The holiday season always creates a strange dichotomy, secular celebration versus religous rejoicing. With very small children, I am often torn between the obvious conflict of the concept of Santa Claus and whether I should expose my children to the mystical fantasy surrounding Christmas.
While it is imperative that they learn about the birth of Jesus Christ, understand that the holiday is a celebration of that blessed day, and a day to give thanks to God for the most precious, most intimate gift that could be offered to the world, there may be a benefit to the Santa Claus story. Is it possible that the idea of Santa Claus is nothing more than a fantasy fiction character, created to encourage good behavior in children? If they are good they will reap a benefit, if not, well, coal in the sock. But, what actual benefit, if any, could Santa Claus really have on children? The concept that a strange man will enter their house bearing gifts may not be comforting to some. As an African American woman, there is also the cultural emhpasis recently, (past 10 years), to celebrate Kwanzaa instead, or along with. More importantly, the focus on gifts and material things drastically narrows the actual purpose of the holidays, distorts its intended nature, completely removing Christ from Christmas.
I internalize all of these problems every year, but do not have the courage to deny my children participation in America's most festive celebration of the year. The reality is that I have to find some justification, some reason to believe that I am not harming them, not diluting their faith or our religious beliefs, by allowing the Santa Claus theme to reside in our house. So here is what I came up with:
1. Santa Claus is another character that exercises a child's imagination. Look, I know this is a stretch, since we pretty much tell them exactly what they should believe, with innumerable television shows and movies. There is something to be said, however, in the idea of Santa, what he looks like, where he lives, what type of toys he will deliver, how his reindeer actually fly, will he come to my house, what does he like to eat, etc...Alright, if your not buying that one, then on to idea 2.
2. Santa Claus is a good exercise in faith. A child must have belief that an entity they have never met will somehow be able to monitor them, judge them, and reward them accordingly. They must trust that there innermost desires will be known to this person and he will deliver them. Is it possible that Sant Claus is a smaller demonstration for our omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient God, who is aware of our needs, wants and desires and judges our behavior? Can Santa Claus be a miniature model that demonstrates the hard to fathom concept of faith, belief in the unknown, manifestation of the unseen?
3. Santa Claus is an exercise in trust. Every year, Santa makes his rounds and deliveries, no matter what. The recent The Santa Clause movies are a great example of this, the goal of the movie focuses on how Santa and his purpose must go on, no matter what.
4. Santa Claus is no more than positive fantasy fiction character, created to serve a good purpose or accomplish the good deed against all odds.
If I am able to believe in the concept of Christian speculative fiction, if I can advocate that it's very existence is not contradictory because fantasy can be inspired by Christian themes, then shouldn't the idea and concept of Santa Claus be easily acceptable. Actually, shouldn't it be unquestionable. Where the real story is the birth and celebration of Jesus Christ, then aren't Santa Claus, his elves, the North Pole, Mother Claus and the flying reindeer no more than Christian speculative fiction?
I don't know; but it is the reason I will swallow this year to allow my children to sit on a stranger's lap and take the Santa picture, put up the tree, leave out the cookies and experience frenzied gift openings. A new year, a new fake explanation. I'll work out the guilties in church Christmas morning.....