“Is Santa for Real?”

December 14, 2011

Parents, can you do me a favor?

See, it’s that time of year when kids are pumped up for Santa to come to their houses and bring lots of goodies.  But like any faithful Christian, children sometimes have doubts about Santa’s existence.

Of course, other kids have become hard-bitten Santa atheists.  And they come to school, passionate about their new beliefs, and like a new religious convert, make idiots of themselves as they try to convert their friends with zeal and half-truths and lots of bad information.  And the believers will push back with righteous indignation.  Once children get a taste for blood that comes from persecuting others’ beliefs, it’s hard to break them of it.

So can you give your kids a little prep this week?  Tell them that, like their bodies or politics, we talk about Santa’s existence at home with Mom and Dad, not with the teacher, and not with other kids…

Because, I’m having trouble coming up with a good response to your kids when they ask if Santa is real.  Here’s a few I’ve tried out.  None have been ideal.  Maybe you can help me.

“Is Santa Claus real?”

Wouldn’t you rather know where babies come from?

No…Also, you’re adopted.

He is real, but his heart exploded yesterday, so Christmas is cancelled.  Also, Rudolph had to be put down.

Of course he’s real.  And he really knows if you’re sleeping and when you’re awake because he’s spying on you for the communists.

Why would you even think to ask me if a flying fat man with an electric nosed horse who can eat cookies from every house in the world and not lose a foot to diabetes isn’t real?

Who else would give you all those presents?  Your parents?  They don’t love you that much.

I don’t know.  How can I be sure that you are real?

Presents are only for children who believe adults unquestioningly.  If you aren’t going to believe in Santa, then get a job.

He’s as real as global warming.  You’re a Santa denier?  The debate is over.  Santa is real.

If Santa isn’t real, then whose been eating those cookies and scotch I leave out every year?

Why don’t you look on the top shelf of your parents’ closets and find out.

So far, none of those have gotten me a great response.  So tell me your Santa stories.  Did you raise your kids to be believers?  How did you convince them even when some jerk kid at school was spreading rumors of Santa’s non-existence?  How did you make the transition from the truth of Santa to the truth of Jesus?

28 responses to “Is Santa for Real?”

  1. Matt, that’s a tough one, and one that my wife and I are working through now with our 5 year old. We haven’t encouraged Santa, but we haven’t told him there is no Santa either. And no, he hasn’t asked.

    Here’s how I’d answer your question if my son asked me:

    “Santa is like Mario on Mario Kart Wii – he’s a character, like a person dressed up. There isn’t a real Santa’s house, just like there’s not a real Mario Raceway, but we pretend that there is because it’s fun. But you know what? Even though Santa is just pretend, there once was a man called St Nicholas who gave gifts to little boys and girls who didn’t have very much … (and on from there).”

    How did you make the transition from the truth of Santa to the truth of Jesus?

    That’s one of the reasons why I can’t say to my son, “Yes, of course Santa is real.” Because if I’m not being entirely truthful on that front (even though it’s just a bit of fun), why should he trust me when I say, “Of course Jesus is real”? So I’d prefer to be honest and upfront on Santa and avoid that dilemma.

    • Great point. And you know, people get very attached to even fictional people and ideas, even like Mario or Mickey Mouse. Stories are meaningful. But I like your approach of neither confirming or denying.

    • Jesus is as fake as Santa. I don’t know of one person who was harmed growing up believing in Santa Clause. But there are thousands of people harmed by false religious beliefs. Think on that for a while.

      • BWAHAHAHA! That is funny! Where do get the notion that Jesus is fake?! Do you think Abraham Lincoln is fake?! Maybe you are fake and someone is just making up “Marilyn” for fun!

        There are MORE THAN ENOUGH historical documents (including one’s from non-Christian origins) that give testimony to the existence of Jesus!

        Just because you have issues with religion or Jesus or whatever DOES NOT mean He is fake! LOL!

        I needed a good laugh today!


      • Marilyn,
        I want to apologize.

        Not for WHAT I said, but more-so for HOW I said it.

        You saying that my best friend in this ENTIRE WORLD is fake really upset me and I responded out of anger.

        Sadly, a lot of “Christians” do this (respond to unbelievers in anger) and I’m sorry that I fell into that category today.

        Proverbs 14:29 says, “People with understanding control their anger; a hot temper shows great foolishness.”

        Needless to say, it was foolish to respond the way I did.

        I still disagree with you, but I wanted to apologize for the manner in which my disagreement was voiced.

        Have a great day.


  2. Hi Matt,

    Here’s a quote from a Christian realist–me in my blog post yesterday:

    I delight in the combining of secular celebration with the holiest of Christian doctrines.

    We do one because it’s fun; we observe the other because it’s real.

    From the time our kids were tiny, we taught them that we all pretend there is a Santa because that’s so much fun; and that we worship Jesus Christ because He is God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth, Emanuel come down to earth as a helpless baby to save us from our sin.

    It’s hard to confuse the two facets of Christmas, secular and holy.

    All indications from Scripture are that Jesus enjoyed secular celebrations like weddings and harvest feasts as well as Passover.

    He enjoyed a firm grasp of reality.

  3. Santa is the spirit of Christmas. When he goes, so goes the spirit of Christmas. My Dad always told me, “I’m Santa Clause” and my brothers and I always laughed. My parents made Christmas magical by their actions, no explanation needed. I wrote about my lasting Christmas memory and the spirit of Christmas at my house. http://beinghappygirl.blogspot.com/2011/12/christmas-memory.html
    Santa lives in us all.

  4. We taught our two older kids that he was not real. WE told them the story of how St. Nick gave unselfishly to others during the feast of Christmas. To quote my then 6-year-old: “Santa is dead. Don’t be ridiculous.”

    My parents of course, played it up until I felt stupid and naive. I was mad at them for tricking me. Prior to that, it was pure magic!

    The real grind that I have had it telling a kid there is magic in Santa, and then they don’t have a chance to believe in a God who can do stuff. It’s hard to teach faith, when you are lying about something that seems similar to a kid. Of course if you are just teaching your kid to be religious, than it doesn’t really matter.

    My little one is getting the Santa is real treatment and does beard pulling to test them. 😉 Actually, she asked for a remote control Pegasuses this year, and somehow I am thinking Santa is going to get deep sixed.

  5. Hilarious post. Thankfully, I don’t have kids, so I get to ignore this problem for another few years or so. =)

  6. We told our little girl last year and she caused some kids to cry at pre-k…

    sooo funny…

    not funny when teacher told us….well..maybe a little!…

    we tell her the same thing as Darryl. That he is a character…like barney. he is not real but you can pretend that he is real cause it’s fun to watch.

    she is like, i know, i know. (rolling her eyes)…

    we also tell her that other people believe different things and that is ok, we are all different…

    this year, lol…she said she is gonna believe cause all her friends believe, even though she knows that he is not real. And that God is Jesus son and thats why we really celebrate Christmas. lol…

  7. We have Santa involved in Christmas because it is fun, but we have never played him up. In our house, he is a stocking stuffer because my husband and I didn’t want to give him credit for the really cool toys and because the foremost authoritative work on Santa, “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” just has him stuffing stockings. Whenever our kids asked if he was real, we would talk about the real St. Nick and say that Santa is based on him or we would ask the question “Do you think he is real?” so that we wouldn’t have to outright lie to the kids. At this point, I pretty much believe that all our kids are Santa Atheists and it is either all “Calvin and Hobbes” fault or my oldest daughter’s fault. Now we don’t have to put up the pretense of the cookie and milk, although it would be fun to keep pretending.

  8. Hilarious! Love it! I’m stealing these for sure!

  9. We tell our kids that Santa is a fun game we play, based on the real story of St. Nick. Just like we play lots of other pretend games, at Christmas-time we pretend there’s a guy named Santa who rides on a sleigh and so on, just like we like to watch and talk about pretend characters in our favorite Disney movies. We also tell them, though, that some kids who are playing the game don’t know that it’s pretend; they think it’s real, and we can show kindness to them by continuing to play the pretend game with them, even if the friend doesn’t know it’s pretend. That has worked for us!

    Our kids still love to put out milk and cookies and do the other Santa stuff, but they know it’s a game. And they’ve never let on to other kids playing the game.

    • And they also don’t give weird looks to people when they ask about Santa (like a delivery guy yesterday who asked, “are you two being good for Santa?”), and they haven’t given my parents a heart attack by telling them the truth (because my mom and dad are HUGE pro-Santa folks, so they would be upset if they knew our approach).

  10. Today’s post made me laugh! I remember when our kids were babies and we stressed about how we were going to handle the Santa thing. But, when it came down to it, it wasn’t really all that hard. When they asked if Santa was real, we said, “What do you think?” While they were very little and in that phase where they can hold all kinds of fantasies in their heads, Santa and Jesus coexisted with no problems. As they got older, they saw that their Dad and I acted like Jesus was real but like Santa was pretend. We gradually started reading books about the legends that make up Santa Claus stories as well as watching movies about Santa. By the time they were able to really think in concrete terms, it was clear to them that Jesus was real and Santa wasn’t. We did have a couple of more explicit conversations during this time period, but they were much more ready for it than they would have been when they were 3 or 4 years old. Now that they are teenagers, they still get Santa presents and we all have stockings, but Santa is all in fun.

    What really screwed up my kids was the stuff about babies . . .

  11. Ever since I was a child, my mother always told me that Santa wasn’t real, and that she hated how parents lied to their kids for years. There was never any of that positive “Santa is a pretend character, and he’s just fun”.

    My mom taught me that Christmas has nothing to do with Christ, that the day couldn’t have been even close to His birth day, and that the Bible even condemns the decorating of trees. I agree with her. Christmas as we know it is has nothing to do with Christianity, period.

    That’s not to say I was deprived of Christmas or had a sad childhood. We always gave presents, but we didn’t take part in all the other stuff. Over the years, I guess she’s loosened up a bit, and we still celebrate Christmas with family and all that other stuff, but at least we’re aware of everything that surrounds Christmas.

    The whole concept of Santa Clause is totally stupid. I suppose that as a character, he’s OK, but why a parent would pretend that an imaginary man in a red suit gave their kids the presents they wanted is beyond me.

  12. I never really believed Santa was real growing up. My mom would write “From Santa” on some of our gifts and “From Mom and Dad” on others, which I always found odd. Apparently my parents could afford to toss in a couple gifts with Ole Saint Nick.

    I never believed but was consistently afraid of the jolly red man that rode around on a fire truck each Christmas Eve in my hometown. Harrowing stuff.

    • Same here. I can’t actually remember a day when I stopped believing, it just suddenly didn’t make sense. That, and I figured out the “from: Santa” on the package was in my mom’s hand writing. But you do have to hand it to them, they didn’t mind sharing the glory in the gift giving…

      I think saying that Jesus is real and comparing that to Santa is to make Jesus something as 2D as Santa at Christmas. Maybe if you merely expect your child to believe in Jesus the same way you tell him to believe in Santa that’s the problem. Belief in God is so much more than just a “belief.” …I’d never heard of it phrases so until now, thanks…

  13. We didn’t tell our first born a THING about Santa, real or fake. But, being the brilliant child that he is, he started calling Santa “the Christmas man”. He recognized that jolly grampa in the red jammies popping up every Christmas. So we went with that.

  14. I have enjoyed these posts immensely! My five-yr-old began to suspect the jolly red-suited guy was imaginary last year when she noticed my hand-writing and his were the same on the tags on her presents. Also, she could not wrap her mind around why we picked tags off trees in stores and filled shoeboxes for gifts for needy children if Santa really DID visit “all the good boys and girls”. We had always been a little ambivalent about encouraging Santa when we really want to impart to her the celebration of Christ’s birth and using the means God has blessed us with to help others. We also have a big distaste for teaching her behavior good or bad determines how much loot she receives and that elves are watching her– how CREEPY is THAT for a child?? This year (last week as a matter of fact) she questioned me directly, asking for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about Santa’s realness. I told her the truth. She giggled and said, “I knew it! I was right!” (Not the reaction I expected, but one for which I am grateful.) Her next sentence was a gleeful statement about telling the kids at school! We told her she could not tell others because they would either cry or argue which would escalate into an “I’M RIGHT!!” brawl in kindergarten, or both. She agreed she would not share her revelation as she neither wants her friends to cry nor does she want to argue. Although, she REALLY REALLY wants to share this hot little nugget of information!

  15. justapeekartwork December 16, 2011 at 7:34 pm

    We raised our children that Christmas was the time ‘people’ set as the season to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We also celbrated St. Nicholas day by putting shoes out for nuts and candies on Dec. 6th. We did St lucia day on the 13th and celebrated Little Christmas Eve (the coming of the Christ Child) with gifts of our heart’s desire. Christmas eve we opened our one gift from ech other, and then on CHristmas morning we checked out the stockings from Father Christmas. It worked great. As the children got older they made the translations easy. I do remember the one day my son got to school late and when asked why he was late, he explained it was a very busy night with magical creatures. He explained we had the elves, the leprechans and the tooth fairy all in one night. LOL I did get a call from the school counselor concerned for his well being. What nonsense. Today he’s an accountant. You couldn’t get more realistic than that!

  16. My hubbie and I are with Tandemingtroll on this one. Santa does stocking stuffers…that’s it. I work 2 jobs and I have no intention of giving credit to Santa when I did all the hard work. I want to teach my kids that everything we have comes as a result of hard work and there in lies its value. But still we play the game…Letters to Santa, Cookies and Milk, The Night Before Christmas story. As for Jesus….well I feel like our actions speak volumes- We are in church twice a week ALL year long for Jesus, We pray every night to Jesus, When we have a problem we grab our bibles and look to Jesus. Even my 5 year old understand the vast difference between once a year kinda guy and an every step I take kinda guy

  17. I’ve always told my daughter that Santa is just pretend. First because I was trying to comfort her because she was terrified of him, and then in years since then just because I can’t bring myself to tell her “Santa is real and Jesus is real” and then one day have to explain that Santa isn’t real and hope she still believes me about Jesus. But I don’t have a problem with parents that tell their kids Santa is real. I just silently judge them… (kidding)

    I do tell my daughter not to tell her friends about Santa. I told her (she’s in kindergarten) not to tell her friends because it might make them sad. She looked at me very seriously and said, “Last year I told my friends that Santa wasn’t real, but they didn’t get sad, they got MAD!”