What Do I Tell My Kids About Santa?

Rhonda RobinsonBy Rhonda Robinson5 Minutes

“What is Santa going to bring you, young man?”

Zach looked at the sweet elderly lady as if she had just told him there was chocolate on his nose. With one part disbelief and two parts arrogance, Zach shook his head rather matter-of-factly as he replied, “There is no such thing as Santa. He’s not real.”

The woman straightened up at stared at Zach’s mother as if she was the cold-hearted mother on The Miracle on 34th Street. 

How could she rob her son of a childhood fantasy that is so central to Christmas? 

Parents who want to keep Christ the center of Christmas don’t want to take the childhood wonder out of Christmas. At the same time, there is a real concern for not wanting to confuse children with fictional and non-fictional people during a treasured holiday. Nor do we want to turn our know it all seven-year-olds into the school harbinger of dispelled Christmas myths. What does a parent do?

Tell them the truth. The whole truth. And nothing but the truth.

The real man, who we now call St. Nicholas, was an orphan who became a Catholic Bishop at the age of 17. The middle ages were hard, cruel, and plagues stole the life of rich and poor alike. Nicholas lost his parents at a young age. But he had learned of Jesus from his mother’s knee. She taught him of the Savior.

Because of his faith, he suffered severe persecution. Along with the Christians of his day, Nicholas was thrown into prison for proclaiming the gospel of Jesus. The Roman Emperor Diocletian was a cruel man who had many Christians imprisoned and put to death. After years of torture and living in chains, Emperor Constantine freed Nicholas.

Nicholas is believed to have lived to the age of 72 and died on December 6, 343AD. In the harsh days of the Middle Ages, Nicholas’ life of love and obedience to God, stood out as a light in the darkness. His giving gifts to the poor, and defending the innocent became legendary. The stories of his prayers to God for sailors to safely come through the storms spread throughout the lands. As did his generosity. He came from a wealthy family and gave away all of his money after his parents died.

Today, at Christmas, we still remember the brother in Christ who impacted the world by following the Lord’s commandments: to lay our lives down for one another, to give to the poor, protect the innocent, and pray for those in peril.

Throughout the years, many countries, and traditions have stripped Nicholas of his priestly robes. Nonetheless, he has become a symbol, albeit a very commercialized cartoon version, we still honor the birth of our Savior at Christmas time the way St. Nicholas did, by giving gifts. Not only believers but unbelievers as well celebrate the greatest gift of all, the birth of Christ.

You can still give your children the wonder of Christmas by revealing that there is real power giving and praying. The man they see displayed in store windows and made-for-kids Christmas specials are merely cartoons of a once-great man who served God with all he had—even to the depths of a prison cell.

If your child is old enough to ask if “Santa” is real. He or she is old enough to be told the truth in a way that adds to their faith and their understanding of the world around them. The culture they are growing up in tends to twist the goodness out of their symbols and use them for selfish pleasure. It’s up to us as parents to show God’s hand to an unbelieving world.

One small way can do that is at Christmas, just as Nicholas did throughout his life, is by telling the story of the man who followed Christ, and let the children “be Santa” to others in the way did. By praying for those in harm’s way, giving to those in need, and proclaiming the gospel in the face of persecution.

St. Nicholas should never pull children from the truth of scripture, the real Nicholas led them to it.