Santa Clause, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy (Not Dwayne Johnson), Imagination, and Christianity
Should Christians participate in traditions such as Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny? What about the Tooth Fairy?
I have heard a number of people say that they don’t think they should practice these traditions.
Here are some reasons pertaining to Santa Clause:
- Santa Clause replaces Christ as the focus of Christmas.
- Parents have to lie and deceive their children, over time, the lie has to grow.
- Santa is too similar to God.
- Belief in Santa promotes materialism.
- The Santa Clause of today has little to do with the real St. Nicholas.
The thing is, we can come up with many reasons for not participating in these traditions. But I wonder where we draw the line. Should we no longer allow our kids to read stories about fictional characters? Should we tell our kids not to believe in Elmo because Elmo is a puppet?
Should we worry that our children will think Harry Potter or Optimus Prime are real? It seems that the line between Santa and Dora the Explorer is very thin. We do not tell our children that Dora is not real, they come to discover that on their own, just as they do with Santa (and generally, about the same time).
One story I read from someone who did not like the Santa tradition stated that by lying to him about Santa Clause, he felt that his parents had broken his trust. Is that what parents are doing…teaching their children that they cannot be trusted? I don’t think so. And I don’t think anything is wrong with participating in these traditions either.
Sure, they could replace the focus of Christ, but they do not have to do that. Sure they can promote materialism, but they do not have to do that either. And are the beings like God, perhaps, but from that it is easy to talk about God. So I propose that we keep the traditions, and below are my reasons why.
- Belief in Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy promote the development of a healthy imagination. They also teach children that it is ok to believe in what you cannot see. This is a basic aspect of the Christian faith.
- As these beings give gifts, we can remind our children that the reason they bring gifts is to remind us that Christ is a gift. Santa brings gifts to remind us of the gift of Christ in the incarnation—the event where Christ took on humanity and was born in a manger. Santa reminds us that as he gives gifts to children, the magi gave gifts to the child Jesus. Santa reminds us that as he is willing to give freely to others, so should we just as Jesus calls us to do. Of course, for our children to understand these aspects of Santa, parents must discuss them with their children. The Easter Bunny reminds us with his gifts, that Christ gave his life for us so that we could have a more abundant life. And hay, what says abundant life more to a child than a chocolate cream-filled egg. The Tooth Fairy is a little different, but the child learns that by giving the tooth, they receive something special. In the same way, when we give of ourselves to God, he does special things in our lives (those things often do not include money, but they are more rewarding than cash).
- When children are old enough to learn about St. Nicholas from history and how he gave to those who were poor and needy, we can teach our children about the importance of being willing to do things for those who are less fortunate. This of course, is something Christ calls believers to do, and something the Bible describes as true religion.
- The Children cannot see these mythical creatures, but as parents, we can talk with them about the qualities of these creatures and through doing such, the children can relate what they have learned to their understanding of God.
- The traditions are fun. Most children are not going to feel deceived and when they figure it all out, parents have yet another opportunity to share wisdom with their children. There is joy that comes from giving gifts anonymously. There is joy that comes from seeing a sense of wonder in a child’s eyes. There is joy that comes from the excitement of rising early on Christmas morning to go to the tree and see what is there. Basically, the traditions are accompanied with lots of joy…for the parents and the children.
Not everyone will be convinced of these reasons, and that is ok. People have the right to practice what traditions they please in their own homes.
One of our traditions as a family is that every year at Christmas time, we watch the Charlie Brown Christmas, where the message of Jesus’ birth is clearly presented. We also read the account of Jesus’ birth from the Bible. Since our girls are both under 5, we read to them from our Children’s Bible. We do have Santa, but we also have Jesus. As we open gifts we remind the girls that we give each other gifts to celebrate Jesus’ birthday. We also tell them that by coming to earth, he gave us the greatest gift of all.
At Easter, we tell our children about the death and resurrection of Jesus. We look for eggs, because it is fun. We have an Easter basket from the Easter Bunny, because it is fun. But my wife also crafted an empty tomb. We let the girls look at the tomb and ask where Jesus is. Our 3 year-old can tell us, “he is not there because he died, but he is not dead anymore.” I know she does not fully comprehend the idea of death, but she does recognize that when people die, they are with Jesus, and she recognizes that if they were sick, they are not sick anymore.
So here are my reasons for keeping the traditions, and for showing that they do not have to replace Christ. Instead, I believe that we are redeeming the traditions and using them for the glory of Christ. We also let our children watch Elmo, and while they may think he is real now, as they get older, I think they will still see Elmo as a character that helped them learn many valuable lessons in life. The same can be said of other fictional characters that we find in story books and on TV. Parents, we can use culture to help our children develop their imaginations, we can use it to help our children learn about values, how to treat others, how to make good decisions, and how to think about God.