It's the season of Advent, more commonly known as the season of Christmas. It's my favourite season of the year. I love everything about this season: the music, the treats, the decorations, the colours, the traditions, the excitement that fills the air so thickly it's almost tangible! :) But mostly I love how each of these things serve as reminders of why we celebrate Christmas. I love this season because it reminds us that, in a suffering world, in a world burdened by sin, sorrow, war, etc., God sent His on and only Son to be Immanuel - God With us - to redeem a lost world, to save us from the sin that enslaves us and to grant us life everlasting!
But where does Santa Cluas fit in into all of this? Because, lets face it, he's a huge part of the Christmas celebrations and traditions we see around us. And, in our home, with a very aware 4 year old, it is a conundrum that has come to the forefront and requires an answer. Our oldest daughter is very inquisitive and is not content with the simple answers people usually give to young children. She wants to know and understand!
Recently, she and I had a really good discussion about Christmas ... or at least the start of one:
"Mom, does everyone celebrate Christmas?"
"No, sweetheart, not everyone does."
"Well," I ask her, "why do we celebrate Christmas?"
"Because it's when Jesus was born so that He could die for our sins and be our rescuer."
"That's right! And does everyone believe in Jesus?"
"No, not everyone," she answers rather sadly.
"Right! So there are people who don't celebrate Christmas because they don't believe in Jesus."
"But some people don't believe in Jesus and still celebrate Christmas."
"Right, and those people celebrate Santa Claus and gift giving and enjoy those things."
... pause as she ponders this ...
"Mom, is Santa real?"
"Well, dear, sort of ..."
This led to me briefly mentioning Saint Nicholas but I changed the topic because I wasn't ready to go in depth with this ... mostly because I was driving at the time and this is the type of conversation I'd like to have face to face without distractions. :) But it still requires explanation. Who is Santa? Is he real? How does he fit into Christmas?
We have a Christmas tradition in our home where we wrap 24 different Christmas books - some Christian, some secular - and the girls get to unwrap one each day as a way to count down to Christmas Day. One of these books is called Santa, Are You For Real? (and will be opened this year on December 2 ... click on the book title to find it on Amazon). It explains, simply, the history of Santa Clause in a way a kid can understand, all the way back to Saint Nicholas. Briefly, saint Nicholas was a Christian man who lived a very long time ago and ministered to the poor, giving gifts to them in secret. It was in his memory that the tradition of gift giving developed and his name eventually evolved (devolved?) to Santa Claus. This is what we will talk about with the girls tomorrow - especially the oldest.
Yes, Santa is sort of real, because of who he represents. And I think it's ok to include this in our celebration because Saint Nicholas also points us to Christ. It was in honouring Christ that Saint Nicholas ministered to the poor. I want my daughter to understand (and it helps that she wants to understand).
Currently, she understands why we celebrate Christmas but she also believes in Santa. She understands that we buy the gifts that go under the tree but she also believes that Santa is the one that fills the stockings. When she saw the gifts (the books) under the tree this morning, she asked who put them there. I told her Mommy and Daddy did. She asked if we also help Santa fill the stockings. I took the opportunity to talk more about who Santa/Saint Nicholas was. Is this bad that she believes Santa is real? I'm not sure it is - as long as she understands why we celebrate Christmas and why Santa Claus is sometimes included in Christmas celebrations.