Q: Dear Dr Craig,
As the Christmas season is upon us, I'd be interested to hear your wisdom regarding Christian families celebrating the Santa Claus tradition. To be more precise, do you think it's consistent with Christian values to pretend that Santa is real?
As a parent of two young children this is particularly relevant to me at the moment. On one hand we recognise that as a Christian family, we always want Jesus to be at the centre of the Christmas celebration. We also highly value telling our children the truth in all things. But I also can see a place for fantasy and make believe and see the fun and joy that this can bring to a family.
While it almost sounds like a trivial issue, living in a post-Christian, highly secularised culture where Santa Claus is almost revered as a sacred childhood tradition, abandoning this tradition could potentially cause quite a lot of friction with our non-Christian family. Then again, it could also have the potential to be a strong witness for the importance of Jesus in our lives.
Thank you for all the work you do serving Christ through your academic work. I hope you can spare the time to address this not-quite-as-apologetically-relevant question.
Merry Christmas to you and the Reasonable Faith team!
DR. CRAIG’S RESPONSE
I’m glad you’re thinking seriously about this matter, Dan. The decision on the part of Christian parents about what to tell their children about Santa Claus is, I think, potentially very consequential and therefore important. Whatever you decide, your decision needs to be a thoughtful one, not one thoughtlessly taken.
On the one hand, the replacement of Jesus Christ at Christmas by Santa Claus is a sacrilege. Santa Claus is obviously a sort of God-surrogate: an all-seeing person endowed with miraculous powers, who’s making a list and checking it twice in order to find out if you’ve been naughty or nice. “He knows when you are sleeping; he knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good, for goodness’ sake!” But never fear: Santa Claus is a kindly old man with a long white beard who never judges that someone has been bad. No matter what you’ve done, he thinks you’re good and delivers the presents. Such a caricature of God is so perverse that one wonders how Christian parents could possibly allow their children to believe in such a being. Christmas, as the word suggests, is supposed to be about Christ, not about this imposter.
On the other hand, who wants to be an old Scrooge, spoiling all the fun and dampening the festiveness of Christmas? Poems like “The Night before Christmas” are so much fun to read to your children. Isn’t there some way to reach an accommodation?
I think there is…
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