Is Santa….Real?


what to tell your kids about Santa

If you have very young ones, you might be wondering what to tell your kids about Santa when that time comes. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of giving them the ‘tradition info’ about Santa, the way of handling the issue as described in the post below might be a palatable alternative for you when your kids first ask, “Is Santa real?”

At our house we were a little less gentle about it. We told our kids that Santa was a myth, to the chagrin of relatives and even some of our friends.  Our mothers were our biggest adversaries in this decision and were appalled with our proclamation, telling us our kids would grow up to have no imagination as a result of our not going along with Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, etc.  (Fortunately our kids had delightful imaginations in spite of their deprivation. :D)

I believe  that Col. 2:8 speaks to traditions regarding Santa, the Easter bunny, etc.: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”  (Read other ideas about keeping Christ the center focus at Christmas.)

So…after reading the article please leave a comment and tell me how you have handled/plan to handle  ‘Santa’  in your home.

This guest post (beginning below) was written by Laurie White, a homeschooling mama with three children who were homeschooled through high school. She lives with her husband in a log house in the middle of the woods in Covington, Georgia, surrounded by flint-lock rifles, brain-tanned hides, wild turkey, and deer that eat her daylilies. You may read more of Laurie’s writing on her website.

Is Santa… Real?

“Is Santa real?” my four-year-old Rebecca asked as she looked up at me with a serious, studied look. I had to pause a minute before I could answer. It was just after Thanksgiving and we had begun to get the Christmas ornaments out. The manger scene was her favorite item. Like most children she loved the small figures of the shepherds, Mary, Joseph, and especially the tiny baby Jesus. We had gone over the story of the angels and shepherds and the wise men from the East and, as always, she asked her usual question about those events: “Did it really happen?”  Much of the business of childhood, I was beginning to learn, was sorting out the real from the unreal.

So, I wasn’t exactly caught off-guard with her question about Santa. It was predictable. What I hadn’t predicted were my own feelings of awkwardness and insecurity when she asked. I was rather overwhelmed with a realization that I was departing from the mainstream of tradition as well as from my own upbringing as I responded.

“Rebecca, Santa isn’t like Jesus. Jesus is real. Santa is pretend. But because almost everyone everywhere pretends that Santa is real, he seems real. It’s like a wonderful game that all the grown ups and all the children join into at Christmas time. That’s what makes Santa Claus so much fun.”

Rebecca was content with that, and so was I as it turns out. Now, looking back six years later, my awkwardness has vanished and it is with confidence that my husband and I recommend the “pretend Santa” idea to other parents looking for an answer to Mr. Claus.


What’s the Big Deal Anyway?

Some may ask, “What’s the big deal anyway? Let the little ones believe that Santa is true. The harsh realities of growing up come soon enough. Let them believe while they can.” Indeed, I felt those harsh realities descend heavily on me as a child when I discovered Santa was not true. I used to sit on my bed and ponder how totally wonderful it was to live in a world in which angels, Jesus and Santa were all realities. The shock of the truth hit hard when it finally broke in on me, and I immediately questioned the veracity of the other two entities along with St. Nick. It was years before I finally began to recapture some of that lost joy over Christmas. My husband had experienced an equally intense and lasting disappointment about Santa when he was growing up. We knew we wanted to avoid that for our children. Besides, reality isn’t just harsh. It’s both harsh and full of wonder. And the Wonder is going to win! Children must be grounded in the wonders of the Truth first… with no lies mixed in. Then as the harder parts of reality begin to present themselves, there is no rug for someone to pull out from under them, just the rock-solid base of God’s true love and His incredible plan for this world.

Jesus Versus the Bag Full of Toys

We have heard other objections to telling young children the truth about Santa. Most of them boil down to general feelings parents have that they would somehow be cheating their children out of the joy they themselves experienced in childhood on Christmas morning. Children can’t fully appreciate what Christmas is all about, the argument sometimes goes, so let them have something they can enjoy at their own level. But no one appreciates the story of Jesus’ birth better than a child! Mature understanding is lacking, of course, but not wonder, awe, and a pure, total ability to trust that those incredible events really happened… that same trust which makes them so susceptible to Santa Claus. Their awe and joy over choirs of angels and a King born in a stable are only dwarfed by us when we ourselves build-up the Santa myth to its full extent, give it the honored place in their hearts as truth, and then have Santa bring all the neatest “stuff” to them. We twentieth century parents have unwittingly blown Santa out of proportion by our sheer prosperity. Laura Ingalls’ Jesus had only to compete with a Santa who brought a candy cane and a rag doll. But look with what our Jesus has to compete. Jesus himself walking through the door can’t top that bag full of toys. Our children get the bag full of toys, too (more or less), but they know, now, it comes with love and sacrifice from us.

The most delightful thing to us about this venture is that the “pretend Santa” idea worked even better than we thought it would. When Rebecca at age five wanted to know who brought the toys if it wasn’t really Santa, I said that it might spoil some of the fun if I told her. She accepted that for another year or two and then, when she really wanted to know in the worst of ways, I told her. She felt she had been let in on a great secret and was careful not to tell her little sister or brother. They eventually plied the truth out of her, of course, at various ages and when they wanted to know badly enough. But there was never any question that Santa was pretend. He was lots of fun, but he was in an entirely different camp in their minds from the person of Christ. The great intrigue was only “How do the toys get here?” not, “Is there really a Santa Claus?”

Keeping the Magic

Now, we are all in cahoots together keeping our secret from other children who “might think Santa is real.” We have had some good discussions about allowing other families to keep traditions in their own way, from those who present Santa Claus as the truth, to those who leave out Santa altogether from their celebrations. During the holidays, we conspire not to mention that Santa is pretend because that would spoil the fun. The children leave out cookies and milk for Santa on Christmas Eve every year, but it is with added humor and hidden giggles. Last Christmas, they left hilariously funny notes for Santa thanking him for their gifts and asking for a response. Each child got an equally funny note from Santa scrawled at the bottom of his letter which was read aloud to the family next morning on Christmas–a new tradition was born. We read “The Night Before Christmas” on Christmas Eve each year, and we can freely talk about the wonderful legend of the actual Saint Nicholas without causing confusion for them. We ride together in our imaginations on the Polar Express. We alternately laugh till it hurts and get goose bumps over Santa in Ernest Saves Christmas. We feel we’ve missed none of the magic. In fact, we all love Santa! Is there any other time of the year when everyone in the country and practically the world joins together in a mutual game of pretending, even down to the TV news anchor on Christmas eve? But legends remain legends, and the startling beauty and real “magic” of the Christmas story has remained central. No contest. It holds a greater charm and engenders supreme awe in their thinking by simple virtue of its having really happened. That one’s the true story, and they know it.

Two years ago when our daughter Hetty was five, she secretly wrapped her doll in “swaddling clothes” and put it on the sofa for us to find on Christmas morning. She had composed a story explaining how every year Santa and God get together and make Jesus a baby again and give him to a family to keep for the whole day, “and,” she exclaimed, “this year they picked us!” So, we got the baby Jesus right in the middle of our living room for the whole day, and right in the center of Christmas for always.

This guest post was written by Laurie White, a homeschooling mama with three children who were homeschooled through high school. She lives with her husband in a log house in the middle of the woods in Covington, Georgia, surrounded by flint-lock rifles, brain-tanned hides, wild turkey, and deer that eat her daylilies. You may read more of Laurie’s writing at her website


  1. We have always celebrated Christmas as Jesus’ birthday (right down to pizza, cake and ice cream). When our oldest first began to have people ask him about Santa visiting we explained that Santa is just a clown, like Ronald MacDonald and there are lots of people with Santa clown outfits on. We’ve explained to our children that the reason we don’t talk about the pretend Santa visiting our house is we are very jealous for Jesus to get all of the attention. We hang stockings and give gifts in Jesus’ name. When others begin talking about Santa our s have learned to try to focus the conversation back on Jesus’ birth celebration. All of our children help with the shopping for everyone else and we sign the presents from “Friends”.

  2. I began the whole “Santa” production with our first daughter from the beginning. It didn’t take long before I began to feel conviction over being dishonest. I prayed about this situation and had to sit our daughter down and explain the truth to her. She was only 2 or 3 so she accepted it pretty well. I explained to her as well that Jesus was real and Santa was pretend. I told her I understood that all the Santa stuff was fun and we could still pretend as long as she wanted to and understood that it was just that…pretend. I wanted her to realize Jesus was the ENTIRE reason we are able to celebrate Christmas and the reason we give/receive gifts. We still are pretending Santa with our other 2 daughters but I have had to remind them on several occasions that we are pretending…it’s so easy for a child to get wrapped up in the magic and merriment of Christmas and forget the truth (not only children but us as adults as well). Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas celebrating the birth of our Savior!

  3. Stopping by from Twitter…Dana and Laurie – I love “So, we got the baby Jesus right in the middle of our living room for the whole day, and right in the center of Christmas for always.” My husband came up with a way to handle Santa from the start with our children. In a funny way, all the while focusing on Christ. He reposted it at Habits for a Happy Home last weekend:

  4. Thanks for contributing to the conversation, Trena and Stacy! I have also had a few people respond to me directly – one rather heated response, in fact. Evidently this is quite a controversial topic. The range of opinions underscores that just because we are Christians it doesn’t mean we don’t have closely held, varied opinions about how to express our beliefs. I really liked Laurie’s post because she and her husband chose not to compromise their beliefs, yet had a gracious, rather than judgmental, attitude. After all, ‘they shall know we are Christians by our love (for our fellow Christians)’. Thanks to everyone who has responded.

  5. Much like Laurie’s story, we simply tell them the truth when they ask. Until then, we don’t encourage or make a big deal out of Santa saying that he’s coming with gifts, but when they discover Santa on their own, we just stay quiet. I my opinion, it is no different than believing that Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber really do live in a cartoon kitchen somewhere. When they do ask if he’s real, they obviously want the truth, and we give it to them including the story of Nicholas. We also explain that if any of their friends believe in Santa and their parents encourage it, then we have to respect those other parents who would not appreciate us usurping their authority by trying to convince their children not to believe them. We use the pretend option and tell them to play the game of pretend along with them.

  6. Elizabeth… would love to read your post, if you get it on your blog.

    Santa is a HUGE controversy in our church! Yes, you read that correct. He makes a visit at the Christmas party. A couple years ago, the parents with YOUNG children, requested the “tradition” stop and it created a HUGE uproar with the older adults who’s kids are grown (or old enough to know he’s not real). Even the teenagers were upset that we didn’t “want” Santa at the church party. So now, the parents with young children don’t attend the party so as not to try to explain to their children why Santa is at church.

    Thanks for this article as these same parents now are asking for advice how to keep their kids from telling kids at school that Santa isn’t real. I’m thinking explaining “it’s pretend” might be helpful to those parents so their kids won’t “spoil” it at public school for homes where Santa is “real”.

  7. Elizabeth, I so appreciate your thoughtful comment, your prayers and your exhortation! It is so important that we examine our actions in light of Scripture and that does require us frequently to make choices that are misunderstood by others – but that is what makes us different from the world. The challenge for me is to act according to the light I have been given without judging others for not doing things the same way. Thanks again for your feedback.

  8. I have to say that we have always followed the truth of the matter, even to the point that my then 5 and 6+ girls argued with one of the neighbor children over the matter. We have never encouraged or even suggested that they be so aggressive toward proclaiming the truth, but neither have we stiffled the work of the Holy Spirit to speak through them. And I believe The Lord does want us to show that there is a line between His truth and the ‘rudiments of this world’ (KJV Col 2:8). I realize this is a very bare, maybe even ‘harsh’ approach, in some peoples’ opinions, but we must always remember that Satan is a very real and devious enemy and we are to be gentle but instructing others in the truth so they can be saved out of the snare of the devil. (2 Tim 2:24-26) The Lord revealed something to me when I encountered a childrens Christmas book one time. There is not enough room to address it here, but, if the Lord wills, I will post about it on my blog in the next week or so.
    Thanks for posting this. We are all fighting a battle every day, and our children are in the very center of it. And just as Laurie stated, one of the biggest pulls on us as parents is the traditions of our past. We must all examine our motivation and know in our hearts that we have a clean conscience before the Lord. As each person in our lives shares the convictions they have, the purpose is not to condemn, but to testify of the Lord at work in us. This is how God provokes each of us to move to the ‘next level’ of maturity in Him. I pray that this article will be God’s work in the hearts of those He is calling to address this issue in their lives, to give them strength and courage to stand strong in their faith.

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