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Why I don't teach my kids that Santa Claus is real

Curmudgeon alert: If the title of this entry offends you, read no farther. I wouldn't want to upset anybody. (Right? I'm always very careful not to offend anybody...) Seriously, I'm not implying that anybody is a bad parent for teaching his kids to believe in Santa Claus. To be sure, in giving one of my own chief reasons for not doing so, I mean to present this as a reason for others to consider not doing so, either. But I'm not trying to give anybody a hard time. End of introduction.

The story told here illustrates a major reason why I don't teach my kids--at any age--that Santa Claus is real.

Here's another anecdotal example of a child's linking belief in God and in Santa Claus dangerously: In March a young girl visited my (small) church, and my eldest daughter spent some time talking with her. My daughter ended up much concerned about her. The younger girl, age 9, had clearly been trying to test the waters to see what the 16-year-old wanted her to say. At one point she said, "I'm not even sure I believe in God. Well, I sort of believe in Him. I sort of believe in God and Santa Claus." This was not reassuring.

Consider what it means to teach a young child to believe that Santa Claus is real. You are teaching the child that a person exists who is benevolent and has super-powers, who can do incredible things, who sees his actions while remaining unseen, who rewards good acts, and with whom (if you encourage letter-writing to Santa) the child can communicate.

If you're a Christian parent, you are very likely teaching the child at the same time in his life and at the same stage in his development to believe in God--a powerful and benevolent Being who sees his actions while remaining unseen, who rewards good actions and punishes evil actions, and with whom the child can communicate by praying. In fact, you encourage him to pray to this Unseen Being.

To induce belief in your child in both of these teachings, you are relying on the fact that children naturally believe what their parents tell them.

But one is an unimportant falsehood and the other is the ultimately important Truth.

Belief in Santa Claus is temporary. Eventually kids figure out that Mom and Dad have been telling them a white lie and that the causes of the presents on Christmas morning are mundane. As the above story about the artist's daughter shows, it isn't that much of a stretch for the astute child to wonder whether the other story about an invisible, benevolent Being who is the cause of all things, seen and unseen, has also been a white lie and whether the causes of all the things previously attributed to Him are, instead, mundane.

Atheists trade on this. I'm sure my astute readers could find dozens of examples of atheist rants to very much the "when I became a man, I put away childish things" effect. And this trope can be very effective for older young people as well. A Christian high school or college student will no doubt at some point encounter the following line of thought: "Why do you believe in God? Because your parents told you that He exists, right? But you believed in Santa Claus on the same basis. If you'd been raised in another culture, you would believe a different religion, and they can't all be true. At some point you have to start thinking for yourself. Just as it turned out that Santa Claus doesn't exist, so, you'll find, it turns out that God doesn't exist either. You're old enough to figure this out for yourself."

Unfortunately, most Christian young people do not go to college primed with evidences for the existence of God and for Christianity. This argument against authority may well strike them as devastating. And--I'm sorry to have to say it, but it must be said--it will strike them as all the more devastating if the coin of parental speech has been devalued by those little white lies told them in their innocence for the sake of cuteness.

Very few teenagers or young adults like to contemplate the picture of themselves as cute, naive little children. Sometimes they don't even want to remember that they once were cute, naive little children. It is probably a fault in the age, but it's a widespread one. They want to distance themselves from anything remotely resembling wide-eyed pre-school-hood. It's embarrassing to think that they used to believe this or that crazy thing, that some older brother took them in with a tall tale...or that Mom and Dad did.

And if they come to believe that God does not exist, that would-be superiority will be turned against Christianity, too. "When I became a man, I put away childish things." Deconverts are some of the hardest to get back.

So if you want to "tell" your kids about Santa Claus, I suggest you just make it a fun pretend thing you share together, making it clear that it's a joke. That's what we do with the Tooth Fairy around here. My kids leave a newly lost tooth in a small ziploc bag on the fridge. Sometimes they leave a note for the TF to remind her to leave money. And the TF leaves a note back with the money, unless she's pressed for time. Everybody laughs about it. The five-year-old is under no illusions and never has been. She thinks it's funny, and she always has. "You're the tooth fairy," she says from time to time, and goes off into giggles.

But she never laughs about the "pretense" that God exists. And please God, she never will. Because He's different. He's real. And she knows that, too.

Comments (215)

Lydia,

We did the same with our children. The problem was that our children started telling other children that there was no [presently existing] Santa Claus. The other parents weren't too happy. :-)

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Funny, but my experience has been just the opposite. I have two nieces that are approximately the same ages and their parents are different siblings of mine. They were both very smart and inquisitive young children, however, one believed in Santa Claus and the other did not.

The niece that did not believe in Santa Claus was never able to develop a healthy imagination. If she could not see it, feel it, and touch it, it could not exist. She would never believe in other realms of "being" like the supernatural. She is now an avowed atheist

However, the niece who believed in Santa Claus also developed a healthy childhood imagination. She had no problem in believing in a benevolent, gift giver who rewarded good acts even after she found out that her parents were doing the gift giving. She is now a good, Catholic young lady.

Oh, I teach my children about Santa/St. Nicholas. I still believe in him myself. Lord knows there have been Christmas mornings when I know that only the generous whispered impulse of a loving saint actually led to the madness of purchasing something bright, loud, hard to put together, and really, really annoying for a child to play with all.day.long (and for days and days and weeks and)...

Does St. Nicholas, from Heaven, currently fly around and literally deliver gifts? That's not really the point, is it?

I wrote an essay on the subject for a newspaper a few years back. It's here, if anyone wants to see a contrary view:

http://redcardigan.blogspot.com/2008/12/my-santa-essay.html

Bryan, I hope you don't regret what you did because of what happened with the other parents. :-) If your kids didn't tell them, someone else would have. And I suppose one can always tell one's kids not to push it (out of politeness) if the other kids seem to believe in it.

That's a really interesting anecdote, dsp, and of course I hope that both your nieces will come to believe (and in the end persevere in believing) in Our Lord.

I do want to resist the idea that God somehow _really is_ like Santa and that teaching kids to believe in Santa is some sort of theologically deep preparatio evangelium. It's exactly that equivalence--that "God and Santa are both part of the realm of the imagination"--that I think leaves young people so vulnerable later on. And for understandable reasons. God and Santa don't occupy the same realm. At all.

That, by the way, is one reason why I think "Miracle on 34th Street" (I think I have that title right; it's been a long time) is a deeply misguided movie. It never mentions God, but the fuzzification among 1) being healthily imaginative, 2) actually believing false but comforting things by a will to believe, and 3) religious belief is there implicitly, and very strongly, with a notion like "faith" covering them all. I think this is _not_ the road Christians should be going down.

Hey Lydia!

I am not going to debate what parents ought to to teach their children in regards to Santa because I do think such things enter into the greater question of how parents will deal with their children on all sorts of fantasy and make believe.

I will point out one obvious difference between these two invisible benevolent beings. One will one day actively pursue my children through the calling of the Holy Spirit and will interact with them in a shared and genuine relationship. The other will join the heap of fictional characters that at some point or another they outgrew. That distinction ought not to be lost

Lydia,

Well done and well written. I didn't expect to be convinced, but I heartily agree with the reasoning that lead to your decision (even if I still hold some reservations about entirely casting Santa out the window.)

I too find it disturbing to come across young children that have a more coherent theory of Santa Clause (I ask and he gives me things!) than they do of God (Mom says He gives me things, but I'm not sure what). But I also think your example excellently highlights a special modern breed of "innocence" that leads to so much poor parenting.

It is unfortunate that many religious are, in fact, guilty of the accusation that they never discuss important things with their children. And generally, accompanied by the best of intentions, this tends to revolve around protecting the child's innocence. Sex is an obvious and much discussed instance; death; drugs; the existence of sincere people who live and believe differently than ourselves; the largeness of human speculation and where our faith fits into it, are a few others, though a hundred-thousand could be named. These are things that parents pooh-pooh. These are things that even good parents pooh-pooh. And these are not times in which parents can afford to do that if they care about their children. As you say, they will certainly encounter, in college if not sooner, those who eagerly trade on this.

On the other hand, there exists the parent who, eagerly insisting that their child isn't going to be that sheltered wide-eyed ignoramus, mires their children in all of the fashionable falsehoods and "realities of life", and calls this educating their children.

I think both misunderstand innocence. The first has a shallow definition of it; the second scorns the shallow definition as mere ignorance. The one doesn't speak out of fear or modesty; the other says too much out of arrogance. The first is wrong, because if Truth can shatter innocence, then innocence is nothing; but the second is wrong, because innocence is worth having and they have forgotten childhood.

I believe that the worthy sort of innocence in young children is acquired through learning the Truth, of which your example with Santa is a small illustration. Only then does it ascend to that state we all envy in children: knowledge of Eden without knowledge of just how far the Fall has laid us.

This "comment" is far too long. When I began my thoughts, I was sure they would barely fill a paragraph : /

My wife and I agreed from the beginning not to tell the Santa Claus lie, both because of the harm we foresaw that Lydia describes, and because we just didn't want to get involved with anything that smacks of a lie. We have always told our kids that there is a Saint Nicholas, and when they get to about 4 or so, that some people call him Santa Claus and make believe that he is the one responsible for presents. Whereas God is really the one responsible for all gifts - but sometimes He worked through Saint Nicholas, and sometimes He works through others. Since we always discuss with each child what he intends to give to others, they have no illusions on that score.

Besides, how else do you give your little boy that utter delight he gets when Aunt Betty opens the present he picked out just for her? And how do you teach your little girl to thank the person who gave her the gift if some mythical person "gave" it to her?

On the other hand, I strongly believe that make-believe and imagination games are really powerful and important parts of childhood development, so we do lots of stuff on that line as well. I really disagree with the notion that Christians cannot tell stories of dragons and ghosts and elves. There are ways of doing so that are clearly imaginative rather than descriptive of reality - kids can easily tell the difference if you set the stage properly.

Thanks, Brett. And good comments on the false and true notions of innocence.

Tony, I've always wondered how one would work the thank you note thing if one taught Santa Claus. Would you tell the kids that most of the presents came from Santa but that the ones from Grandma came from Grandma, so they'd send a little thank you note to Grandma or tell her thank you on the phone? Or would the idea be that Santa delivered a present that Grandma bought, as if he were just the mailman? (My kids see _every_ box that comes in the mail, so it would be very hard to hide from them the fact that a big box came from Grandma.) And what about money considerations? If Junior asks for something that is too expensive, and he thinks Santa brings the presents, how do you tell him Santa can't afford it? And what about teaching them to be thankful to Mom and Dad? All very confusing.

That just leads to the larger point that often occurs to me here: If one is really going to *get them to believe* in Santa, one is going to have to work pretty hard at it. I know I would have to. My kids are sharp as tacks from infancy on up, pretty much. So it would seem to me that unless one really _tried_ to convince one's children, unless one thought it important enough to put on a pretty elaborate deception, they'd figure it out right away. I mean, like, at age 4 at the latest, if not sooner. But people do. I remember one mother who was _really bothered_ that her older son had told his younger sister that there was no Santa. So the older sibling (he was 7) was supposed to become involved in the whole put-up thing for his sister, too.

Now, that's what I think should get sort of bothersome. Playing around with your kids (like I do with the Tooth Fairy) is one thing. Knocking yourself out to keep up a pretense with them for years is quite another.

I completely agree that there is nothing per se wrong with make-believe stories including mythical beings and that they have a good place in a healthy childhood. And of course kids know the difference between fiction and reality. My kids are always talking about "the world" of this or that book, and my 5yo tells me what the (sometimes radically different) weather is today in "bear world," meaning the alternative reality in which her stuffed bears all live right within the walls of our own house. _Which_ stories about dragons and elves are good for kids to read is a whole 'nothing issue, but I'm a huge fan of Lewis & Tolkien. Tolkien's dragons are excellent. They're always bad, for instance.

I suggest you just make it a fun pretend thing you share together, making it clear that it's a joke.

A joke? A joke is funny, but rarely joyful. Santa Claus is a welcome allegory. A fantastic, joyful accretion to Christmas. Materialism and sterile reason are the enemies of the Nativity. Not elves and rein-deer.

I have no doubt Santa will be deconstructed by the rationalists. As Chesterton warned;
"Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom."

Cromwell razed the altars, smashed the icons and shattered the stain-glass. Do you really want to his heirs on an assault on the North Pole? Where does it end; Christmas trees, stockings, decorations, Nat King Cole and Bing, cards? Where?

Santa has a role to play and does it quite well. Parents who failed to do theirs are blaming the wrong guy. Santa points to Someone else;

"The great majority of people will go on observing forms that cannot be explained; they will keep Christmas Day with Christmas gifts and Christmas benedictions; they will continue to do it; and some day suddenly wake up and discover why."
G.K. Chesterton

A Christmas decoration set up by a church in a city where I once lived always delighted me: Santa kneeling at the manger. For some reason, that decoration always got the most anger from the freedom-from-religion zealots . . .

I see the point of this piece and sometimes fear that my kids might some day treat God as Santa Claus, but we combat that in other ways. I think we've managed to steer a safe course with it by trying to play up the liturgical cycles.

Each night during advent we light the wreath before we eat supper, conduct a prayer service I cobbled together from a number of sources, using basically the antiphons and collects from the Sundays of Advent, then sing a song such as On Jordan's Bank or Come Thou Long Expected Jesus. We also talk about the saints all year long on their feasts during supper with a short comment from me about the feast or saint of the day. We mention St. Nicholas on his feast and talk about his real life. We also mention that in Italy "children are told" that La Bafana brings the presents and in Greece, St. Basil. We've noticed that our older two have naturally grown out of Santa without any decrease in faith. They are also careful to protect the youngest from the secret. I've also aided this process by filling three coal scuttles with charcoal and putting them out with the presents, then revealing that I had played a joke on them, so that the idea of Dad sneaking around on Christmas Eve begins to perk before they learn the truth.

We keep the decorations in the house up until Epiphany, and the wreaths and pine ropes outside until Candlemas. When we take them down, we tell the kids why.

During Lent we listen to the complaints about the menu, while my wife will take the kids to her Church for Friday night salutations of the Virgin Mary (The Akathist Hymn), and then we'll spend some time talking about the Annunciation when March 25 rolls around (9 months to Christmas!)

We de-emphasize the Easter bunny, and reinforce the rites of Holy Week and Easter in the traditions of our Italian and Greek family. We sing the Byzantine Easter hymn on the Sundays of Easter before dinner (Christ is risen from the dead/by death he has trampled upon death/ and bestowed on those in the tombs the gift of everlasting life)and end the grace before and after all our meals with the triple "Christ is Risen/He is truly risen" Easter greeting. We'll hit our two daughters' name days during summer, then come up to the start of the Greek liturgical year with the Exaltation of the Cross, have an All Saints procession or pageant at school, and then we're back to advent.

I think by stressing the traditions of the church, the rythmn of the liturgical year (we celebrate all our name days), finding a good Catholic parish school, and a regular participation in the Mass, we can have the innocent fun of these holidays and safely be children, put away a child's things when its time, and still accept the kingdom of God as one of these little ones.

If you ever see the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, you'll see Santa, but the whole show points towards the conclusion, and the conclusion of the show is the birth of the Messiah.

The endless attempts by Protestants to denigrate, to strip away, to get to the "essentials," leaves a bare altar before which stands a bewildered soul, the Mass was marginalized into nothing more than an empty ceremony, the Saints were rendered into Catholic versions of idols, the Mother of God torn from the drama, and what is more, other children not hers are attributed to her.

The Bible, to which they've clung, they themselves subjected to the same withering and worthless scrutiny, all in the search for the "essential" and "historic Jesus."

And now Santa is under their guns.

What's next? Gift giving and the Christmas dinner?

These Christian wahabbs need to knock it off, understand how doctrine develops, how traditions grow, it would do for them to read up on Cardinal Newman, and in a word, snap the hell out of it.

"The great majority of people will go on observing forms that cannot be explained; they will keep Christmas Day with Christmas gifts and Christmas benedictions; they will continue to do it; and some day suddenly wake up and discover why." G.K. Chesterton

I was talking about this issue with someone today (Lydia, you should know that you spur conversation with those around me) and it entered into my mind that I'm happy we are debating that Santa might be too central, rather than fighting to make him relevant.

The day may come, and too soon, that even Santa--imperfect as the popular commercial image is--may be cast aside; though not cast aside for a return to what Christmas is truly about, but to shed the last semblance of what it is about.

For those outside of Christianity, asleep to Christianity, unaware of the true joy of a Holi-Day, I am glad they have Santa Clause. For them, I see him not as an obstacle to the faith, but as one of the few surviving popular heralds. Inside of Christianity, he may be an uncertain ally, claimed as he has been by popular culture. But at least our popular culture has been good enough to retain him yet.

Q,

I think it's unfair to make the case against Santa solely a puritanical one. In so far as it is a puritanical case, now is the wrong time for it if there ever was one. But comparing the Santa question and the reformation...Ari rightly pointed out to me that this probably isn't the place for it. Nor are Church dogma and liturgy equivalents with a popularized image like Santa, or a parent's legitimate concern that a hi-jacked popular holiday risks losing its soul.

A Dad,

Thanks for sharing, your family's Christmas celebration exemplifies the way that religious tradition serves the education of the faithful. Accounts like yours and my own growing up, make me think that Santa survives well and true enough yet to still point towards Christ.

I didn't even know about Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny ... or black cats, or ladders, or mirrors, or salt, etc ... until I was taught about that in school.

It's a logical stance, although I do think one can marginalize Santa and emphasize God, Jesus, grace, etc. I have no doubt that Lydia would agree that cutting out Santa is no replacement for a healthy, intellectually robust spiritual life at home. That seems to beg the question: why not do the latter and worry less about the former? I suppose the counter is why needlessly undercut the latter with the former, which is trivial.

I liken the good things of the Santa phenomenon to the value Chesterton places on fairy tales. I'm thinking of the Ethics of Elfland, from Orthodoxy (I'm sure Kevin appreciates the plug). I recall childhood notions of magic and fantasy directly aiding me in my understanding of God. I think they still provide a useful starting point for understanding.

Nice discussion.

Wow! I'm flattered that my readers get up early or stay up late agreeing or disagreeing with me. I don't have time to do justice to all of these, but let me clarify just a couple of things:

First, no, I'm not trying to "eradicate" Santa from popular consciousness. So I don't want to be misunderstood. I have nothing but contempt for the public school boards who demand that there be no trees or red and green flatware for parties in December, and I think I would be able to recognize it if (as they probably had) they tried to cut out representations of Santa Claus for the same reason. And I'd be contemptuous of it. I'm actually not trying to be iconoclastic here. My _only_ point concerns _deliberately teaching_ one's children that there really is this person (other than the people who really do it) who brings them presents, etc.

Second, my understanding (though I don't follow enough sites to know it except by hearsay) is that there have been even stronger attacks on the whole "Santa thing" in the _Catholic_ blogosphere, so I don't think this is a Protestant-Catholic thing.

Third, and relatedly, if you are "using Santa" in the way that one uses beautiful myths, fairy tales, etc., then it would seem to me that the most natural way to do this is to treat him exactly as you treat such tales. For example, most parents don't go to lengths to try to convince their children that there _really, literally was_ a Sleeping Beauty in a wood, etc. In other words, it's "made up" or "pretend" or "a story," whatever words one uses for such things in one's house. It does just seem to me that there is something very odd about all the likening of _teaching your kids that Santa is real_ to beautiful tales and myths considering that no one goes through charades and pretenses to try to _make children believe that those tales are real_. So I'm fine with Santa's being a nice tale that points to Christ (if you think he does--however you do that). My problem is with treating him _differently_ than that.

More later.

Nice food for thought, Lydia. Gives me something to think about when raising my 1.5 year old and 1 week old.

Your third point is spot on, Lydia. Santa was always a fun story in my home growing up and in our home now. My dad was always "Santa" -- he never dressed up, but each gift had to be brought to him from under the tree, he gave it to the right person, then the person who had given it was thanked (or noted down to be written to later). We might read "The Night Before Christmas" but we always went to Christmas Eve candlelight service and read the gospel story, and always, always, the kids knew which was real and which a mere fun story. With my kids, we taught them about St. Nicholas so that they would know the origin of the Santa Claus story, and that he gave gifts in secret because God had given the greatest gift to us and St. N. wanted God to have the glory for the gifts he gave (like giving alms in secret).

p.s. And that's why I loved that Santa-at-the-manger scene so much.

Of course the real reasons not to tell your kids about Santa are A) he dresses in red, and red, as everyone knows, is the devil's color, and B) if you rearrange the letters in Santa you get SATAN!!!!

Growing up as a Pentecostal, I heard all the anti-Santa arguments ad nauseam. They never made much sense to me, and still don't. The only one that has some validity as far as I can see is the concern over Santa as a contribution to the whole commercialization thing. But surely this aspect can be tweaked in such a way as to avoid that problem. The presence of a Santa figure in various cultures (Father Christmas, St. Nicholas, Kris Kringle, etc.) goes back hundreds of years, which would seem to indicate that such a belief has not always been problematic. To my mind, any problems would seem to be related to modernist psychological concerns, modernist iconoclasm, or some combination of both.

In short, I'd agree with Erin Manning's post above, and her article which she linked to.

Agreed on the "convincing kids Sleeping Beauty is real" thing. Do you think there is an age where the "reality" of these figures has not yet come up? Prior to any convincing charade, it seems like there is a range of time where "but is there -really- a band of seven dwarves?" (or whatever) is just not on the table for children. Perhaps the turning point is the growing out of that, and using (or not using) tricks at that stage to convince them that these figures are real. I'm turning that one over in my mind still.

Where high-minded discourse on Santa/Satan happens!

We have kind of a weird take on Santa. My kids believe in Santa, but we tell them the reason brings presence is because Christ came into the world as a baby and so, out of his love for Christ, Santa loves all children and wants them to enjoy Christmas.

On the other hand, I think my 5 year old is catching on.... because she seems to believe in Santa the way she believes in Unicorns, not the way she believes in God.

Of course, she also asks questions like "How do we know Jesus is real when noone took any photographs?" So she might just be a weird kid in general....

The Nyssan--maybe my kids are unusual, but even when they have been too young to _ask_, "Is that just pretend?" I know that they have a really sharp distinction between real and pretend. Sometimes they ask; sometimes they don't. But I don't think they are ever in any real confusion on the matter. My own anecdotal experience is that it's a mistake to think of the "world of a child" as being a world in which fiction and reality float around in the child's head in a lovely, confused hodge-podge. Not to throw labels around, but I think some sentimental Victorians thought so. I don't think mine ever had the slightest notion that there were seven real dwarves or anything like that. Where they would ask me a question would usually be if I told them some realistic-sounding story about a couple of kids who did some normal thing. Usually these aren't among my most brilliant stories. But it's because the kids know that they _could_ be true (just about some kids on the prairie or something) that they might ask, "Did that really happen?" Also, when I"m explaining to them the logic of, say, Narnia, I always use a phrase like, "In the world of the story..." So, "In the world of _The Silver Chair_, centaurs are good, but in the stories that the Greeks told long ago, centaurs were sometimes good and sometimes bad." This all goes over very well, because they tell stories themselves and know what it means for something to hold "in the world of the story."

Deirdre, good luck with your precocious 5yo. Good question about Jesus and photographs. I hope you tell her something like, "If there _had_ been cameras back then, which there weren't, you _could_ have taken a picture of Jesus. Just like George Washington, who also happened to live before there were photographs."

I'm not worked up about the material aspects of Christmas. And I think the hue and cry about it are overhyped. And I don't think the meaning of the holiday is lost in the swirl of activity attending the celebration thereof.

At the heart of most of those activities are people doing something for another, such as the mother baking cookies, a husband trying to select something for his spouse, a dad trying to pick out just the right gift for his kid. Even people hosting parties are trying to entertain their neighbors, family and friends. Which means what we're seeing are peple putting out effort for others.

Don't you think God sees that, who here thinks that escapes his notice.

People who are selecting, buying and setting up Christmas trees aren't missing the purpose thereof. Now they might not be absolutely fixating on the Incarnation, and their awareness of what's being celebrated ebbs and flows, ------------ but that's normal.

And it's not something to decry.

WHAT IS to be decried are attempts to purge the public square of all symbols of Christianity, and the various holidays of Christianity.

THAT'S appalling, and it's nothing short of a war against Christianity, and it's not waged by Protestants, but waged by the Left.

Santa Clause? Really, folks?

What's next? The 3 Kings?


THAT'S appalling, and it's nothing short of a war against Christianity, and it's not waged by Protestants, but waged by the Left.

Just because one is a Protestant doesn't automatically mean that they're not Leftist.

I personally know several Protestant friends who reside within a hotbed traditionally (and quite notoriously) known for its brand of student leftism.

Q, I do agree with what you say about not decrying buying presents, etc. I'm no curmudgeon about Christmas. Far from it. I even had a post about that on my personal blog a year ago, sort of harrumphing about high-church types who get wound too tight to the point where they refuse to sing Christmas carols before December 24 (after sundown), etc. I'm not even remotely Scroogish, and I'm sorry to report that I have some friends who actually are neo-Puritans (literally) who refuse to celebrate Christmas at all. So my point in this post was, compared to that whole "Christmas kerfuffle," quite a narrow one.

Lying to your kids for no defensible reason... how on Earth could THAT possibly go wrong?..

Teaching kids to tell the truth, always and everywhere, regardless of the situation, --------------- how on Earth could that possibly go wrong?

That's Hitler Youth stuff.

What's the definition of a lie?

A lie is the deprivation of DUE truth. The key word there is the penultimate one, "due."

Mike, there's a great deal encompassed within your term "defensible."

Lying to your kids for no defensible reason... how on Earth could THAT possibly go wrong?..

Do you mean to imply that lying to your kids is okay so long as it is for defensible reasons?

A lie is the deprivation of DUE truth.

Qui est veritas?

Besides, even something as physical as a "Lydia McGrew" or a "George W. Bush" can simply be nothing more than some manifestation created by either Descarte's demon or even Putnam's Mad Scientist; either case, that's as awful as the purported lie that is "Santa Claus".

I don't understand the "kids need imagination" defense. I think it is making a logical leap. No one is proposing that kids be dissuaded from playing elaborate games and creating worlds, and from stories and books and literature. But they know these things aren't really true, and there's no elaborate effort on the part of adults to keep up a pretense that they are. If a kid has these things, does he still not have a healthy imagination unless adults make him actually believe a story that isn't really true? Historically and culturally, do healthy imaginations only exist where kids have been made to believe these fables? Not just told the fables, mind you. I'm all for telling stories. But must they be made to believe the fables? Is it not enough that I read The Lord of the Rings to my children, but that I additionally tell them that it is a true history, and while we are in the Smithsonian, point out artifacts that I claim are from the ancient kings of Numenor?

Like Lydia, I'm not saying that if you do this you are wrong. I just don't get the idea that it is necessary, if parents otherwise give their children rich play and learning. My suspicion is that in the anecdotes of athiests who were never told Santa Claus was real, their athiesm is due to a combination of many other more important factors and free will rather than the lack of belief in Santa Claus.

Q, I can certainly agree with the idea that you don't have to go telling your kids everything they don't know. Heaven knows, there are all sorts of horrors in the world with which I don't regale them! That's not the point. The concern is with deliberately trying to get them to believe something that one knows isn't true. I think Matt Bowman understands quite well where I'm coming from here, and the example of "artifacts from Numenor" is a good one.

"I'm not saying that if you do this you are wrong. I just don't get the idea that it is necessary, if parents otherwise give their children rich play and learning."

Depends, I guess, on what you mean by "necessary." I tend to be suspicious of anything that's corrosive of tradition, unless the tradition in question is demonstrably a negative or harmful one. Much of what we receive as traditional isn't necessary in any rationalistic or utilitarian sense, but that doesn't mean it's not valuable in other ways.

I never looked on "teaching children that Santa is real" as some sort of strong tradition. Certainly it was never a tradition in either my family or my husband's, and it hasn't been in lots of people's families.

What's the definition of a lie?

Other than a can of worms question?

Qui est veritas?

It is possible to lie without knowledge of the truth.


Lying? Please right wing reductionism is no more attracive than the more dominant left wing kind.Should we center our Thanksgiving feast around the duplicity of the Gnostic cult that landed at Plymouth rock and make it a fast of reparation instead?

Santa Claus teaches us the importance of joyfully giving to others without any hint or hope of reciprocity. He is a rebuke to the cancer of consumerism and a model of the magnaminous soul in action. Bad enough he has to dodge disbelieving air traffic controllers. Now this: my kids might be led astray. Wise choice in picking late spring to make such a suspect argument.

Do you mean to imply that lying to your kids is okay so long as it is for defensible reasons?

Depends on the motive. If it is necessary to save the child's health or life, then yes it would be.

When I was about 5, I started to walk in on a contractor trying to rape my mother. My mother told me to run outside, and when I asked if everything was all right, she said yes it was and I ran outside. Do you think what she did was wrong?

Ari,

Should Rahab have told the truth and informed the king of Jericho where Joshua's men were hiding?

Depends, I guess, on what you mean by "necessary." I tend to be suspicious of anything that's corrosive of tradition, unless the tradition in question is demonstrably a negative or harmful one. Much of what we receive as traditional isn't necessary in any rationalistic or utilitarian sense, but that doesn't mean it's not valuable in other ways.


Well said, Rob G.

Is it any wonder that the Sacred has all but been obliterated altogether from the general expanse of today's Christianity -- from the magnificent settings of the Great Cathedrals in an earlier Christendom to the utilitarian amphitheater architecture of the Megachurches of today?

As if anything that smacks of the scent of supersition should just be outright driven out of modern Christianity altogether.

Yet, this modern enterprise of nihilistic emancipation ultimately ends up getting you to where Nietzsche found himself at the end of his own journey, from devout Christian devotion to outright nihilism of which he is but the Father.

Santa Claus teaches us the importance of joyfully giving to others without any hint or hope of reciprocity. He is a rebuke to the cancer of consumerism and a model of the magnaminous soul in action.

Fine, Kevin. Teach him that way. Like you would give your older children O. Henry's "Gift of the Magi." But in neither case is it necessary to *tell them that the story is actually fact rather than fiction*. I don't understand why so many responses here seem to miss the mark. Anyone would think I'm advocating going around throwing rotten tomatoes at the Santa at the mall!

Lydia--totally agree that kids don't go around in a soup of fiction and reality, and that they are far, far more intelligent than society at large gives credit. One of the coolest things about raising kids is watching how seemlessly that intellect develops. There sure isn't a switch that flips on one day (Actually there is...when one finally has kids)!

I meant something other than confusion, although maybe it doesn't escape the same criticism: rather that it wouldn't even occur to a child of a certain age (3-4 is what I have in mind) to discriminate between fictional world and our world--not that they can't, but that it's not an operation they care to undertake.

Ah well, I'd need a lot more reflection to keep going with this. All I know is they are smarter than me and there's no point in trying to deceive them about the reality of something at any age.

I don't understand why so many responses here seem to miss the mark.

Because you propose that in order to defeat the Atheists, we should behave as they do and adopt their modern practice of depriving children of their childhood and not have them indulge in seemingly ridiculous tales that are otherwise manufactured fiction.

"Certainly it was never a tradition in either my family or my husband's, and it hasn't been in lots of people's families."

Interesting. I was a child in the the 60's and it was nearly universal among my school mates, friends, and extended family. It wasn't until later, when I was in 5th grade or so, that my parents got involved with Pentecostalism and I first ran into people who had a problem with Santa Claus. Of course, by this time I no longer believed in him, so in a sense it was moot.


Who amongst us after having experienced Santa Claus as kids did not revel becoming him later in life?

Lydia rotten tomatoes at Malls in general is a justifiable act.You have attacked one of the great figures of the Christian imagination. You wanted to stir thimgs up. Well done.

"Because you propose that in order to defeat the Atheists, we should behave as they do and adopt their modern practice of depriving children of their childhood and not have them indulge in seemingly ridiculous tales that are otherwise manufactured fiction."

Aristocles, I often am unsure of your tone, but unless you are being *heavily* ironic here -- and I hope you are -- this is just flat slander.

Who amongst us after having experienced Santa Claus as kids did not revel becoming him later in life?

That's just it --

If anything, it is a traditional Christian moral tale that inspires in children the significance of this sense of giving of one's self to one's neighbors as well as instill within their character at such an early and impressionable age that traditional theme that underlies the Season of Christmas to be found in Christ Himself.

Yet, who am I to speak thus?

As a result of my having once been fed such tales of apparently fictitious variety, I now call Christianity itself into question whether or not Christ Himself is, too, such a fiction.

adopt their modern practice of depriving children of their childhood and not have them indulge in seemingly ridiculous tales that are otherwise manufactured fiction.

But, Aristocles, that has already been answered, again and again. It actually _isn't_ just an automatic part of childhood *actually to think that fairy tales are literally true*. As not only I but other commentators (like Matt Bowman) have pointed out, the normal part of an imaginative childhood is enjoying stories, not thinking that fictional ones are literally true. The Santa Claus story is being treated in this special way that other fairy tales are not being treated--by teaching it to children *as fact* when the parents know it is fiction. This whole idea that believing that fiction is fact is some sort of essential part of lovely childhood innocence is plain bunk, frankly. Most children _don't_ believe that unless someone deliberately tells them a falsehood about some fictional story, yet they enjoy their imaginative play and lovely stories to the max without thinking they are literally true. What I object to is playing along with the "God, like Santa, is a lovely story you just have to believe, and how lovely is Christmastime, when we can all enter for a little while into that fairyland world of childhood belief in fairy tales" way of thinking. Christians, of all people, should not be making that comparison and connection.

Lydia,

That's where you're wrong.

For Catholics (and, indeed, Christians of Christendom in former days), St. Nicholas is historically (which even secular accounts would even attest) a real person.

St. Nicholas, called "of Bari", Bishop of Myra (Fourth Century) 6 Dec. Feast day. The great veneration with which this saint has been honored for many ages and the number of altars and churches which have been everywhere dedicated in his memory are testimonials to his holiness and of the glory which he enjoys with God. He is said to have been born at Patara in Lycia, a province of Asia Minor. Myra, the capital, not far from the sea, was an episcopal see, and this church falling vacant, the holy Nicholas was chosen bishop, and in that station became famous by his extraordinary piety and zeal and many astonishing miracles. The Greek histories of his life agree that he suffered imprisonment of the faith and made a glorious confession in the latter part of the persecution raised by Dioletian, and that he was present at the Council of Nicaea and there condemned Arianism. The silence of other authors makes many justly suspect these circumstances. He died at Myra, and was buried in his cathedral.

... A citizen of Patara had lost all his money, and had moreover to support three daughters who could not find husbands because of their poverty; so the wretched man was going to give them over to prostitution. This came to the ears of Nicholas, who thereupon took a bag of gold and, under cover of darkness threw it in at the open window of the man's house. Here was a dowry for the eldest girl and she was soon duly married. At intervals Nicholas did the same for the second and third; at the last time the father was on the watch, recognized his benefactor and overwhelmed him with his gratitude.

SOURECE: http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=371


The popular account of Santa Clause is merely a pious acknowledgment that continues a once treasured Christian tradition, meant solely to inspire early in children (prior to this modern-day commercialized hoopla) a sense of charity and self-giving and, above all, teach them at that tender age the underlying theme of Christmas, which is Christ who gave us, as the Ultimate Gift, Himself for our own Salvation.

**What I object to is playing along with the "God, like Santa, is a lovely story you just have to believe, and how lovely is Christmastime, when we can all enter for a little while into that fairyland world of childhood belief in fairy tales" way of thinking. Christians, of all people, should not be making that comparison and connection.**

We don't. I know of no Christians that even remotely look at the thing that way. My parents certainly didn't, and I didn't when we were raising my daughter. I'm I right in thinking that you didn't participate in the tradition yourself as a child or as a parent? If so, perhaps this is coloring your take?

adopt their modern practice of depriving children of their childhood and not have them indulge in seemingly ridiculous tales that are otherwise manufactured fiction.

And the fact that the central figure of that fiction bears an eery resemblance to Jesus Christ and even more so the triune God of Israel clearly would have no connection in a child's mind, the tendency of many young atheists to state as much notwithstanding... Nor could there possibly be even a subconscious credibility gap when a parent swears up and down that one exists, and then later swears up and down that the other exists after the existence of the former is admitted to be a complete fabrication.

Again, what could possibly go wrong here, Ari? If you feel the need to continue the Santa tradition, you should at least do so honestly, so your kids know that you are embodying that spirit rather than pretending that some Sugar Daddy Cosmic Sky Fairy is secretly giving them gifts.

Ari,

If a woman swore up and down to her child that her husband was the child's father, and then the child found out that the mother was lying, and then the mother brought in the real father and introduced them, would you not say that the mother would have not only betrayed the child's trust, but established a real credibility gap on who the child should trust is their father?

The popular account of Santa Clause is merely a pious acknowledgment that continues a once treasured Christian tradition, meant solely to inspire early in children

Ari, teaching kids that there presently is a man who lives at the North Pole and comes in a flying sleigh drawn by reindeer to bring them presents on Christmas Eve is not the same thing as teaching them the historical facts about St. Nicholas. At all. And one could, of course, teach them _about_ the "popular account" without attempting to inspire generosity by *teaching them that it is factually true*. (I don't know quite how many times I've said this, now.)

Rob G, I don't know quite how to say this without being outright offensive, but a certain post linked above seems to me to be very much in the zone of the "world of wide-eyed childhood Christmas as world of believing fairy tales are true; believing that St. Nicholas literally brings gifts is like believing in the unseen, spiritual world" attitude that I had in mind.

Mike T,

Again, what could possibly go wrong here, Ari? If you feel the need to continue the Santa tradition, you should at least do so honestly, so your kids know that you are embodying that spirit rather than pretending that some Sugar Daddy Cosmic Sky Fairy is secretly giving them gifts.

Did you even read what I wrote previously? I'll not even waste the effort of repeating it a 3rd time here. It's hardly even worth it.

The popular account of Santa Clause is merely a pious acknowledgment that continues a once treasured Christian tradition, meant solely to inspire early in children (prior to this modern-day commercialized hoopla) a sense of charity and self-giving and, above all, teach them at that tender age the underlying theme of Christmas, which is Christ who gave us, as the Ultimate Gift, Himself for our own Salvation.

Unless we are using a different definition of "popular," the popular account of Santa Claus has literally nothing to do with Jesus Christ today other than being vaguely based on a saint in centuries past.

Ari,

I challenge you to bring up a semi-modern, popular account of Santa, let alone Christmas, that has any meaningful focus on Jesus. For most Americans, Santa is the embodiment of the season.

It's amusing to watch you argue without arguing with one another.

Lydia opposes a certain (rather exagerated and overly serious) treatment of Santa which no one here has yet advocated.

Ari is defending the historical Saint Nicolas, which I didn't realize had come under fire yet.

Mike T is attached to the credibility gap (also known as the Sugar Daddy Cosmic Sky Fairy hypothesis) which I don't think anyone here encourages, nor do I really think exists when even moderate catachesis is in place.

It seems all of you are suffering from a difference of childhood experience and a simultaneous anxiousness to defend this experience, even when it isn't being attacked.

But I sympathize: for those who never knew him, it is very difficult to understand; but for we who knew him, Santa Clause was a cheery old fellow we would defend with our lives--we only later found out had been misnamed.

Mike T is attached to the credibility gap (also known as the Sugar Daddy Cosmic Sky Fairy hypothesis) which I don't think anyone here encourages, nor do I really think exists when even moderate catachesis is in place

You assume way too much, especially in light of the way that kids are falling away left and right, and the fact that most Americans may believe in God, but they couldn't talk theology anymore coherently than my wife's parrot.

I should also say that some may take issue with the eventual transference of qualities from Santa to Christ, as understanding of the latter increases in the child. This, in fact, may be attacked, and has been attacked as a catechetical tool. But for Catholics it is of the same brand as using the lives of saints, or even parables, or fables, as vehicles for education in the faith.

More to the point, Brett, most Americans are not what could be called actual believing Christians, and there are a lot of people whose religious beliefs begin and end with "I believe in God." These tend to be the people who produce the kids that stop believing in God in part because Santa turned out to be a load of rubbish.

You assume way too much, especially in light of the way that kids are falling away left and right, and the fact that most Americans may believe in God, but they couldn't talk theology anymore coherently than my wife's parrot.

That has nothing to do with Santa. You are pointing to a regretable truth that would be even more damning in the absence of Santa. Popular traditions have always been a vehicle for religious education in the absence of widespread theological knowledge.

The kids more likely fall away, not at the point when there fails to be a correlation between Santa and reality, but at the point where there fails to be any discernible correlation between "I believe in God" and anything the parent says or does.

This, again, has nothing to do with Santa

Also, as I said earlier

For those outside of Christianity, asleep to Christianity, unaware of the true joy of a Holi-Day, I am glad they have Santa Clause. For them, I see him not as an obstacle to the faith, but as one of the few surviving popular heralds. Inside of Christianity, he may be an uncertain ally, claimed as he has been by popular culture. But at least our popular culture has been good enough to retain him yet.
Lydia opposes a certain (rather exagerated and overly serious) treatment of Santa which no one here has yet advocated.

I just don't know that one way or another, Brett. I assume that people who actually teach their kids that Santa is real actually do, in fact, answer questions like, "Where do the presents come from?" with "Santa brings them, honey." If said without a wink, that's serious enough to fall into the category I'm talking about. Moreover, it seems to me that the idea that we _should_ do this as a vehicle of Christian education--which quite a number of people in this thread have defended--is even more serious than that. It's saying that it's _important_ to teach kids that Santa is real, because it gives them practice in "believing in what they can't see." Again, I'm sorry to seem trollish, but read that Red Cardigan post linked above. And look at how annoyed someone like Kevin is getting at me here. To tell you the truth, I find this "teaching Santa is real is important for Christians" thing _far_ more disturbing than it would be if done casually by secular parents. Because--sorry as I am to say this--to me this conveys a deeper problem about how we should understand Christian faith. Christian faith simply should not be analogized to deliberately suspending disbelief and accepting make-believe.

Brett,

But for Catholics it is of the same brand as using the lives of saints, or even parables, or fables, as vehicles for education in the faith.

Although you do so admirably, don't even try; such notions are completely alien.

I'm sure even the pious myths of the Fioretti which in itself acts as a superb tool in teaching Christian virtues instilled in the character of a Saint Francis (which even a certain notably prolific Baptist writer himself had utilized in his own sermons in the mid-20th century) is clearly something quite remarkably foreign to those who would rather completely surrender all supposedly superstitious trappings of a rather tenuous almost ancient Christian tradition while ensuring that most, if not, all secular ones remain wholly unadulterated and, once more, fostered.

Popular traditions have always been a vehicle for religious education in the absence of widespread theological knowledge.

See, Brett, I wonder what this means. Does this mean, "Popular traditions that nobody thinks are true can be a way of getting people to start thinking about Christian matters"? Or does it mean, "Encouraging people in believing bizarre and false stories and superstitions, that one knows to be false, as if they were true, is a legitimate and acceptable way of getting those theologically ignorant peasants to keep believing in God"? I've heard the latter. You can find something very much along those lines in John Henry Newman. I think it is deeply misguided. And insofar as deliberately teaching children to believe in Santa as part of "Christian education" by Christian parents is part of that whole "it's healthy for people to believe totally false superstitions because at least they believe in something spiritual" approach, I reject it completely and think it quite dangerous. And people do, indeed, defend it.

I was a child in the the 60's and it was nearly universal among my school mates, friends, and extended family. It wasn't until later, when I was in 5th grade or so, that my parents got involved with Pentecostalism and I first ran into people who had a problem with Santa Claus. Of course, by this time I no longer believed in him, so in a sense it was moot.

In America, Santa Claus has been around longer than Pentecostalism.

That snark aside, I grew-up in a big Catholic family and there was talk about Santa Claus but I can't ever remember thinking he was real.

We raised our kids with Santa Claus as part of Christmas but with Midnight Mass, etc, I don't think they ever thought Santa was real and we would never have told the kids, if they asked, he was real. (They also never asked me if The U.S. Constitution was still our rule of law. They figured out the truth of these myths for themselves).

I have no problem with Lydia's view though. She began with a waring...Curmudgeon alert: If the title of this entry offends you, read no farther...and so I don't get the objections. She has given perfectly reasonable reasons for her decision, it seems to me.

I am more concerned with keeping Mass in Christmas than arguments about what sensible women like Lydia do re Santa Claus.

But I sympathize: for those who never knew him, it is very difficult to understand; but for we who knew him, Santa Clause was a cheery old fellow we would defend with our lives--we only later found out had been misnamed.

Well, no, that simply isn't true. I had the benefit of up growing for a few years assuming that the Santa myth was real. But I didn't derive any kind of sublime enjoyment out of the myth even then, and I certainly would not have defended him to any kind of pain or discomfort. When my older siblings were unable to maintain the ruse anymore, I was bothered by the loss, but in a pretty minor way.

So my adult refusal to encourage the nonsense as a parent has nothing to do with the way I was raised. I don't have an axe to grind either way based on my own personal childhood. And I never lost the faith I was raised in, so that issue does not roost in my barn either. (Though more than half of my older siblings did. Any correlation?)

I really think that it is a matter of respect for your children's minds and personhood: they do not deserve to be foisted with a false respect for a myth that all their elders know is mythical only. There are plenty of ways of communicating the special magic of Christmas without resorting to treating your kid as someone to fool into believing nonsense. I agree with Lydia that there will be significant effects from intentionally treating your kids like fools in this way (at least on the average, if not with every kid). I also agree with Brett that the culture at large is more responsible than any one instance of this kind of treatment. But with respect to that defective culture, it cannot have nearly the damaging impact on your kids that it might have if they see you pushing back at that culture wherever it goes haywire. In other words, although this deformed myth is by far not the most evil part of our culture, it is a symptom of our deranged culture and it is worthy of putting up a fight against it.

Tony,

There are plenty of ways of communicating the special magic of Christmas without resorting to treating your kid as someone to fool into believing nonsense.

Do you really want to go here?

In other words, although this deformed myth is by far not the most evil part of our culture...

Yeah, because nothing is more evil than a fat man charitably handing out gifts to children.

Lydia,

I have to chalk your first post up to a difference of experience. Also, in so far as belief in Santa confuses the bounds of reality; I would agree with you that there would be a problem. I just never encountered it myself.

Ari,

I am beginning to feel that I do assume too much common experience between myself and those on this blog. Just something I will have to be wary of. And, of course, we hold common cause against the secularizing forces at work. However, I don't find Lydia to be in league with them; even if their ends and hers in this instance might speciously appear the same. She is much too concerned a parent.

Lydia, your second post

Newman rolled your same objections on his tounge as a high church priest. What you site are his reflections as found in his apologia pro vita sua and other writings from after he became a Catholic. He didn't recant his concerns as you voice them, but it was only after entering the church that he understood they missed the connection entirely. See my comment to Ari above.

K, I need to finish up work.

and I certainly would not have defended him to any kind of pain or discomfort.

Tony, that's funny.

Yeah, because nothing is more evil than a fat man charitably handing out gifts to children.

And Ari, that is very funny.

Now I really need to finish up my work.

Is Santa Claus really a subversive force for secularization?

Or, does he just appear as one to those Christian parents either are unaware of, or too reticent to challenge those forces that erode the faith but conflcit with their own cherished ideological prejudices. Yes, Virginia there are limits to progress, individual autonomy and economic growth. And is there a more ludicrous fiction than the Invisible Hand?

Gotta admit certainly easier telling your kids Santa Claus isn't real, than it is to admit that much of what modern Christian adults ("children writ small" according to Chesterton) hold dear are empty illusions.

At the very least positing Santa Claus as an obstacle to passing the faith on to one's children betrays a real lack of confidence. And it can't be a very effective form of evangelization since it appears as priggish and defensive: "sorry my kids told yours about Santa being a bald-face lie, but we find the whole myth to be dangerously destructive and no I don't like The Nutcracker either".

I enjoy reading American Catholics defending the Protestant myth of Santa Claus.

Most of our Catholic families just absorbed the myth of Santa Claus, marinated as we were, in protestant America. I don't see what would be mythed in what remains of our culture, to say nothing of The Domestic Church, if we would, collectively, jettison Claus.

I forgot to add that in addition to the very tiny role Santa played in our Catholic Family life, we also, every year, listened (still do) to a CD of NBC's Original 1951 Christmas Eve broadcast of Menotti's Amahl and The Night Visitor"

(With a name like Ahmahl, I think y'all can understand why it is necessary for me to keep the volume low. So my neighbors won't report me to Homeland Security.).

Brett:

And, of course, we hold common cause against the secularizing forces at work. However, I don't find Lydia to be in league with them; even if their ends and hers in this instance might speciously appear the same.

Speciously?

Also, you don't consider it a secular victory when fellow Christians start acting in the very same manner as the atheists would have it?

I know one particular couple who are in fact staunch atheists and quite fiercely dare not teach their children "Santa Clause" for virtually the very same reason Lydia doesn't; that is, Santa Clause is but a "totally false superstition" and would rather not have their children indulge in "bizarre and false stories and superstitions".

Personally, such an event wreaks of certain moral victory for atheists and the whole of secularism.

This is but one step closer to the Jesus Seminar folks who, in their manic enterprise for separating Truth from superstition, ultimately end up characterizing entire books of Scripture itself as a collection of myths (not unlike those in even pagan religions) because "why resort to treating your kid as someone to fool into believing nonsense"?

I enjoy reading American Catholics defending the Protestant myth of Santa Claus.

As Catholics we are tasked with retaining and preserving the best aspects of every culture we encounter. Just because modernity is fading into the mists of time does not mean every part of it should. I'm for keeping Santa Claus, Novacaine and day-night double-headers.

IANS:

You have a point; however, not everything Protestant is, by virtue of simply that fact, unacceptable or deserved to be wholly dismissed.

I mean, even the tradition of the Christmas Tree is apparently an invention of Luther himself.

Perhaps Christmas then becomes (less we surrender to anti-Christian forces) simply a splendid ecumenical blending of all diverse Christian traditions:

EXCERPT: Few people know the history of Christmas Celebrations and Traditions. The idea to celebrate Christmas on December 25th dates back to the 4th century. The Catholic Church wanted to eclipse the festivities of a rival pagan religion that threatened Christianity’s existence.

Romans celebrated the birth of their sun god, Mithras that time of year. Although, it was not popular, or even proper, to celebrate people’s birthdays in those times, church leaders decided that in order to compete with the pagan sun god celebration they would organize a festival in celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Facts not withstanding, Jesus’ birth is thought to be in the spring, December 25th was chosen as the official birth celebration as Christ’s Mass so that it would compete head on with the rival pagan celebration.

The December 25th celebration was slow to catch on in colonial America. The early colonists considered it a pagan ritual and it was banned by law in Massachusetts in colonial times.

The word for Christ in Greek is Xristos. During the 16th century, Europeans began using the first initial of Christ’s name, “X” in place of the word Christ in Christmas as a short hand form of the word. Although, the early Christians understood that X stood for Christ’s name, later Christians who did not understand the Greek language mistook “Xmas” as a sign of disrespect. This myth is still perpetuated today.

Santa Claus, St Nicholas, originated in Turkey in the 4th century. He was very pious from an early age, devoting his life to Christianity. He became widely known for his generosity for the poor. However, the Romans held him in contempt. He was imprisoned and tortured. When Constantine became emperor of Rome, he allowed St. Nicholas to go free. Constantine became a Christian and convened the Council of Nicaea in 325. St. Nicholas was a delegate to the council. He is especially noted for his love of children and for his generosity. He is the patron saint of sailors, Sicily, Greece and Russia. He is also, of course, the patron saint of children. The Dutch kept the legend of St. Nicholas alive. In 16th century Holland, Dutch children placed their wooden shoes by the hearth in hopes that they would be filled with a treat. The Dutch spelled St. Nicholas as Sint Nikolaaas, which became Sinterklaas, and finally, in Anglican, to Santa Claus. In 1822, Clement C. Moore composed the poem, “A Visit from St. Nick,” which was later published as “The Night Before Christmas.” Moore is credited with creating the modern image of Santa Claus as a jolly fat man in a red suit.

The Druids used Mistletoe to celebrate the coming of winter, two hundred years before the birth of Christ. They gathered this evergreen plant that is parasitic upon other trees to decorate their homes. They believed the plant had special healing powers for everything from female infertility to poison ingestion. Scandinavians considered mistletoe a plant of peace and harmony. They associated mistletoe with their goddess of love, Frigga. Thus, the custom of kissing under the mistletoe probably originated from this belief. The early church banned the use of mistletoe in Christmas celebrations because of its pagan origins. Not to be outdone by pagan traditions, Church fathers suggested the use of holly as the appropriate Christmas greenery.

The use of a Christmas tree originated in 16th century Germany. It was common for the Germanic people to decorate fir trees, both inside and out, with roses, apples, and colored paper. It is believed that Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, was the first to light a Christmas tree with candles. While coming home one dark winter night near Christmas, he noticed the beauty of the starlight shining through the branches of a small fir tree outside his home. He replicated the starlight by using candles attached to the branches of his indoor tree. The Christmas tree was not widely used in Britain until the 19th century. In the 1820’s the Christmas tree was brought to Pennsylvania by German immigrants...

SOURCE: http://www.christmasiscoming.co.uk/Christmas_Celebrations_and_Traditions.html

I know one particular couple who are in fact staunch atheists and quite fiercely dare not teach their children "Santa Clause" for virtually the very same reason Lydia doesn't; that is, Santa Clause is but a "totally false superstition" and would rather not have their children indulge in "bizarre and false stories and superstitions".

That is precisely what I meant by speciously. You are painting with a broad stroke here: Lydia is reacting against "superstition" to teach the Nativity, the atheist is reacting against "superstition" to consistently abolish thoughts of the Nativity--both at the expense of a santa experience, and hence, speciously similar.

However, I think even speciously is close enough to be dangerous, and I agree with your argument. I also think the warning is apt, because consistent application of some of the arguments voiced above do, in fact, lead to "Jesus Seminar" Christianity and other things that Lydia would reject at a glance. I differ in that I see Lydia as a friend separated by experience, and not a philosophic foe. We can argue about the best way to conduct such an arrangement.

This is but one step closer to the Jesus Seminar folks who, in their manic enterprise for separating Truth from superstition, ultimately end up characterizing entire books of Scripture itself as a collection of myths (not unlike those in even pagan religions) because "why resort to treating your kid as someone to fool into believing nonsense"?

Um, Ari, how is it a "step closer to the Jesus seminar folks" to hold that *because Jesus is a real, historical figure* we should not risk confusing Him with someone (I don't mean the historical St. Nicolaus, but the guy at the North Pole) who isn't? I find it...disturbingly fascinating that you think making distinctions between *what everybody agrees is fiction* and fact is somehow akin to atheism. This seems to me like yelling, "Pick me! Pick me for the stereotype of the Christian who doesn't like the whole enterprise of even talking about distinguishing fact and fiction because I'm trying to insulate my religion!"

Lydia:

Um, Ari, how is it a "step closer to the Jesus seminar folks" to hold that *because Jesus is a real, historical figure* we should not risk confusing Him with someone (I don't mean the historical St. Nicolaus, but the guy at the North Pole) who isn't?

I don't know how well acquainted you are with the self-styled scholarship of the Jesus Seminar folks; but there are many figures in Scripture that these realists deem as similarly mythical and, indeed, as "totally false superstition" as the "Santa Claus" character you yourself hold in much the same contempt.

Indeed, they believe a certain of the Great Patriarchs themselves as such and, incidentally, like you, they too consider Jesus an historical figure; just not in the same divine light as you do.

Heck, even great Protestant scholars held Nativity stories concerning Jesus as much a fiction as that concerning St. Nick and the North Pole.

Many Protestant scholars at the beginning of the twentieth century tried to correct the rationalist and often polemical basis of historical criticism by stressing more doctrinal and religious elements in the study of Scripture.

Most notable among these were Karl Barth and Rudolf Bultmann. Bultmann, trying to preserve the dignity of the Bible against historical criticism, began to speak of a distinction between what he called the “Jesus of history” and the “Christ of faith.” According to this theory, which has been very influential in the twentieth century, including among some Catholic writers, the New Testament contains a series of myths about Jesus invented by the Christian communities of later years. These pious stories were meant to arouse and preserve the faith of the people in supernatural happenings and in the salvation offered by Christ.


So, perhaps the whole infancy narrative of Our Lord should likewise be tossed out into refuse since it too is but a deplorable superstition much like that concerning The Man, Claus.

Maybe Dr. McGrew will actually be the next genius leading modern-day Christendom into The Next Great Enlightenment.

After all, given the success of the French one, this can't be all that bad!

Ari, I should know better than to try to clarify things for you, but I'm going to make one try: _We_ all agree that Santa Claus isn't real. You agree with that too. We have no controversy about that. Obviously, we don't agree with the poor scholars who claim that the patriarchs weren't historically real. So this is an incredibly poor parallel. It cannot be un-Christian to distinguish fact from fiction. Christianity is about facts. Important ones. Real ones. It isn't about trying to make the distinction between fact and fiction a fuzzy one.

And by the way, I can't believe you consider it somehow suspicious or a bad association or something for me to say that Jesus was an historically real person! Jesus was an historically real person. You believe that too, I assume! That is central to Christianity. You could have touched Him. You could have spoken with Him. If you'd had a camera, you could have photographed Him. He was very man. It's all in the Athanasian Creed. What do they teach them in the schools these days?

Lydia,

Obviously, we don't agree with the poor scholars who claim that the patriarchs weren't historically real. So this is an incredibly poor parallel. It cannot be un-Christian to distinguish fact from fiction. Christianity is about facts. Important ones. Real ones. It isn't about trying to make the distinction between fact and fiction a fuzzy one.

How can it have been such a poor parallel?

In the same breath, you yourself said:

"It cannot be un-Christian to distinguish fact from fiction. Christianity is about facts. Important ones. Real ones. It isn't about trying to make the distinction between fact and fiction a fuzzy one."

Aren't these biblical scholars merely doing the same and, therefore, their very enterprise is indeed Christian (at least, by how you've personally characterized such endeavours here)?

While I might detest their purportedly expert biblical scholarship and the conclusions they reached, it seems your own words could aptly serve as their very own mission statement.

If somebody said you weren't real, Ari, and if we wanted to reject what he was doing, would we have to reject all claims to distinguish between real people like you and fictional characters like Sherlock Holmes? Would we have to say that the difference between a real person like Abraham Lincoln and a character like Sherlock Holmes was _unimportant_, because if we thought it important we might sound like we were agreeing with those "Aristocles debunkers"? What you're saying is so incredibly shallow. It is Christian doctrine that Jesus was a real human being. Deal with it.

Lydia,

Quit it with the red herring.

You yourself know exactly what I mean.

IF we are to be so devoted in our Crusade for genuine Truth and the total obliteration of "totally false superstition" (since we modern Christians are such a sophisticated bunch and should only abide by authentic truths), then why the continued belief in such fictional characters like Noah and Moses, amongst many others (as even those supposedly expert scholars have indicated as being thus)?

Why even teach the Infancy narrative of Our Lord Himself to our children when this itself is but a patently false superstition that was perpetuated ages ago by well-meaning early Christians (like certain distinguished Protestant scholars themselves have remarked)?

Because they aren't fictional. Get it?

Or, does he just appear as one to those Christian parents either are unaware of, or too reticent to challenge those forces that erode the faith but conflcit with their own cherished ideological prejudices. Yes, Virginia there are limits to progress, individual autonomy and economic growth. And is there a more ludicrous fiction than the Invisible Hand?

At the very least positing Santa Claus as an obstacle to passing the faith on to one's children betrays a real lack of confidence.

How is refusing to tell a lie to your kids a "lack of confidence"? In whom ought we have confidence that supports us? Will he support us because we are telling our kids lies?

It's simple for me: telling a person "there's a spider crawling up your back.....not really - just kidding" is a joke. It may possibly avoid being a lie, but ONLY because the full truth comes literally within seconds, before the other person's mind is fully cognizant of and formed around the falsehood. Telling someone for years that Santa comes to bring the presents is a lie. A lie intentional, compounded, developed, worked at, pre-meditated. The kid's mind becomes fully satisfied that a falsehood is the literal truth. How is it that this does not violate our obligation to truth? Doesn't the fact that the more successful we are with the lie, the more damaging the truth is emotionally (and at least possibly in other ways) when the truth comes out suggest that it really is just a lie?

Ought we have confidence in Jesus' power to overcome our maliciously and deliberately violating the very commands he gave us to protect us and ours? That is presumption rather than confidence.

Ari writes:

Quit it with the red herring.

You yourself know exactly what I mean.

Speaking for myself, I know exactly what Lydia is saying, but I haven't been able to make head or tails of your position. The most charitable thing I can hope is that you are just writing extremely unclearly.

Some members of the Jesus Seminar have made the perfectly correct and innocent statement that it is important to separate fact from fiction. They have then gone on to show themselves spectacularly incompetent at separating fact from fiction, throwing a good deal of fact into the rubbish bin for all sorts of half-baked reasons.

Both you and Lydia disagree with these oafs, but in different ways. Lydia thinks we should call their bluff on poor scholarship. You seem to be vigorously supporting the idea that we should throw out the project of separating fact from fiction.

Can this possibly be your considered judgment?

If not, then why do you continue to disagree with Lydia?

Most notable among these were Karl Barth and Rudolf Bultmann. Bultmann, trying to preserve the dignity of the Bible against historical criticism, began to speak of a distinction between what he called the “Jesus of history” and the “Christ of faith.” According to this theory, which has been very influential in the twentieth century, including among some Catholic writers, the New Testament contains a series of myths about Jesus invented by the Christian communities of later years. These pious stories were meant to arouse and preserve the faith of the people in supernatural happenings and in the salvation offered by Christ.

Ari, the fact that some deluded and in the long run self-contradictory "scholars" think that you can believe at one and the same time that the Jesus stories are mythical and that they were told to "preserve the faith of the people in supernatural happenings" does not make such drivel respectable. I don't care how many people in the 20th century bought the line that Bultmann peddled, that still does not make it reasonable. Sorry, it can't be anything but self-contradictory to say Jesus had all these supernatural happenings and then say that the Jesus stories are myths. And it can't be anything but self-contradictory to suggest that the Apostles' accounts of the miracles were simply myths intended to encourage faith, and then to NOT say that they were mountebanks and frauds.

If you wish to point out something reasonable in the line of mythmaking, then go to Jesus' own parables, which were clearly just stories that he made to carry a point. But both the people that he spoke to directly, and the people who read these accounts for 2000 years, all understood them to be just stories.

Jumping back in here, probably unwisely.

Lydia, all due respect, but I think you misunderstand my meaning.

I'm not saying "Teach children fairy tales as if they are literally true so later they'll understand God better," which wouldn't be a good idea and isn't what anyone I know who allows St. Nicholas in their home at Christmas time is doing in the first place.

I'm saying, "There's a difference between what is true empirically, and what is true but not empirically provable; St. Nicholas is real (a real saint in Heaven) and his generous example is real, and there's no harm in letting him take the credit for our outpourings of love at Christmas when in fact he's probably inspiring us much of the time to avoid grouchy bah-humbugness and other obstacles to a joyous celebration of Our Lord's birth."

Here's a different example: two women are expecting babies; both have three-year-olds. Asked the inevitable question about where the baby came from, woman one sits down with illustrated books for toddlers that explain sex and show the body parts with their proper names, and embarks on a scholarly explanation of how, in fact, the baby got there. The second woman says, "Mommy and Daddy really wanted you to have a brother or sister, and we've been praying and praying for God to bless us with a baby, and He did!" Is the second woman lying to her child? Sure, God infused the baby with an immortal soul, and in a real sense He's responsible for the child's creation, but the literal facts are that Mom and Dad engaged in the activity that the first woman is painstakingly explaining to her toddler. Is the second woman's three-year-old going to feel a vast sense of disappointment when he later learns that God didn't "pick out and send" his little brother, but a combination of marital activity and DNA resulted in the child's existence? More importantly, is it a lie to say that God sends us children--even though that's not the literal, empirical reality of pregnancy and childbirth?

The point of my article is that when we explain certain truths to children we have to enter their world to do so effectively. "Mommy and Daddy buy you a few toys to make you happy on Jesus's birthday" may be the literal truth, but how does it do in teaching the child about joy, the secret and hidden generosity, the call of the Christian to give without hope of thanks, to keep the left hand from knowing what the right is doing?

I still believe in St. Nicholas, and I like to think that he believes in me, too, and trusts me to be his agent once a year. Children are pretty good at sorting out the "extra" details about magic reindeer etc. on their own, but so long as what they're learning is that they live in a world of unseen wonder amid a company of saints who intercede for them with generous love, who hope to see them in Heaven someday, then I think the St. Nicholas stories do more good than harm.

How is refusing to tell a lie to your kids a "lack of confidence"?

You view Santa Claus as an impediment to raising your children because we live in a very secular age. Your faith us under threat, but it won't be found by removing Santa Claus from the mental landscape of children.

Santa Claus is now the source for a new Red Scare.

The kid's mind becomes fully satisfied that a falsehood is the literal truth. How is it that this does not violate our obligation to truth? Doesn't the fact that the more successful we are with the lie, the more damaging the truth is emotionally (and at least possibly in other ways) when the truth comes out suggest that it really is just a lie?

Sounds like a premise for a 60 Minutes piece on parental abuse; The Dark and Painful Side of Childhood Innocence.

Again, myths, metaphors and allegories flourish in times of faith and recede during a period of soulless rationalism. What is then left is a massive infotainment-commercial complex designed to spin-out endless fantasies and diversions of a more malignant nature.

Red Cardigan, no, I don't regard the example you give of the pregnant mother to be parallel to the mother who tells her child, "St. Nicholas comes and brings you toys at Christmas." I'm sorry. I just really don't. You said before, "No, St. Nicholas doesn't literally fly around and deliver toys, but that isn't really the point, is it?" And I said nothing directly. But if you are going to say it again, I feel I have to say, "It becomes the point if that's what you're telling them. Otherwise, no, it wouldn't be the point." I suppose a nearer parallel with the pregnant mother would be one who definitely told her child that God employs the stork to bring babies to parents. Kids are good at sorting out the details of reindeer, etc.? Yes, they are. That's been one of my points throughout. Therefore, parents who try to get siblings and others to cooperate in helping them to continue to believe in the reindeer (or whatever conveyance you have for St. Nicholas), etc., have to be _really working at it_. Which is why it's so odd to compare it to simply telling them a story that no one treats in the same way. How well does it do to tell them that their parents buy them presents at Christmas? And their grandparents, and their uncles and aunts and siblings and all the other people who love them? Very well, in fact. It teaches all sorts of things about joy and gratitude, as well as about family sacrifice and love.

**You said before, "No, St. Nicholas doesn't literally fly around and deliver toys, but that isn't really the point, is it?" And I said nothing directly. But if you are going to say it again, I feel I have to say, "It becomes the point if that's what you're telling them."**

It occurs to me that this is one of those things that must be experienced to be understood, something that can't be grasped from the outside, so to speak. When Cardigan says, "No, St. Nicholas doesn't literally fly around and deliver toys, but that isn't really the point, is it?", I know exactly what she means, but I know it not by ratiocination but by experience.

In other words it might be something like kissing the picture of a loved one, or venerating an icon (which really are the same thing). It is one of those things about which, in the words of Michael Polanyi, 'we know more than we can tell.'

I should add that the mom who tells her 3yo that she and Daddy prayed for a baby and God sent one can then add, "When you're older I'll explain to you _how_ God sent the baby." Which conveys that there is a mechanism involved other than direct miracle, which the child is presently just too young to understand. And that goes perfectly well with what the mother has already said. In fact, one of my children, confronted at age 4 or so (as I recall) with, "God sent the baby," asked exactly that: "But _how_ did God put the baby in your tummy?" She was onto secondary causation spontaneously.

I'm happy to see I didn't miss anything. You had better be careful, that old circular rut is getting awfully deep.

Rob G, yes, yes, and yes. We know more than we can tell in some things, although it isn't in our nature to keep quiet.

NOTE: yes, yes, and yes = emphatic head knod plus single yes in this instance.

That has nothing to do with Santa. You are pointing to a regretable truth that would be even more damning in the absence of Santa. Popular traditions have always been a vehicle for religious education in the absence of widespread theological knowledge.

Both you and aristocles refuse to see what Santa has become in mainstream society: a substitute for Jesus. That popular tradition is doing nothing constructive to give any religious education in that context.

"Both you and aristocles refuse to see what Santa has become in mainstream society: a substitute for Jesus"

Perhaps. But then wouldn't the problem be with society and not with Santa?

You know, I want to make it clear that my point really isn't to emphasize the idea that Santa is a substitute for Jesus. Speaking for myself, I find it hard to "get into" this idea that Santa is some sort of powerful and profound creation of the Christian imagination, etc. But if someone thinks that, I'm not trying to tell him, "No, we've gotta _get rid of_ Santa, because he's drawing attention away from Jesus." If you can use him to point to Jesus, that's great. I'm merely saying that it's better to do that by making it clear that it's just a story, as one does with other made up stories.

In one sense, the underlying theme here is the literal reality of Jesus Christ. And in an important sense, that's the point of the Incarnation! God became man. God entered history. I can certainly understand (I really can) people's feeling uncomfortable with areas of scholarship they aren't familiar with, feeling that one could get over one's head in that area or something. But when it comes to figures _known to be fictional_ by all sides, no special scholarship required, it seems to me to be entirely in line with the truth of the Incarnation to consider the distinction between these figures and real, historical persons, to have some sort of importance such that the line between fact and fiction shouldn't be deliberately blurred.

Those that defend the Santa tradition have not answered one important question...

How does it benefit a parent's witness to their children to knowingly teach their kids something which isn't true?

The real issue here isn't mainly about Santa and certainly not about Saint Nicholas, but the fact that parents try to convince their kids that he is real when they could just as easily incorporate Santa in as yet another parable that their kids would enjoy while knowing the truth.

Perhaps. But then wouldn't the problem be with society and not with Santa?

If your hand offends you, then cut it off...

It is the society's problem, but the mainstream Santa tradition feeds into that. It's also true that it is far harder to educate the maleducated than it is to educate the uneducated.

You know, I want to make it clear that my point really isn't to emphasize the idea that Santa is a substitute for Jesus. Speaking for myself, I find it hard to "get into" this idea that Santa is some sort of powerful and profound creation of the Christian imagination, etc. But if someone thinks that, I'm not trying to tell him, "No, we've gotta _get rid of_ Santa, because he's drawing attention away from Jesus."

I don't think anyone here was actually arguing that Santa is a cosmic substitute for Jesus. I know I certainly wasn't. A cursory view of the cultural view of Christmas will show, however, that Santa is a substitute for Jesus in terms of what Christmas is about. Christmas is now so secularized that the courts allow it to be celebrated in most public places precisely because it is so devoid of Christian spirituality that the courts have ruled that is as secular as Thanksgiving and Halloween.

A cursory view of the cultural view of Christmas will show, however, that Santa is a substitute for Jesus in terms of what Christmas is about

Santa Claus is not a subsitute for Jesus, but alot of other things are for 360 days of the year. The real problems for Christian parents require more heavy lifting than simply banishing Santa Claus from the home in a putting the sled before the reindeer move of desperation.

A vibrant faith is expansive and receptive. A fearful one is crabbed and closed off.

Mike T,

If you will read earlier in the thread, you will see that I was the first one to bring the hi-jacked santa issue forward as a legitimate concern. And so far as it is, I still maintain my initial view. *creaking wheel in the circular rut*

But that isn't the concern the thread has revolved around. Everyone here laments Santa's selling out; he was so much better before he signed the contract. But Lydia's primary concern is more subtle and reasonable, and concerns the philosophy of the teaching santa at all, apart from any cultural contamination involved in doing so. Even if I don't personally accept it, hers is a perfectly reasonable position.

But Lydia's primary concern is more subtle and reasonable, and concerns the philosophy of the teaching santa at all, apart from any cultural contamination involved in doing so. Even if I don't personally accept it, hers is a perfectly reasonable position.

The substitution effect is tied in with the false teaching. One has to ask why Christians ever thought it a good idea to create a character that could compete with Jesus for attention on Christmas. By creating a "kid-friendly myth," they opened the door to what is happening today. So really, you cannot separate the substitution effect from the basic philosophical problem that Lydia and I have with teaching it in the first place as the latter enabled the former. Wouldn't you agree that if Santa had never existed as a cultural tale that the secularization of Christmas would have been far more difficult?

And as I asked above, what does it add to a parent's witness and image before their kids to teach them "you shall not lie," and then turn around and try to convince them of something which is blatantly false for no reason that a Christian could find morally defensible?

A vibrant faith is expansive and receptive. A fearful one is crabbed and closed off.

A vibrant faith also has no need to convince children to believe in something which is demonstrably not true in order to teach them the importance of believing in it. The problem with the Santa tradition is that you spend a period of time building up a kid's faith that Santa is real, all the while knowing that the kid's faith will be proved to be false. That sort of behavior has no Christian defense.

Wouldn't you agree that if Santa had never existed as a cultural tale that the secularization of Christmas would have been far more difficult?

No. And that is the charitable answer.

And as I asked above, what does it add to a parent's witness and image before their kids to teach them "you shall not lie," and then turn around and try to convince them of something which is blatantly false for no reason that a Christian could find morally defensible?

I agree. I leave it to you to realize that this doesn't have to be the case with Santa.

No. And that is the charitable answer.

So, you think the secularization would have been as easy? I'll concede that "far more difficult" is too strong, but the presence of the Santa tradition made the secular bait-and-switch easier.

I agree. I leave it to you to realize that this doesn't have to be the case with Santa.

I've never said that the very character of Santa is inherently problematic, but rather the tradition surrounding Santa in modern times. If you go back, you'll see that I said that there is room for a parent to explicitly use Santa as a fun story or myth for kids, so long as they present Santa as a parable where the kids know it as such.

So, you think the secularization would have been as easy? I'll concede that "far more difficult" is too strong, but the presence of the Santa tradition made the secular bait-and-switch easier.

Mike T, just be careful here. Blaming a good for its later abuse at others' hands is very dangerous logic. I know you don't agree with calling Santa a good; but for those who do, this reasoning equally imputes the Bible, organized religion, and Christ.

I've never said that the very character of Santa is inherently problematic, but rather the tradition surrounding Santa in modern times. If you go back, you'll see that I said that there is room for a parent to explicitly use Santa as a fun story or myth for kids, so long as they present Santa as a parable where the kids know it as such.

Very good. If you wonder about the worth of myths at all, a little glimpse of their depths can be found in the debates between Tolkien and Lewis:

Myths, Lewis told Tolkien, were "lies and therefore worthless, even though breathed through silver."

"No," Tolkien replied. "They are not lies." Far from being lies they were the best way — sometimes the only way — of conveying truths that would otherwise remain inexpressible. We have come from God, Tolkien argued, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily toward the true harbor, whereas materialistic "progress" leads only to the abyss and the power of evil...

Building on this philosophy of myth, Tolkien explained to Lewis that the story of Christ was the true myth at the very heart of history and at the very root of reality. Whereas the pagan myths were manifestations of God expressing Himself through the minds of poets, using the images of their "mythopoeia" to reveal fragments of His eternal truth, the true myth of Christ was a manifestation of God expressing Himself through Himself, with Himself, and in Himself. God, in the Incarnation, had revealed Himself as the ultimate poet who was creating reality, the true poem or true myth, in His own image. Thus, in a divinely inspired paradox, myth was revealed as the ultimate realism.

Such a revelation changed Lewis' whole conception of Christianity, precipitating his conversion.

from http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/arts/al0107.html
By Joseph Pearce.

This may seem like Greek to you, but few doubt Tolkien's orthodoxy. I only set this forth as an indication that there might be something to the popular myths for some individuals, and that is enough justification not to dispense with them for all.

"Both you and aristocles refuse to see what Santa has become in mainstream society: a substitute for Jesus"

Yes, because St. Nicholas, like the infamous Idiot beggar (which all of Christendom once hailed as a Great Saint, too) along with "St." Mary, are all to me but "substitutes" for Jesus, rather than prime examples of how great God's Grace can work in those whose lives have remarkably exemplified what Jesus Himself meant concerning the "Salt of the Earth"; these once great revered figures of Christianity who, at one time or another, acted as superb Christian models of the kinds of exemplary citizens that comprise The City of God.

Now, leave me alone as I dust off my altars to my gods; Nicholas, Francis, Mary and John, Peter & Paul.

Ooopss -- with all these gods I pray to, that must make me a polytheist!

Mike T, just be careful here. Blaming a good for its later abuse at others' hands is very dangerous logic. I know you don't agree with calling Santa a good; but for those who do, this reasoning equally imputes the Bible, organized religion, and Christ.

I think Santa-as-a-character is morally neutral, just like a firearm is morally neutral. The moral component comes in with the use.

This may seem like Greek to you, but few doubt Tolkien's orthodoxy. I only set this forth as an indication that there might be something to the popular myths for some individuals, and that is enough justification not to dispense with them for all.

Myths and parables can have value, but only in their proper context. A myth that is presented as objective truth is more dangerous than beneficial, and that's why I object to the way that Santa is used by most people. Santa is presented damn near as an objective truth to very young children, and not as a mere myth or parable, and in doing so the person relating the myth crosses the line into sin of lying.

Yes, because St. Nicholas, like the infamous Idiot beggar (which all of Christendom once hailed as a Great Saint, too) along with "St." Mary, are all to me but "substitutes" for Jesus, rather than prime examples of how great God's Grace can work in those whose lives have remarkably exemplified what Jesus Himself meant concerning the "Salt of the Earth"; these once great revered figures of Christianity who, at one time or another, acted as superb Christian models of the kinds of exemplary citizens that comprise The City of God.

You truly do have a reading comprehension problem. On those grounds, I now apologize for having accused you in the past of being damn near defamatory in your responses, as you clearly didn't know any better.

Santa debates are so much fun, no matter what time of year.

In reference to the Tolkien quote above, I'd just mention that Tolkien himself created elaborate letters for his children from "Father Christmas," who doesn't even have the advantage of being a real-live saint. No, I don't know if he told them upfront, "Look, children, these are a bunch of fake nonsense I'm writing to amuse you; by all means don't take them seriously." I don't know if Clement Moore told *his* children the same thing about his famous poem, either.

It's interesting to note that nearly all Christian cultures have their version of the secret Christmas (or Epiphany or Dec. 6) gift-giver: La Befana, the Wise Men, St. Basil (Greece), the Christ-Child or Infant Jesus Himself (several cultures), the various iterations of St. Nicholas, Father or Grandfather Christmas, and a couple of Christmas gnomes or dwarfs here and there. Again with all due respect to all who disagree, I find it odd that we moderns think we know so, so much better than these old Christian--mainly Catholic--cultures when it comes to stories of a mysterious Christmas visitor who leaves gifts and brings joy. Are we really the first generation ever to look at all these rich old cultures with a uniquely modern spirit of good sense and well-developed wisdom that insists "Lies, all of it--sweep it away!"

It has not been said here, but I've encountered among modern parents the expressed sentiment that Santa/St. Nick is unfair to them. I, said a modern mother, do all of the planning and list-making and shopping and gift-wrapping; my kids should thank *me* when it is over; I deserve to be acknowledged as the source of their gifts. I don't accuse anyone on this thread of harboring this, to me dangerous, sentiment; nothing could be farther from a Christian attitude to me, since indeed all of our gifts come from Our Father, even if He doesn't place them under a tree or make trips to the grocery store or shopping mall on our behalf.

Santa is presented damn near as an objective truth to very young children and not as a mere myth or parable, and in doing so the person relating the myth crosses the line into sin of lying.

I'm beginning to believe this whole "teaching your children about Santa Claus is an emotionally damaging practice" argument has a kernel of truth to it.

Some here suffer from the profound pain of having discovered Santa's physical non-existence and now want to end the myth. What I thought was neo-Puritanism taking aim at a happy custom, or some on the Religious Right mistakenly re-ordering their priorities and descending into self-parody, is actually the assuaging of old wounds.
I promise to be more sensitive to their hurt come December and every Christmas thereafter.

Red Cardigan:

Again with all due respect to all who disagree, I find it odd that we moderns think we know so, so much better than these old Christian--mainly Catholic--cultures when it comes to stories of a mysterious Christmas visitor who leaves gifts and brings joy. Are we really the first generation ever to look at all these rich old cultures with a uniquely modern spirit of good sense and well-developed wisdom that insists "Lies, all of it--sweep it away!"

That's essentially the gist of my original comments on this thread.

The fact of the matter is that modern Christians these days believe in the seemingly absurd notion that they're too sophisticated for the likes of anything that on its face appear to be but a bunch of lies.

However, the fact of the matter being that these elements which traditionally comprised Christianity itself (such as in the case of St. Florian, etc.) not so that we can boldly lie to our children so that when they grew up, they would ineluctably develop greater skepticism concerning Christ Himself and ultimately dispense with their Faith in Him altogher; indeed, it is quite the opposite.

As reiterated time and again, these are supposed to act as tools by which we can teach our children at such a tender age something that they can relate to, leading them along the road of developing the same sense of Christianity as exemplified in these individuals and towards the eventual conclusion that (like these) greater meaning is only to be found in Christ who alone showers His children with such good graces (and, ultimately, Salvation); and by virtue of this kind of personal experience at such an age, this would endow the child with such cherished childhood, it intimately fosters in them a sense of what it ultimately means to be Christian.

Some here suffer from the profound pain of having discovered Santa's physical non-existence and now want to end the myth. What I thought was neo-Puritanism taking aim at a happy custom, or some on the Religious Right mistakenly re-ordering their priorities and descending into self-parody, is actually the assuaging of old wounds. I promise to be more sensitive to their hurt come December and every Christmas thereafter.

Ad hominems make a pretty pathetic "plan B."

Ad hominems make a pretty pathetic "plan B."

So does this next installment of that Augustinian Puritanism that began generations ago.

Besides, Kevin was an equal-opportunity offender in those comments as he, out of some sense of "fair & balanced" commentary, made as much a mockery of the dissenters as he did of Lydia's advocates.

Ad hominems make a pretty pathetic "plan B."

Pathetic as a Plan B. Worse as an argument; Santa Claus is an anti-Christian lie that wrecks spiritual and emotional damage on children.

Yesterday was Ascension Thursday and the Memorial Day holiday is here, serving to remind us how important memory and identity are to retaining our humanity. Be careful of what customs, myths, symbols and and fables you toss out in ill-considered frustration. That is all.

Ari, in Mike T's defense, all my penalty minutes were earned playing against the Anti-Clausians. Any slashing of Santa's defenders were accidental and due to fatique and my skates being tied too tight. Still, egual opportunity offender has a nice, modern sound to it.

You know, Red Cardigan, I would imagine that there have been variations throughout history as to how literally parents taught their children to take those myths (your word, I believe). Again (again, again) I'm not saying we "purge" them. My problem is with *deliberately trying to teach children a falsehood*. One can enjoy a "make-believe" or "let's pretend" with one's cultural myths without trying to get kids to believe they are literally true. Just because "cultures have had" this or that tradition, it does not follow that all the parents tried hard to make the kids believe it to be literally true. And I'm afraid that, yes, if lots of them did do so, I still would not follow in their footsteps.

And if you think it's selfish of parents to want their children to be thankful to them for the presents in the natural way that we teach our children proper thankfulness to parents for other things in life, then perhaps you could consider the same concern w.r.t. all the other gift-givers whose presents appear under the tree--grandparents and other relatives, godparents, etc. Children should thank them.

Kevin:

I actually appreciated the apparent fairness of your previous comment, which I only intended to highlight to Mike T.

"Still, egual opportunity offender has a nice, modern sound to it."

Well, however much I might abhor modernity, the fact of the matter is that I remain ever immersed in it and, therefore, can't help but employ certain terms that are the result of our modern-day trappings.

Besides, if eminent philosophers like a William James can utilize such racy vernacular as "cash value"; I'm sure that, being merely amongst the uninitiated, I myself can certainly employ such seemingly modernist vulgarity in my own communications.

Yes, Blackadder, there is a Santa.

On Christmas morning, go and look at the happy faces of children. Look at the abundant joy. Look at all the presents spread all over floors around the world and tell me there is no Santa. Look at the toys, meticulously put together, and tell me who else did this but Santa’s helpers? Look to the plates of cookies and glasses of milk left out for Santa. Look close, and tell me what you see, and then tell me there is no Santa. Who was it that left only a few crumbs in the plate? Who is it that left nothing but a few drops of milk in the glass? It was and is Santa. The evidence is all around you. What Santa is claimed to do, has been done. How can you look and see all that is around you and deny this very fact? Yes, Blackadder — there IS a Santa.

But, someone might say,” I protest! That was not done by Santa – I must insist. I have another explanation, one which meets the facts just as well (without the need for any supernatural agency ever to be invoked). It was not Santa who came in and left such wondrous gifts – it was the parents of children, and no one else, who left the toys, ate the cookies, and drank the milk. Thus, there is no Santa.”

Only one who has no true sense of poetic diction, no sense of myth, can ever be so reductionistic and claim stories about Santa must be lies. Ever wonder why so many atheists make a case against God by using Santa as an analogy? It’s because they do not understand the difference between a lie and deception with the mythic dimension. How they read Scripture, comparing its stories with the way historians would describe the same events, and using that to say that Scripture is a collection of lies, tells us more about themselves than it does Scripture.

For those who think myths are lies, there can be no answer – because to answer them would require the use of words, and all words are the products of myth. For those who say Santa is a lie, they must first tell us what it means to lie – and to do so without being hypocritical in their definition (it is impossible). The words we use are representations of truths beyond words; by the very nature of speech, anything which is said will be less than what is actually meant. All speech is false, if one is trapped to the realm of words. All speech could be said to be a lie when put next to reality itself.

But the one who understands the limitations of words will begin to understand the broad spectrum of their use, and the poetic senses one can create to indicate all kinds of truth which transcend their ordinary use. Santa is indeed true – there is indeed a Santa, for how else can we even talk about Santa without something being pointed by the word? Even if Santa is revealed to be at work in and through adult men and women all around the world, this does not make Santa less real, just as it does not make God less real when God’s presence is made known through the actions of men and women around the world. Santa is real – and he is St Nicholas. Yes, Blackadder, there is a Santa, and you are called to venerate him.

Henry,
Language can point to imaginary things; this doesn't prove that imaginary things exist outside the imagination. And if you were to claim that God's presence is known entirely through the actions of men and women around the world, it would not support any claim to the independent being of God.

Henry,
There is no Santa, and I do not venerate him.

What you wrongly call poetic diction is merely gross verbal imprecision -- a prosody that is a far literary cry from the language of, say, Dante, Petrarch, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, Hopkins, Housman, de la Mare (or even Eliot and Pound). All of them knew that sloppy language makes sloppy thought possible.

In this case the sloppy thought is the scandalous parallel you draw between God and Santa working though adults folks around the world. The presence, or indwelling, of believers by the Holy Spirit, and the work He does through them, are nothing at all like the alleged work you say is performed by Santa -- or any other imaginary character even remotely connected to Christmas. The presence and actions of God are not like that. His works are real; Santa's are not. You made them up.

Step2 and Michael Bauman,

You should be ashamed of yourselves for jumping all over Henry Karlson like that. The man is obviously demented, and he deserves our pity and love rather than our criticism.

The presence and actions of God are not like that. His works are real; Santa's are not. You made them up.

God is Dead; and so is St. Nick.

The End.

Now, enough of that or I'll cast you into that Dantesque fiction called Hell that y'all deserve!

For those who think myths are lies, there can be no answer – because to answer them would require the use of words, and all words are the products of myth.

I really think this gets at the heart of the debate. That is, if we restrict the debate to this issue: do we employ the Santa North Pole jolly elf story as if we believed there is a jolly elf at the North Pole and want our children to believe it also, or do we employ the story as if it is a fun, enjoyable, and worthwhile story that encapsulates some meaty truths of humanity and the world?

See, neither side of the debate denies that there are worthwhile truths embedded in the jolly elf story. The question is about presentation.

When Tolkien wrote his Father Christmas stories, (judging from every single thing he otherwise wrote, since I have not read those particular stories), nobody could have believed that the stories were non-fiction. Including young children.

So, let me present the question another way: when we present a myth to our kids, say the Paul Bunyan myth, do we present it as if we ourselves believe it as a matter of fact, or do we present it as "story", i.e. tale-telling for which the point is not whether you are conveying history, but something outside of history. If you present in a manner that says that this is in a category different from historical truth, then the kids know right from the get go that the point of the story is not factual data, and they will seek the "real" point of the story behind the events narrated. But they will not do this if the story is presented as history (at least not readily, and probably not effectively until they already see that the story cannot be literal history.

Lydia's point is not taking issue with using the Santa story as myth presented as myth, it is in using the Santa story presented as history. Maybe those of you who are defending Santa never had it presented to you that way, and don't do that yourself. Good, then that's not what she was aiming at. But please don't twist around and pretend that there aren't parents out there, and LOTS of them, who DO use the story as history.

There is a fundamental divide (and my poor memory says this point is exactly Tolkien's claim about myth) between the myths that pre-date Christianity, and those that come after. For those that came before, the wise men who made those myths knew that there must be more to the world than they could see and touch, but could not discern it clearly, especially whether or how it could ever be sanctified. There was mystery that needed expressing, but they could only take defective attempts at it. Given that need and the limited truth they had, the division between history and fiction kind of broke down in myths. It was ambiguous.

In the Christian era, we can never NOT know distinctly by whom and how the world is sanctified, so the mystery is all directed to or flowing out of the side of Christ. Any mythtery leftover, that is unconnected to the Truth Himself, is just mythdirection and confusion.

Which is not to say that all modern myths must be merely allegories of Christ. Not so, and Tolkien emphatically stated this over and over. You can have a modern myth that is not overtly about Christ and real salvation history - what you cannot have is such a modern myth that is presented in any form other than "non history", without it being inherently defective precisely on account of its presentation.

To the extent that myth is generic to man's way of expressing himself, there is nothing wrong with myth. To the extent that this cultural mode of expression comes after Christ, it can no longer remain ambiguous about the division between history and fiction. To remain ambiguous is fitting only with an implicit rejection of the literal and historical Christ.

It really does seem to me that there is a Protestant vs. Catholic (and by extension Orthodox -- we've got St. Nicholas too) divide here, although it's rather subtle. The only objection that's been raised by a Catholic is that Santa Claus shouldn't be accepted by Catholics because it's a Protestant myth.

I wonder how much this has to do with the fact that the Catholic/Orthodox world view places a higher value on the role of the image in its theology than does the Protestant view. To be blunt, it seems to me that if you don't understand the value of the image for theology/worship, you're not going to get Santa Claus either. As I said yesterday, neither thing is of a type that can be reduced or exhaustively explained or "exegeted" by means of verbal ratiocination. In a certain very real sense, you either get it or you don't.

Again, though I don't have time to do the research on this, I have been told that the rejection of *teaching your kids that Santa is real* (I want to keep emphasizing that) has been a trope in the Catholic blogosphere too, of late years, though perhaps on what might be called the "hyper-conservative Catholic" side of things.

**perhaps on what might be called the "hyper-conservative Catholic" side of things.**

I don't know enough about it to comment either, but I wonder how much of it, if any, has to do with anti-Protestant and/or anti-commercial sentiment? As Cardigan pointed out above, many Catholic 'Old World' countries also have a Santa-type figure who's related to Christmas.

Rob, that isn't really very sound. I for one am Catholic, and I am squarely in Lydia's camp on this, as is my Catholic wife, and some of our friends. And we are NOT "hyper-conservative"- we don't insist on the old Mass, we don't think the Pope is on the fringe of heresy, etc. We are just thoughtful.

if you don't understand the value of the image for theology/worship, you're not going to get Santa Claus either.

I don't think this is really the problem. I am perfectly happy delving into Catholic visual art, and musical artistry, both in the venue of liturgy and elsewhere. I have Catholic friends who are much more heavily into Catholic image art than I am - including iconography (which I admit that I don't get all that well) - and are really strongly imbued with the value of imagery for worthy purposes, but who agree that there is something inappropriate about teaching your kids that jolly elf Santa lives at the North Pole as if it were historical fact.

Did you even read my post above? It's NOT that we don't get myth, and don't cotton to it. It's that we think myth has a perfectly appropriate place, and that place is not trying to con your kids into believing that a red-garbed elf flies around on Christmas eve AS IF that were literal truth.

When we convey true things by myth (e.g. the texture of moral reality) we DON'T invest the outer shell of the conveyance, the story framework, with a worked-up sense of literal reality. We let that outer shell be presented without investing it with with any of the indicators that say "this is literally real" in the story, because that is not where our investment lies. The shell doesn't need such indicators, and indeed they would simply get in the way of the story. The weight of the story lies below that surface level.

If that were the way the Santa story was universally presented, so that kids walked away delighted with jolly Santa as a story then Lydia would not have brought this up. When you get kids 7 years old who have for 4 years thought quite literally that Santa the elf is a real person who actually comes down the chimney, you have gone way, way beyond myth as myth - it has stepped over into something else.

When you get kids 7 years old who have for 4 years thought quite literally that Santa the elf is a real person who actually comes down the chimney, you have gone way, way beyond myth as myth - it has stepped over into something else.

As always the burden of proof is on the so-called reformers to move beyond the insinuations and tell us what harm is being done teaching by our children about Santa Claus.

We've been told it is emotionally damaging and sinful to tell the Santa Claus lie to our children and that as a figure he is an instrument of secular forces. No proof beyond this silly and shallow syllogism has been offered;
Our consumerist culture lost the Christ-child at the Mall.
There was a Santa at the Mall.
He kidnapped Him!

Maybe it all comes down to first person experience. I believed in Santa Claus. Taught my kids about Santa Claus and no loss of faith or psychological turbulence resulted with any of us. My grandkids will be taught about Santa Claus.

I know of no Catholics (and I have friends in SSPX) that would deconstruct Santa Claus, though concede there must be some. All I can say is, the more under siege you feel from society as a whole, the more indiscriminately you will reject its arrangements and customs.

As a suggestion, if you really want to remove Santa from the public square, could you please employ a little humor in your presentations. The thread has an unbearably joyless tone to it. Curmudgeon Alert, indeed.

Maybe it all comes down to first person experience.

You mean this might be an area where no principles apply? How odd!

I believed in Santa Claus. Taught my kids about Santa Claus and no loss of faith or psychological turbulence resulted with any of us.

When you taught your kids about Santa, did they believe that the story was literally true? When you tell them about Paul Bunyan, do you tell them in such a way that they believe that story is literally true? And if yes to the first, what happened to them when they found out that it wasn't true? Was there any emotional pain?

We've been told it is emotionally damaging and sinful to tell the Santa Claus lie to our children and that as a figure he is an instrument of secular forces. No proof beyond this silly and shallow syllogism has been offered;
Our consumerist culture lost the Christ-child at the Mall.
There was a Santa at the Mall.
He kidnapped Him!

Did you mean to say that the issue of telling a lie has no weight in the argument?

Well, Kevin says he "believed in" Santa, so I assume that means he really believed he is a real, presently physically active person. But I am by this time heartily sick of the phrase "teaching our children about Santa Claus." Couldn't we have a moratorium on it? A phrase like "telling about" is just ambiguous, and we conservatives don't like it when the liberals use it as a weasel phrase in other contexts. Let's be more precise.

I have Catholic friends who are much more heavily into Catholic image art than I am - including iconography (which I admit that I don't get all that well)...

The neatest thing in iconography is the use of reverse perspective. Although it was not intentional, since linear perspective hadn't been discovered yet, it causes an eerie sensation in the viewer where he is being watched by the image.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reverse_perspective

As a suggestion, if you really want to remove Santa from the public square, could you please employ a little humor in your presentations.

Santa has also run over grandma and was caught kissing mommy. Does there really need to be any more said about this reckless hobo?

I don't want to remove him from the public square. As for humor, I like the pun somebody put in another thread. "Santa Sleigher" :-)

When you taught your kids about Santa, did they believe that the story was literally true?

Of course, that's the source of all the fun!

Besides, I think Mircea Eliade's writings can't be appreciated until high school. The sheer buzz kill of telling children Santa is an allegory for their moral instruction makes it far less likely they'll ever get the point.

I'll note another phenomenon; secular parents rarely have the energy to perpetuate the Santa Claus myth because they don't fully embrace childhood innocence and lack the energy to stay up late on Christmas Eve assembling toys while imbibing egg nog and rum. Flat-landers that they are, to them the whole Feast is good only for receiving year-end bonuses at work.

Santa has also run over grandma and was caught kissing mommy.

The evidence concerning grandma was mostly circumstancial and hearsay; those sleigh tracks could have come from anywhere. And as for mommy, well it was late, and I did get a pretty good crop of toys that year, so I'm not sure exactly what I saw.

Does there really need to be any more said about this reckless hobo?

Far from being a hobo, I have it on good authority that Santa inhabits very comfortable lodgings. He also maintains a comfortable barrack which houses 642 elves whose previous employment was mostly limited to persian carpet making on account of their small hands.

Our humor need not be libelous 2step.

And I for one still can't help but look behind furniture and out of way places on Christmas Day. I'm sure I will find something one day--when I'm good enough.

But as Calvin says, "How does he pay for it all?" Hobbes: "Deficit spending?" Calvin: "Yeah, but one of these years it's gonna catch up with him, and then what'll I do?"

The sheer buzz kill of telling children Santa is an allegory for their moral instruction makes it far less likely they'll ever get the point.

Nobody is suggesting that you actually start your story of Santa with a "Lydian's Warning: this story is not factually accurate in every detail." That's ridiculous. Do you really mean to say that you don't have any paradigm for how to present a story in between "literally true as spoken" and "you are hereby warned that this story is fiction." Don't you see any path that allows for a child's wonder without making him think the story is literally true? That's sad, very sad.

Neither does Tolkien says in LOTR, nor did I ever say to my kids, that Middle Earth is fiction. But my kids (and I) certainly love the books while knowing perfectly well that his myth is fiction on the surface level. The fact that even a half-imaginative kid will spend time trying to figure out some way to work Tolkien's "Middle" into our Earth's structure so that it could be sort of true merely shows that it is a very successful myth, not that they really believe in a literal sense.

TONY: When you taught your kids about Santa, did they believe that the story was literally true?

Of course, that's the source of all the fun!

And that's the departure from myth. With a myth you don't bother with that. You don't invest effort into making the kid believe it is literally true, since that's not the point of the story. So if what you are engaging in is not myth, how does making him believe true that which is not true differ from lying?

The claim that Grandma that got run over by reindeer is actually a myth. The real truth is that she actually slid underneath them to grab what she thought was a box of Lucky Strikes falling from Santa's bag. She just got a little over-zealous - but it was phenomenal reaction speed to seeing her favorite smokes about to be trampled.

If you had been carefully watching, you would have seen that although Santa kissed Mommy, Mommy did not kiss back! There is a warrant out for the arrest of this guy on sexual assault issues.

The height-challenged individuals (please, no perjorative terms) at the North Pole shops are actually employee-owners of the factory. What I can't figure out is whether they have been importing goods from China themselves in recent years, or if they are outsourcing.

The claim that Grandma that got run over by reindeer is actually a myth. The real truth is that she actually slid underneath them to grab what she thought was a box of Lucky Strikes falling from Santa's bag. She just got a little over-zealous - but it was phenomenal reaction speed to seeing her favorite smokes about to be trampled.

Does Grandma also play outfield for the Yankees?

What I can't figure out is whether they have been importing goods from China themselves in recent years, or if they are outsourcing.

Indeed, this has been a concern of mine as well. There are some in the neighborhood that have worked Santa into their zealous campaign against Wal-mart, but I am still waiting on further proof of this to be justified in following suit.

Don't you see any path that allows for a child's wonder without making him think the story is literally true? That's sad, very sad.

I know Tony, the weight of Santa is crushing all of us. He's robbed us of our faith in Christ and turned us into disbelieving cynics unable to trust our own eyes and the dilated pupils of our children on Christmas morning. It is all so very grim.

Does Grandma also play outfield for the Yankees?

Well, Grandma and Joe DiMaggio had a thing going back in the day. I think that's the closest she ever came to the Yankee outfield.

Well, Grandma and Joe DiMaggio had a thing going back in the day.

When men stop believing in Santa Claus they don't believe in nothing; they believe in anything. Or in this case, that Marilyn Monroe was their grandmother.

the dilated pupils of our children

I think you may have more serious problems than that the kids believe Santa is real. Have they been having severe cravings at odd hours as well?

"And that's the departure from myth. With a myth you don't bother with that. You don't invest effort into making the kid believe it is literally true, since that's not the point of the story. So if what you are engaging in is not myth, how does making him believe true that which is not true differ from lying?"

Because you don't have to "make" the child believe that it's true; you simply talk and act as if it is, and the child believes it in his childlike way. By the time he's old enough to be told there isn't really a Santa Claus, he's likely to have already started experiencing doubts anyways, so the potential of being emotionally damaged or hurt is minimal. In my experience the "pain" is shortlived, and is far outweighed by the glad realization of what the whole thing is supposed to mean.

Plus, you have the added experience of being able to look back joyfully at this aspect your childhood and co-experiencing it with the younger members of your family. I admit that I still, after 40-some years, have a remnant of that old sense of joy when I watch "Rudolph" with my young nephews, and at the end Santa flies off into the distance by moonlight crying "Merry Christmas!" I had the same experience with my daughter when she was little, and I wouldn't trade it for anything!


Kevin: "Maybe it all comes down to first person experience."

Tony: "You mean this might be an area where no principles apply? How odd!"

False dichotomy. The person with the experience is likely to have different principles on such an issue than the person without it; or if the principles are the same, the application will be different.

Because you don't have to "make" the child believe that it's true; you simply talk and act as if it is, and the child believes it in his childlike way. By the time he's old enough to be told there isn't really a Santa Claus, he's likely to have already started experiencing doubts anyways, so the potential of being emotionally damaged or hurt is minimal.

Can we focus just on that, perhaps? The question seems to revolve around what positive steps we do, or don't do, to bolster the notion that this story is literally true. I have several kids, and lots of experience telling them fairy tales, tall tales, legends, etc, as well as true but amazing or even shockingly bizarre factual stories. I don't start the fairy tales by saying "now, this is a fairy tale, you don't have to believe that these things happened." The sum of all the little odd particulars that go into its presentation tell them that quite clearly without anyone stating it explicitly. When I tell them one of those bizarre but true stories, that presentation does not include any of those mythical forms or legendary signals, so it is usually clear that the story is thought to be factual (at least in my mind). But once in a while a true story is so odd that even without the subtle details of presentation that usually say "this may not be factual" being present, they are in doubt so they ask and I have to say "yes, this really happened."

So what I am hearing from the pro-Santa voices is that they tell the Santa story without the myth-signals, the legend-badges, the tall-tale signposts, the fairly-tale marks. So naturally the kid believes that it is simply literally true. All the markers that he has been trained to see that distinguish a story that is not literally true are missing.

Now, I ask you, if you want to tell the Cinderella story, wouldn't you have to actually go through a lot of work to carve out of it all the tell-tales that scream "fairy tale" throughout the story? Starting with "Once upon a time"? And wouldn't you have to change the voice you use, away from the exciting-but-invented scene setting tone to the ordinary-just-reporting-it-like-I-saw-it tone? (Kind of like a movie director using the Jaws music to lead into a shopping scene at the grocery store with no danger at all.) Now, is it really quite an accurate description to say "you don't have to "make" the child believe it" when you go through those changes? Isn't it more realistic to describe this process as removing all of the usual evidence of fiction from his line of sight?

Maybe this is OK and maybe it is not. But I really don't feel that it can be justified on the grounds of "myth" when with all the other myths we tell our kids we leave all the myth-markers in the stories.

And then there's the sneaking around on Christmas night, for which Kevin tells us we just lack energy. Obviously, the tags on the presents don't say, "To: Joey From: Mommy and Daddy" And if the kid says, "Let's leave out some cookies for Santa" and you say, "Okay, let's do that," there's a signal in itself. And telling the siblings, "Keep the secret. Don't tell Joey that we get the presents." And refraining from saying, "No, honey, I'm afraid we can't afford that," when Joey asks for something too expensive. And sending the letter *in the mail* that Joey writes to Santa. I mean, everything that goes into it goes a long way beyond just saying, "Now, let me tell you a story. At the North Pole lives..."

So what I am hearing from the pro-Santa voices is that they tell the Santa story without the myth-signals, the legend-badges, the tall-tale signposts, the fairly-tale marks.

You got that right! Santa Claus isn't a myth consigned to the Classics Department, or restricted to the good bedtime story book-shelf. This is an interactive affair we get to participate in and build family traditions around.

I'm with Rob G, people who haven't experienced it in their own childhood and recreated (The Eternal Return?) it for their children or other kids in their community are missing out on a wonderful time.

There is one assumption fueling the pique of the Prohibitionists that is correct. They are right to assume a parent who cannot transmit the faith or instill an attitude of gratitude within their kids all year round, shouldn't expect a reprise of Miracle On 34th Street come Christmas. Santa Claus functions best in the Christian climate and soil from which he sprung. Nursery school nihilists and graceless grumps in training will likely miss the whole point and look back in anger that any of their family's energy was invested in a fiction so uncool as to be bereft of technological sophistication; "animals and a wooden sled-gross", and indifferent to the cash nexus - "the fat fool did it all for free".

However, trying to tack Santa Claus onto a fatuous revision of Max Weber's work or degrading him with Nanny State Warning Labels; Dangerous to Faith and Family Life just because many in our idiotized culture won't get it is especially absurd. It is the kind of Victim Quest best left to the feminist with the five o'clock shadow sitting on your local school board, or project that gives the forlorn nerd with a passion for the Roundheads something to do in between Guy Fawkes celebrations.

At the very least, promise you won't keep this thread going until Advent.

What you are hearing, Lydia, is the anguished cry of those who have a cherished fantasy, but who cannot accept that just possibly that fantasy is not rooted in a true value.

No, I don't mean the Santa fantasy - that one is rooted in true values. I have no problem whatsoever with passing on the Santa fantasy to our children, I embrace it with all its truth rooted in Christian soil. I mean the fantasy that you can tell little white lies and the goods one hopes and expects from them outweigh the minimal damage from their being lies in the first place. And that there is nothing morally concerning about this, precisely because they are just little lies, and the enjoyment, the pleasure, the delight, is so great that there is no question that the benefits outweigh the harm. You will notice that the repeated refrain above is not an argument against the principle itself, it is a plea (or demand) to let them have have their fun because, well, its so much fun! It can't be truly bad if it is that much fun.

To use a concept borrowed from another source, if you are personally tone deaf to this evil in this suggestion (I can't dignify it by calling it an argument), then arguing about it won't help you.

"...that just possibly that fantasy is not rooted in a true value."

The only fantasy here is the Pharisaical one underwriting your pose as a moral authority bravely defending the truth against the "Santa Claus lie" and thereby preventing untold amounts of spiritual and emotional damage left unchronicled in your tired "more in sorrow than anger" rhetoric.

By their fruits we know them and the guys in green with the pointy ears and bells on their toes bring more joy than the whited sepulchres lecturing us about the grand, malicious lie of their existence.

Reconvene your Tribunal in December, but try to sprinkle your condemnations with some gravitas, like Church teaching, just to keep us unrepentant sinners interested.

Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2483 Lying is the most direct offense against the truth. To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error. By injuring man's relation to truth and to his neighbor, a lie offends against the fundamental relation of man and of his word to the Lord.

2508 Lying consists in saying what is false with the intention of deceiving one's neighbor.

2485 By its very nature, lying is to be condemned. It is a profanation of speech,

Summa Theologica Q 110 A 2 Secondly, lies may be divided with respect to their nature as sins, and with regard to those things that aggravate or diminish the sin of lying, on the part of the end intended. Now the sin of lying is aggravated, if by lying a person intends to injure another, and this is called a "mischievous" lie, while the sin of lying is diminished if it be directed to some good--either of pleasure and then it is a "jocose" lie, or of usefulness, and then we have the "officious" lie, ......The four kinds that follow lessen the gravity of the sin of lying. For the fifth kind is the jocose lie, which is told "with a desire to please"

Article 3: (Is every lie a sin?)

On the contrary, It is written (Sirach 7:14): "Be not willing to make any manner of lie."

I answer that, An action that is naturally evil in respect of its genus can by no means be good and lawful, since in order for an action to be good it must be right in every respect:

Several times you have made it clear that your express purpose in telling your kids the Santa tale intentionally leaving out all of the myth-markers, is to produce in them a state of thought contrary to what you hold in your own mind. You have repeatedly refused to disavow this description of the actions. By definition, using false words and signs to intentionally produce thinking that is contrary to your own thought is a lie, a lie both materially and formally. I don't see any possible conclusion other than that this is explicitly the exact kind of thing St. Thomas calls a jocose lie.

I really don't care whether some, many, or even all of the kids thus lied to end up bearing extremely little harm from the falsehood. That is not the essence of my concern. Mine thought is that whatever good you think you are or might be doing, it is done by telling a lie.

It is certainly not my job to blast people with condemnations. If my arguments (and they are were entirely arguments about where the right understanding is, not about how BAD your actions (or anyone's actions) are) seem condemnations to you, I believe you were reading more into them than was written. But since you asked for authority, that's what I cited above.

But since you asked for authority, that's what I cited above.

Gee thanks, but I didn't ask you if lying is sinful.

I asked you to cite the authority that maintains it is a profanation of speech when one tells children; Santa is real and he is coming.

I mean, if your accusations are true then the Church is incredibly negligent by not taking a powerful stand against the mendacious and malicious perpetration of the Santa Myth. Why is that? Doesn't she care about the state of our souls?

You might want to put down your "myth-markers" before they scribble up a new Black Legend.

What next Saint do the distinguished and remarkably sophisticated Christians of today propose to kill?

How about Saint Perpetua? Saint Felicity?

How remarkably refreshing to engage in the continued annhilation of Christian tradition, to destroy all such memories of a once living Tradition that had provided nourishment for the faith of the early Christians and had given them sustenance during times of horrendous adversity and utter persecution!

When stories such as that of Perpetua & Felicity were circulated throughout the early Christians, ever inspiring them in their remarkable struggles to fervently take up the Cross of Christ and even go to the extent of even dying for the Faith, what gullible twits were they, what primitive dolts!

Perhaps if they were fashioned after the image and likeness of the uber-Christians of today, like a Dr. Bauman or even a Dr. McGrew, then they would have come to know what true Christianity actually means.

These pathetic souls who credulously believed in such lies as these so-called inspiring stories of such saints and suffer even death after being inspired by such fictions of Christian Faith should not be remembered or admired; rather they should be pitied and their names be annhilated from the Annals of Christian Memory!

Thus, we should remake Christianity into this Ages own Image After the Likeness of even the Atheists!

"Perhaps if they were fashioned after the image and likeness of the uber-Christians of today, like a Dr. Bauman or even a Dr. McGrew, then they would have come to know what true Christianity actually means."

Ari,
I would like to hear you explain what you meant by the sentence above, please. I'm afraid I do not understand.
MB

Dr. Bauman,

My point being is that we take much of our Christian Heritage for granted, especially in our time where the popular fashion is to appear ever the sophisticated modern man, not given to seemingly primitive myths or fictions; ever desiring to demonstrate equally cognizant powers as those of the Atheists -- to the very extent of even adopting their own practices & Creed; surrendering those things that are part & parcel of our Christian History; those very elements that actually make us Christians after the genuine manner of the early Christians of our Past.

We take for granted stories of rather great significance, more concentrated in the awful tales that spring forth from these yet not recognizing the immense truth that underlie them.

Should we also eradicate as well from our collective Christian Patrimony the "Myth" of St. George & The Dragon, too?

Not even considering or even weighing the fact that such "fiction" inspired many English Christians for centuries to remain ever faithful unto Christ even unto their own deaths?

That, my dear brother, is not "Lie" but a corresponding to The Truth; the truth of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in those who served the Lord Greatly & whose examples we should follow and, indeed, inspire us -- not the opposite.

So how do I fit into this discussion as an "uber-Christian"?

Michael, don't bother with Aristocles. He's raving. As usual. I stopped trying to answer him as a rational being quite some time ago. Then suddenly he'll pull himself together and speak rationally in some other discussion. It's hard to predict, so I don't try anymore.

Dr. Bauman,

The fact of the matter being is that we shouldn't pay any attention to the superficially ridiculous "Santa Claus", but rather to the underlying truth under such a tale: St. Nick.

The story of St. Nick undoubtedly is not one that should ever take the place of Christ, the God/Man Himself; however, just as undoubtedly, the person of the historical St. Nick points to Him and that indwelling of the Holy Spirit which caused him to rise even above his own frail humanity into an exemplary servant of Christ.

These should serve as inspiring tales for us Christians; not as some abominable lies that must be eliminated herewith just to, amongst other things, satisfy the agenda put forward, of all people, the atheists.

I would rather be subjected to cruel mockery due to my being taken in and inspired by such seemingly risible tales of the Great Saints of Christianity's remarkable Past (the very same which in fact served to inspire our fellow Christian brothers & sisters to the point of even taking up the Cause of Martyrdom for His Greater Glory) rather than yield even an inch (sacrificing precious elements of our ancient Christian Heritage enshrined in popular tales as those concerning St. George & The Dragon and even a St. Nick) to the atheists who would consider me a pitiably primitive plebeian for doing thus.

The fact of the matter being is that we shouldn't pay any attention to the superficially ridiculous "Santa Claus", but rather to the underlying truth under such a tale: St. Nick.

I agree wholeheartedly. The reason Santa Claus means anything really worthwhile finds its root, finally, in Saint Nicholas.

Kevin: Gee thanks, but I didn't ask you if lying is sinful.

I asked you to cite the authority that maintains it is a profanation of speech when one tells children; Santa is real and he is coming.

You don't need to hear the Church identify each specific sin the modern world embraces in order to understand that the Church condemns that sin. You just have to see what she says about the principles of the matter. To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error. You have said that you intend for your child to believe that the jolly elf Santa is coming with presents. You want him to believe a falsehood. To that end, you use false statements. Thus there are both the matter and the form of a lie. In what way is the action different from lying?

You don't need to hear the Church identify each specific sin the modern world embraces in order to understand that the Church condemns that sin.

Translation; The sole authority your argument rests on is you.

What you claimed was a lie that scarred many a child was simply the overwrought opinion of Pope Tony, pontificating from his own personal prelature. Wow, you couldn't even find a defrocked schismatic to quote.

By the way, its against the Law to heal the sick on the Sabbath, isn't it?

I agree wholeheartedly. The reason Santa Claus means anything really worthwhile finds its root, finally, in Saint Nicholas.

I'm sure with the complete eradication of "Santa Claus", opportunities to dwell on the story of "St. Nick" will remain plentiful.

By the way, with your rather rigorist notion of what constitutes a lie; you might as well condemn the Fioretti as nothing more than a book of lies (which, as I did mention earlier, an eminent Baptist writer himself considers a notable work to where he himself have utilized as a central theme in quite many of his own sermons) and, even more importantly, should you happen to adopt the scholarly opinion of certain biblical scholars; the infancy narratives themselves are nothing more but vicious lies perpetrated by the early christians in order to get people to believe in a falsehood.

Kevin may make a mockery of such things by his constant use of Irony; I don't.

you might as well condemn the Fioretti as nothing more than a book of lies

Sorry, I have never heard of Fioretti, so I can't comment. Is it one of the classics?

should you happen to adopt the scholarly opinion of certain biblical scholars; the infancy narratives themselves are nothing more but vicious lies perpetrated by the early christians in order to get people to believe in a falsehood.

As I dealt with certain so-called scholarly opinions above, I won't re-iterate my comments. But if you feel that their thoughts were worthwhile, then feel free to argue the point as they do. Since I feel that their thoughts are essentially self-contradictory, I don't think their arguments are worth much, certainly not worth refuting yet again.

I don't think my position is rigorist, but if you believe that it is so, you're free to argue the point. So far I have not seen an argument that upsets any of the points I have made, only that the conclusions are unpalatable. That's not an argument that I have made an error, much less a suggestion as to what error I have made.

Kevin: This is a forum for opinion. You have expressed your opinion, and felt free to contradict me. If I have presented my opinion in a manner that is inappropriate, please say how, or where. I have nowhere suggested (as many others have on various WWWtW commboxes) that my opinion MUST be the only true one because I am privileged, or an authority. Quite the reverse, when I state an opinion, I state it with the reasons I hold it, so that those who disagree can take hold of it and beat it to death as best they may - precisely because I don't want people to think that my position is mine solely on account of personal preference, but on account of intelligible reasons. If you feel that you cannot best my position, that is quite a compliment to me (or, to my position rather), and has nothing to do with any untoward debate tactics I have used, because I have used none. If you feel that you can best my position with argument, complaining that I act like "Pope Tony" only undermines your case, and does nothing to actually defeat my position.

What you claimed was a lie that scarred many a child

I have said that I am not really concerned whether it has scarred any child. That is someone else's issue.

Translation; The sole authority your argument rests on is you.

If you think that my application of the principle is in error, point out the error.

According to the above, you say something like "Santa will come..." and you don't qualify that. That's the material of a lie. It does not all by itself constitute a lie, because the material of a lie is insufficient. A sarcastic remark of "Yeah...rigghhht, suuuurre I did!" may be materially false, but does not constitute a lie.

You have stated above that your intention is to get the child to think literally that Santa comes, to think of Santa coming in a way that is opposed to what you hold in your own mind. St. Thomas: For as words are naturally signs of intellectual acts, it is unnatural and undue for anyone to signify by words something that is not in his mind.

That is the form of a lie.

Can you have the matter of a lie, and the form of a lie, but no lie?

I have nowhere suggested (as many others have on various WWWtW commboxes) that my opinion MUST be the only true one

You have lustily criticized a well-ingrained and widely practiced fantasy of the Western imagination by branding it a lie. Over and over, again. You have lacked the humility or common-sense to pause and wonder; "how come this revered tradition and happy custom shared by millions has not been criticized by wiser sources or spiritual leaders that I can truly trust? How could something so widely accepted and patently wrong escape the attention of the Church?

It is you (and some others in the blogosphere)with the novel insight that telling little children Santa Claus is real is in fact a sinful act. That fact alone should have tempered your relentless repetition of; lies, lies and more lies

Kevin,
Lydia made a case and defended it sensibly. The fact that others have not made it might mean they are neglecting their duty, not that she has over-reached hers. As a parent, she has an obligation to think carefully about what she teaches her children, especially about the things our culture has attached (perhaps foolishly) to some Christian holidays. She is simply trying hard to fulfill that obligation thoughtfully, and to share that thought process publicly. Whether I agree or disagree with her, I applaud the effort.


You have lustily criticized a well-ingrained and widely practiced fantasy of the Western imagination by branding it a lie. Over and over, again.

Well, this is partly accurate. That is because you have characterized your own actions, and those of others, as intentionally saying something you don't believe is literally true in an expression whose form is chosen so as to be an expression of what understood as literally true in order to produce a belief in another that it IS literally true even though you don't hold it to be literally true in your own mind. I believe that this description fits the definition of "lie". If you don't agree, please say why. I recognize that my saying this is unpalatable. That is not the same as error. You have not yet suggested a reason why one should not characterize that set of actions as a lie.

And you are partly inaccurate. I have not lustily criticized either the fantasy, nor the handing down of that fantasy to one's children. What I have criticized is doing so in a particular form, a form that expresses not fantasy but literal truth. To the extent that this fantasy has been widely co-opted for a big, grand lie, by those who don't wish to observe appropriate limits to fantasy, their practice is objectionable. But I don't make the mistake of assuming that everyone who passes the fantasy on to their kids does this. So don't make the mistake of believing that I am therefore against the fantasy itself.

Ari, I have never understood the genesis of certain "legendary" saintly exploits that have proposed as models of thought and behavior, stories that are at this time believed to contain only trivial amounts of actual history. But I do know that the vast bulk of the people who passed on the stories did so believing them to be factually accurate, and so there was no mismatch between what they held their own minds and the belief they were trying to induce in their hearers.

Further, so far as I know, in every instance the stories which were so inspiring were inspiring precisely on account of events that (in addition to being believed to be true) really could have been true miracles, and are miracles consistent with all of the known body of true miracles that we have. So the "point" of the stories was always a point that is backed up by other miracles that are true. Does this difference with the Santa story concern you?

how come this revered tradition and happy custom shared by millions has not been criticized by wiser sources or spiritual leaders that I can truly trust?

Because the custom of celebrating St. Nicholas has been adapted in different ways by each community that does so. So the question you need to answer is why spiritual leaders give support only to the extent it memorializes the stories about Saint Nicholas (however distorted those stories might be) and often do criticize or refuse to acknowledge the version of Santa who lives at the North Pole and has reindeer, elves, and a cozy relationship with corporate sponsors. Because that is the version you actually endorse in the modern myth of Santa.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Nicholas

So the question you need to answer is why spiritual leaders give support only to the extent it memorializes the stories about Saint Nicholas (however distorted those stories might be) and often do criticize or refuse to acknowledge the version of Santa

Really? Show me a quote to this effect;
"We ask the faithful not to teach their young children that Santa Claus is real, but to only instruct them in the established facts surrounding the life of Saint Nicholas. All the other accretions, legends and embellishments are lies and serve as detriments to transmitting the faith to future generations."

Your crack about corporate sponsors is possibly a lower blow than the "Liar, Liar" mantra, but at least it might jar those who prefer to hurl anathemas from their pretend magisteriums than examine the way our consumptive way of life has undermined the faith within this country.

The quest to cite an authority to help make the case that the cherished tradition of Santa Claus is somehow sinful, or in some insidious way, spiritually debilitating isn't coming easy (wonder why), but there are 211 days until Christmas. So, you have plenty of time, no?

"the version of Santa who [A] lives at the North Pole and has [B] reindeer, [C] elves, and [D ]a cozy relationship with corporate sponsors."

Letter D above is in no way inherent in the Santa Claus myth like A, B, and C are, and it is quite the erroneous overstatement to contend so. Despite the contemporary association of Santa and corporate sponsorship of various products/services, it's not a relationship that is in any sense necessary. It is perfectly possible to conceive of Santa without there being any relationship between him and Norelco or Coca Cola. Elves and reindeer, not so much.

Therefore, as several folks, myself included, stated above, it's entirely possible to have one's child believe in Santa without his/her acceptance of the associated commercialistic tendencies.


Kevin,
Many things not yet, or never to be, pronounced evil by the church can still be known to be evil or foolish. Christians are able, and obligated, to figure some things out for themselves apart from authoritative pronouncements. Lydia has done just that on this issue, and admirably well. So did CS Lewis, you'll recall, in his two delightful and insightful essays on the subject of Xmas (not Christmas) in Britain.

I notice that you do not cite an authority that says you must always cite an authority before you make insightful cultural criticism, or before you make sensible and wholesome decisions regarding the raising of your children.

Don't hurry. We can wait til Xmas.

Michael, you will notice that neither Kevin nor RobG have tried to show how it is that teaching of a fantasy as if it were literally true does not meet the criteria of a lie. Nor have they produced magisterial authority to show that. We are getting up near around 211 comments in this box, but don't hold your breath. They are in no hurry to actually deal with the principles at hand or the arguments made. They seem to think that claiming that their debate opponents have not cited authority somehow deals a death blow to their arguments. I suppose, had we cited authority first, they would have said instead that "argument from authority is the worst form of argument, can you support your point from a basis of reason?"

Kevin, can you suggest a reason why you think that citing authority for a position is essential to making a reasonable point here? And, can you then tell me why you have not cited authority for your position?

Rob, I accept your point about commercialization. I have not thought that the commercial aspect itself was a critical component of the jolly elf modern Santa fantasy. Nor do I see taking commercialization out of picture changing the debate in any definitive way: If the Santa fantasy is a lie without commercial interests, it is a lie with them. If it is not a lie when no commercial interests are involved, it at least may be no lie just because commercial interests have accreted to the cause.

Is there some reason it is important to you to refrain from attacking the actual arguments I have posed concerning whether what we have here is a lie?

...how it is that teaching of a fantasy as if it were literally true does not meet the criteria of a lie.

Such a statement as this betray a remarkable ignorance of early christianity.

As if the "pious myths" of those days (as those "fictions" concerning St. Perpetua & Felicity, St. Florian, St. Lawrence of Rome) were simply lies perpetrated by the evil & primitive Christians of yester years and, consequently, weren't exactly amongst the very things largely responsible for preserving, nourishing and galvanizing the Faith of those undergoing overwhelmingly tremendous persecution then; of course, perhaps the more sophisticated Christians of today (who have yet to even suffer such a fate as that which truly tests one's mettle and actual Faith in the Lord) are so much the better.


Nor have they produced magisterial authority to show that.

In other words, it largely boils down to what the scholastics originally considered the weakest form of argument: the argument from authority, as well as the mundane exercise of proof-texting.

Many things not yet, or never to be, pronounced evil by the church can still be known to be evil...

Michael,
I'm sure we'll learn of a whole catalogue of previously uncondemned evils once we lead Santa Claus to the scaffold. I hear sex is bad because it could lead to dancing.

I notice that you do not cite an authority that says you must always cite an authority

The Jacobin tramples tradition, kills off customs and discovers new ills requiring reform and endless evils to be eradicated. Since he can appeal to no authority but his own, he is as scornful of authority as he is the sinful, unelightened folkways of the unredeemed masses.

Just because there wasn't a Chase Utley jersey under your tree last Christmas, doesn't mean waving Santa Claus is Dead posters in front of the local elementary school is justified.

You always suffered an acute tension due to your fondness for both Calvin and Burke. Apparently it has been resolved at the expense of the Irishman. Sad to behold.

"They are in no hurry to actually deal with the principles at hand or the arguments made. They seem to think that claiming that their debate opponents have not cited authority somehow deals a death blow to their arguments."

As I said above at least twice, I don't believe that this is an issue that can be reduced to simple principles and arguments. It's an issue related to both experience and tradition, and since in that sense it lies outside pure rationality, I refuse to debate the matter in a way which grants that it does not. If this doesn't satisify you, so be it; I find myself in the position of a venerator of icons being told by a man who's never kissed a picture of his wife or child that what I'm doing is merely kissing wood and paint. I can give the classic iconodule arguments, but frankly, I don't expect him to 'get it,' as he has no corresponding experience with which to relate.


To put my complaint in a more succinct manner, I do not accept the priority of theory over tradition, and will not argue as if I do.

Kevin,
Do try to give arguments. Mis-characterizations and baseless inventions do not qualify. Chase Utley jerseys, Santa on the scaffold, and Jacobinism have nothing at all to do with the case made against you. Tossing them into the mix simply renders your reply fatuous.

"I don't believe that this is an issue that can be reduced to simple principles and arguments. It's an issue related to both experience and tradition, and since in that sense it lies outside pure rationality, I refuse to debate the matter in a way which grants that it does not. If this doesn't satisify you, so be it; I find myself in the position of a venerator of icons being told by a man who's never kissed a picture of his wife or child that what I'm doing is merely kissing wood and paint. I can give the classic iconodule arguments, but frankly, I don't expect him to 'get it,' as he has no corresponding experience with which to relate."

Rob G,
Santa is not a religious icon. I'm shocked and appalled that you'd combine icons, Santa Claus, and tradition in the same argument, and then pose as if the other guy just doesn't get it.

Michael,
Please, the priggery of the Ba Humbug Brigades knows no end. You go abroad in search of elves to destroy and expect to be taken seriously.

You really need to expand your rhetorical range beyond "shocked and appalled" and grace your grim visage with an occassional smile.

In the End, Irony Itself Laughed Last & the Loudest.

The quest to cite an authority to help make the case that the cherished tradition of Santa Claus is somehow sinful, or in some insidious way, spiritually debilitating isn't coming easy (wonder why), but there are 211 days until Christmas.

From a very old NYT story:
Bishop PA Ludden of the Catholic Diocese of Syracuse in his sermon yesterday severely arraigned the idea of teaching children the existence of Santa Claus...The Bishop said that children should not be taught to believe in a myth, but should be taught the real meaning of the day. "It should be a day of piety," he said, "and instead of the tendency to fill children with the idea of Santa Claus, they should rather be inspired with the love for the Savior and the true religious significance of the day."

You go abroad in search of elves to destroy and expect to be taken seriously.

You promote the story of elves and expect your children to take you seriously. Heaven forbid that you respect them with honesty.

I can give the classic iconodule arguments, but frankly, I don't expect him to 'get it,' as he has no corresponding experience with which to relate.

Rob, we are all human beings, we here on this blog pretty much have all been raised in a culture that tells revered stories, we all speak the same language, to a very near approximation. Experiences that are unexamined are often held in a way that is loosely supportive of common notions that turn out to be error, but when we examine experience more closely, we winnow out the sloppy false ambiguity and pull out the true. Take, for example, the universal (before Galileo) "experience" that heavier things fall faster. When Galileo examined that with more attention, he realized that experience could not really support that conclusion. Take two equal balls, side by side. They should fall at the same rate. Now attach a string to them so they become "one", do they all of a sudden fall faster now? Of course not. Unexamined experience is not sufficient to back up a claim of the sort being made.

Assuming hypothetically for the moment, that you may be correct that I or Michael, or Lydia, simply didn't "experience" the Santa story like you did so that we can't feel about it the way others do: If you can't relate your experience through using other experiences that we do share, the only conclusion we can come to is that the Santa experience is somehow utterly unique, utterly alone as its own category of story.

If that were true, then the rumblings above about "myth" and such don't have any application here. If Santa is a unique category, then it's not in the category myth, and the the reasons telling fictitious myths is "OK" does not apply to Santa.

In any case, I did have the Santa experience growing up. I was told of it as if it were true. I believed it. So your working hypothesis that "he has no corresponding experience" is wrong to begin with.

It's an issue related to both experience and tradition, and since in that sense it lies outside pure rationality, Natural human experience and tradition are never wholly removed from reason either, and when we come to question whether experience is morally validated, and whether a certain tradition is wholesome, reason plays an essential role. People in the south had a tradition of enslaving blacks - that tradition needed to be eradicated. People raised in Sodom had "experiences" of immoral behavior that seemed worthwhile. Please note: I am not likening Santa to sodomy nor to slavery. I am drawing a parallel to the form of the argument you are proposing to the form of arguments used to support those evils (and in order to make the point, I have to use as examples things that everyone now understands to be wrongheaded). Oh, I have another: when my father was young, everyone knew as a matter of tradition that being left-handed was defective if not immoral, and had it beaten out of him. Therefore, when (as Lydia did) the discussion is initiated by someone claiming that the cultural satisfaction with a certain tradition needs to be re-examined, defense by reference to its being traditional is singularly lacking in force. When tradition is suspect, deeper exploration of experience and reason must be applied.

That is not to say that the tradition might be worthwhile anyway - just questioning the tradition does not defeat it.

I also am keenly supportive of holy and beneficial customs that have come under fire: when my bishop chose to allow altar girls, I vociferously made some of the exact the points Rob is making: the use of a customary ritual or symbol in liturgy bears a multitude of different "meanings" on various levels, and removal of a good and noble custom does away with goods that we cannot always state easily in explicit terms. But in that case, the pope had already called the custom of having an all-male servers cadre a worthy and noble custom.

That is why I was willing to engage discussion that delves into the experience and holds it up for examination. All of the discussion of myth does that. We all seem to agree that telling myths is not degenerate. Yet when we hold up examples that are nowadays in our culture (the one that supposedly justifies Santa) everywhere supported, they all seem to be examples where every listener knows from the first that it's a story . So experience as examined has difficulty supporting the conclusion.

Nor am I denigrating the Santa-St. Nick stories of themselves, as I have repeatedly stated. I can, and have, passed on to my children the stories of Santa. Just as I have passed on stories of Paul Bunyan (though that has much less texture to it). And just as I have delved into Middle Earth and Narnia with my kids (and these have much richer texture to them than Santa). Rob, are you declaring that the wholesome kind of experience you enjoy with Santa is different in kind from the enjoyment of Narnia? (The books, not the movies.) Also, are you saying that the enjoyment you get from it now is enjoying the story with your kids, i.e. alongside their enjoyment - enjoying the very same aspects of the story that they are enjoying? Because I experience that with Narnia, but it seems to me that this enjoyment means looking at the stories through the same eyes, the same perspective. And I find it difficult to see that one does this with Santa while one is also intentionally withholding and re-arranging facets of the story-telling to make sure they don't catch on to the fiction. How can you being experiencing the story the same way they are?

I did have the Santa experience growing up. I was told of it as if it were true. I believed it.

Do you feel your parents lied or dishonestly manipulated you? Did you suffer from it? I am not being flippant. What accounts for your Inspector Javert-style prosecution?

A North American record for the number of times the words; lies, lying or falsehood appear on a blog was shattered in this thread, easily exceeding the record previously held by a site devoted to the Iraq War.

Those of us graced with childhoods where the Santa Myth was lived out, innocence was protected and the encounter with Christ came through the mostly unspoken Witness of our parents are going to be predisposed and obligated to recreate the same milieu for our own children. When we see then see the fruits of our own imperfect efforts blossom forth in young adults, we are going to be especially immune to both the tone and content of the torturous argument laid out here in this indictment without end.

Barring any new witnesses or compelling evidence the case should be dismissed and the defendant allowed to return to his rightful place in the healthy imaginations of young and old alike.

"I'm shocked and appalled that you'd combine icons, Santa Claus, and tradition in the same argument, and then pose as if the other guy just doesn't get it."

Michael, the comparison was meant as an analogy, not a sort of one-to-one correspondence. And I do recognize the difference between big 'T' and small 't' tradition. As far as the 'not getting it' goes, all I'm trying to say is that the person who's had an experience will almost always have a different take on a thing than a person who's hadn't had the experience. Having said that, however, will you not admit that there are things that someone just can't "get" unless they've experienced them first hand?

Tony, I'll respond to your post a little later. You raise some good points worth addressing at greater length.

Rob,
Thanks for the clarification, which I appreciate.

Yes, some folks just don't get it. That's true. But I think we can tell from Tony's response that he's not one of them.

Best,
MB

Do you feel your parents lied or dishonestly manipulated you? Did you suffer from it? I am not being flippant. What accounts for your Inspector Javert-style prosecution?

I said earlier that I was upset when I found out that Santa was not real, but in a fairly minor way. I did not feel that my parents were evil or manipulative at the time. As do most kids, I had seen some signs that all was not true with the story before the reality set it, so it was no great shock. If memory serves, I did feel that there was a certain lack of justice when I asked direct questions and was put off with statements that were devoid of accuracy, but not like it was any great deal. Kids get used to a lot of that kind of stuff.

There, that's my experience. How about yours? What happened when were a kid? Were you upset when you found out? Did you feel manipulated? Did you suffer? If you did suffer, how and why did you set it aside to embrace not only the myth but the continuing deception? Did you enjoy finding out that people had been deceiving you on purpose?

I am not prosecuting anyone here, I am following a point of moral principle. If you can't tell the difference, you must be awfully defensive a great deal of the time. In no place have I suggested that a particular person is stupid, evil, or damnable. I have intentionally been trying to call attention to the character of actions and only actions, not persons, because I do not believe that I (or any of us humans) can judge a person. If it is wrong to try to evaluate the character of actions, then moral philosophy and moral theology are evil studies.

A North American record for the number of times the words; lies, lying or falsehood appear on a blog was shattered in this thread, easily exceeding the record previously held by a site devoted to the Iraq War.

Now you are being flippant, and trying to ridicule my conclusion instead of engaging my argument. [Just for your fun and enjoyment, do a search on "lying" here, and you will find that I have used it (of my own words) exactly twice. Better yet the word "falsehood" shows up precisely ZERO times until you used it. But that's OK, keep throwing loose accusations around.]

Those of us graced with childhoods where the Santa Myth was lived out...are going to be predisposed and obligated to recreate the same milieu for our own children...we see then see the fruits of our own imperfect efforts blossom forth in young adults, we are going to be especially immune to both the tone and content of the torturous argument laid out here in this indictment without end.

Kevin, I have kept my "tone" peaceful and carefully polite. I have kept my argument strictly within points that can be supported with reasons. I have not been accusatory trying to cast about with a broad brush of guilt, because I have unfailingly distinguished between the act of a lie and any person who might have engaged in the act. If you will look above, you will see that I have nowhere

called any person a liar. If you persist in denigrating my tone while you use flippancy, innuendo, and ridicule instead of serious forms of discussion, then you merely prove that there is no reason to take you seriously.

here in this indictment without end. Kevin, that's really funny. You can get an immediate end to my responses to your thoughts simply by not posting your thoughts anymore. If you continue to comment on my position, how is your posting any less an unending indictment of my supposedly wrongheaded thinking than mine is of yours? Is there some kind of double standard that gives your comments a position of privilege over mine, merely because they are yours?

If you did suffer, how and why did you set it aside to embrace not only the myth but the continuing deception? Did you enjoy finding out that people had been deceiving you on purpose?

I am very grateful that my parents selflessly filled my early years with enchantment and wonder. Gratitude, great memories and lessons learned are the reasons for my having replicated the experience for my own children.

Your reaction to a similar adaptation of the custom was was different so your position will be too. All very understandable, but not enough to; quote from the Catechism to show the sin involved, elevate this to a serious matter of "moral philosophy and moral theology", claim the criteria of a lie are present, so too the "form and matter of a lie", express pity for those who participate in a continuing deception
and hint at damage done to innocent children.

It is impossible for such a discourse to come off as anything but overly scrupulous and Pharisaical.

I will leave with this; Christian parents who enliven their home with the literal teaching of the Santa Myth are not engaged in a sin. They do not need to be forgiven.

It is impossible for such a discourse to come off as anything but overly scrupulous and Pharisaical.

That's true. Unless, of course, one pays attention to the argument itself rather than simply the conclusion.

Your reaction to a similar adaptation of the custom was was different so your position will be too.

If my argument was based on my experience, or even on kids' experience in general in which we weighed and averaged the net pleasure versus the net pain, then this might be the start of a worthwhile argument. But that's not what my argument is based on. All the time I was growing up, I assumed (as did most of my peers) that the intentionally deceptive story of Santa is "the way it's done" and didn't really doubt it's appropriateness. I had every expectation that I would do the same as an adult. I only started to doubt it when I studied theology and learned how to consider why something is morally good or not. As a result, my argument does not draw on my experience (which nobody else can take part in), it draws on reasons that others can engage (if they were to but make the effort).


I am very grateful that my parents selflessly filled my early years with enchantment and wonder. Gratitude, great memories and lessons learned

Yes, you are now. But what I asked (in parallel to what you asked me) was whether at the time you suffered, whether you felt manipulated, whether you enjoyed finding out people had intentionally deceived you.

Even if it were to be true that you did not have any pain, and that you had nothing but enjoyment from the experience through and through, the fact is that we all know of kids who were hurt by the experience, (some just temporarily, others more lastingly) and literature is full of descriptions of such situations. It is, in fact, quite common, if not the usual result. Unless you can explain why one kid comes out enjoying the experience even taking into account his finding out that his literal belief is all smoke, and other kids come out upset and hurt, then even the supposed justification (if justification there is) that you are giving your kid an enjoyable experience is really just guess-work and hope, rather than a reasoned expectation.

I leave you with this: your position amounts to saying that I like it, and I believed (without careful consideration) that my kids would like it, and won't consider that maybe I what I like is defective in any respect, because most people agree with me.

I leave you with this: your position amounts to saying that I like it, and I believed (without careful consideration) that my kids would like it, and won't consider that maybe I what I like is defective in any respect, because most people agree with me.

Tony, a more accurate summary would be this;
I have benefited from a long-standing folk tradition both as a child and a parent and have seen its fruits first hand amongst a broad swath of the culture. Lived, concrete experience producing human happiness develops an authority all its own that the mere appeal to abstract principle cannot overcome.

Wisdom often conflicts with the intellectual workings of the rationalist and the judgments of the moralist.

have seen its fruits first hand amongst a broad swath of the culture

as long as one ignores the other broad swathes people who suffered from it.

So much was said of slavery in its day. Obviously, slavery benefited broad swathes of whites. As for the slaves, many (white) people claimed that the slaves benefited by being enslaved to Christian masters and thus came to know Christ, as well as becoming civilized in other ways, and having their baser natures restrained. Culture may have some authority, but culture unexamined does not have very much authority.

Is there any reason to believe that the truly noble, long-term benefits of the Santa tradition come specifically from the aspect of believing it as if true, (and therefore only accrue to that subset of the population which teaches Santa as if true) as opposed to coming from the myth as story, and therefore not depending believing it as literal real? I can't think of any, but maybe you can. I think that all of the noble good in it comes from the myth as myth, not myth as history.

I suspect that your Lived, concrete experience producing human happiness , having been unexamined, lacks a capacity to support your thesis. For, if all of the worthy good in the experience is from the myth as story, then the "producing human happiness" has nothing to do with the deception.

Here is a test for the claim. If the experience produces happiness, then after the kid finds out the truth, the parents (and others who helped maintain the false front) should be able, ready, and willing to talk about the episode of false belief with the kid, re-enjoying it together, laughing together about: " this time we fooled you with X statement,

that time you almost found out through an accident, the other time we let a big mistake slip through but you failed to notice." Now, there were lots of kids in my family and in my neighborhood, and I am not aware of a single kid having such a discussion. Why not? If the experience of the false belief is such a positive one, then it should be susceptible to this kind of re-living with enjoyment.

In any case, you don't mention anything about the people for whom it was NOT a positive experience, and how you can be confident your kid will enjoy it instead of regret it, when you have never bothered to examine the custom and figure out what makes it work with happiness some of the time and not other times.

...as long as one ignores the other broad swathes people who suffered from it.

So much was said of slavery in its day.


Now, I've practically seen everything.

Somebody actually attempted to draw a parallel between the seasonal tyrannical fat man (perhaps its due to his rather draconian measures that demand elves seasonally do his dirty work for him and perform up to an seemingly impossible quota) and, of all things, Arthur William Hodge!

Are we to anticipate soon an observance of Goodwin's Law and find Santa ultimately compared to Herr Hitler himself?

Can we simply (finally) decapitate this 'Xmas' Fictitious Fatso as opposed to dragging him repeatedly all over again to Tyburn?

Enough already.

In any case, you don't mention anything about the people for whom it was NOT a positive experience, and how you can be confident your kid will enjoy it instead of regret it, when you have never bothered to examine the custom and figure out what makes it work with happiness some of the time and not other times.

1) My kids experienced it. Loved it and will pass it on to theirs. The fleeting magic of Santa Claus can operate only in the right context; surrounded by the mysticism and adventure that comes with a life in Christ.

2) I have not learned of any suffering caused by the custom, nor met any victims. If this thread continues though, I will consider myself one.

3) You may be a reformer in search of a social ill to cure. In an age that provides for Gay Non-Smoking Sections in sports venues and stadiums, you may in due time, inspire a movement and acquire a following. Here's hoping you decline the opportunity.

4)Have a good week-end and avail youself of another custom; the cold beer on the front porch.

Are we to anticipate soon an observance of Goodwin's Law and find Santa ultimately compared to Herr Hitler himself?

It's Godwin's Law, Goodwin wrote the book about a team of rivals.


Step2: Thanks -- it was that Slavery thang that gave rise to that Freudian slip, as it caused me to reflect on the Political Genius of ole Honest Abe himself. God bless'em. More Abe, Less Santa.

1) My kids experienced it. Loved it and will pass it on to theirs. The fleeting magic of Santa Claus can operate only in the right context;

I.E. not examining anything.

2) I have not learned of any suffering caused by the custom, nor met any victims.

A number of early commentators on this thread mentioned them.

If this thread continues though, I will consider myself one.

Every time you post here, you continue the thread. You seem to have a secret desire for suffering.

Ari, I stated above I was using a parallel of the FORM OF ARGUMENT, not drawing a parallel with the evil of slavery. If you won't read the comments, you will make silly remarks. I believe I will avail myself of Lydia's approach.

Lydia, there you have it. Those in favor of the deception do so because they enjoy it, and they "don't see any suffering". No peering behind the facade allowed, it might cause them concern that they don't want. They don't know how to have fun without deceiving people, so when someone suggests that they consider putting a stop to deceiving their own kids, they think that all of the fun in life is being taken away.

This just in:

Evil Santa is finally exposed!

BEWARE The Evil Santa! The Evil Santa Claus is a mythological or folkloric road revenant who subsists by feeding on the blood of the bad children. In folkloric tales, the Evil Santa often visited misbehaving children and caused mischief or deaths in the neighbourhoods. He likes poisoned Motorbikes.

So if you don't believe in him, BEWARE, because the Evil Santa Claus will visit you on Christmas eve...

That belief in God is severely threatened by an obvious falsehood like Santa shouldn't convince you that Santa is the problem, but that God is the problem. Have a nice day folks.

I agree with you Lydia about the replacement theology that is taking place on two levels as you teach them a lie, Santa, and you try to teach them the truth...Jesus. The bigger problem lies in the fact that the first gets more attention and accolade than the second. Leaving Jesus as the lesser of the two for years until the child grows to understand it was all crap, and now what about this "Jsus"that was only slightly emphasized. My brothers faith was greatly affected when he found out Santa wasn't true. He is big on truth, even to this day, and it caused a rift in believing my parents about God/Jesus. He did not come back to his faith until he turned 42! So this can be detrimental teaching.

What really gets my goat, is that there are so many truly "devout" Christians who when you tell them you don't want to lie to your children about Santa, they get into defense mode and start to "justify" all this St. Nick crap that they have probably almost never even mentioned to their children, although Santa has taken center stage. What one Atheist wrote, was that Christians should be careful not to engage in lies upon lies, that these are not white lies to protect your children from "bad" people or not telling them everything about how to have a baby too early. These are ELABORATE lies upon lies upon lies! If people of the world can see this, then why can't a "devout Christian". There is a verse in the Bible that says "there are two things that God hates...a proud look and a lying tongue." So where is the disclaimer ..."ah, except for Santa Claus so you don't ruin a kids fantasy".

I also don't appreciate my Christian pre-school teachers asking my kids, "so what did Santa bring you this year" Did you see Santa yet? It is bad enough parents lie to their own children but to perpetuate that lie to other peoples children bugs me too.

We let our kids "pretend" Santa and all the "fun" Christmas stuff but we do not attribute any "truth" to it. And when it comes to Christ, they know that He is THE Truth and The focus of Christmas! I have a hard time understanding why Christian parents have such a hard time with this. Thanks for your article!

People!!!! Santa is totally real! Why in the world would you be a killjoy by telling your three-year-old there's not a Santa Claus?? Here are reasons why he is:

-When you have a job to do, God gives you the tools to do it. So it is actually possible for Santa to fly around the world delivering toys to Christian girls and boys.
-There are different time zones. If he starts East delivering toys, he can have more than 12 hours to do it.
-Not everyone celebrates Christmas. So it's not like he's delivering to EVERYBODY.
-If he was declared a saint, he can do miraculous things.
-One Christmas I asked for a karaoke machine. My mom and dad said no at least a billion times. Guess what I got that Christmas from Santa? A karaoke machine. My mom and dad almost made me get rid of it.
-It's not my parents handwriting when he leaves the letter.
-My parents couldn't be able to afford all those gifts to put under the tree that are from Santa.
-Guess what? Besides the whole time zone and not-everyone-celebrates-Christmas thing, he has less people to deliver to since he visits only those who still believe. That explains the whole finding out it was the parents thing.

And please no protesting me in a mean way cuz ya'll are adults and I'm only 14. And no laughing at me cuz I'm "too old to believe in Santa Claus."
Merry Christmas!
But seriously guys, Let's try to make this holiday centered around Jesus's birth, people! That's the only reason this holiday exists!

Thank you a bunch! I really enjoyed reading this. It makes me want to create my own blog. I do not know what subject thought? I am a lawyer but can't imagine most people wanting to read about that! Possibly I am wrong. Any ideas?

No offense to anyone but obviously there are a few if not many posting comments that have been subjected to "Santa-clause". Correct me if I am wrong but it seems with age and/or being presented Gods word one would come to there own conclusion and choice to believe or not. I believe if a child is raised with a good christian background the choice would be an easy one with "santa" being a learning childhood experience.

Thank you for this wonderful article. The "Santa" debate is a hot topic with my in-laws and a few of my siblings that don't agree with our own upbringing - being told about the history of St. Nicholas, inspiration for Santa, and taught that it was "our little secret" so as not to spoil it for other children. Christmas & the Advent Season were always centered around Jesus and the manger in my household. I am in my late 20s now and have never regretted not being told about Santa growing up. I deeply respect my mother having always been completely honest with us on all holiday traditions and I treasure the Christmas season so much more for having much deeper meaning to me than the "hallmark version" most Americans now celebrate.

I have shared your article on my Facebook and with my family. Thank you for expressing this in a much more coherent, well written fashion than I may have myself.

Hey, that's great, Alanna. As you see, the comments thread got very long, but now I'm glad I didn't close it, so that I could receive your comment.

"The reason Santa Claus means anything really worthwhile finds its root, finally, in Saint Nicholas."

Santa is more complex than this. Santa is really a composite of many people -- including St. Nicholas, other figures, and even Odin (who flew around on a horse and gave gifts).

I know that Third World Christians and some Western fundamentalists today want to strip all European pagan elements from Christmas -- Santa, yule logs, elves, and all. I can understand, and sympathize with, why churches in Africa or Latin America would want to do this. But for Western fundamentalists to do this, I think, is odd. By removing vestiges of European paganism from Christmas, the remaining holiday will be in no way Western. They're extirpating their own heritage.

Early Popes and early European Christians burned yule logs to show that nothing was wrong with incorporating pagan elements into Christmas. Why the fundamentalism today?

I am honestly astonished that, in this day and age, people really debate whether or not to teach their children about Santa Claus. I am honestly baffled by that, truly flabbergasted. I was raised as a Catholic, my grandparents were devout Catholics who attended Church every Sunday, as well as Easter and Christmas Eve and any other time you could possibly think. They taught my mother about Santa Claus. My mother is forty-nine, and she still relates to me stories of joy and wonder that she had as a child who believed in Santa Clause. I am a twenty year old man, I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was eight years old. I was not at all mad at my parents for "deceiving" me, as so many here have called it, instead I was grateful for the trouble that my parents went through to make magical Christmas memories for my sister and I.

I believe in God. In no way was my faith stunted or tainted by my belief in Santa Claus. I look back on the time that I did believe and I miss it. I miss the magic that looking up at the night sky on Christmas eve to catch a glimpse of Santa brought. I feel blessed that I did have the opportunity to believe. Let your children be children. If anything I would have been much more upset to learn that my parents did not allow me to believe in Santa. Much angrier than I was when I learned he didn't exist. But you know what? Santa does exist. He is a vehicle to teach the joy of giving to others. He exists in my heart still. So please, don't deprive your children. It's innocent fun, it's something that I truly enjoyed, and something that I hope every child can get to experience. I'm shocked that so many people are against Santa Claus. Really? It's ridiculous. I'm sorry, but there isn't any harm in it, there just isn't.

"Santa does exist. He exists in my heart still."

Doesn't it strike you as a bit... odd to be THAT attached to the truly quintessential imaginary friend in the sky?

Honestly, I think it makes children happy and is harmless. I also think you shouldn't tell your children that Santa is real. That's lying. Lying is always wrong, regardless of circumstances.

I'll teach my children about Saint Nicholas-the REAL "Santa" and a wonderful Holiday tradition in his own right. As far as I'm concerned that's just as good-and better because Santa really exists!

Wow, the discussion that this subject brought up was not what i expected! I dont have kids but I just randomly thought about what others might have to say about the subject of teaching Santa to their children. Im glad to have happened upon this article and discussion because it gave me a lot of insight.
I have gathered from the discussion here that most of the debaters are Catholics? I suspect that it impacts their views on Santa/St. Nicholas in general. I was raised Baptist and am now non-denominational so I was not raised with any special beliefs towards saints.
I just felt I would share my view on the matter, though i realize this is a very old article. :) First, Id like to say i agree with you, Lydia, completely. I don't have any particularly fond memories of believing in Santa at all and i always remember going to Christmas plays that featured the story of Jesus and the Nativity. In fact, my one and only memory of wondering about Santa was trying to figure out if he would even be able to visit our house since we didnt have a chimney. I think my only education about Santa was from tv and friends. My mom would occasionally mark a present "from Santa" but all the rest were marked from whoever they were really from. I understood that the ones from Santa were really from my parents, i just did.(and id like to add that she still marks presents "from Santa" even though im 24) I think that what i have gathered from your article, the discussion, and my own experience is that not attaching any particular significance to Santa in the positive OR negative was beneficial for me. My parents never had a heart to heart where they made sure i was not believing the whole Santa thing, but they never pretended it was real either. It was just part of the season, a part of life. It goes the same with the Easter Bunny, Tooth-fairy, whatever. I never believed any of it, but i wasnt told specifically that i could not talk about, participate, or otherwise enjoy the fantasy.(and i understand you were not saying that you wanted to completely remove Santa though others seem to take it that way) I dont feel that my childhood suffered from not having a time when i believed in Santa, in actuality i think i benefited greatly from being taught about God from my parents and Church but being allowed to learn about and participate in the secular seasonal traditions if i wished to. It set up for me a good mental boundary with what was true and what was a story, and it also taught me not to feel threatened by alternate beliefs so that now I am secure in what i believe to be true.
Of course, there are many other factors that helped with my spiritual security...not just Santa and Christmas ^.^ but I can definitely see where that was an early lesson that came about naturally with the experience.

I wanted to share my experience in a family that did not tell us that Santa was real, if that helps your decision.
My mom prayed regularly to God and spoke about Jesus as much as other families might talk of Santa, Easter Bunny, and Tooth Fairy. God was and currently is very much apart of my life and traditions. In fact, all our presents say from Jesus, since God provides for us so we can have them.
We watched Santa cartoons and shows. Mostly, I loved Rudolph. Christmas was very fun. We knew we couldn't open presents until Christmas and tried to sleep earily so our parents had time to put out the presents. We made Christmas lists, garland, hot cocoa, and presents. Everything everyone everyone else does who engages in the Christmas myth, except when it came to Santa we knew he was pretend and good fun. My mother has never lied to me about anything. I really respect and trust her for that.
Yes, I did tell kids that Santa wasn't real and their parents did get angry. If there is one draw back, this is it. Other people didn't understand and got angry or pitied us.
Oh, another thing I hear is that children who aren't "lied" to about Santa lack imagination. This is completely not true. I'm been told by multiple people I have a great imagination. I'm an artist, by the way.
As far as Christmas goes, Santa or no Santa the kids will have a magical time on Christmas morning if you put in the work to make it so.

This is a poorly reasoned article. If your children grow up thinking that there is some simplistic equivalence between Santa and "God," and that both "myths" are brushed away the moment your children figure out that you are, in fact, Santa, this merely illustrates that you've done a pretty piss poor job of teaching them the difference.

Moreover, I think there is a false dichotomy being driven between "Truth" and "mythos" in your argument. While many so-called "apologists", of course, cannot countenance that there is anything "mythological" (I mean this in a non-pejorative sense) in the foundations of the beliefs which they presume to advocate on the basis of "objective" evidence, I think a much healthier way of inculcating "truth" in children is to not dismiss mythos out of hand (as materialists do), but rather to embrace it. While the mythos of Santa Claus may not be "truth" to a Christian in the sense that other theological beliefs are "truth", there is, nonetheless, much that can be positively communicated to a child via the medium of myth. Like the song says: "Jesus doesn't hate Santa Claus...cuz he knows Santa only does his job."

When Christians become overly concerned with a unadulterated, non-mythological worldview (albeit an unsubstantiated one), they start to look at lot more like the materialists that they despise, rather than the radical witnesses of the ineffable mysteries of God.

It's strange that this is even a debate in Christian circles! It seems to me that it's self-evident that if a child within a Christian family is lied to about Santa Claus, they will eventually wonder if they were also lied to about God.

What I find sad is that this author feels such a desperate need to apologize at the beginning of this article, simply for speaking the truth.

@Mo--I don't think that reasoning is self-evident at all. Presumably, a child is going to wonder whether or not they were lied to about God regardless of whether or not the mythos of Santa Claus was ever a part of their upbringing. Challenges to one's belief in God comes from many sources--primarily from differing opinions that the individual will encounter during years of their life that are less influenced by intervention of their parents.

If the individual questions everything they were taught simply because of the revelation of a particular lie by their parents, I maintain that the beliefs being abandoned were poorly inculcated in the first place, and perhaps should be abandoned anyway. That is, if the parents have done such a poor job that belief in God exists on a commensurate level with the child's belief in Santa, there is little in the child's belief in God which is probably worth holding on to.

How can you delusional fools say it's harmful to teach the myth of Santa but abuse your children with the myth of god? Why does the fear of death make you dangerously irrational??

When my husband stead-fastly insisted that we never tell our (at the time un-born son) that there was a Santa Clause I was very upset! I grew up believing, what was the harm?!? Then with sad, yet angry eyes he told me of Christmas' in his humble childhood home in Mexico, where he was one of ten children. Everyone who walked and talked worked; if you were big enough to earn your keep...you did. Every penny was well placed and there was always a need for more! A feliz Navidad had to do with everyone being able to claim a day to relax, and to eat well (something that most of us take for granted!) There were children who came from families with much more in the way of money and many of these children were "lazy" (not my words) and often self-centered and had not "earned" (through hard work and deed) any of the numerous gifts that awaited them under the tree each year. And the under-privileged who (many of them, even the smallest and youngest of them) often worked from dawn til dusk and this "Santa" never brought them anything! Hadn't they been good enough?!?! I cried bitter tears for the boy my husband had been, and for the mother and father who worked themselves into an early grave (both died before the age of 50) and the sadness in that they must have felt seeing their babies watch others get presents that they themselves could not afford for their hard-working, God fearing children.

I still love the magic of it all, and we finally decided to tell the story of a man who gave gifts to children that otherwise may have had nothing and that at sometime in the course of history his story had blended in with the Christmas season. So, by giving in the name of Santa Clause, we are remembering the good deeds of a man long gone.

Note: Santa isn't the center of Christmas in our family, even before this (though he was a part of it)...we do not have a "Christmas Tree"...we have (and have had for many years) a "Birthday Tree". We lovingly decorate it as a party favor for Jesus' Birthday. Like-wise, the gifts that we share, no matter who they are to or from are gifts that we give each other in Jesus name because we can't give him "presents",but we can share his birthday gifts with one another...and it's okay not to have big or flashy or super expensive gifts...there was a little boy who thought he had no gift fit for a King...so he gave the only gift that he could...he played his drum for "Him"... There is no gift to small or to cheap as long as it's all from the heart, (and like my husbands parents, sometimes the only gift that you can give ((and always the most important)) is love! In Jesus name!

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