During the busy of Christmas preparations last year, my daughter surprised me when she asked to visit Santa. She was only eight years old, so this may not surprise you. Many—dare I say, most—children believe in Santa. However, Santa does not grace our chimney. He does not bring beautifully wrapped packages to place under our Christmas tree. He does not declare the familiar Ho-ho-holiday greeting from our rooftop.
Yet, she believed.
I cannot pinpoint where her belief began. Since our first Christmas as parents, we taught our children the true story of Saint Nicholas and explained his evolution into our modern-day Santa. We do not ignore him, but use his generosity as an example of what our response should be to the extravagant gift God gave us that first Christmas. We instruct our kids to protect the magic of Santa for all children who believe.
After living a Santa-less life, Sarah Kate showed all the signs of belief. She wrote a letter to him. She expected gifts from him. Her little lip quivered when I told her we would not have time to visit him to share our wish lists. We sat her down and retold the story of Saint Nicholas. We explained how we follow Saint Nicholas’ example by giving gifts to others. We watched Phil Vischer’s Why Do We Call It Christmas together and talked about it afterward.
She still believed in Santa.
Then there was the elf. Oh my, the elf! She asked for an elf to come make mischief at our house. Each time we passed a display in the store, she would ask again. She told me stories of all the trouble the elves caused at her friends’ houses. I asked her what she believed about the elves now that she saw them on the shelf at the store.
She confidently replied, “You can buy one, but some of them come from the North Pole to cause mischief.”
They cause mischief, indeed! I want to fight Santa and elves and commercialism. I don’t want to get mixed up in the benign deception surrounding Santa Claus. I want to focus on Christ and redemption. I want our family traditions to create a sense of wonder and gratitude for the true Gift of Christmas.
I took my frustration about the jolly old fellow to my husband. He often has a wise perspective about these things.
“She is 8. If she still believes when she is 16, then we will worry.”
Sigh. Not the answer I had hoped to get. I wanted some kind of game plan or strategy to gently pull her into reality. But, I took this as my sign to stop fighting Santa. While we didn’t go see Santa last year, he did leave a little gift for Sarah Kate in her stocking. It was just enough Santa magic for her, and not too much for me.
What will we do about Santa this year? We will watch our DVD about Christmas again. We will celebrate Christ’s love through gift giving on Christmas morning, just as Saint Nicholas did 1700 years ago. I will take a little extra time by the Christmas tree with my sweet Sarah to share the Christmas stories—both of them.
“Then [Jesus] told them many things in parables, saying . . . ‘The kingdom of heaven is like . . .’” Matthew 13:3, 24
I will do this prayerfully and carefully in an effort to protect the beautiful light of innocence and joy inside her. Through the parable of Santa, I hope to teach my little believer what the kingdom of heaven is like. It is like love and gifts and sacrifice.
Yes, Sarah Kate, there is a Santa Claus!