kids sang today not one had any reference to Jesus or the essence of Christmas.

Now I’m not a fundamentalist ranter, but when the 7 songs chosen are all in honour of ‘Santa’ I do get a tad tetchy.

I would love to ask those kids what they understand Christmas to be about to see what messages are being conveyed either consciously or unconsciously.

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22 thoughts on “Putting the Santa Back in Christmas

  1. santa is an anagram of satan! i think the claus maybe also be a german allusion to satan getting his claws into unsuspecting children! And the red suit…..don’t get me started.

  2. When I was a kid my parents never encouraged us to believe in Santa Claus. Mum recalled recently about the time when my brother told a neighbour (both as young boys) that Santa isn’t real. It caused a real furore and this boy’s parents were really upset with my brother and my parents. Thinking about this, I can’t comprehend how anyone can be angry with someone else (let alone a child) for refusing to perpetuate what is essentially a lie!

    I also don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with Santa Claus and ‘non-Jesus’ Christmas Carols, but I agree with you – the emphasis is too strong.

    For those interested in the debunking of Santa Claus, there is a good entry on The Master’s Table blog: .

  3. interesting Hamo. At the government primary school I work at I actually got quite a shock at our end of year assembly last night. Across the night probably 10-12 carols were sung (well 6 were part of a medly and then 4-6 were full carols). I’d say 2, maybe 3 were ‘Santa’ carols but the vast majority were very much traditional, Christian carols. I expected it to be more like your school but was pleasantly surprised.

    Also nearly every class dressed up in ‘Christian’ Christmas attire, like angels and Joseph’s and shepherds and wise men etc. Only one class you could say had a ‘Santa’ dress up theme.


  4. Our kids government school had a christmas gathering with a couple of other schools a couple of weeks ago (Catholic and govt). The Catholic priest opened in prayer. I closed in prayer. The Salvo pastor gave a talk based on the candy cane about Christmas being all about Jesus. The kids were right into it! (And the principal thought it was good too).

  5. My sarcastic “Santa” anagram aside – i was kind of relieved to see that a couple of the major shopping centres had at least placed some nativity scenes in view. I’ve not really noticed whether they have been there before.

    However, the sad irony is that these nativities are frozen in time and enclosed in glass while just across the way the ‘fictious’ Santa is alive and interactive with the kids.

  6. My impression (and that’s all it is, at this stage) is that this year Jesus seems to have made a bit of a come-back. The Carols at one of our girl’s State primary schools this year had nary a whiff of Santa!

    [And look, I don’t mind the fat bloke in the red suit too much, either… but when he starts getting in the way of Jesus my hackles start to rise!]

    So *if* there is a bit of a come-back of Jesus on the Christmas scene, what might we put it down to? I’m wondering if it’s some sort of post-9/11 Christian-cultural nostalgia — ie. in a world with militant Islamic bods belting around the place, maybe we’re having a low-level religious crisis, of sorts. Who/what are we? Well, most Aussies would think we’re not Islamic… so that means we must be, err, Christian. So is that why we like to sing Christian Carols louder and longer than we have in previous years?

    Combine that with a generous dose of global insecurity, and it could mean that as a culture we are sub-consciously trying to reconnect with our felt Christian roots (to some degree).

    What do others think?

  7. I wished a bloke at work ‘merry Christmas’ today and then laughed out loud, cos we’ve had several (nice) discussions about the fact that he is essentially an atheist.

    So, I revised my greeting (after telling him why) and wished him a ‘happy family-holiday’ season.

    Seemed more appropriate.

    Then there was a bloke at basketball the other night who made a funny (but very inappropriate) remark around Christmas & New Year etc. I called loudly back to him ‘I trust that the birth of Jesus has a great significance to your life this year!’.

    He stopped, looked around for a bit, and then said deadpan back at me, ‘I don’t think I’ve heard that one before!!’

    What was funny was seeing him try to remember what I said, cos he then tried to say the same thing to 3 other people as we were leaving!!

    Nothing to do with Christmas carols, but it made me laugh.

    Mike – I wonder if Jesus is making a comeback, or if people are sick of singing about snow! 🙂

  8. The whole subject of Christians and Christmas leaves me bewildered every year.

    My understanding is that it was we Christians (many, many years ago) who arbitrarily decided to celebrate the birth of Jesus on the 25th December in order to hijack and ‘christianise’ the existing pagan celebrations around the winter solstice. It’s a bit rich for us to then criticise pagans when they overindulge at Christmas and don’t seem to have time to acknowledge what we seem to think Christmas is all about!

    We persist in trotting out the same traditional nativity story even though we know some of the details are not correct – the inn, three Kings, etc

    We persist in singing some awful dirgy carols even though we know the words aren’t exactly right – ‘we three kings’, ‘little Lord Jesus no crying he makes’,

    We think its OK to teach kids that Santa rewards them on the basis of whether they’ve been good or bad, but then seems to bring them their presents anyway. Is it any wonder people think of God as a grey bearded old gentleman who will similarly let them into Heaven because they haven’t been THAT bad?

    To be honest I view Christmas as the time of year when most ordinary thinking Christians stick their brains in neutral and basically act in a way which barely distinguishes them from the pagans around them.

    if that doesn’t provoke a response nothing will!

  9. I will respond – by wishing you a ‘Happy Xmas’, Goblin.

    To the rest of you, “Merry Christmas”

    Love from your friendly neighbourhood,


  10. Oh – what’s the beef with the inn?

    And the ‘no crying’ bit actually makes sense. Don’t you think so Gobbo?

    If pagans want to ‘steal’ it back, feel free – but call it something else.

    I choose to celebrate the birth of Jesus on a daily basis.

    December 25 is when the rest of the world doesn’t think I’m stupid for doing so!! 🙂

  11. G’day Goblin,

    I sympathise with some of your rant! But at the end of the day, I don’t really worry too much about how the festival got here. I’m just thankful that this is one of two times on the yearly calendar (the other being Easter) when your average pagan can get to hear the Gospel! It’s jam-packed into just about every Christian Carol, and the nativity texts in the Bible (opening chapters of Luke and Matthew) point clearly ahead to the cross and the coming redemption.

    If indeed there are ‘Christians’ who “think its OK to teach kids that Santa rewards them on the basis of whether they’ve been good or bad”, then I agree, it’s appalling, and they don’t understand the Gospel of God’s grace… but that means they’re not Christians in the Bible’s sense. So they’re actually more folks who we need to share the Gospel with!

    Whatever we think of the season (and as a pastor I find it quite tiring in many aspects), I reckon we’re nuts if we fail to grab this God-send of an annual opportunity with both hands and run with it!

    So, far from it being a time when “most ordinary thinking Christians stick their brains in neutral”, I’ve found it to be a time when many Christians I know stick their brains into ‘Gospel’ and they forge ahead with sharing the message of Jesus in a most amenable context! Every year, seeds are sown and a little bit more reaping happens.

    At the end of the day, tacky as it can be at times, what’s not to like about a golden opportunity to plug Jesus?! Bring it on!

  12. Thought I’d get a response!

    I guess I would just love us to develop a distinctively Christian Christmas, rather than seeming to just fall into line with the traditional one that goes on around us – Santa, expensive presents, excessive consumption, ‘nativity play’ version of story rather than the Biblical account in Matthew & Luke, etc – much of which merges truth and myth in a way which we wouldn’t accept any other time of the year and which I think tends to obscure the message of the gospel rather than proclaim it.

    I’m all for us making Christmas an opportunity to proclaim the gospel, both in word and in deed. I just don’t see an awful lot of it going on…


    The problem with the ‘inn’ is that this is one of those KJV translations which unfortunately never gets corrected. The word in the original means something entirely different and elsewhere in the gospels it is translated as ‘upper room’. In the culture of the time, it was the guest room of the house. However, because everyone was returning to their birthplace, once Joseph and Mary finally got to Josephs relatives in Bethlehem, the guest room was already full of other relatives and was no place to give birth to a baby. Therefore Mary and Joseph slept downstairs in the part of the house the animals were brought into. This has been accepted by scholars for a long time, but we’re so attached to the story of the innkeeper turning them away and Jesus being born into some sort of imagined hillside cave, all alone apart from animals, etc . Nice, but it just isn’t what the passage is describing.

  13. Yeah, i think there are a lot of people who are confused about the origins of Christmas. For example last week my brother was doing security for a Carols By Candle Light and his fellow security guard was making complaints about the ‘christian plays’ that was being performed at the event. The play was about Ebeneezer Scrooge?!? And then my brother’s colleague went on to explain that they were now reading ‘palms’ instead of just singing! This story is cute but it also highlights the confusion caused by such a mash of cultures at christmas.

  14. “Send them to a Christian school mate; all the songs are about Jesus.” -otherendup

    I teach at a Christian school. Christ is the central theme running throughout the enitre Bible, and should always be found at the center our expression of Christianity. However, I don’t think that means we must be in a war with our culture. Santa Claus does have a historical base in Christianity. Some suggest using Santa Claus to teach young children about God. While that may or may not be a good idea (I’m flexible on this one) there is no reason to go all the way in either direction. We can celebrate Advent, read the Old Testament prophesies and anticipate the arrival of joy on Christmas day, and still sing traditional songs like Jingle Bells and Here Comes Santa Claus without putting our children in danger of hell fire. I see no conflict in watching Rudolf on television, then attending a Christmas Eve service.

    Carefully study the habits of Jesus while he was on earth; he attended not only the festivals commanded in Old Testament law, but was also in Jerusalem for the traditional ones (like Purim and Hannakah.)

  15. I completely agree that we can’t just reject the surrounding culture and how it celebrates Christmas. I just quick we don’t apply the same degree of discernment where Christmas is concerned as we do about other ‘mythical’ parts of our culture. I see Santa Claus bringing Christmas presents on his reindeer drawn sleigh in exactly the same category as the tooth fairy, Jack Frost painting frost on windows, the Easter bunny, the bogeyman coming to get you, Leprecauns at the bottom of my garden, zombies, werewolves and vampires wandering about at Halloween, expecting seven years bad luck if I break a mirror, throwing salt over my shoulder if I spill it, feeling pleased if a black cat crosses my path, etc. All are cultural myths we can reject or we can accommodate into our theological position with a clear conscience. But let’s just try and be a little consistent as we do so….

  16. Gobo – I guess that your 1st post caused some confusion for me… there are as many ‘Christian’ ways of looking at Christmas as there are Christians. I suppose that I figured that I keep my brain (mostly?) engaged, but agree that perhaps others don’t, in relation to what Christmas does/doesn’t mean.

    I’ve been thinking about a couple of your postings in relation to the proselytising thread – I think a lot of Christians ‘use’ Christmas as one of their only ‘proselytising-programs’ for the year, so the season becomes more about how their church can engage with a community, rather than resting in the knowledge of what God has done for them.

    Does that resonate with anybody? Now that Christmas has ‘come and gone’ (it’s now Dec 28), does the birth of Christ become less significant in the minds of Christians for another 360 days?

    I mean, saying ‘happy birthday Jesus’ every day could get a bit much, but as we recall the magnitude of His death & resurrection, the birth and life of Christ, demonstrating the fullness of the love of God, should also be recalled frequently, methinks…

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