An Alternative to Telling Kids That Santa is Fake

There are two main camps when it comes to children and Santa Claus. As parents of two little girls approaching the age of understanding morality, my wife and I have some decisions to make with regard to which approach we’re to take regarding the Jolly Fat Man.

One popular approach is to tell children that Santa Claus is real. That there really is a generous, overweight gentleman who commits light B&E (Breaking and Entering) in order to give gifts to children. That he does this for children all over the globe in one night and that he is even more attentive than the NSA at knowing whether kids are naughty or nice.

It’s a fun approach to take. Kids get to believe in the magic of the holidays and they have a solid motivation, at least for a little while, to behave as though someone will reward them for good behavior. Hollywood has certainly made a lot of money by encouraging parents toward this magical line of thought.

The other popular approach is to rob your children of magic. Tell them that there is no Santa Claus. Let them be the ones to break it to their friends that Santa is a fraud and that their parents are manipulative liars.

On the plus side, you will be raising a child who may embrace a world rooted in cold fact. Maybe they’ll become scientists and cure cancer and make a lot of money to support you in your old age. On the negative side, this isn’t any fun and your kids will make their friends cry.

So what is a parent to do?

Here’s my thought. My wife and I are going to try for some middle ground. We’re going to tell our kids about the historically venerated Saint Nicholas. After all, he was a pretty cool guy.

Here are a few fun facts about Saint Nicholas:

  • Because of the miracles that were attributed to him, he’s also known as “Nikolaos the Wonderworker”
  • He was a secret gift giver who put coins into shoes that had been left out for him.
  • According to legend, he thwarted the plot of a murderous butcher by bringing three people back to life after the butcher had planned to sell their bodies as meat.
  • Legend also tells of three poor girls who would have ended up in prostitution, but for the fact that Nicholas dropped dowry money down the girls chimney where it landed into some socks that were drying on the mantle.
  • And Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, thieves, children, pawnbrokers and students.

True, we probably won’t tell our girls about the murders or the possibility of prostitution right away. But by focusing on a person who actually lived and breathed, the person who inspired the many traditions that Hollywood hocks, perhaps my wife and I can encourage the truth while retaining some of the magic. And if we really wanted to get crazy, we could even visit some relics of Nicholas at Saint Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Church on East Paris Avenue in Grand Rapids, Michigan (just down the road from Baker Book House).

So, let’s hear it for the real Saint Nick!


Fatherhood, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Christmas Traditions

This year, my wife and I are making a real effort to wait until Christmas Day to open our Christmas presents. This is made easier by the fact that we are not doing presents for each other this year. Really, we are just waiting to give our daughters their gifts. Not that they know this or care, being two years old and five months old.

But anyway, my wife and I have always had trouble waiting to give each other presents. On the years that we get closest to Christmas Day, it is because one (or both) of us didn’t actually finish Christmas shopping until days (or hours) before the 25th. And so when friends of ours gave us some gifts recently and told us that we could wait to open them until Christmas if we wanted to, we waited about five minutes after they left the house to start ripping off the wrapping paper. After all, it isn’t like they told us to wait, and we aren’t doing gifts for each other this year. Stop judging us.

The gifts were all wonderful, but the one that I specifically want to mention is a book that I didn’t even know existed. J.R.R. Tolkien, creator of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, also wrote a bunch of letters to his children purporting to be Santa Claus. The book is titled “Letters from Father Christmas” and is full of insight into a side of Tolkien that, like the book itself, I did not know existed. Every year, Tolkien would write a letter to each of his kids, accompanied by illustrations, and tell them what was happening at the North Pole. After a few years, he started bringing elves and goblins and bears into the mix as well, which is good, because it wouldn’t feel like it was from Tolkien if they weren’t there.

Anyway, it’s given me some ideas for my family Christmas traditions (better ones than not being patient for Christmas presents, anyway). And I hope it does you too. In the comments, I would love to hear about some of your Christmas traditions!

My Grandpa Shot Santa Claus

In the words of Doug Ten Napel:

This is a fairy tale. By fairy tale, I mean that this is true without being fact. There’s an important distinction we used to believe in that we don’t believe in so much any more, and that is the idea that there are truths outside of facts. The forms of story telling that best house this claim are Myth and Fairy Tale, for they are not about facts, but are about truth.

This is one of my favorite stories about my Grandpa Mosey. Whether or not it happened, I don’t know. It’s possible that I heard the story wrong and supplemented the rest from my imagination, but that is what makes the following tale a fairy tale. So, if you know the true story, don’t bother correcting me. I’ve got my own truth here, and it is pretty good.

Even better, it is short.

SantaHatMy Grandpa Mosey is best remembered for his skill as a fisherman, but when my dad was just a boy, my grandpa hunted as well.

It was December, not long before Christmas. In fact, my grandpa had been playing Santa in town for some VFW function. When he got home that night, he carried the rented Santa suit in one arm and his gun in the other. My dad, being just a boy at the time, saw what his father brought in and drew his own conclusions.

Bursting in tears and running to his room, he cried, “Daddy shot Santa Claus!”