I have had an issue with the Santa Clause myth ever since I found out there was no Santa (no tooth fairy, or Easter Bunny either). I will never forget that evening. I was eight years old. My sister was 18. She was thrilled to get a job working at Santa’s Village in downtown Eugene. Every Christmas, Eugene, Oregon decorated their streets with Candy Canes, and Santa Faces on the light posts. In the city park, they had Santa’s village with a train for children to ride around the park. There were three different size fountains in the center of the park, and Santa sat proudly in a white gazebo with his bag full of candy canes to hand out to all little girls and boys that sat on his lap and told him what they wanted for Christmas. My sister was one of Santa’s elves that helped the children up the stairs and placed them ever so carefully on Santa’s lap. One elf took a picture of Santa with the child, and several other elves helped the children on and off the Christmas train. They served hot chocolate and cookies at a little booth, and the smell and sounds of popcorn and Christmas music were prominent in the air for blocks. I looked forward to Santa’s Village every year.
Across the street from the park stood the Eugene Hotel. One of the most beautiful hotels in the city at that time. All of the crew that worked at the village had a couple of hotel rooms set aside so they could change into their costumes or warm up during a short break. My mom had dropped me off with my sister so I could see Santa and ride the train. When my sister’s shift was over, we had to cross the street so she could change out of her costume and back into her street clothes. She didn’t think when she unlocked the door. There, laying on the bed was Santa’s suit, white beard, boots, hat, and two pillows right next to his outfit. I still remember the hot tears rolling down my chilled cheeks. As my sister entered the room, she realized that I had discovered the truth. I didn’t know what to say, and neither did she. When we got home, I ran to my bedroom and cried into my pillow. It was all a lie. Santa wasn’t real. My mom quietly knocked as she entered my room to comfort me. She wasn’t ready to tell me the truth yet, So she made up another story. She explained that the real Santa was busy at the North Pole making toys and getting ready for Christmas. She reminded me that my sister wasn’t a real elf either, she was just there to be Santa’s helper. I sat quietly wondering if this was another lie. I decided I wasn’t going to be so gullible when it came to these types of kid stories anymore.
When it was bedtime, my mother came in and asked me if I recited my prayers. No, I had not. I figured if Santa wasn’t real, neither was God. I didn’t want to tell my mother my rational, so I lied and told her I had.
What brought this memory to mind was listening to a news report the other evening. It was reported that a second-grade teacher had asked the class what was Christmas about. The answer from the students was giving and receiving gifts, Santa Clause and Reindeer. One student responded by telling the teacher that Christmas was about the birth of Jesus and how Jesus came to earth to forgive our sins so we could go to heaven when we die. The teacher quickly replied to the student, “Well, kind of, sort of, but not really.”
Since I gave my life to Jesus fourteen years ago, I struggle with this Santa Myth every year. Many Christmas shows on mainstream TV are about Santa in some way, telling children, they better be good, or Santa won’t leave them any toys; Just a nasty lump of coal instead (I know I was reminded of this particular myth starting about June).
While some worry about the words to the song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer being bullied by the other Reindeer, I believe my concern is more relevant than the liberal wingnuts that pose these issues. How do Christian parents walk this razor’s edge? I would love to hear some feedback. How do parents explain Santa Clause and the birth of Jesus without the child wondering if God is real, or a myth like Santa?