What to do About Santa



I believed in Santa. 

My husband believed in Santa. 

We turned out okay. We didn’t walk away from the Lord or resent our parents because of it. Before we had kids we figured we would do the whole Santa thing. We wanted Christmas to be as special for them as it was for us. But then we actually had kids and we had a big problem. 

Santa wasn’t going to work. 

First let me say I’m a huge proponent of fostering imagination in kids. My kids’ all time favorite activity is pretending. All day long I have pirates, super heroes, and exotic animals flying through my house. I love it. 

I also want to point out that when I talk about Santa in this post I am specifically referring to believing in Santa, not whether or not he should be banished altogether. My husband wears a Santa hat while we bake cookies. My kids sing along to Christmas songs on the radio and they don’t skip over Santa’s name like a cuss word. 

But we have decided not to tell our kids Santa is real. More specifically, we purposely tell them he is not. 

If you’ve been reading this blog for long you know that the whole point is to direct us moms and our kids into living out the gospel. I tried and tried to fit Santa into that plan, but it didn’t work. It was like trying to stuff a giant man down a chimney…

There are four reasons Santa didn’t make the Wallace team. 

1. Santa promotes works righteousness. That might sound harsh, but keep in mind the aforementioned goal.The heart of the gospel is the glorious trade of our sin for Christ’s righteousness. It is a difficult concept to teach because kids are legalistic by nature. It takes a lot of time, prayer, and thoughtful conversations to help them understand that God loves us because of Christ’s good works, not ours. 

Then along comes Santa. 

*sigh* 

He’s jolly, sparkly, magical, and he promises gifts to children who are good. One of my sons in particular is very sensitive to the damage this causes. He would be so stressed if Christmas rested on his good deeds. Each time he messed up he would buckle down and double up on his good deeds to make up for it. I already have to work with him on accepting Christ’s free forgiveness instead of trying to work for it. Thanks, but no thanks, Santa. 

2. Santa blurs the lines between fact and fantasy. So precious are the moments when the kids climb onto our laps for a Bible story. We talk about Jesus and how He lived a perfect life and died for our sins. We talk about the mighty power of God who created the world, parted the Red Sea, and closed the mouths of lions. They listen intently. 

And they believe me

Sometimes my heart aches when I look into their wide eyes and innocent faces and think, “They trust me implicitly. I want so dearly to lead them in the truth.” If my husband and I throw Santa into the mix of “true” stories, what will they think later when they find out Santa is not real? How about Noah’s ark? How about the ten plagues? How about that Jesus guy who was kind of like a religious magician? We want the categories of true and fantasy to be clearly divided. Characters don’t get to jump back and forth from one category to the other.  

3. Santa is a type of god. Some of my readers might be rolling their eyes. But think about it. He is omnipotent (all powerful – makes toys, rides a magical sleigh, goes up and down chimneys). He is omnipresent (everywhere at once – how else could he deliver the presents?). He is omniscient (all knowing – he knows who is bad and who is good). He is eternal. He is perfect. He is the whole package. I can’t think of another mythical creature that encapsulates so many characteristics reserved for God alone. When we describe God to our kids I don’t want them thinking, “Oh yeah, kind of like Santa.” No. God is not like anybody. We want to keep it that way. 

4. It’s hard to compete with Santa. Who cares about a baby in a manger when there’s a huge man in a shiny red coat throwing presents and candy around like it’s going out of style? Kids spend the entire Christmas season looking for signs of Santa. They write him letters. They bake him cookies. And that’s just the kids. Playing make-believe takes a lot of work for us grown-ups. We are on the other end of it trying to hide the evidence and figure out how to field all of their questions. All the time and energy we put into keeping up the Santa myth could be spent focusing on Christ’s birth. 

Some parents call the Santa myth a lie while others call it pretending. I’m going to call it a huge distraction. My five-year-old asks me questions about God all the time: What does it mean to be a spirit? If God doesn’t have a heart how can He love people? If there is only one God why do we call Jesus God? Whew! Talk about tough questions. If I told my son Santa was real I would get all the same kinds of questions. Hundreds of them. Do I really want to take the time to thoughtfully answer my son’s genuine curiosity with answers that aren’t even true? Do I want Santa to become the focal point of every conversation? 

So where does that leave us with Santa? He’s everywhere we go. We can’t exactly hide from him. And we don’t want to. We treat Santa like any other part of life. We explain him. We use him as an opportunity to teach our kids how to think. We don’t want them to run and hide in fear or to venture out on their own to find the answers their parents wouldn’t give them. We have open and honest conversations about it. 

When we see Santa ringing a bell outside the grocery store my kids smile and say, “Merry Christmas, Santa!” They giggle and get a big kick out of it. But they don’t think he’s real. He’s not watching them while they’re sleeping or keeping track of their good deeds. To them it’s just like seeing a guy dressed up like batman. 

And they are having a great Christmas. 

(NEW note: I am so thankful for the great discussion this post has encouraged. One question that has been tossed around is, “How do you keep your kids from spoiling it for other kids?” It’s definitely something to address with your family. BUT – it shouldn’t be a motivating factor for teaching your kids to believe in Santa. For example, we wouldn’t say, “Well, we don’t want our kids to be party poopers so I guess we’ll have to go along with the Santa thing.” From the time our kids are really little they think of Santa as a game. That shouldn’t spoil it for anyone. By the time they are old enough to spill the beans we have the talk about some kids believing in Santa. We don’t make those kids sound silly or less spiritual. We just say it’s a family decision and every family is different. It’s a great way to help them put different family decisions in perspective. At some peoples’ houses we can eat food in the living room, some let us run in the house, some say take shoes off at the door….and some believe in Santa. It helps our kids learn thoughtfulness and respect for different ways of doing things.) 

 

Don’t forget the special moms on your shopping list! Books by Sara Wallace:

507 thoughts on “What to do About Santa

  1. This is a great post. #2 & #3 were the biggest reasons we never taught our girls to believe in Santa…because we wanted them to always be able to belueve us and because of all the seeming similarities between Santa and God, but I love this post by John Piper that I just read this week that points out all the vast differences! It makes me think why would we (or any Christian) want to offer our kids anything less than Jesus? Santa doesn't hold a candle!

    http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/rethinking-santa

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  2. Also I forgot to say thanks for adding #1. Honestly, that should be reason enough but I hadn't thought of it until reading the aforementioned post by John Piper earlier this week. And while the real St. Nicholas may have operated out of grace and while parents may not really withhold Christmas gifts from their kids when they are naughty instead of nice, it's certainly the message of the season based on the modern Santa (so be good for goodness sake!, etc.).

    After reading these 2 posts this week, I want to make sure I help my children understand the message of GRACE in Christmas. Not so they are free to sin, but so they realize their freedom from sin based on Christ's death and resurrection (Romans 6)…which is why He was born, of course; thus, it is truly the real meaning of Christmas.

    God bless and Merry Christmas!

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  3. Except Santa is no more pretend Than Jesus!! If your child were to say that to or in front of my child, I would kneel down, take your childs hand and tell her Santa is VERY real. He is something you feel in your heart. Then I would explain how her parents have been lying to her and there is no god. Merry Christmas!

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  4. I celebrate Christmas as the birth of Christ. We decorate but do not put up a tree because when you put presents under it or take one out, you are bowing down to the tree which is a pagan idol which was incorporated into Christianity by the catholic church in order to get more follower\t

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  5. Yes, that is exactly what I know, especially in America, because our Country was founded by Christianity, so Satan has really worked on us, it is so commerialized now, thank you,

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  6. My kids knew from a young age that Santa wasn't real, because I believed much the same way you outlined in your article. They are now 20, 18, and 16….and if I had to do it over again, I would lighten up and play along. Just my own personal opinion, I don't think playing along with Santa would've damaged their faith in Jesus in any way, or distracted them if I kept it in perspective. If I had it to do over again with my kids, I would worry less every day about every last detail of being the best Christian parent ever and enjoy the little things like Santa and Halloween! Just some thoughts looking backwards as my kids and their friends navigated the little kid and teen years. There are so many bigger battles that come up….and watching friends go through the santa vs. no santa decision…on both sides of the argument it didn't define our now young adults' faith or lack there of. I have however, seen many older teens and late 20s turn away after years of very rigid christian upbringing.

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  7. You do realize that Jesus' actual birthday was sometime in the spring, right? So Christmas was just stolen (reworked) from the pagan and celtic winter solstice celebrations. If you want to only focus on Jesus, you better give up all the other man made traditions in December (trees, gifts, lights, etc) and then just do a big Jesus birthday celebration where it belongs in the Spring. Or, you could realize it isn't that big of a deal, worship Jesus with all your heart, and keep the Christmas/celtic/pagan traditions

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  8. Our kids grew up like yours in knowing Santa wasn't real, we always told them they got to keep a big person secret. My favorite is when the kids would be spoken to like they believed in Santa. The picture on the adults faces to make believe for our kids was sometimes ridiculous. My kids always played along so well, as if they were the grown u p. We would walk away giggling at the kids wonderful acting. One year my 6 year old begged to sit on Santa's lap knowing he was just someone dressed up, pretending. I don't know what he said we were at the mall. May God Bless you this holiday.

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  9. Here's why I don't agree with each point…

    1. Santa doesn't promote works righteousness – think of it, despite the song Santa ends up giving gifts every Christmas despite how naughty children have been. What a good picture of grace! Further to this, a) God does judge people on being naughty without Jesus b) It's good for children to understand the concept of being morally good and morally naughty, God made us this way, c) rewards are an under taught part of Christian living but Jesus, Paul and others in the New Testament certainly speak of it.

    2. Santa doesn't blur the lines between fact and fantasy any more than a TV programme or kids film (Disney), or a fairy tale or story. Kids have big imaginations, a gift from god, and that should be fed. They love dressing up and make believe and see the world in an amazing way. To follow the blog completely (re. the emotional picture of kids climbing on your laps) means that you either only read fantasy stories and never read the bible stories in this way to your kids, or the other way round. This seems silly to me! Kids are kids and using their imagination is not a bad thing. As kids get older they realise this and stop believing in tinker bell, the red power ranger and Santa Claus. What we need to do as parents is not stop the fantasy imagination side, but rather keep reinforcing that the God stuff is true and actually happened in history. If a kid ever asks – is Santa true? Then of course let them know, but before then it is a perfect place for them to explore using the amazing mind God has given them! This blogger is overthinking this.

    3. Santa is definitely not a type of God! He isn't omnipotent, because he needs help from reindeers and magic dust. He isn't omnipresent because he has to do his delivering over one night (he's just fast). He isn't omniscient because children have to write him letters. He isn't eternal because he had an origin in European history. He isn't perfect anymore than any other good guy – Cinderella, Spider-Man, Mufasa … and in fact he eats too much, breaks and enters houses, and is partial to an alcoholic beverage. This is silly, REALLY silly. All fantasy characters that are goodies have strong god-like qualities, that's kind of the point! What a great way to teach kids that there is such a thing as good, images of God that they are! Otherwise would someone please ban road runner for walking on water!

    4. It is hard to compete with Santa – it's hard to compete with almost every kids toy, kids story, kids film, kids programme, the park, etc. etc. THATS OUR JOB AS CHRISTIAN PARENTS! Jesus is amazing, and we help kids to see that. Mind you – not just for Christmas Day. I'd prefer my kids to remember him the whole year through. He wasn't born at Christmas, and I'm not sure he's so bothered that society pretends to remember him at this time of year – he probably actually detests it.

    Anyway, they are my thoughts… I think Santa and the magic of Christmas is a great way of getting kids to use their imagination and take part in this great game that the grown ups play with them! let kids be kids… They will grow up to see it is fantasy and not resent you. Worry less about stopping teaching the fun of Santa and more about teaching the truth of Jesus!

    Hope you have a blessed Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I understand the point behind the post and I wouldn't want to disagree or tell folks who take this approach they're wrong. We all have to wrestle with cultural challenges to our Faith. Still, I find this approach a bit impoverishing. Rather than denying the reality of “Santa Claus” we taught our kids about the real Santa and how the stories about him evolved into the present-day stories. Of course, the story of Santa Claus derives from St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra (270 – 343 AD). He was a devoted Christian pastor who thrived on the study of Scripture and was a great man of prayer. He had a huge heart for the poor and especially for children in poverty and who had abusive parents. His life is a model of charity and many miracles were done through him by the Lord. By telling the kids about St. Nicholas we were able to teach them how to enjoy Santa Claus stories and songs while teaching them how myths evolve and how fantasy, rather than being opposed to truth, can actually embody and express it (which is the essence of so much good literature). I find it interesting how so many Christians want to go back to the pagan roots of Halloween and thereby reject trick-or-treating but they won't at the same time go back to the true, edifying Christian roots of Santa Claus and rejoice in such a saintly example for all of us.

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  11. WOW. I am a devout born again Christian, but the far right ring ultra conservative parinoia Christian views this article discuses concern me. You guys sound like very smart educated people. Your points of view, that are very sound, belong in a junior level college class discussion. Kids figure Santa out between 7-10. Then its just a memory. Santa lasts what 3 weeks of the year? And your Christian faith is 24-7. Kids don't have the cognitive ability to remotely comprehend the views you guys are sharing here. Kids are Kids. Start their journey in the Christian faith from day 1. And things like Santa, the Easter Bunny, tooth fairy, they'll come and go real quick. Whats next with you guys? They cant watch The Wizard of Oz? A Christmas Story, It's a Wonderfull Life, Snow White because some one comes up with a remote shaky interpretation of a Biblical text that you can twist for your purpose? Kids are kids. Make believe, day dreaming and Santa are just things that come and go with this age. I celebrate, comprehend, ponder. think about, put in perspective the birth of Christ daily. And I still believe in Santa! It reminds me of the joy I experienced on Christmas morning, seeing my mothers face (a deceased very devout Christian who read the Bible front to back 32 times)looking at us as we questioned the wonder of how that fat guy got down my chimney with all those presents. And this was after a month long education, listening to sermons, reinacting the manger scene, singing all those songs that sang about Christ' birth. Relax people. it's ok. Sounds like you guys are doing a great job. Educate your kids about Jesus Christ, live your life in Jesus Christ, drive home the real reason we celebrate Christmas. And let those 3-9 year olds wonder how that fat man got down the chimney with all those presents. It's called day-dreaming and make believe. Kids love it and it stimulates cognitive brain activity. The smile on their face will warm your heart as it does our Lord and Savior. Yours in Christ, Mark

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  12. My husband and I decided to tell our children the truth about Santa for the same reasons listed in the article, but also because I wanted my kids to be able to trust everything that comes out of my mouth. As a former therapist (I write books full-time now), I can't tell you how many teenagers I've counseled that had a hard time trusting in Jesus because he was just as much as a fantasy to them as Santa. When they were old enough to realize Santa and the Easter Bunny weren't real, Jesus went out the window with those beliefs. My kids still like to sit on the many different Santa's laps and get a cookie or candy cane, and my four year old is quick to point out that Santa's looks different every where we go, but they are the one's in the line telling the other kids there's no Santa – yeah, I've had to teach them to let other parents be responsible for their kids. Have I received condemnation for handling Santa this way? You bet. A week before Christmas my kids and I were standing at the Deli counter at Wal-Mart when this elderly lady pulls up in one of those motorized carts. Looking straight at my six year old daughter she smiled and said, “Are you ready for Santa to come?” Without even a thought Isabella answered, “Oh, we don't believe in Santa. We believe in Jesus and celebrate His birthday!” If looks could have killed….lol. The bottom line is that one day I'm going to be the one standing before God giving an account of why I raised my kids the way I did, and I want to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

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  14. You are 100% wrong. I'm sure your kids dress up at Halloween and “believe” that they are “that” character for a night. What's the big deal? You bible thumping idiots ruin things for the rest of us. Have fun robbing your kids of their childhood!

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  16. Just ran across this post, and I'm so glad I did. My children are 2.5, 1.5, and 3 months. We're not quite at that “Santa” stage yet, but it's coming soon I'm sure. My husband and I have already decided we will not focus on Santa, and you've provided some great tips and great reasons why (which will help when we get those incredulous looks from others). Thank you so much!

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  17. Huh. Wow.
    I am an 18 year old reading this for class. I started off thinking, “this is just another crazy overprotective lady.” After reading your article, I think you are one hundred percent right on. Well done and great job keeping to solid biblical reasoning!

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  18. Amen. We told our daughter the truth about Santa from the beginning for very similar reasons. It's amazing some people's reactions to it. They always ask “What do you want from Santa this year” or “What did Santa give you this year?” and worry about US pushing a certain belief on THEM. CHRISTmas is about Christ and Him coming to earth just for us. Presents are all nice but we must remember the real reason for the season and teach our children the same.

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  19. We told our daught the truth about Santa and about the real person he was based on. We told her that people like to remember what St Nick did because it was so lovely.
    We also told her not to ruin it for other children who believed as their parents wanted them to believe in Santa but that one day they will know the truth.
    She is now 9 and her trust in us as parents is so strong as she knows we don't lie.
    Keep in there and be strong. It's hard with the pressure on us but worth it in the end.

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  20. A friend of mine posted this on Facebook, so I gave it a read, mainly because my wife and I do not do Santa either. I have really never been a big believer in Santa or in Christmas as a whole, even as a kid. I always knew the gifts signed “Santa” were from my Grandpa and that whatever great mysteries that awaited me Christmas morning was always my parents.

    Looking back, though, despite the baby Jesus stories and all the attempts to focus on religion, I never recall being excited about that, it was just apart of the holiday “ritual.” Truth be told, I only cared about what was under the tree, FOR ME! I like your description that it is a huge distraction! Religious and non-religioius alike, it encourages us all to be so selfish, and that is not who we are supposed to be.

    My wife and I decided not to do Christmas at all, simply because it has nothing to do with G-d, not from the beginning and not now. It's not a decision as ultra-religious people that makes us some how superior to all other Christians, but in the end, there were no redeeming qualities in the holiday once we spent the time to really search the Bible, pray and really look for the heart of G-d.

    What we have tried to do, is take these opportunities to reach out to our communities, and really bring the truth of G-d to people who would otherwise be without. Jesus didn't call people to him, he reached people where they were, and they were drawn to him as a result.

    Be blessed.

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  21. Now this is getting ridiculous. As a Christian, comments like some of these let me know why so many don't take Christians seriously. Pure insanity.

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  22. So Sarah, your kids are the jerks who spoil Santa for all the normal kids by telling them “my mom says Santa isn't real.” That's really cool.

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  23. When I decided to be Santa at the local mall, I figured the kids were going to have a santa anyhow, so they just as well have a Christan one that can take some of the power away from santa and put it towards Jesus. When it would come up and the chance presented itself, I would let them know santa couldn't be everywhere and know it all, only Jesus could do that, and all santa knew was what he was told etc. But I always gave the power to Jesus, even if it went against the parents story, I just corrected the parents in front of the kids, and never had any complaints. After a few years, I gave a childrens Bible to a regular visitor and he started reading it and going to church and got saved. Santa had a part in that….by the way, I didn't teach my son santa growing up, I taught him that God gave daddy a good job so I could buy him gifts…..but he chose to teach santa to his kids, and they have turned out alright….so either way, just depends on how it is presented I think… Merry Christmas

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  24. This is great… except, what do you recommend in our situation: I'm a mom of two boys (ages 5 and 8), who are homeschooled. We said and did thing to lead the kids to believe Santa is real, and brings gifts to kids who are good. Now, I'm beginning to think we shouldn't have. I don't know how to go back, now, w/o feeling like I'm taking something away from them… I feel as if I'll be saying, “You liked that? Well, I lied! Surprise.” It's gotten to the point where their hearts are broken when Santa doesn't bring them what they asked for… (commercialism has really gotten out of hand).

    I mentioned just telling them the truth, and my mother flipped. She said I'd be stealing their childhood a way. I don't know, I guess I'm feeling conflicted, and finding it difficult to tell them.

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  25. Hi Victoria! That is a great question. If your kids' hearts are that much wrapped up in Santa, to the point where they are becoming emotional about the gifts, it seems more necessary than ever to put Santa in his proper fictional place. Remember that you are not ruining Christmas – you are making it MORE wonderful! Jesus gave us the best gift of all – forgiveness from our sins and eternal life with him. Yes, that's hard for kids to get excited about, but our excitement can be contagious. Also, Santa can still be part of the fun without being “real.” My kids just went to the mall and sat on Santa's lap. They had a blast. They knew he wasn't real, but I think that made it even more fun for them because they could enjoy it without being confused about how he got to the mall, where his reindeer were, if he really heard all of their requests, etc. Pray for the right words and God will give you wisdom and peace, even if it proves to be difficult. I will pray for you, too!

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  26. My parents never let me have a Santa. To this day, mind you I am 36 years old and it is still a sore spot for me. I am still angry at them for it and it still “ruins” my Christmas's. My kids believe in Santa. He was once upon a time a real person who did deliver presents to kids in need. He was a Christian. They are only kids once, and only for a few short years are they even young enough to believe. I feel horrible for every kid who's parents never let them have the magic of Santa. My sister doesn't even go see our parents for Christmas because she's that mad that they never let us have Santa. You can do both, have Santa and still celebrate Jesus's birthday. I understand the logic of your post and everything but I have to respectfully disagree. I feel like a piece of my childhood was stolen from me because I never got to believe in Santa. I hope that your ready to have that sort of hurt and rejection from your kids because it could very well happen to you.

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  27. Taking it WAY too far there. They aren't leaving sacrifices to Santa. They are just giving him milk and cookies because he's been out all night. He's probably hungry and thirsty. If you don't agree in teaching about Santa, that is fine, but don't do this whole “idol” stuff.

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  28. You can do Santa in a biblically acceptable way quite easily without ruining it for your kids. As many other people pointed out, you can highlight the fact that Santa was a real person who loved God and loved children just like Jesus. And when they ask if Santa is really still around bringing kids toys, is it really lying to tell them yes? I don't think so, because we are the Santas of the world. Taking Santa away from your kids at a young age is cruel and it puts the onus of keeping secrets from other kids and possibly feeling like they have to lie to friends and family as to not ruin it for them. Let your children enjoy the magic of something unknown and mysterious.

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  29. I was raised knowing that Santa was not real. My dad wanted me to believe in things that were true, so no Easter Bunny, no Tooth fairy, etc. We focused on what was true, and that Christ was the most important thing during Christmas. The heart of it all was the gift of salvation. I still enjoyed the music, sang the songs, had surprise gifts on Christmas morning, money for lost teeth, went on egg hunts, went trick-or-treating, etc. The best part for me was that I knew the secret and it was fun to keep that secret from the other kids. I giggled about it often.

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  30. This is a great post. Thank you so much for writing it. There is just something entirely wrong with the whole idea of lying to our children and teaching them to essentially pray to and adore a fictional character, in a way that belongs to Christ-alone. I couldn't quite put it into the words you do here, so thank you for spelling it out clearly and plainly, and most importantly, scripturally.

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  31. All your testimony does is give credence to your own selfish nature that you refuse to bring to the cross, and crucify with the lusts and desires of your flesh. If you harbor bitterness toward your parents because the did not lie to you, then you ought to question your eternal salvation. My children find your statement here entirely laughable; we even created a video on our YouTube channel, as a family, to demonstrate the utter ridiculousness of “childhood being deprived/ruined” because of a lack of Santa Claus.

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