I know you are reading the title and looking at the picture, and a gasp comes out or a ping of anger at the topic, but as a Christian, we need to have an honest talk about good ole St. Nick, so please, if you are so inclined, continue to read on. Please don’t get me wrong; I am not trying to destroy your holidays; I am only trying to get you to think about who and what you’re really celebrating and who and what you’re teaching your children to celebrate and the potential heartbreak for them you may be causing unintentionally. As you read about me writing about the false idol we have all brought into by the plenty, my hope is that you will open your eyes to realize the lies we have been led to believe and that the one we all think we are worshiping and admiring, loving our neighbors as Jesus has directed, carol singing and worshiping Santa more than our God, who we should be really rejoicing about the birth and life of our Lord and Saviour. Not this stranger we call Santa, who breaks into your house and leaves gifts of plenty most people can’t ever truly afford. Is that really something that our Lord and Saviour would want us to do? And even if Santa started off as good ole St. Nick, about whom most people don’t even know the real story, even that wonderful selfless man who helped others with compassion and empathy is now just an average guy dressed up in a red suit sitting at the mall. I hope they’re there because they actually love children or need the extra money, not so they can have hundreds of our children sitting on their laps as they hide their true intentions from the parents who just want a photo op and don’t care about their children and how they are crying and screaming in fear or whispering in a strange man’s ear. Have you ever wondered how that child’s obvious discomfort has turned into us dismissing our baby’s well-being just to show it off or post it on social media?
And how do we shake off this uncomfortable or negative experience with our babies or toddlers when we wouldn’t think twice about forcing our children to sit on some stranger’s lap any other time of the year? In fact, we would be repulsed or terrified, or worse, accuse that stranger of being a child sex offender, if it were any other time of year. And one minute we are telling our children to beware of stranger danger, to always come to us if something happens to them, or how to say no.
Yet once a year we force our children to sit on a stranger’s lap, cuddle them, whisper secrets to them, and call it all ok. This is just one of the instances about Christmas and a child’s trust that I am about to delve into through my blog post. But this alone should be a warning to you—this is not something our God would want us to do. And if we weren’t worshiping the false idol of Santa, we probably wouldn’t even think about forcing our children into this act. I know a lot of children who love to see Santa and can’t wait to run up and hug him, sit on his lap, and tell him what secret toy or hope they have that normally never comes true. But ultimately, this act is OK to do with a stranger as long as we are at the mall surrounded by others. This is something to consider in general, as we teach our children to hide secrets from us and confide in adult strangers instead. Such mixed signals we are teaching our children all for the sake of a photo op that we will then show them this memory and confirm to them when they are reaching their teenage years that we still want them to confide their secrets to strange adults and we are OK with it.
How can they trust us about Jesus when we lie to them for years about Santa? How can we teach them the significance of Jesus dying for us and rising from the dead on Easter when we lie to them about a cute bunny who brings chocolate eggs? For one, bunnies don’t even have eggs! But we continue these lies and false idol worship on some of the greatest Christian holidays of our creation.
It’s through Jesus and his words in Matthew 18:6–7 that he tells us how important it is to raise our children with a true understanding of who and what he is to them. When he tells us in this stern warning of the damage we are causing to our own children, who ultimately belong to the Lord, “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! “Such things must come, but the person through whom they come!”
And here we are the parents, and we are the ones responsible for their teaching, protecting them, helping them make good decisions, and teaching them to trust in the Lord our God, and yet we ourselves are teaching them almost from birth that it’s ok to only follow parts of scripture that apply to us in any given moment, not all the time.
Back to the sins of the Christmas holiday that I know God would not want for us, and that is to go broke, run up our credit cards, and make our children believe in an elf hiding in the fridge or cupboard, watching their every move as a stalker would. What about them being good all year? Or an unrealistic expectation that if they put on their best phony act and show us how good they can be, then a new Xbox or bike will be under the tree for them. Are they receiving these gifts of extravagance to prove we love them on one special day more than any other day of the year? Or is it a reward for them for acting like someone they are not in order to learn how to manipulate others to get what they want?
What about the way we force them to go to places or wear clothes they may not like, go to family’s houses one after another just at this certain time of year, pretend they love Aunt Betty or hug relatives in ways that are uncomfortable for them? just so we can put on a show of how perfect our families are. Yet we rarely see any of these relatives outside of this one occasion. Don’t get me wrong, that is not all of us, but I know that sometimes running around from house to house and making plans or entertaining can take away from the time when we should be just enjoying ourselves, our families, the Sabbath days, and rejoicing in the miracle of Jesus Christ who was born to save us from these very sins we have masterminded during the holiday: greed, gluttony, lust, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride, all wrapped up in a bow under a tree with a stranger fictional character leading the mix.
Exodus 20:4: “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in the heavens above, on the earth beneath, or in the waters below.” You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me but showing love to a thousand “generations” of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Or the movies and books and songs that sing fairytales, miracles, and love for the holidays for the single person alone at home. This stranger dressed in red is simply going to make all their dreams come true. Faithfully, we bundle up with goodies and these Hallmark movies and hope that it will be our turn for a Christmas miracle to come. Yet it’s the very Christmas miracle—the birth of Jesus—that has already paid the price for us, and this is how we repay him—by commercializing him to fit our own desires and needs. He died for our very sins that we spend his birthday recreating these very sins he paid for by his death.
Please do not think I am all bah humbug here; I have four children and a Christmas tree set up, a few too many presents in the closet, and I fall into some of the very categories I am writing about. At least I did until a few years ago, when my stepdaughter turned nine, even after finally coming clean about her broken heart. Instead of changing our beliefs, I found a Pinterest article about how to turn broken-hearted kids into compassionate Santa helpers for their community and families, and instead of really coming clean to her about all the lies, we just introduced her to joining in these adult lies and idol worship for the sake of her younger siblings.
Now let me say this before, I will go into what we did as a family, why we do it, and maybe how you may look at your Christmas from here on out. There are a lot of great things we do as Christians around the holidays that we do to celebrate Jesus, the Trinity, and our religion. We have giving trees, we have food drives, and we have Advent and Christmas services rejoicing and proclaiming the good news of Jesus’s birth so many years ago. People, no matter what they believe, seem to dig deeper into their pockets or cupboards to give to the poor or to children who have little or nothing. And I must say, I love this time of year—the giving, the compassion, the empathy. My only negative thoughts are that they creep into my mind as I drop off those extra bags of food or an unwrapped toy, or sometimes I have had to add our family to the list of those needing help, like last year. The negative thought that enters my heart is that, as amazing as it is to watch all these people give in the name of Jesus or just because it’s the season, the season ends but the hunger doesn’t. The children whose parents can’t afford snacks at school, winter boots, coats, or diapers, and the homeless person who ate in a warm, dry place and filled their bellies for Christmas, still slept on the streets a few hours later. And as the giving dies down and we slowly switch into a new year and the credit card bills come in, we slowly tighten our purse strings again. Yes our God wants us to be these generous Christians at Christmas but the Lord I serve the baby Jesus who grew into a full-grown man and showed us through his works and words that we need to be these kinds of Christian’s the other 364 days during the year. That is when people truly see the love of Christ, and that is the kind of Christian I aim to be and teach my children to be.
So now I will tell you my own Christmas story and how I loved Christmas time with my mom even as I struggled with being abandoned by my dad and raised by a single mom. Christmas was with me and my cousins, and we had dinner, played games, sang, and went to a Christmas Eve service for the early years of my life. And I loved every minute of it and still cherish those memories every year. When I was seven or eight and living with my grandmother and mom in my grandma’s big house at the time, I often played make-believe and ran around the old house with its hidden rooms and plenty of space. Well, playing some games alone, I went into my mom’s bedroom at the time and went into her closet, which was a walk-in attic-type closet. I went behind her clothes, and there were a few shopping bags. As I peered into them, I saw a stuffie and a few other toys and such, and I knew in that instant that I had walked in and seen something I shouldn’t have seen. But I thought nothing of it until Christmas morning when I ran downstairs into the “nice living room,” the one you don’t play in on holidays. And there, laid out by Santa Claus, were the exact same stuffies and toys that I had found that day by accident in my mom’s closet. I never told her; I didn’t ask, and I went about the day as if nothing had happened. But that, I think, was the day my childhood started to be over. Not the trauma or other issues hidden under the surface; it was the day that make-believe ended and reality sunk in. It was the day I knew the people who I thought loved me and told the truth to me were liars and not to be trusted! Not that I am being overly dramatic, but I do wonder now as an adult if that may have caused the next twenty years of my life of not trusting anyone and having walls up, especially after seeing the similarities occur with my stepdaughter. It’s not a risk I want to take with my three younger children.
I want them to always come to me with their problems; I want them to always trust that what I say is true to the best of my knowledge; and, first and foremost, I want them to turn to God and believe in him. In the Holy Spirit, they are unable to see or maybe feel at a young age, or even as they become young adults, and I want them to trust their instincts when God speaks to them. I want them to believe in Jesus, that he died for them, and that the importance of his birth, his life, his death, pretending, and such were all done in the name of love. How will they see love from this, or how will they understand what real, true love is? like the love of our father in heaven, and will he then become a fantasy character like Santa to them? Or how will they believe in him after I have lied to them about the others? The one that I want them to believe and trust in most, to feel his love, and to live their lives as honest, trustworthy, giving, empathetic, and loving spirits, they can’t see, hear, touch, feel, or smell. How can I ask them to trust me and believe in Jesus Christ when I turned his birth into a pretend circus of lies and deception?
When my husband and I first got together, his daughter from a previous relationship lived with us. Her simple reply was: “If Santa and the Easter bunny aren’t real, then neither am I.” “Why would you still think the tooth fairy was?” The look of horror at being lied to not only her whole life over these characters and then being hit not only once with the lies but multiple times was a lot for a young child who had a rough childhood. She’s not the only young child who ends up devastated by these lies or these pretend escapades her parents try to put on for the sake of having magic or make-believe.
The following year, we got Chloe involved in the Santa plot for the younger boys, and I went all out with going to Santa’s breakfast and putting reindeer poop-sparked oats on our balcony. All is well and good teaching my young daughter to get in on the lies and manipulation that only a few short months ago had broken her heart and spirit. All in the name of being “Santa’s helper” or bringing joy to her siblings, and now she was in on it with the grownups. Kinda like something a sexual predator may say to their young victim about not knowing when something may happen that is wrong or icky. Or turning my young child from just that — a young child — into an “adult” overnight — an adult who lies, an adult who wants them to tell me the truth, and that can protect or be relied upon?
During the first year or two of my young boys’ lives, Noah and Hudson, we started attending our church now, and I had always felt this call about Christmas and about the birth of Jesus and the way things have been so often distorted. And as we continued going to church, I became closer to the Holy Spirit and assessed who I am in Christ Jesus. I really started to think about who I am and the qualities I like about myself. One is being honest and having a sense of truth. This wasn’t always the case, and after years of being a teenager who lied or manipulated others even though I was dealing with so much trauma, it occurred to me that maybe I hadn’t opened up to adults, my parents, my teachers, or my parents or therapist as a child and teen because I couldn’t trust them. My father walked away and abandoned me, and my mom was a single mom who wasn’t around all the time, so I was raised by my grandmother and aunts and babysitters. The lies about Santa and the lies I was told about my father and other things were all coming from those same adults that I was supposed to trust, who loved me and would protect me. Or would they?
If you really think about how a young child’s mind works, you can really see that it’s more black and white than an adult’s mind and has many, many shades of gray sometimes. I pondered the time I had spent with my now full-time stepdaughter and the lies and damage she had been through, not only over the loss of her childhood but also over the lies she had been told about her father and her family by her biological mother. All in the name of hating and anger and hurt feelings of a long broken relationship full of jealousy and being taken out on a child who didn’t ask to be born into that. My nine-year-old stepdaughter had struggled with so many things being abandoned, hurt, suffering in silence from severe mental health issues, and learning issues that weren’t properly addressed all due to lies. It was I who stepped up and gained her trust, and it was also me who didn’t want to lose it, I wanted her to come to me about anything and know I would always tell her the truth.
When she started asking questions about God as we became more regular church members, I tried to tell her more about Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Her inquiries resembled those of a detective attempting to determine how God could be real while Santa was not, how is it that Christmas is related to Jesus, or how Easter is about the resurrection and not about finding chocolate eggs in the grass left by a grown man in a bunny suit. Kids are pretty smart, so when they start figuring stuff out and say things like “Well, bunnies don’t even lay eggs,” it makes you Spirit talk to them. I still want them to try to have this type of relationship with our father in heaven. And most importantly, I want them to believe that when they do have a sense of word or feeling from God, it is a true, real feeling. How can I ask them to believe in God if I bring them up telling them about Santa, and Easter Bunny, a Toothfairy, an Elf of the Shelve only to have to one day come clean to them and tell them all these wonderful things was a lie. But Christmas is the birthday of Baby Jesus, and on Easter, Jesus died for them and then came back to life for them. A spirit ascended into Jesus that lives inside them if they believe. How can I expect them to really believe me if I lie to them about all of it? If I worship and cherish false idols and then tell them it’s ok to do so in the name of what? How can I teach them all these values and not sin with greed, lust, envy, and such, but rather encourage them to buy more than they can afford, hug strange family members they’re uncomfortable with, lie to their siblings, and all these other not-so-hidden things we teach our small children from the sidelines in the name of the day Christ was born to teach us how we can live without committing any of these very sins that Christ had to die for?
After carefully thinking it all through and talking to my husband, who at first wasn’t on board, we decided to tell our boys that Santa wasn’t real at ages 3 and 4, and to make our own family traditions without using Santa in any of them to include Jesus in our Christmas and have them learn a true understanding of the holiday. We don’t exclude Santa; we just don’t go to the Santa Claus parade or breakfast with him, and I don’t force them to sit on Sahislap to take Christmas photos. I also don’t put elves on the shelf or put out cookies or milk on Christmas Eve. We still watch Christmas movies, and we still sing all the carols except where the lyrics have things like “Better be good” or “He sees you when you’re sleeping; he knows when you’re awake” and such.
At Christmas time each year, we go to a light show, and the proceeds go to a charity for an animal rescue. We go to our church and do the Christmas eve and now Christmas morning services; we still see family and have our own traditions. I make a Christmas Eve box of a small gift, a treat, maybe a game or movie, whatever the theme I chose is, and that’s what we do together as a family that day. We go to our church’s Christmas Eve service, and this year we are going to try going on Christmas morning. Sometimes I try new traditions of things I find that may be fun as a family; last year I bought everyone a board game to try to bring out ways to spend time together as a family interacting and being without TV or video games, and this year the kids are getting lego sets and their own bins with treats for Christmas Eve with ugly Christmas jammies. One year we all wore ugly Christmas socks. It doesn’t have to be the same traditions each year just making a new memory is what I hope for and for my family to feel the love I put into making the day special for us.
Sometimes Christmas morning is not so great. Last year I had a mental breakdown and had to go for a drive due to the amount of stress we moms sometimes put on ourselves to make everything perfect for everyone else. We burn ourselves out, I learned a lesson last year on that day and it was I will never walk out on my family like that again ever, and sometimes I have to let go and let God be in control. In fact, I need to do that every day, but sometimes I forget and end up crying in my car, and that’s ok too. Christmas is a time for grace; more than anything else, it’s a lesson in grace for ourselves and others.
We play in the snow, and we pray at our Christmas table. Yes, there have been a few tears and questions about the tooth fairy or Easter bunny, but there has also been some denial. When my five-year-old son Hudson came home from school a few months ago and asked me questions about the tooth fairy, he asked the questions, but when I tried to sit down gently on his bed and explain again to him some of the things we had talked about before, he just wanted me to stop and said he didn’t want to know anymore. And sometimes that is ok too; it’s a lot to process for young children, especially these days when, truthfully, there isn’t much make-believe left in this world, and I still want my children to have an imagination, just not one with deceit and full of lies beyond their control. My 6-year-old asked if it was OK to pretend that Santa was real after we watched Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. And I had to tell him, “No,” we are not going to pretend that Santa is real. As I explained this to him, I also told him that the character of Santa Claus is real, just like when they watch Bluey or something like that. When we saw Paw Patrol live at the show, they were real people dressed up like the characters, and that was for fun just like seeing Santa as a man in a costume or an actor in a movie.
I have explained to them that most parents are not deliberately lying to their children to be mean or in some malice way that they think what they are doing is best for their children. I have also had to let them know that it’s not up to them to tell their friends the truth about Santa and that our beliefs are different from some of their school friends. Also, not all families believe in God like we do or know that the true meaning of Christmas is about Jesus. It’s a lot to explain to young children, and how much I explain may be too much or not enough; I will never know until they are adults. My own mother tells me every year that I am ruining their childhoods and has gone behind my back and taken my children to breakfast with Santa or an event. For the first year, I allowed it and allowed my in-laws to take them all to the parade with my husband, and I just didn’t go. But after we sat down and discussed our beliefs together as husband and wife, we decided that we would allow our kids to do these normal things, but that we needed them to understand the truth and for our families to respect that and not try to lie to them or make our children believe in something we do not. My now fourteen-year-old stepdaughter has told her younger siblings about her experience and how devastated she was when she was younger, and there is still real hurt in her voice when she tells the story.
As they are getting older, I plan to explain more about Jesus and who he was, how important his birth was for all of us here on Earth, and why, as Christians, it’s important for us to keep that day sacred. I hope that as they grow older, they will be trustworthy, honest, loving, compassionate, believers in Christ, and willing to grow in their relationships with the Holy Spirit and with us, their parents. I hope they won’t shy away from telling us the truth if something bad happens or they do something wrong that they are ashamed of. I hope that I can hold their trust for their whole lives, and I hope that they will grow as Christians and have faith in Jesus, and on his birthday they can see the love that God had for them when his son was born. The life that Jesus walked for us, how he died for us, and how amazing the true story of Christmas is on its own without having to add a false idol like a golden cow or a red Santa Claus are what I hope to teach them about the true meaning and how important this one day of the year is for us and to God. On this day, we should be showing our love for God by being loving to our families and strangers alike in the best way we can, and that is by simply being present with them, not by how many presents we buy them.
Well, writing this blog and with the passion I feel for this topic and looking at scriptures of God’s word about false idols, I realized as I wrote the word Santa over and over how similar it looked to the word Satan. In fact there are exactly the same amount of letters just jumbled up. On a holiday we are supposed to be remembering our Lord and Saviour and all he came to do by forgiving our sins and showing us it’s possible to follow the word of God and live here on Earth as men and women. I now feel even more strongly on how heavily we have been so deceived by Satan to buy into a holiday about an Old Man in a Red suit who lives in a magical place and lives with mythical creatures of plenty and who watches our children see if they are naughty or nice. Who flies in the sky one night a year and drops down our fireplaces to bring us gifts we couldn’t possibly get without him. If you really really look into your hearts you can see how the actual real story of the birth of Christ has been distorted and twisted by Satan/Santa to lie, steal, kill, and destroy our Christian holiday from us. To twist the birth of Jesus into a way to put confusion and doubt into the hearts of innocent children and by none other than the parents who they thought they could believe and trust. In scripture, Jesus gives us a stern warning about this that I don’t think we have taken to heart enough, including myself until now. And God has warned us about the worshiping of false idols over and over as it says in scripture, about false Gods 2 Corinthians 11:13-15
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. 1 John 5:21 “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols,” and most importantly, “Deuteronomy 13:1-18,” which you may read for yourselves. I hope that you have read my blog with an open and mindful heart and that what is good for my family may not be what’s good for yours. I hope you hold it up with the fact we are alike in the fact we both want to believe in Jesus our Lord and Saviour and that the true meaning of Christmas is the love of our father in Heaven who gave us himself in his son who walked the earth as a man and died for our sins. And that we are alike in that we want to celebrate this and celebrate the love we have for Jesus Christ as well as our own families on Christmas Day. I hope you will take heed of what I have said and think about it through my experiences, that of my children’s, with the words of scripture and with what your spirit may direct to you is the truth out of my words. I truly believe that Christmas is the most wonderful time of year, especially for us Christians and the meaning of the miracle that took place so many years ago. No matter how we each celebrate and what our traditions are, we all come in peace together to honor Jesus and his birth. My ways may be different from yours but I pray for you and your families a very Merry Christmas and all the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love throughout the year ahead, in Jesus’ name. Amen
By Amanda Mason