There are a lot of Christmas themed posts across social media these days. They seem to be appearing earlier and earlier, but perhaps I’m just getting older and less tolerant.Today I read an article entitled “Should parents let their children believe in Santa Claus?”
I must confess, I’ve been avoiding reading it for a few days, because I was pretty sure it was going to annoy me. I wasn’t disappointed.
The article itself was pretty much what I expected. Basically, I was told that I was a terrible parent because I’ve done nothing to stop my children from believing in someone who doesn’t actually exist. (except for the fact that he does – he just doesn’t live at the North Pole, he lives in Loose)
I wonder if those that have been getting very het up (some of the comments are priceless) at the idea that children believing in Santa will mess them up for life will also prevent their children having imaginary friends, or watching films where something magical happens. In the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe there are talking beavers and Lions and ‘animals’ that don’t exist. I’m pretty sure that the people who don’t agree with Santa would have no problem with letting their children immerse themselves in this fantasy. Or allowing them to read books where a rabbit and a fox are the best of friends, or giants give their scarves to giraffes with a cold neck.
My son plays with Lego, (like normal 8-year olds) and talks to the pieces, describes conversations and adventures with them (again, like normal 8-olds). Am I to stop him, tell him to stop believing the pieces of plastic are real?
I get the fact that we need to tell our kids the “real meaning of Christmas.” We try to present the truth in an accessible way for our kids. We look for a way each year to remind them of the Christmas story. Sometimes this is through a “Jesse tree”, sometimes through doing a “Christmas story advent calendar.”
Truth is important – I don’t dispute that – but the suggestion that believing in Santa Claus will confuse children is later life is, in my opinion ridiculous.
Perhaps if we were more focused on our relationship with the Jesus whose birth is celebrated at Christmas there would be less of a need to get tied up in things that probably don’t matter. Some people (and many of them commented on the original article) seem to have a theologically, rational and logical relationship with a set of rules, which they hope will get them a ticket out of here and into heaven, but they are missing a relationship with the Jesus who wants us to come to him as little children. Innocent, trusting, willing to dream huge dreams, take huge risks and see amazing things happen.
As adults we understand more than our children do. But I think there is still a place for wonder, and imagination. If we were honest, I don’t think any of us can fully understand how the God of the Universe appeared on earth as a baby. Or how choirs of the heavenly host appeared to shepherds watching their flocks, without disturbing the rest of Bethlehem. We must use our imagination.
I don’t believe that God wants us merely to think about things. The Greeks were great at thinking, and discussing things. And the Greeks were also great at tying themselves up in knots and not actually believing anything concrete.
If I am to see things “beyond that which I can ask OR imagine” I’m going to make sure I ask AND imagine some pretty big things. If I am imagining, isn’t that the same as believing something that isn’t there.
Quite apart from the fact that I don’t believe we can “stop” or “allow” our kids to believe anything they don’t want to, I’m pretty convinced we should be promoting the opposite – get them to dream big. Tell them of a God who loves them and wants the best for them. Who has a plan for them. And that plan is huge!