‘Santa never took precedence over the meaning of the holiday’

Comic image of Santa Claus with a gift bag. Tuesday, December 6, 2016. (Image sourced from: publicdomainvectors.org)

Written by: Jamie Henderson

The Christmas season is upon us, and with all the joy and merrymaking comes the inevitable discussion of the jolly saint himself, Santa Claus: a red-clad, rotund, rosy-cheeked figure who flies around the world on Christmas Eve delivering presents to all the good boys and girls and coal to the naughty ones. 

For centuries, parents have used Santa to coerce children into good behavior throughout the year. 

“Santa won’t come if you don’t eat all your vegetables!” 

“Don’t pull your sister’s hair unless you want a lump of coal in your stocking!” 

Despite the holiday cheer associated with the legend of Saint Nicholas, many Adventists believe that teaching children about Santa is harmful and distracts from the meaning of the holiday. As someone who grew up “believing” in Santa, I think that the anti-Santa society is valid, but they do not fully understand the other side.

I believe “teaching” about Santa is the wrong phrasing. Teaching is something done when trying to convey important information in order to help others achieve a greater purpose, which is why we teach children about the life, miracles and love of Jesus. It is important for children to know that Jesus is real and that His love for them runs deep.

I know of no person who has ever “taught” their children about Santa Claus. In my family, Santa was simply someone who we were made aware of by exposure. We watched popular Santa-centric movies, listened to songs about reindeer on rooftops and were told that “Santa won’t come unless you’re in bed, young lady!” He was a fairytale, a story that made the holiday more magical. 

My experience with Santa never took precedence over the meaning of the holiday. My parents made sure I knew that we decorated the house, gave gifts and sang carols to celebrate the birth of Jesus. It never occurred to me to equate Santa with Jesus, as I’m sure it doesn’t to most children who grow up seeing Santa as a fairytale on par with the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny. 

I understand why someone would not want their children to believe in Santa; it is reasonable for parents to make that decision based on their convictions. However, I do have a problem with people encouraging their children to look down on those who hold different traditions and opinions. In the words of General Conference President Ted Wilson, “We must be careful not to allow the subject of Christmas to become a divisive issue among us, criticizing or alienating those who may see it differently than we ourselves do.”

It doesn’t matter whether you “believe” in Santa or not. Christmas is a time of light and love, not of discord. No matter your opinion, remember that Christmas is a time to rejoice in the joy and delight that God promised us through the birth of Jesus.

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