jake was 5 years old when we got the call. it was from a mother of one of his classmates. she was furious!
i was gone at work, and kerrie took the call.
"jake ruined my son's christmas." thats what she said. seriously... thats what she said.
she went on to explain that jake had told her son that santa claus was not real and that christmas was about the birth of jesus, not santa. kerrie kindly told her that she was sorry... but also explained that while we don't tell our kids to go initiate this convo with their friends, we do tell them the truth about santa and expected something like this would happen eventually.
but this mom wasn't satisfied with that. she said something to the tune of, "jake doesn't have the right to ruin someone else's christmas." to which kerrie responded with one of my favorite kerrie moments. "wait... so everyone else has the right to tell a made-up story to my son and expect him to believe it, and my son doesn't have the right to simply tell the truth? look, we tell our kids the truth about christmas. i'm sorry if that didn't work out well for you."
to be clear, we aren't on some mission to destroy santa or the easter bunny. typically not boycotters or picketers. in fact, marshmallow-filled chocolate santas and peeps are two of my all-time favs!
but here's why we don't teach or celebrate santa with our kids:
1 - its not true. i have trouble teaching mythical santa claus and flying reindeer as fact, and then say i'm committed to teaching my kids biblical truth. the two contradict. we do our best to always tell our kids the truth no matter what. everyone says it's innocent, but what makes it innocent? who determines that? when the emotion and the "magical christmas feelings" that culture throws at us are removed, it becomes clear to us that there is no way we're teaching fantasy myths to our kids, especially during the ripe age where their hearts and minds are hungry for God and his word.
2 - santa for jesus is the lousiest swap in the history of time. the true story of jesus is more amazing, more wondrous, and more spectacular than any story ever told. its "i'll give you everything no matter what you've done" versus "i'll give you a present if you are good." are you kidding me?!
3 - as jesus followers we are expected to not conform to the patterns of the world. we want our kids to learn to discern what patterns are "of the world" verses what patterns are good, pure and true. we believe this is a real-life example that helps them do that.
4 - santa is a feasible tale only for the wealthy and privileged. living the last decade in a poor third world country, the issue of santa rarely ever came up. simply put- for people without resources to feed the story, there is no story. we are not ok telling our kids that santa doesn't make it to guatemala, or to the rest of the world's poor. and we don't want our lives (or our kid's lives) to be so out of touch with the poor, that living in such a false reality could even be possible.
if you celebrate santa in your home (most of our friends and family do!), we're not against you and we're certainly not judging you. but we get asked this question often, which is why i'm sharing our take on it.
kerrie and i have raised 4 children that we've always told the truth about santa. interestingly, none of them ever felt hoodwinked. i don't remember ever hearing them complain or say that it wasn't fair. recently, our three adult kids all expressed their gratitude for it.
we've always had plenty of fun at christmastime and we have several of our own traditions. we aren't scrooges!
but we do refuse to trade the most extraordinary true story of God's journey from heaven to earth (Emmanuel, God with us!)... for the untrue story of santa's journey from the north pole to good boys and girls' chimneys.
that classmate of jake's was mad at him the next day. jake came home and told us that he asked him if he would still be his friend. but he didn't apologize for telling the truth.
we celebrated! the experience gave us a great opportunity to teach him - at a 5yr old level - about not conforming, what it means to suffer for jesus, and how to live a life that balances love and truth.
john piper has an "ask pastor john" segment on that tackles this issue head on, if interested.