The Big Talk

A friend was round the other day and told me she had just had the ‘big talk’ with her 11 year old son. Ok… I thought – 11 is a fair age to be starting the sex talk these days. Good for you!

She went on to tell me how the talk went, only it wasn’t about sex, it was about Santa. He was asking if Santa was real or not – and he wanted her to be honest. She told him the truth, explained about the origins of Santa and he went off a happy fella.

But I have to admit I was stunned that a kid could get to 11 years old and still be a believer.

We have chosen to tell our kids the truth straight up, but also to allow them to enjoy the myths that surround the Christmas period. Some would find this appalling, while others would see it as most appropriate. Our rationale is that we don’t want them to get caught up in the fable and lose sight of the truth.

They still get excited when they see Santa, they still leave a carrot out for the reindeer, but they will also say to us that they know he’s not real.

(Actually little Sam is scared stupid of Santa and couldn’t sleep tonight. He was worried about reindeers landing on the roof – probably exacerbated by me tossing a tennis ball on the roof just after he had gone to bed…)

But I digress…

What do you think?

Should we let kids live with the myth for a while?

Should we tell them the truth straight up?

What is the best way to go?

I have declared my hand and I am happy to argue for a ‘tell em the truth’ approach based on the amount of crap that currently surrounds the Christmas period. As Christians I believe we can still celebrate well, enjoy the fun and festivities, even allow our kids to enjoy some Santa stuff, but without them growing up as believers.

Ok – your turn!

20 thoughts on “The Big Talk

  1. We have not gone either way on Santa, but when the kids ask me, I tell them the truth or push them to discover that kind of thing for themselves in the process. My biggest fear about promoting Santa is that it makes it harder to promote Jesus.

    I think it is much different than reading fairy tales (which is a defense I normally hear) that you KNOW are fake going into it. But we even can go, in elaborate fashion, to the mall and meet Santa and sit on His lap (an apparent one up on Jesus). Anyway, I don’t see it as overly dangerous or wrong, but an issue of conscience for each believer.

  2. I believe that the truth is the right way to go.

    My parents brought me up on the truth and I never spoilt it for others but if I was asked I always told the truth. I am 52!

    When I had children of course I wanted them to know the truth as did my husband.

    I always saw it as the first lie you told your kids… I also wanted them to know that we loved them so much as to buy them the gifts they treasured…the gift goes on with our Saviour Jesus christ.

    Lets not be ashamed as Christians to share the Jesus child with everyone, dont lose sight of the baby under all the tinsel and Christmas lights…

  3. You’re brave to bring up the question Hamo. We’ve done exactly what you guys have. And I’d argue with you, that this is the way to go – IF someone asked my opinion of the matter, which they usually don’t.

    We told them the truth and tried to focus on the “real Christmas” as the center. But we have never had a problem with talking about Santa, watching the TV movies, etc., but as you said, they’re just part of the myth surrounding Christmas, fun stuff.

    I don’t think about it as a huge issue to get into it with anyone about. If another set of parents we know happens to do the Santa Claus thing, we don’t try to make a big deal out of it. They’ll have to deal with it all falling down some day. Hopefully it won’t cause a faith crisis. That would be one of my concerns. I’ve known it to happen.

    Anyway, Merry Christmas to you and your family there in the South land. Grace and Peace to you.

  4. 11, wow.

    I grew up with parents who insisted santa was not to play any role in our Christmas. We have tried to strike a little bit of a balance with our kiddos. We have told our 4.5 year old about St. Nicholas and that everything we talk about with Santa today is pretend, a story. I think she “gets it” to a point but she insists on referring to santa as real. She has a very active imagination and I don’t think we’d be able to convince her otherwise no matter how hard we tried.

    We believe in allowing children to have a fantasy life – to believe in things like fairies and unicorns and dragons. To “pretend” as if those things exist. She knows it’s not “real” in the way that mommy and daddy and Jesus are real. but we allow her the chance to have a fantastical childhood.

    This year, I asked her what are some things that ARE REAL that we can’t see – she responded without missing a beat – Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, angels…without any kind of prompting beforehand. Then I explained that there are also things that we can’t see but ARE NOT real but are in our imagination. She said “like fairies and sprites and gnomes and monsters and unicorns and the tooth fairy” and I said “yes, and like santa”. She nodded and trotted off.

    So I believe that even at 4, a child can clearly tell the difference and still enjoy the fantasy of childhood. So,she’ll be getting a present from santa, and stocking stuffers on Christmas morning.

  5. For me the story of Bishop Nicholas – that as one who has experienced redemption, we ought then to hold it out for others to experience too – is a fantastic exposition of the Christmas story. Yeah, he never had flying reindeer, but he’s part of my Christmas.

    That aside, what I really want to say is, we wish you a very happy Christmas, full of peace and joy.

    [I’m gutted to read that the tooth fairy isn’t real though…]

  6. Anthropomorphic personification.

    Santa Claus is as real as he can be without existing – we have made him so, given him role, form and function and defined him limitations.

    We have also placed rules around the story that require intervention from others to ‘assist’ in the delivery of presents. Once children reach a certain age they understand this and Santa Clause becomes for them as he is for adults – a focus for the anticipation of the celebration of Christmas so that the pressure is a little removed from parents for presents and is placed instead on the wide and strong (and imaginary) shoulders of Santa Claus.

  7. Interesting questions, as my children are 6, 4 & 2 it is very challedging.

    I grew up where Santa was “of the devil” mentality. He was banned from ALL things at home.

    However as an adult I think that is a very reactionist and negative outlook. It goes with the fortorous mentality that all inside our fort (Christian subculture) is good and Godly and all of the world is bad and evil.

    And I don’t believe in telling my kids lies, aka Santa is real and gives your presents. The reason being is that then how do you know that Jesus – the guy who you have never seen, and goes good in the world is true when later in life Santa is not and Jesus is. Just sets things up for confusion, or so I reason.

    So in trying to find a way forward this is our solution. We have reinvented Santa. We say he is real a real person, dressed up like a saint of old who gave presents to children who couldn’t afford it. So he is there today to remind us of people who can’t afford presents so we need to give them to them.

    Hopefull this instills generosity into our children and gives up a tool to reinvent a anti-christ symbol (he represented to me a idol of rampint consumerisium) and turn in into something thing that points towards God.

    This being like the day we celebrate christmas – it once was a pagan celebration, now a day to rejoice in the savour. So Santa a pagen symbol we reinvent into a Godly symbol.

    To be honest I am not sure if it is working – I get the feeling that my oldest couldn’t care less about it all!

    So trying to find

  8. I don’t have any kids but if I do someday, I won’t be telling them Santa is real. Instead I want to teach them the true meaning of Christmas and also explain the origins of Santa/St Nicholas (pretty much the same as what other people have commented). Although too much focus on Santa can take the focus from Jesus, Santa in himself isn’t a threat to the truth of the gospel. It doesn’t mean that the children can’t enjoy gifts from their parents. However I wouldn’t want my kids becoming self-righteous around kids who do believe in Santa.

  9. as a product of the coca cola company, i gave santa a try, but found him like vanilla coke, not quite as good as the original….

    the ABC ran a show about the story of St. Nic recently, which involves a church organizing to have his bones stolen from another a church amoungst other things, it was great.

  10. we told them about St Nicholas, and explained that Santa was pretend. We didn’t want to start their life off lying to them. They seemed to enjoy Christmas just as much.


  11. We went the same way as you Hamo with our two girls. We also told them not to tell other kids he is not real if they believe in him. My kids see him as a man in a red suit who gives presents to kids.

  12. i was the kid at school that told other the other kids in class that santa wasnt real. i wont lie to my kids, they can still have an imagination but i wont lie to them. also, youve gotta have one kid telling the class his not real.

  13. Let Kids be Kids as long as they can. It’s fun. They will soon find out its a myth one way or another – but it gives them great memories.

    How many people have been turned of Christianity because their parents let them believe in Santa?

  14. We have decided to tell our girls (3 & 5) the truth as well. I agree with Makeesha that the children has no problem playing fantasy games with the things they know not to be real anyway. My oldest had a bit of a revelation before Christmas when she realized thiefs where reak and not part of the fantasy gang.

    We had some problem with the kindergarten though, that in order to let the believers believe tried to convince our girls that Santa really DID exist. The teachers couldn’t understand why we would have a problem with that, since we also believe in God…

  15. ANother angle

    “How many people have been turned of Christianity because their (religious) parents DID NOT let them believe in Santa?”

    Many, more I would think.

  16. Santa, isn’t the only lie within the Church and it’s somewhat pagan life. Tell our kids the truth – so what? I bet we spent more on Chrismas wrapping than on the poor. Again last night while you slept so peacefully, thousands died. At least your fridge still has a fair few leftovers in it from the Christmas myth.

  17. I agree with Makeesha. There are various stages of cognative and moral development in kids and part of that is a stage in which make-believe and fantasy are core to healthy growth. Generally its up until about age 5 or 6 where it’s actually really important.

    So at some level, allowing some kind of make-believe doesn’t always have to be bad. However, the bigger issue for me is the kinda of mentalities that Santa promotes (ie. rampant consumerism, affluence, greed etc etc.) that is more of an issue.

    We don’t yet have kids but have just stated talking about how we might do Christmas when we do. We decided that some kind of play, with the idea of santa can be ok, depending on how it is done.

    Our thoughts so far are:

    – We wont do the whole ‘santa is REAL!’ thing… but if they choose to run with it, thats probably ok.

    – We will still have some kind of present/stocking thing, but it will all be hand-made, fair trade or ethical things. Like, a kite or something wholesome.

    – We will do a ‘pre-christmas Lent’… for 2 months before Christmas, the ONLY thing we can buy is groceries. This tries to remove ourselves from the hype.

    – A cryptic ‘treasure’ hunt each year (this was a tradition in my family, and became the most exciting part. Presents were irrelevent, but the treasure hunt was SOOOOOOOO exctiting. Usually the prize was… A pen and a lolly, but it didnt matter.

    – The focus being on the family time. We decided that because it is hard to bring back the tradition of christmas, we would spend each christmas exploring some kind of international holiday. Maybe one year its chinese new year, where we decorate in that theme and eat a meal of that theme and explore the meaning and tradition. The next year, it might be Hannukah. Or whatever… and every year, we also understand what this celebration means in the christian tradition, of course.

    Sorry that was long.


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