With the arrival of the holidays, one thing is certain - Santa will be imposed on your family in one way or another during this season. It’s impossible to avoid him. He’s at the mall. He’s on Coke cans. He’s on TV. He’s everywhere you look!
So what do we do? How should Christians respond? Navigating the holidays, with all of Santa’s myth and folklore, popularity and mystery, can be tricky for a people who know the real meaning of Christmas - which is Immanuel, “God with us.” Ultimately, there are three ways to deal with Santa: we can wholesale reject him, we can unquestioningly accept him, or we can intentionally (and carefully) incorporate him into a bigger picture - namely, the celebration of the incarnation and gracious giving.
This approach often demonizes Santa and turns him into a villain, a commercial fairy tale meant to encourage indulgence and greed. You’ll hear “Santa” is an anagram for “Satan,” and things like that. But the truth is, while there may be some things about Santa you want to reject in your family traditions, there may also be elements of Santa you want to keep around.
On the other end of the spectrum is the approach that can’t get enough Santa. Every myth, every tradition played out to its fullest - in blind embrace, this approach focuses entirely on toys and flying reindeer and elves, the whole story. However, as you think through Christmas traditions in your family, there may actually be some things that need to be rejected.
I think the truth is, most people live somewhere in between these extremes. Obviously, there are varying degrees of each of these approaches. And there are good things to be noted in each, as well as bad. So the last option might be the most responsible.
This mixing of the first two approaches takes the good, leaves the bad, and uses Santa to serve another purpose - telling the real Christmas story. Historically, Santa’s legend evolved from Saint Nicholas, a Christian bishop known for generously helping the poor and children. Also, there are creative ways to let children flex their imaginations without being irresponsible or flippant. Mixing Santa into the Christmas tradition while still primarily celebrating the Advent story is possible - it just takes more work, more intentionality!
There are lots of great resources out there to expound the good and bad in each of these approaches, but the important thing to remember is that as Christians we are called to glorify God in everything we do, whether that’s eating or drinking (or celebrating Christmas) or whatever we do (1 Cor. 10.31).