Presvytera Vassi Makris Haros is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Art, Architecture & Planning and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. She is the owner, designer and photographer of V’s Cardbox, In Service and Love. a greeting card company featuring cards with an Orthodox voice. She strongly feels that experiencing the Orthodox Faith through the church’s cyclical calendar of feasts and fasts is a gift that is too often overlooked.
I’ve always liked Christmas, and I’ve always loved Santa. He was the one I could count on for years to hear my prayers. It sounds terrible to write that now at my age, but when I was a four, he was the closest thing to Jesus that I could possibly grasp. Yes, there, I said it. A man far, far away knows if we’ve been bad or good, and in his mercy, is willing to give me a gift all the same. Yup, for the longest time, Santa was my Jesus.
But now, with a child of my own, I am talking with moms who are refusing to drink the Kool-Aid and get on the Santa Train. Their reasons: they don’t want to lie to their child. They fear that their children will be upset when they realize that Santa isn’t real. They were upset as children themselves when they realized that Santa didn’t exist; and if there was no Santa, then how do they know if there is a Jesus?
I’m not a psychologist or a therapist, although I often play one on social media… and I think it’s important to allow children to believe in Santa Claus. I think it plants a seed to three important things: the experience of having a “prayer” answered; the participation in a miracle; and a rite of passage when they figure it out.
First, let’s talk about the experience of an answered prayer; this is where I will probably get the most criticism. We teach our children to pray to God for needs, desires, and wants. We want them to understand that He is a generous God. But how do you explain this to a four-year-old? When they are young, they can’t comprehend the amazing things that are possible. It’s too intangible. When they ask Santa for something, a doll, train or bike, they experience that when they ask for things, reasonable things, Santa comes through.
Second, there is the participation in a miracle. As kids get older, they will learn how Jesus walked on water, fed thousands, and brought Lazarus back to life. I think that allowing them to believe in Santa plants a seed that if Santa can fly across the world in one night and give every child a present, then surely Jesus, who is the Son of God, can do more amazing things.
You might want to make the point that Santa isn’t factual, and when children are mature enough to be skeptical to this fact, it could trickle down to a crisis of faith regarding God’s existence. This isn’t the fault of Santa, but of the reality that there already was a lack of faith to begin with. Santa is a seasonal occurrence. He fills three weeks a year. Jesus is all year long and incorporated into multiple feast days, weekly worship, and daily prayer. Surely by the time a child who is living the fullness of the faith is able to discern the discrepancies of the myth, he can also decipher the differences between Santa and Jesus. Does his family thank Santa before each meal? Does he pray to Santa every night? Does he receive the body and blood of Santa every weekend? By the time a child is mature enough to put the pieces together, he should also have a deeper relationship with Jesus than he does with Santa. The trick is to fess up when children start to ask questions about Santa. We get into trouble when we perpetuate the myth when they start looking behind the Crimson Curtain.
And finally, I think that there is an important Rite of Passage when they figure it all out. When they are winking as the little kids sit on Santa’s lap, or when they ask a younger cousin what they want Santa to bring, they become the older and wiser one. I think it offers them a chance to stand on the other side as a big kid.
I know many people who refuse to tell their kids about Santa, and I know many who have perpetrated the myth longer than necessary. They all have valid and extremely personal points regarding their actions. But if you are on the fence on this subject, I hope you’ll consider the broader benefits of a Santa Christmas.
Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network. You can find the Orthodox Christian Network on Google+