Husband. Dad to 5. Student Ministry Pastor. Follower of Jesus. Yatta yatta.


Well, something in the neighborhood of 10 years ago, Shannon and I made a decision to do the Santa thing with our kids. I think it was automatic parenting decision for both our parent’s generation, but somehow by the time we had kids, there was a rethinking going on among some of our peers- mostly the “Christian” ones. A small but vocal contingent started deciding that to teach one’s children the Santa Story was to do two things that went against the grain of all things good and holy.
  1. feed the consumerism machine that is taking over Christmas
  2. introduce lies to your children that they will later hate you for
We however, at the risk of being viewed as a pagan-pastor-family by some, decided we did not agree with those assumptions and that a little childhood fable was good for the soul and just plain fun. So, we started the Santa story with our kids and have taken them to see his helper in the mall and the whole bit ever since. (We also do the tooth fairy… but no Easter bunny.- not sure why- just what we do)

Well, today, that story came to a close for my oldest. Shannon and I had been talking about it and TJ (age 9 1/2) was starting to ask a lot of questions. We decided we were now beginning to cross a line that went from sincere story telling and into lying to our curious kid who was, in our estimation, old enough to keep the secret for his little brothers and ready to know the truth for himself.

So, today on a car ride, I broke the news to him. This was kinda weird for me, cuz it was a car ride in my Dad’s truck that I had my first “birds and the bees” talk. I have no idea when my parents told me about Santa (my wife remembers vividly this conversation with her Mom), but I remember my Dad telling me about sex on my way to soccer camp. This was a little too weird for me in a strange deja vu moment, but maybe this is where all men do their man to man talking. Not really sure on that- but we had a heart to heart in my truck on the way to home depot and RCP block and brick anyway. Future post on the “birds and the bees” talk with TJ is a little ways away I think- probably on a long drive somewhere evidently.

Anyway, it started out as a discussion on the difference between telling stories and telling lies. We talked about the stories told at Christmas and how some things told are truth, and some are make believe. We talked about parables and flying reindeer and keeping secrets and surprises and miracles and magic, etc… and then I broke the news to him. He didn’t cry. He didn’t fuss. He did get quiet and think for a moment. Here’s a few memorable quotes after I told him:

Me: “So, what do you think this means?”
TJ: “Um, I can’t tell my brothers.”
Me: “Yes, you can’t ruin the fun for them. Anything else?”
TJ: “You guys spent a lot of money.”

Me: “So, was it fun to do Santa, even if it’s not true?”
TJ: “Yeah Dad. I had lots of fun.”

3 HOURS LATER: I’m in the front yard working on lights for our landscaping project.

TJ comes running out to me and says, “So, Dad.. if you and Mom are Santa, then who eats the cookies?”
Me: “Your mom and I.”

TJ: “Oh… but what about the letter. I know that’s not your hand writing?”
Me: “Um, your mom and I fake it so you can’t tell we wrote it.”
TJ: “Oh.” (smiles a sneaky grin at me and runs back to playing basketball with his brothers)

Well, so far so good. Kinda sad too though. This chapter was fun while it lasted. It’s 1/3 over now and for what it’s worth, I’d do it again.


  1. My parents never did Santa with Dave and I. They felt that if we got older and discovered Santa was a lie we’d also think Jesus was a lie. I’m not sure they were justified in their fear but I’m also not sure what Janelle and I will be doing with our daughter Belle. I’m leaning toward not doing the Santa thing with her. Not because I’m afraid she’ll hate me but because I’m afraid of screwing it up and lumping Jesus in with Santa somehow and figuring Jesus is a fake.

    I suppose that would be tough if my wife and I are living Jesus-centered lives but who knows. It’s pretty scary having a little mind and heart you’re chiefly responsible for shaping. I don’t want to make my kid weird.

  2. Jackson,

    good to hear from you. I understand your concern and fears as a parent. We all fear failure in the end.

    As for Santa, each can do their own. It sounds like you probably will not. But, we’ve had fun with the Santa fable and I think you can argue that it does the reverse of your fears and makes Jesus more real, not less.

    Knowing the difference between what is fake and what is real is a key character trait in life. It’s also part of childhood. My sister and I used to think that if we honked my dad’s nose, the horn would blow on our truck because my Dad would push the button without us seeing. We also thought he could change the traffic lights by voice because he knew how to read a yellow light and we did not. My kids love movies, but we remind them that most of them are not true. Lots of times we have parenting conversations about truth and fiction.

    Make whatever choice you want to… but I think fear of causing your daughter to chuck Jesus because you told her a story is a bit over the top. If she thinks you’re a liar about Santa, why is Jesus next. Just because it’s Christmas? Chances are she’ll question that one day too- but it will probably be at 17- not at 8. What if she thinks that you’re not her Dad, just a faker? What if she thinks you’ve been lying about the fact that she should eat her vegetables or that she should not play in the street cause cars can’t see her. I doubt she’ll stop believing those things and as you love Jesus, He won’t be next in line. Your parenting and the centrality of Jesus to your home will prove that- Santa was the one who only comes out at Christmas. Jesus is with our family and in our conversation all year long.

  3. Thanks Brian, good stuff to think about. Who knew there were all these little decisions in parenting?

    I do think, as you said, that a life and home centered around Christ will be sure to not put him in the same category as Santa. I’m sure (or rather, I hope, heh) this stuff will be a little easier to figure out as time goes on and Belle is no longer this squirmy grunty little baby in a crib and a little girl I can actually speak to.

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