What we tell our kids about Santa

‘Tis the season . . . for parents to decide if they will tell the truth about Santa.

‘Tis the season . . . for parents to decide if they will tell the truth about Santa.

When it comes to cultural issues like Santa, Christians have three options: (1) we can reject it, (2) we can receive it, or (3) we can redeem it.

Since Santa is so pervasive in our culture, it is nearly impossible to simply reject Santa as part of our annual cultural landscape. Still, as parents we don’t feel we can simply receive the entire story of Santa because there is a lot of myth built on top of a true story.

So, as the parents of five children, Grace and I have taken the third position to redeem Santa. We tell our kids that he was a real person who did live a long time ago. We also explain how people dress up as Santa and pretend to be him for fun, kind of like how young children like to dress up as pirates, princesses, superheroes, and a host of other people, real and imaginary. We explain how, in addition to the actual story of Santa, a lot of other stories have been added (e.g., flying reindeer, living in the North Pole, delivering presents to every child in one night) so that Santa is a combination of true and make-believe stories.

We do not, however, demonize Santa. Dressing up, having fun, and using the imagination God gave can be an act of holy worship and is something that, frankly, a lot of adults need to learn from children.

What we are concerned about, though, is lying to our children. We teach them that they can always trust us because we will tell them the truth and not lie to them. Conversely, we ask that they be honest with us and never lie. Since we also teach our children that Jesus is a real person who did perform real miracles, our fear is that if we teach them fanciful, make-believe stories as truth, it could erode confidence in our truthfulness where it really matters. So, we distinguish between lies, secrets, surprises, and pretend for our kids. We ask them not to tell lies or keep secrets, but do teach them that some surprises (like gift-giving) and pretending (like dressing up) can be fun and should be encouraged. We tell them the truth and encourage them to have fun watching Christmas shows on television and even sitting on Santa’s lap for a holiday photo if they so desire. For parents of younger children wanting them to learn the real story of Santa Claus the Veggie Tales movie Saint Nicholas is a good choice.

The larger-than-life myths surrounding Santa Claus actually emanate from the very real person of Saint Nicholas. It is difficult to know the exact details of his life with certainty, as the ancient records are sparse, but the various pieces can be put together as a mosaic of his life.

Nicholas was born in the third century in Patara, a village in what is now Turkey. He was born into an affluent family, but his parents died tragically when he was quite young. His parents had raised him to be a devout Christian, which led him to spend his great inheritance on helping the poor, especially children. He was known to frequently give gifts to children, sometimes even hanging socks filled with treats and presents.

Perhaps his most famous act of kindness was helping three sisters. Because their family was too poor to pay for their wedding dowry, three young Christian women were facing a life of prostitution until Nicholas paid their dowry, thereby saving them from a horrible life of sexual slavery.

Nicholas grew to be a well-loved Christian leader and was eventually voted the Bishop of Myra, a port city that the apostle Paul had previously visited (Acts 27:5-6). Nicholas reportedly also traveled to the legendary Council of Nicaea, where he helped defend the deity of Jesus Christ in A.D. 325.

Following his death on December 6, 343, he was canonized as a saint. The anniversary of his death became the St. Nicholas holiday when gifts were given in his memory. He remained a very popular saint among Catholic and Orthodox Christians, with some two thousand churches named after him. The holiday in his honor eventually merged with Christmas, since they were celebrated within weeks of one another.

During the Reformation, however, Nicholas fell out of favor with Protestants, who did not approve of canonizing certain people as saints and venerating them with holidays. His holiday was not celebrated in any Protestant country except Holland, where his legend as Sinterklass lived on. In Germany, Martin Luther replaced him with the Christ child as the object of holiday celebration, or, in German, Christkindl. Over time, the celebration of the Christ child was simply pronounced Kris Kringle and oddly became just another name for Santa Claus.

The legends about Santa Claus are most likely a compilation of other folklore. For example, there was a myth in Nicholas’ day that a demon was entering people’s homes to terrorize children and that Nicholas cast it out of a home. This myth may explain why it was eventually believed that he came down people’s chimneys.

Also, there was a Siberian myth (near the North Pole) that a holy man, or shaman, entered people’s homes through their chimneys to leave them mushrooms as gifts. According to the legend, he would hang them in front of the fire to dry. Reindeer would reportedly eat them and become intoxicated. This may have started the myth that the reindeer could fly, as it was believed that the shaman could also fly. This myth may have merged with the Santa Claus myth, and if so, explains him traveling from the North Pole to slide down chimneys and leave presents on fireplace mantles before flying away with reindeer.

These stories of Santa Claus were first brought to America by Dutch immigrants. In the early twentieth century, stores began having Santa Claus present for children during the Christmas season. Children also began sending letters to the North Pole as the legends surrounding an otherwise simple Christian man grew.

In sum, Saint Nick was a wonderful man who loved and served Jesus faithfully. So, we gladly include him in our Christmas traditions to remind us of what it looks like for someone to live a life of devotion to Jesus as God. Our kids thank us for being both honest and fun, which we think is what Jesus wants.

About

Mark Driscoll Pastor Mark Driscoll is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church, based in Seattle, Washington, and co-author of "Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together."
  • pgibson1

    The entire Christmas tradition is a form of Winter Soltstice Celebrations.Sorry, there was really no Christ fellow born on that day.Sorry, as truth often pisses people like you – followers of the “sun” lol – off. S.Clause is more of a reason for the “season” than any Christ guy – who may or may not have even existed.I’m pretty sure there was a Cris Kringle, though.History’s tough. looks like you all failed it in school.You’ve all got it pretty much screwed-up.Again, sorry.

  • Iammama

    I think it always so funny how none believers of CHRISTianity criticize CHRISTians for wanting to celebrate the birth of Jesus CHRIST on CHRISTmas. I mean how dare they! We can say Happy HOLIday all we want, but it doesn’t take away the fact that CHRISTmas is about the birth of Jesus CHRIST. And if CHRISTians want to use CHRISTian Saints to give examples of generosity, then so be it. I love how these same critics scream tolerance, but in the next breath are like the Romans, ready to burn Christians at the stake to light up Rome. Mark did an excellent job sharing his thoughts on the issue. Thank-You!

  • JustLivingLife2011

    “While (St)Nicholas appears to have actually existed, there is no documentation that Jesus ever did – outside the New Testament.Most Historians agree that there was a Jesus, and that he did exist. There are sources outside the New Testament that mention Jesus: Josephus, an Orthodox Jew and Historian mentions him, Mara Bar-Serapion, a Syrian in first century A.D…Tacitus, Pliny, and Lucian are others to research.Therefore, it is more a decision of whether or not you believe he was a Messiah and everything else he claimed to be.

  • david6

    Whether there was an itinerant preacher with the name we call Jesus, who was in part the model for the Jesus of the New Testament, or not, the claims found in the gospels and epistles about Jesus as deity are unsupported by any evidence. A number of claims found in the Gospel, including some of the stories related to His birth, are clearly inventions (the star, the Flight to Egypt and the Slaughter of the Innocents, the travel for the census).

  • lindsayloo

    Faith is not what is seen, but what is unseen. Can you see the wind? No, but you can feel and see the affects of the wind.St. Nicholas was aware of such faith, in fact it was what compelled him to live a life that was “Christ like”, to care and love others the way Christ did and does. So as a believer in Christ, the trinity, I also believe in imagination, the gift of story and dreaming, big, big beautiful dreams! That is the heart of my heavenly Father the author of life, of sunsets, the harvest moon and shooting stars, that is romance, that is beauty….that is a gift that surrounds us daily, the only gift that keeps on giving!

  • lightsaber42

    Thanks Mark. Just the thought that we weren’t teaching our kids the Santa myth drew a lot of criticism. We don’t do it for exactly the same reason.For the folks who think it’s hypocritical to teach your kids about Jesus but not Santa, here’s the big difference. You don’t believe in the Santa myth but you teach it to your kids anyway because it’s the “spirit of Christmas” and it’s “fun”. Until they turn 8, realize it’s not true and not only that it’s not true, but YOU don’t even believe in it. You’ve told them something exists that you know doesn’t, that’s a lie.Christians teach their kids about Christ because we believe in Him. IF it was true that there was no Jesus Christ, virgin-born Messiah, then we have taught them something that isn’t true, but at least it would not be because we knew it wasn’t true and taught them that anyway.The story of the real St. Nicholas is one of faith and charity… inspired by faith in Christ and charity based upon God’s gift to us. The Santa myth is about control, i.e., you better be good or Santa won’t get you any presents. There’s no other way around it, you’re lying to your children. If you’re good with that then, well, they’re your kids, you raise them as you want. We weren’t ok lying to them so we aren’t doing it.

  • djmolter

    Parents lie to their kids perpetually, not just at Christmas. I grow tired of Christians complaining of being persecuted becasue of things like Sants Claus and the Easter Bunny, or by people saying “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.”

  • jessechanley

    God is Santa Clause for adults.

  • lufrank1

    Unbelievable IRONY, but true.My question is rhetorical:Typical Thanksgiving prayer:

  • amateo

    Great explanation Pastor Mark.

  • j3nnb0

    Aww.. I’m a Christian and I will be telling my kids about Santa Claus, myths and all. There’s no harm in it; it’s a fun holiday and it doesn’t detract from Jesus. I agree with a previous commenter – it’s a little “grinchy” to take all the fun away for everyone else, religious or not.FYI for those who keep saying “Jesus is a myth…” He’s not, he is very real, and I hope you can experience him one day. He’s changed my whole life… I used to be a staunch Dawkins-esque atheist.

  • jimward21

    I see the Santa story as the child’s version of the Jesus story. The magic man who brings you toys/eternal life. I tell my kids about Santa, and will let them decide about Jesus on their own. Merry Christmas everybody!

  • Mitchavery7

    Are u 4 real dude? If u can’t xplain Santa to a child you’re more ridiculous than your religion.

  • jimward21

    My opinion on Jesus’ miracles is that you either believe in the supernatural or you don’t. If you don’t, a historical examination of the gospels will reveal that they aren’t newspapers, they were written 20 to 50 years after Jesus lived. At the time there were competing faiths to Christianity, and those faiths had miracle stories suspiciously close to the ones in the gospels. So they were added in by the church fathers as good advertising.

  • anonnymous

    Although I don’t yet have kids, I will be telling them that Santa exists. As somebody in my early twenties with siblings who still believe, I view it not as my parents lying to me, but as an incredible, magical gift my parents gave to me. Honestly, do people really think their children are going to lie to them when they find out that Santa is a lie? Your teen is going to think “I’m not going to tell you that my friends are all drinking because you told me that Santa existed when I was five?” And in reality, Santa IS real. It turns out that Santa isn’t a man who lives at the North Pole, but Santa is my mom, who lovingly chose gifts for us. This was actually a very good paradigm for my own Christianity, as I simply can’t believe in a traditional Christian male God. Or the literal ascension of Jesus. I’ve tried, but it just doesn’t work for me. Santa taught me that just because I can’t believe that Jesus literally rose into the sky, just because I don’t believe in this traditional male God sitting in the sky, this doesn’t mean I can’t be a Christian, and a faithful one at that.I’ll certainly be giving my future children the gift of Santa.

  • jimward21

    I don’t see how anyone can doubt the historical existence of Jesus, he was obviously a great moralist and a wonderful storyteller. I think of him as a 1st century Abraham Lincoln, who shared many of his moralizing and storytelling traits (along with a martyrdom). Does anyone doubt the existence of Honest Abe?

  • eezmamata

    Last year they had a young lady, 18, telling us about her bitter disappointment at learning there really was no Santa Claus.Oh, man, I can still smell the irony, from this far away.You Christians believe in this god of yours, you believe in this jesus guy who either was your god, or was his bаstard son issued forth from holy adultery, or … whatever, you believe in both of them or it. I have to hand it to the designers of your religion, they knew what they were doing, how to keep you suckered and never ask questions.And now, you have declared this war on christmas which you claim has been declared on you. Look at what you christians are saying right here … we’re not allowed to celebrate christmas unless we believe in your gods, we’re not allowed to enjoy the season unless we kiss your foolish butts on what it really means.We’re really getting tired of you. Why do you think the numbers of atheists continue to grow?

  • Heather_Smith

    Thanks Pastor Mark for sharing what you and your wife have chosen to tell your kids about Santa. I appreciate your take on this topic. After reading through most of the comments on this page, I must say I am overwhelmed with gratitude to Jesus for giving me the ability to see and know Him. “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,”

  • eezmamata

    Ah, yes, the ‘being a fool is a virtue’ ploy. Works for lots of people.

  • lalalu1

    It’s always fun to watch Christians become infuriated over non-believers being allowed to enjoy Christmas. It’s a Christian holiday, dammit, and no one else should be able to have a good time. The Christian grinch strikes again!Posted by: DaveHarris ***************************************8Yeah, a Christina holiday dammit, that we stole from the Pagans to help convert them. Jesus was born in the spring, but Chirstmas is all about Jesus!! Christmas tress are forbidden in the Bible (Jeramiah 9) as false idols and the tress and exchanging gifts are pagan solsitice celebration traditions, but Christmas belongs to Christians!! And only Christians!!

  • jenni8

    oh my gosh! i can’t believe all of the haters in the comments section lol!!!!this is a christian pastor sharing how he includes santa in his christmas celebrations. he’s not even commenting on what non-christians should do at christmas so why are you getting your dander all up? LOL!

  • joe_allen_doty

    IF YOU BELIEVE IN JESUS AND YOU ARE FOLLOWING HIS TEACHINGS, you will NOT lie to your children or other children and tell them that Santa Claus is real. IF YOU ACCEPTED JESUS’ FREE GIFT OF SALVATION, YOU BECOME A SAINT SAVED BY GRACE AT THE MOMENT YOU ACCEPTED HIM INTO YOUR LIFE. Jesus’ salvation makes individuals saints; church have no scriptural authority to do that.

  • eezmamata

    Are there any Old Testament saints, or is this purely an invention of Christianity?

  • EdgewoodVA

    This pastor sounds like a panicky paranoiac–do you really think that your kids will hate you and judge you as abominable hypocrites just because you once told them that a generous, happy old man who loves children is real?? Are you so freakin’ incompetent as parents that all of that hinges on one holiday tradition? Is your religion so frail that it can’t outlast a mere folktale? (You don’t have to answer that one.) I have wonderful memories of coming downstairs on Christmas morning to see that Santa drank all the milk but left one cookie with a single bite taken out of it on the plate. It was fun, and to this day, I love my much-older brothers for having withstood the temptation to ruin it for me until I was clearly old enough and began expressing my old doubts. I love that my parents took such joy in playing some make-believe with me. It didn’t doom me to hell and it didn’t negate the decent values I was learning in Sunday school.The Santa Claus legend is the basis of a rich, multi-national folk tradition, inspiring art, poetry, and music that all people can enjoy, even if they aren’t Christian. (Oh…is that your problem? You don’t want non-Christians and Christians having fun with one another?) Santa Claus brings people of all ages together in a spirit of love, generosity, and joy. I see nothing wrong with that, and I’m not alone.It’s clear that you want to spill all the beans from the very get-go. Watchya gonna do when your kids start asking you for details about where babies come from??

  • wireman65

    Parents should also come clean on the rest of the myths they are forcing on their trusting children. You know, the other fairy tale about this time of year. Happy Holidays

  • bob2davis

    Oh, okay, the Santa Claus story is a myth but the jesus story and the god story and the virgin mother story are not myths! These are the kinds of stories that people are put in institutions for telling. The insanity of christianity is so pervasive that all the inmates are allowed to be free. When will this madness end!?!?!?!?!?!?!

  • dkb50

    Wireman65, above, asks a very good question. Why NOT come clean about the big myth of the season?

  • AliceLMiller

    “We tell our kids that he was a real person who did live a long time ago…We explain how, in addition to the actual story of Santa, a lot of other stories have been added (e.g., flying reindeer, living in the North Pole, delivering presents to every child in one night) so that Santa is a combination of true and make-believe stories.” Gee–that’s just what I told my kids about Jesus (though the e.g. part was different–virgin birth, resurrection, son of “god,” etc.).

  • areyousaying

    you theocons have no problem about lying that Obama is a Muslim and all liberals are terrorists – what’s your problem with Santa Claus?Happy Holidays!

  • sux123

    I find this really funny. People telling their kids that one myth is just that, so they can perpetuate other myths. it’s like telling kids the Easter bunny is a myth so you can convince them of the tooth-fairy’s veracity. Human beings are funny creatures.

  • areyousaying

    The fun of Santa is telling kids he exists while they pretend they believe us.

  • chchch2

    eezmamata: If you want to insult any faith group (Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist), you need to understand that it is completely inappropriate to do it in the comments section of a newspaper OPINION article. Discuss, share your opinion, but inciting and offensive comments debase any discussion.

  • rjpal

    you theocons have no problem about lying that Obama is a Muslim and all liberals are terrorists – what’s your problem with Santa Claus?I do not see any signs that he is a Muslim, but in my view those who worry are not nuts.Secondly, you liberals are not terrorists but you are like a child who whines when he gets only 70% of the pie. “HE should not have got ANYTHING!”, you cry.I am glad Obama finally has realized the truth about his irrational constituency.Too bad it happened after Pelosi was confirmed as minority leader. Now that Obama has become a moderate, she is the best hope of the Republicans…

  • Stanwell

    One thing I missed in the original article was any sense of age appropriateness. Like, at what age should kids be able to distinguish those various kinds of truth or lack thereof? at what age do they get to know that the historical St. Nick saved young women from prostitution?

  • eezmamata

    Discuss, share your opinion, but inciting and offensive comments debase any discussion.

    You’ll have to be more specific than that. which particular comment did you find so offensive?And really, why should I give a sht what you think? Give me an answer on both questions, I’ll respond in a more ‘friendly’ manner.And, uh, go ahead, tell me how I’m suppose to enjoy christmas, the right way.

  • Please_Fix_VAs_Roads

    Next you’ll be telling me that Jesus wasn’t really born on December 25th…WHAAAAAAAAAAAAT???

  • FarnazMansouri2

    F YOU BELIEVE IN JESUS AND YOU ARE FOLLOWING HIS TEACHINGS, you will NOT lie to your children or other children and tell them that Santa Claus is real.IF YOU ACCEPTED JESUS’ FREE GIFT OF SALVATION, YOU BECOME A SAINT SAVED BY GRACE AT THE MOMENT YOU ACCEPTED HIM INTO YOUR LIFE.Jesus’ salvation makes individuals saints; church have no scriptural authority to do that.Posted by: joe_allen_doty | December 9, 201Every time I read one of his antisemtic racist posts I believe in the Christians. Every time a gay commits suicide, I believe in the Christians.

  • Davidd1

    While (St)Nicholas appears to have actually existed, there is no documentation that Jesus ever did – outside the New Testament.

  • Freestinker

    Since Santa is so pervasive in our culture, it is nearly impossible to simply reject Santa as part of our annual cultural landscape. Still, as parents we don’t feel we can simply receive the entire story of Santa because there is a lot of myth built on top of a true story.
    Since Jesus Christ is so pervasive in our culture, it is nearly impossible to simply reject Jesus Christ as part of our annual cultural landscape. Still, as parents we don’t feel we can simply receive the entire story of Jesus Christ because there is a lot of myth built on top of a true story. Exactly.

  • amateo

    Contrary to popular belief, real Christians are not panicky or hateful. Yes some cross the line, and many times is done without intending to “sound” hateful. Like any other group we get passionate. See, real Christians don’t really care if you celebrate Santa Claus or not. Pastor Mark was asked to write an opinion, and say what you will, the man does his homework. Just about every single sermon he preaches is presented in the same way (ALL free to download). As usual people agree and some disagree often (me included), and some disagree with disgust (visit his Facebook page and you’ll see how we Christians go to battle with each other). But one thing I assure all of you, you can celebrate Santa all you want, or you can “reflect” on Christ’ bday for a few days in December, or you can just drown in depression like many do, or you can do absolutely nothing special, or you can get drunk on the 20th and stay drunk until the 2nd of January, or all of the above, or something totally different, real Christians are not judging you because we are NOT to judge those outside the Church. When asked, however, regardless of how loony or weird or strange or diluted, or blind you say we are, regardless of the mocking and looks we get, we will hold firm. Do you really think we like “making” enemies? Some lose all friendships, family, possessions, careers, and, read the paper, in some countries their lives. The Bible says that Christ is foolishness to some and a stumbling block to others. To many, is a great insult, a curse word, and on and on. So, really… we know. We know it doesn’t make sense to you. We know many think we are a bunch of whateverfobes, take your pick. As a real Christian, I will tell you that Christ was born of a virgin, He performed many miracles, that He was God incarnate and was murdered because He claimed so. That with His dead he paid the penalty of those who repent and put their trust in Him. That He arose from the dead and He sits at the right Hand of the Father. That He reigns over all, you included, and that one day He will return to judge all, yes, you included. That one day every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess (yes, yours too) that Jesus is Lord. Is neither a matter of if, nor a matter of when, but a matter of from where you will be confessing It. Santa will be doing the same, and something tells me that He will be doing it from the same side as me. I’ll get to hang out with Santa, some of you won’t, and that is not even the worst of all. Enjoy Christmas, or the Holidays, or both. I pray that one day, before Christmas, during Christmas or after Christmas the Spirit of God convicts you and that all put their trust in Christ. Good night

  • csintala79

    Christians are worried their children will believe a myth and become confused when they find out it has no basis in fact? Is their no room for faith?

  • csintala79

    Don’t be so hasty in debunking the Santa myth adult conspriacy. This can be used as a valuable and edifying case study for training future diplomats and politicians.

  • carmoushi

    My views on Santa have morphed as I age.It is not just a harmless tradition. Encouraging kids to believe in Santa is the first big lie we tell children. When they discover that he is not real, they might wonder if other things parents have taught them about their Christian faith are just nice myths too. The birth of Christ is amazing and beautiful enough in an of itself to capture any child’s imagination. It needs no ancillaries. We don’t need “Santa” to bring out a spirit of joy, generosity and love.

  • eezmamata

    The insipid hypocrisy in telling the Santa myth as a myth, but the jesus myth as a truth is just … awe inspiring.So parents lie to kids about Santa to make them behave. Who is lying to parents about the jesus myth, and why?Don’t you people ever ask yourselves that question?

  • DaveHarris

    It’s always fun to watch Christians become infuriated over non-believers being allowed to enjoy Christmas. It’s a Christian holiday, dammit, and no one else should be able to have a good time. The Christian grinch strikes again!

  • garoth

    I agree with Christian Miner. As both a theologian and a psychologist, I am aware of the difference between “fact” and “truth.” While Jesus’ parables were not “facts” they were, nevertheless, true – in the same way that the creation stories were not “factual” but “true.” When my kids were little, they loved Santa Claus, and the myth enabled us to talk about what he meant – and to distinguish between “you better watch out” (works-righteousness) and the “graceful” Santa who loves all children, thus teaching them a reality that they could not understand in the abstract. As they grew older, and realized that Santa was not a real person, they already understood what the myth was all about. And that we had, in fact, told them the truth, even if the factuality of the myth was questionable. We are so enamored by “facts,” that we think that they are the only thing that is important, that not being “factual” is not being “truthful.” Oftentimes myths are more truthful, however, than “facts,” which are less objective than we often realize. The deeper truths of life are rarely revealed by “facts;” they often have little bearing on the greater truths of life. Or, to re-paraphrase a statement by Jesus, “People shall not live by facts alone…!”

  • garoth

    By the way, your poll is faulty, since parents probably tell their children different things about Santa at different times of their life. To try to explain some abstract notions about grace and giving to a three-year-old is fruitless – they do not yet have the ability to handle abstract concepts, so Santa works for them. By nine or ten, hopefully you have morphed into talking aobut those principles, and left Santa behind. The only one I would never choose is, “Santa doesn’t visit our house.” That means that either we’ve done something wrong, so that Santa won’t come; or it means there’s something deeper that is wrong with us, so that there is no sense of joy, celebration and gift-giving in our house. If I were Santa, I wouldn’t want to visit a house like that, either!

  • forgetthis

    There is no Christian conundrum with Santa Claus. He’s fake. It’s entertainment. It’s for fun. There is nothing to explain. Sheesh, why does everything require a dang thesis?

  • fuobama

    VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.You poor, poor unimaginative people

  • massmedia77

    In sum, Saint Nick was a wonderful man who loved and served Jesus faithfully. So, we gladly include him in our Christmas traditions to remind us of what it looks like for someone to live a life of devotion to Jesus as GodThis is a confusing statement. Why would a saint “serve” Jesus? Wouldn’t a saint serve God faithfully as Jesus did? Jesus as GOD?? Really? So, was Jesus praying to himself when he asked, “Father why have you forsaken me?”….uhhh, NO. Jesus worshiped God and only God. I think a lot of “Christians” believe that Christ, himself, was a Christian. They forget that he was a Hebrew man who was so blessed by God and given to humanity as a prime example of how humans should be:Do unto others as you’d have them do to youWe have a LONG way to go.

  • heatherthehousewife

    I couldn’t agree more. When my husband and I decided not go along with the Santa tradition that has taken over Christmas, it was questioned by some people close to us. I shared a link to this article on my blog as a way to better explain our choice. Thanks Pastor Mark for articulating this topic so well.

  • Freestinker

    Heather,What’s the difference between the Santa tradition (myth) and the Jesus Christ tradition (myth)?Why would you decide to go along with one myth but not the other?

  • crminer

    Amen, GAROTH. I am a really serious scientist and know a fact when I see one: a fact is a proposition that may, or may not, prove true upon subsequent testing over time. Lots of tests, lots and lots of time. What was a hard, indubitable, scientific “fact” 150 years ago sounds like complete lunacy today. On the other hand, myths (including the quasi-factual Santa Claus) embody truths that endure, out of time, pretty much forever. Santa Claus is the real deal: he actually, factually, really, historically existed, not once, but at least twice, and his reality is (beyond historical or scientific proof) thoroughly, completely for sure. As my three kids all more-or-less believe (kinda, sorta).As a hard-boiled, hard-nosed, University-based scientist, I totally believe in Santa Claus. Anyone who doesn’t is missing the point entirely.Look it up.

  • joe_allen_doty

    Santa Claus has no connection with the Birth of Jesus. Unlike Jesus, Santa Claus is a respecter of persons. Jesus gives his free gift of salvation to all people no matter what the financial status.But, Santa Claus gives expensive gifts to rich children and little or nothing at all to poor children.

  • rparrott7

    So… are they’re people arguing that Saint Nicholas was NOT a real Christian who lived his life for Jesus?

  • joe_allen_doty

    I have problem with accepting the blogger’s relationship with Jesus. In my family when I was growing up and even after I became an adult, ON DECEMBER 24,we read the story of Jesus’ birth, found only in the Gospel of Luke, had family prayer and then opened our gifts to each other.If we got any presents on DECEMBER 25, they were given to us by relatives or friends of the family on that day. We were taught about the mythical legends of Santa Claus; but, we were told the truth about Jesus.

  • putdownthekoolaid1

    pastor mark,anyone with eyes to see, can see that the “christ mass” is a catholic concoction to merge christianity with pagan winter solstice festival. dec 25 was declared to be the birth date of jesus –declared by a pope julius i in the fourth century. by the way, the catholic councils also declared that their church tradition is equal in authority to God’s word and that there is no salvation outside of their church and their “mass” (both of those are lies, so i find the dec 25 declaration to be highly suspect, wouldn’t you?) christ-mass (jesus didn’t need a sacrafice, he was sinless) He made one sacrifice for sin forever |||(“it is finished”) catholic church doesn’t believe this, that’s why they still have weekly and yearly “masses” (which is what you get in any works based false religion. you never can be sure you have done enough, so you have to keep doing more and more good works forever. true believers, please wake up!

  • putdownthekoolaid1

    by the way…for the baby “christian” drivelers who will say we shouldn’t judge others, you don’t know your bible. we aren’t to judge other christians against our selves, but we are to judge those in christian leadership or teaching positions, to see whether they are teaching bible truth or some form of error. if a man who calls himself a pastor is spreading false doctrine,a loving brother will call him on it, and try to show him where he went off coursemy comments are on this article about Santa. the whole issue of belief in Jesus is another topic, so all you atheists are on the wrong thread…. in more than one way

  • johnnythebeagle

    Jesus is NOT Santa Claus for adults. Santa teaches children to be good in order to get gifts at Christmas time. Jesus teaches us that the only way to get our gift is through Him, not through good works. Good works are the FRUIT of our salvation, not the ROOT of it.Well done, Pastor Mark.

  • Sajanas

    I do love how little is taught about the historicity of Jesus in Church. When you look at the actual source material, there are quite a few authors who lived contemporaneously with the traditional Jesus lifespan (though who knows how accurate that is), and he is never mentioned, not by Romans or Jews. Josephus is the first Christian mention of Jesus, who wrote 100 years afterwards, and the parts that mention him have been heavily, heavily tampered with over the years, so a lot of that might refer to another Jesus, or was just inserted entirely. Its something under debate. I don’t think its likely that he could be a complete myth, but I can imagine he wasn’t a particularly big deal for a long time, and the Churches of Paul, John, and Matthew all had very different ways of looking at Jesus, both from pagan religions and orthodox and radical Judaism. And even if you strip away all the myths and just go with his teachings, how can you tell what is what literally came from his lips, and how much came from Mark, who wrote the primary, earliest gospel that the others used as sources? Perhaps the most important teachings were really from the writer of the Gospel of Mark, and it is him and Paul we should thank for the good things we attribute to Jesus. And the writer of Mark was not an eye witness, he was an educated Greek scholar who lived after the fall of the Temple. Matthew and Luke invented the nativity (two, in fact, which are completely different). You can chase Jesus back a reasonable ways, but don’t act like he’s represented by a rock hard truth. And it can be hard to stomach that the same divinity that was more than happy to show off all these great superpowers to the masses 2,000 years ago, or even whip them out at parties, would leave only a few heavily biased and edited sources such as the Gospels and Paul’s letters as the soul proof of his existence at all. Is a good flaming sword too much to ask?

  • Sajanas

    As far as Santa goes… while I figured out he didn’t exist, it was still a disappointment. Not a big one, but still a memorable one. I think would have enjoyed Christmas and its presents just fine without Santa, but it is a good teaching moment for skepticism. As far as being afraid that Santa endangers Jesus, I think its important to realize that even if you always speak what you feel is the truth to your kids, they won’t always end up having the same opinions as you do, because they will grow and learn on their own, and sometime the things one person feels are Gospel Truth are just fables for another.

  • BringYourOwnBags

    For those that find the birth of Christ meaningless and thus Christmas only a materialist holiday, then maybe they should find out when St. Nicholas was born and have a day called “Santa Day”.

  • jobandon

    I tell the kids that the past just imploded into the future and Santa is a cyberpunk and he’s in heaven with grandma and bears. They’re playing with dolls and fire engines.

  • sdl63

    I have attended a Christmas Eve service in which Santa comes in at the end of the Nativity scene after the Wise Men. At first I was taken aback, but the explanation is given that he too comes to worship the Christ child and symbolizes the spirit of giving. Although I am ambivalent, I can acknowledge that it represents a child’s reality and tries to put Santa into the context of the Christmas story. I think that people over angst about the “damage” done to children about telling them stories of Santa, the tooth fairy, and the Easter bunny. I seriously doubt that any damage has ever been done by these mistruths and that no good Christian’s faith has ever been shaken. True believers don’t let something so trivial get in the way of faith.

  • mrcloc

    Hi. Just something about humans… Why survive? Why make the world a better place to live? Why want anything? In the end we all die. In the end the earth will be consumed by the sun and all trace of humanity will vanish. Life doesn’t make sense in the perspective of the physical universe, and all things must have a beginning, thus the universe must have began. What was there before that?So, to the atheists posting, if there is no God, then why live? Or why try to prove it? There’s no point, so don’t post here when this article is not relevant to you, but to those who do know God. There are other forums for that. Perhaps you’re surviving or living because something intrinsic to you says that there is something greater than you that caused you to have life? Maybe you’re trying to justify all the things you do which are morally wrong?

  • joe_allen_doty

    I am NOT anti-Semitic! I have Jewish blood in my veins. To be anti-Semitic, one would have to be anti-Jesus, too. I believe in Jesus and I only self-identify by the name Jesus’ followers used for themselves in the 1st Century AD which is “Believer.”

  • joe_allen_doty

    There has never been a living person whose 1st name was Santa and his last name was Claus. The man with the Greek name of Nicolaos wasn’t any Santa Claus. As I posted before, I NEVER KNEW MARK DRISCOLL EVEN EXISTED UNTIL I SAW HIS NAME HERE ON THE WASHINGTON POST WEBSITE.

  • PSolus

    joe_allen_doty,”As I posted before, I NEVER KNEW MARK DRISCOLL EVEN EXISTED UNTIL I SAW HIS NAME HERE ON THE WASHINGTON POST WEBSITE.”Would it surprise you to learn that there are billions of people who exist, even though you have not seen their names, and probably will never see their names?Do you believe that people do not exist until

  • eezmamata

    Say, Joe Allen Booty, wasn’t jesus a jew, didn’t he consider himself to be jewish?How horrible for you. You’re worshiping a jew.Santa Claus is Jesus for children.

  • Sajanas

    @lightsaber42 @mrcloc

  • PSolus

    mrcloc,”Why survive?”Probably because it is hard-wired in our DNA.”Why make the world a better place to live?”Probably because it hard-wired in our DNA.”Why want anything?”Probably because it hard-wired in our DNA.”In the end we all die.”Yes, we do.”In the end the earth will be consumed by the sun and all trace of humanity will vanish.”Probably.”Life doesn’t make sense in the perspective of the physical universe,…”It doesn’t?Why not?”…and all things must have a beginning,…”Probably.”…thus the universe must have began.”Again, probably.”What was there before that?”Something else, perhaps?”So, to the atheists posting, if there is no God, then why live?”For the same reason to live even though there are no unicorns.”Or why try to prove it?”Why, indeed.”There’s no point, so don’t post here when this article is not relevant to you,…”Are you the moderator of this blog?”…but to those who do know God.”Do you know “god”?How’s he doing?”There are other forums for that.”There are other forums for what?”Perhaps you’re surviving or living because something intrinsic to you says that there is something greater than you that caused you to have life?”Perhaps, perhaps not.”Maybe you’re trying to justify all the things you do which are morally wrong?”What is morally wrong?

  • Rongoklunk

    We already lie to our children about Jesus being part savior part superman, so why not lie to them about Santa? Next it’ll be the Tooth Fairy who has an interesting life and should be acknowledged. How about Batman?

  • lepidopteryx

    Personally, I would rather have my child believe in an avuncular figure who lives in a remote spot on earth, with fey helpers making toys for children, to be delivered in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer, whose only purpose is to make people happy, than in a guy who was tortured to death as a sacrifice to expiate the sins of people who hadn’t even been born yet, and who would sentence those who didn’t worship him to eternal torture after they died.

  • GabrielRockman

    My parent’s never told me that Santa was real, and they never told me that Keynesian Economics would work. I’m real glad that my parents valued truth enough to not teach me myths.

  • walter-in-fallschurch

    we definitely told our daughter about santa. we went the extra mile of putting out then partially emptying a cookie/carrot plate for santa and the reindeer. i suppose her gradually coming to grips w/the the “no santa” paradigm shift is potential practice for the “no god” realization.

  • walter-in-fallschurch

    lepidopteryx,

  • lufrank1

    I have ALWAYS loved Christmas, both Nativity and Santa pageantry.I am convinced that blockage of childrens’ beliefs in the magic of Santa is tantamount to never reading fairy tales and myths to them. It’s Cruel Deprivation.And. . . when they inevitably learn (usually from playmates) about “Santa”, they should be told that the SPIRIT of Santa Claus is REAL!

  • schnauzer21

    Posted by: BringYourOwnBags “For those that find the birth of Christ meaningless and thus Christmas only a materialist holiday, then maybe they should find out when St. Nicholas was born and have a day called “Santa Day”.”Just because you can only find one meaning to a certain day does NOT mean its meaningless to any who doesn’t share your religious view.

  • elwoll

    Santa, Jesus and the easter bunny: the mythical holy trinity.

  • deaforever65

    Thank you Mark for this article. I have been strugling with what to tell my three old nephew. I don’t like that so much focus is on santa and not the birth of Jesus. I also don’t like the idea of lying to him. I remember how stupid I felt when I learned that santa was not real. I thought my parents had tricked me and I never trusted them like I did before.

  • Freestinker

    If this was true, wouldn’t this be a great Story?No. Even if it was true, it would still be a mean and vengeful story.True love in unconditional. Anything less is pure extortion and is not a great story at all unless you like the Sopranos.

  • lepidopteryx

    If this was true, wouldn’t this be a great Story?Posted by: pkfergusonA creator who puts the one thing that can destroy the people he created, and whom he supposedly loves, right smack in the middle of their living room. When I have things I don’t want people to touch, I put them out of their reach, I don’t make a centerpiece out of them. Punishing people who haven’t even been born yet for the sins of their ancestors. A deity who impregnates a young girl without her having any say-so in the matter. A deity who creates an individual for the sole purpose o having him tortured to death for sins committed by others, some of whom haven’t even been born yet.

  • deaneg

    Thank you for explaining how you ‘redeem’ Santa.Your explanation is uncannily similar to how I explain I explain to children that the Jesus who actually lived was different from the stories told about him. Not only that, as I explain, Jesus By explaining that these are all just stories, I hope to redeem Jesus for children.Merry Christmas!

  • razzl

    “Since we also teach our children that Jesus is a real person who did perform real miracles, our fear is that if we teach them fanciful, make-believe stories as truth, it could erode confidence in our truthfulness where it really matters”If you had any concept of irony you would be able to read that sentence and realize that there’s likely a whole lot of erosion going on in your household…

  • pkferguson

    To LEPIDOPTERYXRE: “Personally, I would rather have my child believe in an avuncular figure who lives in a remote spot on earth, with fey helpers making toys for children, to be delivered in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer, whose only purpose is to make people happy, than in a guy who was tortured to death as a sacrifice to expiate the sins of people who hadn’t even been born yet, and who would sentence those who didn’t worship him to eternal torture after they died.”I agree with you! The first option is way better than the second, but I think a third is even better …the Story of One who created beings and wanted the best for them, but gave them the choice to listen to His direction on Life, and even when they chose not to listen and life started spiraling out of control (as when one decides the laws of gravity do not apply and they fall on their face) He repeatedly extended His hand into that broken spiraling-out-of-control life (while still allowing them to choose), eventually even entering into that spiraling-out-of-control life with those beings to show them that the best way to true Life is to give to others no matter what it cost you (even if it means giving your own Life). This One then says “trust my way to Life (as I shared with you from the very beginning) and you can have it!! However, He still allows for choice, and for those that over and over again say that they do not want anything to do with Him, He will eventually (even though He knows that it is not what’s best for them, but simply because they have desired it so strongly) give them their hearts desire… eternity without Him. While He will not actively be torturing them, they will discover that Life absolutely without Him (something we get close to here at times, but never fully experience) is no Life at all and is ultimately torture… the truth He has been trying to share with them all along simply because He loves them.If this was true, wouldn’t this be a great Story?

  • jinnyhann

    When a classmate told me in third grade that Santa Claus wasn’t “real,” I was surprised. Not so much surprised that Santa wasn’t “real,” but that a fellow child would enjoy shattering an enjoyable, mysterious experience I’d had in pondering and anticipating something benevolent, fun, and magical. Why must we be so confounded literal about everything? Speak in terms of lying vs. telling the truth, when it comes to such things as Santa Claus? Is it really damaging our children to share our imaginations with them, and witness how their beliefs and understandings evolve as they mature? Give the kids some credit! Guide them; give them an opportunity to explore, imagine, and decide for themselves.

  • slowe111

    Santa: The concept of Santa is a rehersal or practice for theism. Much more appealing to children than God, Santa-belief teaches them they are being constantly watched, that they will be rewarded or punished by the watcher, that impossible things can REALLY happen, that there are invisible agents ever present, that you will be rewarded for believing this. The best thing about Santa is that by age 8 they have figured out that their parents have lied to them, fooled them, tricked them, played a game on them, conned them. It is the parents that need to be forgiven! My christmas wish is that more adults will have the “8 year old” experience and realize that God belief is just as unnecessary and false – even though it may also be rewarding.

  • Matt Ross-Smith

    This is a great article Mark. I am a Christian in a non-Christian family so Christmas for me has always been about family and Santa. Sometimes it’s too easy to get caught up in the whole secular side of Christmas.

    Recently I’ve been wondering about what I’m going to tell my kids one day about Santa and this article was a great help in forming an opinion. I also thank you for not demonizing Santa Claus. I think this could be hurtful to parent’s relationships with their kids seeing as we live in a Santa-Saturated environment.

    Wishing you a great Christmas with your family and Church where Jesus continues to be the eternal source of your salvation.

    Matt

  • Janice Ruth

    as one of my Pastors from years past used to say: “eat the watermelon but spit out the seeds” in other words, Go with the truth but ignore the human interjections….. in saying that, I want to leave you with this: Part of which is true and part is totally human junk…

  • Cameron Davis

    So glad to see this, my wife and I were discussing this the other day. We don’t have kids yet but some “pre-game” conversations are such a blessing. #fistbump

  • Scott

    Great read! Will be a convo in my house.

  • Joey Wessel

    Hey Mark, I’m curious how your kids interact with other kids whose parents teach them Santa Claus as a real person. What does that look like?

  • Chad Fletcher

    Very good thoughts, and exactly what we do with our kids as well. Thanks for sharing.

  • Carol Miller

    I was raised without being told about Santa Claus as a reality and we opened our gifts on Christmas Eve. I liked the fact that I didn’t have to find out I’d been lied to.

  • bevbe

    Thank you for this article. As parents, we hate to see our children left out of the fun, but at the same time we are loathe to try to make them believe a lie. This is a fun history lesson.

  • bevbe

    This is such a good article. We want our children to be a part of the fun, but are loathe to make them believe a lie. This is a great history lesson that still allows the kids to have a great time.

  • Carl Frederick

    Credibility and truth here are intertwined, and the kids enjoy the holiday knowing what is the real story and the ultimate reason for the Christmas Season.

  • Vanessa Pressey

    What should I do if I have already went along with the story of Santa to my four year old daughter. I feel that the Holy Spirit has been talking to me about what you are saying pastor Mark. I have eluded to an extent that Santa is make believe but not straight forward. My whole family is secular and do not share my views , I feel like I have dug myself in a whole with the whole Santa idea. I am a single mom and need some guidance. I want Christmas to be about Jesus not santa and presents. Please help.

  • lena

    I’m new Orthodox Christian and I have been reading and learning a lot about St Nicholas this year, thank you for going into more details how Santa myth came around. Good info.

  • Angel Rogers

    So do you label gifts under the tree from Santa Claus? Or just mom and dad? Or both?

  • Dr Hardy

    A well-written article! However, Mark Driscoll could and should have said a bit more about the fact that, by and large, myths and untruths have usurped the place of the biblical (his)story of Christ’s birth. Thus, e.g., in Germany (esp. Bavaria), Austria, Switzerland and elsewhere, most children and adults alike are totally confused by Luther’s invention of the “Christchild”. Nowadays, he is mostly presented as a female teenager, often with wings and a halo (similar to Santa Lucia in Italy and her version in Scandinavia), who comes “every year again” (“Alle Jahre wieder”). One commercial outgrowth of this is the “Christkindlsmarkt” (another name for “Weihnachtsmarkt” – Christmas Market). As Mark indicated above, our family too enjoys the ambience and sentimentality of a Weihnachtsmarkt; but we explained to our children that it has really very little to do with Christmas itself. Just another observation: It is really too (though understandable) bad that some Christians refuse to celebrate Christmas altogether. The Lord showed us in his Word that he uses festive occasions for his people to commemorate salvific events and his great works (e.g. Passover, the Lord’s supper and many more).

  • Kafir

    OK, I like what you did but, really, has any child, upon learning the truth about Santa, really flipped out about his parents lying to him?

  • Ginny Gilliss

    Thank you Pastor Mark for sharing with us your thoughts and beliefs. I have just recently found your sermons while in a spiritual quest to know Gods truth and needing to understand his word better.
    I registered with disguise because it seemed to be the best way to ask you about this through a social media, but with your discretion to not post this publicly onto your Facebook; to respect you and your ministry
    I I have recently felt some conviction over what I read in Jeremiah, and what history states about how this season originated from the Pagans. Adorning a tree with glitter and lights, and knowing how Gods word teaches us to be set apart from the world and it’s customs and traditions, left me feeling that what we have done to Christmas,would be about the same as if we took Halloween with its obvious satanic roots and disguised it with a Christian theme so that we may participate in a worldly tradition, so our children won’t be denied the fun and excitement that the world says they should be given on October 31, of every year.
    It’s so confusing, I don’t think it’s a salvation issue, but I know how satan lies and deceives us….is the celebration of Christmas another way for us to crack open the door to our hearts where he is able to slither in undetected?
    Your thoughts Please Pastor….?

  • Rick Faircloth

    I believe your approach is the best of the three presented, Mark. When we raised our two children, I told my wife that I could not lie to my children and expect them to be honest with me. How would it look to them if I spent, say, 8 years or whatever, deceiving them into believing a lie. As you, I wanted my children to be honest with me, so I had to first be honest with me. We just took the approach of not “playing up” Santa Claus, but not disrespecting other’s traditions, either. I had decided that when either of our children asked me whether or not Santa Claus was real, they would get the truth. On the day that my son, who is oldest, asked me if Santa Claus was real, my wife asked him what he thought. He simply stated, “I think you should tell me the truth.” And that’s what we did.

  • Margo J. Ellis

    We totally agree with your conclusion about St. Nicholas Pastor Mark! My son has known since the age of 5 about the REAL St. Nicholas & how he loved Jesus. A great series of books that we love about all the SAINTS is the series by the Voice of the Martyrs that includes the true story of St. Nicholas, St. Valentine & St. Patrick…all have beautiful pictures & are wonderful representations of lives that loved Jesus to the very end! ;-) Blessings & FAVOR as u keep speaking the TRUTH! Margo from IOWA ;-)

  • Mom

    My son is a pastor now. However, when he was about 8 or 9, he asked if Santa was real. At that point, I was very convicted, and had to tell him the truth. Because like you said, if I lied, then why would he believe his own faith? Needless to say, it changed the way we brought the other two sibling into Christmas. I called it the “Santa Game” along with reading a book about the real St. Nicholas. It was the best decision we ever made (even though my first son then cried and said, “Then the tooth fairy isn’t real either?” -)

  • Nadine du Toit

    Hi Pastor Mark, thank you as always for great info and life enhancing messages! I just want to know if you have read this e-book by Dr Terri Watkins; Santa the great imposter. I would like to hear your opinion about it and Christmas founding it’s origins from a pagan Babylonian history. http://www.av1611.org/othpubls/santa.html
    Thank you for all you do!

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