Have you ever seen the movie “Prancer”? If so you know the main character is a girl who loves Santa and clings to her deeply held belief in him. She holds out hope in a weary world, and especially in her weary family. People around her would rather give up on Christmas, but this girl has faith, she won’t have it, she fights for her belief in something more, something beautiful, something beautiful that comes down to earth at Christmas.
I was a lot like that girl. I believed as long as I possibly could. I have no regrets and no resentment about that. As Christmas approaches, I see again how Santa has become a weapon people use in parenting wars. I pray I don’t add to that here, but I feel God used the myth of Santa in a powerful way in my life. I can say 100% I don’t care if you do or do not engage Santa in your Christmas. I really, really don’t care. Really! I humbly submit this musing on Santa to hopefully cheer your soul. Cheer you not because Santa is great, but because God uses so many things to reach us and speaks to us in different ways. Santa may not be for you, but isn’t it cool God could use him to talk to me?
I write because I will not bring this up in conversation with you. I’m so tired of sitting among Christian friends and having someone start preaching for or against Santa or Halloween for that matter. I get it, I’m sure I’ve done it, we are insecure, parenting is lofty and kids don’t come with instructions. We want to validate our choices, maybe my blog post will help you do that ha, but hopefully online we can create some space to live and let live a bit in the church (though I fear the opposite is happening).
I hope you are cheered also, in the reminder that there is wonder in this world. I hope we all can enter into wonder on Christmas or any day, that there is something beyond, something holy and beautiful, oh so beautiful that’s here and that our souls are made for it, made to savor it and rejoice in it. As grown ups and as Christians we know it is a who and not an it, but doesn’t creation point to Him? Don’t fairy tales, and great works of art, and poetry point to Him? I believe Santa can too.
CS Lewis (who utilized the Santa myth in Narnia) wanted children to have that sense of something more, wanted all of us to have it. Wonder and mystery are things I feel most forms of evangelical Christianity in the States really don’t appreciate. I say this as someone who spent way too long in school, in both Wesleyan and Reformed academic institutions, and even more time in many different churches. In Narnia Lewis speaks of a “deeper magic”. I think Santa can point us to that. He did for me.
I was born to a teen Mom. Bravely she decided to have me and keep me, even in the face of opposition from my birth father’s family. My “dad” was no father figure. I haven’t seen him since I was very small, and honestly that was a good thing. Still I really didn’t have a stable male figure in the home most of my childhood. I had a loving Grandpa thankfully and I’m sure others on the periphery of my life, but no Dad and the stand ins that came and went were typically not positive. I think this may have attributed to my connection to Santa. He was a man, but unlike most I’d encountered, he was kind, gentle and loving. Now after many years of fighting for healing and joy, I see how I know God as Father in a beautiful way, because I was largely left without an earthly one from ages 0-10, but I think Santa was a gentle precursor in my small heart for that kind of selfless love.
I never confused him with Jesus. I was just as taken with the candles and carols of Christmas church services. The whole season held a reverent magic for me, and the kindness of Santa seemed to fit right into that. I was a small child though, and in the difficulties of my brief life I didn’t yet know how to really turn to Jesus the way I do now. I think Santa was a divinely planted comfort.
I have to return to Lewis again, he once wrote a letter in response to a Mother who was afraid her son might love Aslan more than Jesus-
Laurence can’t really love Aslan more than Jesus, even if he feels that’s what he is doing. For the things he loves Aslan for doing or saying are simply the things Jesus really did and said. So that when Laurence thinks he is loving Aslan, he is really loving Jesus: and perhaps loving Him more than he ever did before.
This really captures how I feel about Santa in the life of a child. I felt like he loved me and I saw that he was selfless and generous. As far as being lied to, it never once occurred to me to feel anger towards my mom and grandparents when I finally let go of this belief. It all just seemed a part of growing up, and yes it was sad, but growing up is often sad. I don’t think enjoying a healthy appreciation for fantasy and imagination is lying. I place Santa in the same realm as any other good fairy story my kids might revel in while they are young. These things, like Narnia, can point us to that wonder that I believe we are meant to explore for eternity in God. I think some of the discomfort here may stem from the fact that as adults our faith can get so mired down in hammering out how to be exactly right and feel safe and so we turn into Pharisees rather than children with an exciting, amazing, magical secret in our hearts.
For me the biggest concern with Christmas is consumerism. I think Santa can easily be too linked to that, so I definitely understand the difficulty of dealing with that beast. Yet, without Santa I really think I’d be fighting the same battle on that front.
So I will enjoy this myth as long as my kids will and if they want to, I’ll help them enjoy it with my grandkids. I know someday my kids may ask me if he’s real, and I will gently help them grow up the best I can, but in having fun with Santa I pray I’m exposing them in just another way to this deep, deep magic that the world needs so badly. I hope the remnants of Santa’s fairy story take root, that they learn generosity and how to be jolly and love every child, and while they will learn that the myth of Santa is not true in a factual way, that whatever is beautiful and meaningful in that myth is true.
One more from my friend C.S. Lewis-
Fairy stories do awaken desires in children, but most often it’s not a desire for the fairy world itself. Most children don’t really want there to be dragons in modern England. Instead, the desire is for “they know not what.” This desire for “something beyond” does not empty the real world, but actually gives it new depths. “He does not despise real woods because he has read of enchanted woods: the reading makes all real woods a little enchanted”.
I hope Santa makes the Truth more enchanting for my kids in the way he did for me. I wish anyone reading this some enchantment, with or without Santa this Christmas.