Thursday, December 27, 2007

And I am the Liar?!

Sometimes you have to just laugh at what goes down in your community... otherwise ya might weep! I am a Christian, but there is often NO ONE who can get under my skin more than a brother in Christ.

I made the mistake of discussing Santa Claus on a Christian web page. For those of you who do not know the Evangelical community very well, discussing Santa Claus is like discussing religion or politics in everyday settings. A fight is bound to ensue.

I thought the guy was really wondering how others address the issue of Santa with their young children. He asked how other people handle it. It seemed like an honest question. I told him how it worked for us.

Next, I am being accused of lying to my daughter and holding back from her the true meaning of Christmas... blah, blah, blah.

I tried to remain reasonable, but I finally got pissed and went off on a rant. Probably shouldn't have done that, but there it is.

Anyway, here is the discussion with some off topic stuff deleted. My stuff is in red.


The Issue of Santa Claus

OK, Becky C suggested in this thread (feel free to weigh in on that one too) that it would be interesting to discuss the issue of Santa Claus. So today's question is, "What do you tell your kids about Santa Claus? Why?" I'll start the discussion with our house. (Which I normally hate doing because I have found in the past that it kills comment discussion). We don't talk about him until we have to do so. We don't hide the fact from our kids that we are the one's who buy them the gifts or whoever they are from. When Kendra was 3 we took her to my brothers work where he was dressed up as Santa so she could get her picture taken. She recognized my brother. The next year she debunked us by asking my wife why we never told her Santa was fake. This year she made the little neighbor boy cry by telling him that Santa wasn't real. We had to explain to her that some parents chose to allow their children to believe in Santa. She looked my wife dead in the eye and said,"Why would their parents want to lie to them?"
Kaidance recently looked at me and said, "Dad, I just don't believe in Santa Claus."
Now, our kids watch cartoons with Santa in them, and we've been working on them about keeping quiet when dealing with other kids. So we don't teach for Santa and we don't teach against Santa. When asked directly, I feel it would be disingenuous to lie to my children so I tell them that God provides for us (or other people) to get them gifts. That's how we handle it, how about you?


I wrote this on my blog last year:

I always knew the day would come. Another milestone has passed in my daughter's life.

People debate when to tell their kids about Santa Claus. I knew the time would present itself, and today was the day. This time when she asked, I didn't evade. I told her it was time to see behind the wrappings of the gift her mother and I had given her.

And I do believe it is a gift a parent can give to their child. There are few years when the veil between imagination and reality is so thin. Santa, reindeer, elves.... I think there is a singular opportunity for blissful joy which can rarely be captured outside of a wonderful fairy tale during those early years.

A love for Santa is a love of poetry, music, daydreams. It is warm cocoa and a blazing fire. It is snuggling under the covers to keep warm on a cold morning.

I told Kathryn her mother and I had given those stories to her during those years as a gift for her to enjoy. Now it is a gift we want to give to Jacob as well. Children are so excited to know things and they have a desire to let others know that they know. I encouraged Kathryn to not take that gift from anyone.

I loved watching the thrill on Kathryn's face when she and Jacob spoke to Santa at the North Pole over a webcam this year. I am grateful for the memories of my brother Matt dressing up as Santa for her and giving her a special Christmas Eve.

I believe in Santa Claus. I know someday when Kathryn has little ones beneath her Christmas tree, she will believe in him too.

Thanks for the thoughts. I appreciate your sharing. I'm curious how you would handle my daughters question regarding the apparent dishonesty of it. Essentially she asked me why is it OK for a parent to lie but kids cannot? She's five or I'd ask her to post it here herself. :)

I've got a no BS clause with my kids. So if they want to know anything I'll be honest with them. So they've all asked and I've told them. And they went down the list: Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Kirk Cameron. They all know they're not real.

This no BS clause also got interesting when James (5) really wanted to know all the details about Sodom and Gomorrah. We had the whole "talk" that day.

So Stuart, how did that go? What exactly did you tell him? You can teach us, that way when the topic arises in our house we will be prepared with a good answer! You can't just leave it at " We had a whole talk that day" and not tell us how you answered! My curiosity is up!lol :-)

I guess we just have different perspectives. I think some people are digital and some are analog. Digital folks are in or out, on or off. There is no in between. Some of us are analog. Things level out differently under different circumstances. Everyone is going to have a line. I had a friend I worked with at a ministry who would not watch any fiction. It didn't happen, and was therefore not true, since it was not true it is a lie. He would not partake of a lie. That is his line, but not mine.

I don't think parents are lying to their children. They are living a story. They are participants in the play. I realize that other folks would not see it that way, and that is fine. I think it is rude when someone spoils the story for someone else. How much better can a fiction be than if, for a while, you think it is so?

There's an obvious difference between the Fiction and actively telling your kids an untruth. I agree that it's not my job to tell your kids or anyone else for that matter. My problem is that you are purposely hiding part of the Christmas story from your children in that you are telling them that Santa--not God-- has provided for them. Having said that, let me say I totally respect your right to do it the way you want and I am sure there are other Godly parents who tell their children that their is a Santa but as of this moment, I cannot see a compelling reason to actively lie to my children. This was confirmed by my daughter who came to the conclusion on her own that it was lieing. BTW, if you're saying I'm too in or out you need to get out on in BLOG world more often, I can think of at least 4 BLOG's that accuse me of the exact opposite without thinking hard. :)
Oh, and I love fiction. If you want to buy me some books you can see my wishlist at Amazon by searching joemartino9[at]yahoo[dot]com. You can even sign the card from Santa! :)

I think it is a parents prerogative to teach or not to teach it. We try to teach our daughter it is not her job to inform someone of the truth but she struggles with it and we still have to remind her! my kids enjoy watching the Christmas shows. I think it is like any other TV show, you can enjoy the beautiful poetry and creativity behind the story without believing it to be true.
I think some parents teach Santa more because it is an enjoyment for them! Some I think teach it for selfish reasons. I have little neighbor boys who think their presents are determined from Santa based on how well they behave. Personally I think that is wrong to teach a kid that!
My biggest problem with teaching Santa Claus is it takes away from what Christmas is really about. Plus I hate it that we teach Santa has all the attributes that Jesus has. It seems wrong to me whether it is just for fun or not. An amazing story played out the night Jesus was born that changed man kind forever! That in itself is a beautiful story that is true. Why do we have to juice it up more? Why do we have to make Christmas any more creative than that?

Joe - You make my point about an "in or out" view. You said I "you are purposely hiding part of the Christmas story from your children in that you are telling them that Santa--not God-- has provided for them." This is simply not so. They know the entire Christmas story... including the part that it did not occur on the 25th, rather it was put there to incorporate the holidays of foreign religions.

"but as of this moment, I cannot see a compelling reason to actively lie to my children." I think whether or not to go down this road depends on your views, and your child's views. IF your kids would view this as a hurtful lie, I wouldn't go down that road either. My daughter shrugged. She thought it was a fun ride, and likes to participate now with Jake. Our respective apples have not fallen too far from our trees.

I think the larger issue in this is having pride in the "right" view. George Carlin does a bit in his routine about someone who yells at the speeder passing him on the highway, but the @%!* who is going too slow ahead of him. HE is going the "right" speed.

It would be easy to see the person who views fiction as a lie too harsh, while a parent who encourages Santa is a liar (or as Elf would say "sitting on a throne of lies") - comfortable that you have the balanced view.

My commentary above was not meant as a critique of your stance, but rather that I understand that this is a black and white issue for you, and that you really can't see it any other way. Families need to be as respective of your views as you need to be of theirs.

Here's my point. If my kids think Santa got them the gift they are not thinking that Jesus provided them. I personally can't get around that one. To me this is definitely an issue of liberty. What about others out there. It would seem that Andrew and I agree that everyone needs to respect everyone else's view yet we handle Santa differently. (Which by the way Andrew I don't tell my kids he doesn't exist, I just don't tell them that he does). What about the rest of you?


Well it started with him reading through one of his bible story books and asking about why God destroyed S&G. I gave him a simple answer and he wanted details. I'd answer them. Then he'd have more. So we eventually went all through the sex talk and homosexuality. He had ton's of questions.

I was just honest about everything. No sugar coating it. I kept the answers simple and some he pursued me for more details, then I'd give them to him. We've tried to keep no conversation taboo around here. Though it's not like I bring them up, just through the curious mind of a 5 year old - questions get asked.

And I end each conversation with - "You know this stays between you and me (and mommy), do not tell your bother or sister or any other kids. Our honesty is a privilege."

I don't know if that answers your question or not.

Well, since I wanted to know what others think, I guess I better chime in here :). My soup is about to boil, so if I don't get back to the other thread now (assuming there is anything more to comment on), I'll have to later :).

Neither my husband nor I grew up believing in Santa Claus. Both our parents expected us to write thank-you notes to our actual gift givers. My mother-in-law believed in Santa until she was 8 or 9...when she found the doll box in the garage the next summer and realized her parents had bought it and that Santa hadn't, she was just devastated. When she confronted her mother, she flippantly replied that she (my MIL) was too old to believe in Santa and surely someone at school should have told her that by now. Of course, a lot of kids had, but she had vehemently proclaimed Santa's existence "because [her] mommy said so," so she ended up feeling like a complete fool. She determined then and there she would never lie to her kids.

My parents wouldn't even use wrapping paper or gift tags with Santa; I don't go to that extreme. I don't buy them intentionally, but if they are in a multi-pack, we use them...more for our own kids than for other peoples, just because it can be a touchy topic.

I am the director of a Sparks (K-2nd grade) AWANA club in our church, so at Christmas time, I try to steer my topics VERY carefully. If asked outright, I will tell a child they need to talk to their parents about what they believe about Santa Claus. I tell them the Christmas story and why we celebrate Christmas every year. I just try to leave Santa out of it. I have a little girl in Sparks this year, so I remind her every week that she isn't to tell any of the kids that there isn't a Santa if they start talking about him. She seems to have handled it OK for this year. A young-20's unsaved guy that has been visiting our church was talking to her about two weeks ago and asked what she asked Santa to bring her. She wasn't sure if he knew there wasn't a Santa, so she carefully answered that she had told her mommy what she wanted, since she isn't able to write well enough to write her own list. Later, the girl that invited him to church was talking to Jadyn and Jadyn sweetly asked her to let Todd know there is no such thing as Santa, as he is "old enough he really should know." Christine had the best laugh...and said she'd let Todd know that Jadyn doesn't believe in Santa.

I appreciate Erica's comment, "An amazing story played out the night Jesus was born that changed man kind forever! That in itself is a beautiful story that is true. Why do we have to juice it up more? Why do we have to make Christmas any more creative than that?" That, in essence, is where my heart is at.

So, if my kids see a Santa in the store and want to talk to him, I would let them (though it's not likely. Jadyn freaks out at Chuck E. Cheese when the giant mouse tries to talk to her...for whatever reason, she is afraid he will try to steal her shirt???). They know where their gifts come from, and that Jesus is the ultimate gift of Christmas. Taya isn't big on "dressed up" critters either; my husband wants to go to Disney, but I'm afraid how they both would respond!

We don't do the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, etc. either.

"I appreciate Erica's comment, "An amazing story played out the night Jesus was born that changed man kind forever! That in itself is a beautiful story that is true. Why do we have to juice it up more? Why do we have to make Christmas any more creative than that?" That, in essence, is where my heart is at."

Not to be argumentative (ok, maybe I am), but EVERYTHING outside of reading a Luke (why not Matthew?) story on the 25th, or any other random day for that matter, is making it more creative. Why do Christmas cookies? Cause it is fun! Why decorate a tree? Cause it is fun! Why sing Frosty the Snowman? Cause it is fun! Why staple lights to the house? Cause it is fun!

However, when it comes to a Santa story... all of a sudden Jesus (followers?) has insecurity issues?

God has pleasures at his right hand (where Jesus sits.. coincidence?) yet everyone wants to make him a Scrooge or a child who is going to throw a cosmic temper tantrum if his name isn't said enough times Christmas Eve. I'm sorry that I am on a rant here (ala Dennis Miller), but I grew up in a Christian community that felt Santa borrowed his red outfit from the Devil. You switch two letters and you get Satan from Santa (clever eh?). I listened for years, ad nauseum, to endless pious proclamations about the dangers of lying to your children and how that would harm their future trust in Christ. This was just one more high horse that we could jump on and further distance ourselves from our community. That made us happy though cause it just showed how separate and chosen we were! God protect the poor soul who says, "Happy Holidays" to the follower of Christ determined to protect the sanctity of Christmas!

Really, if adding to the "story" is a problem, go the route of the Jehovah's Witness and ditch the presents, the tree, the lights, the carols, the dinner, the cookies, the decorations, the family gathering....ditch the WHOLE thing. I can respect that. But don't cherry pick your traditions and then act like you are being spiritually faithful to Jesus because you have the right moral ground on Santa Claus.

That was kind of harsh don't you think? No one has disrespected you here. If you feel that way, let me know. Everybody draws this line differently and until that last post it had been rather cordial, right? I realize that some of that might have been a reaction to your experience but in my opinion it was a little over the top.

I guess I just can't stand when someone says they "respect your opinion" or "respect your right to say what you want" then proceeds to list all the reasons they think what you do is a bad idea. I can HONESTLY say that it does not matter to me that he wants to do a Santa-less Christmas. However, he cannot in honesty say that he respects anything of what I am doing and then use descriptive phrases like "actively telling your kids an untruth - My problem is that you are purposely hiding part of the Christmas story from your children - you are telling them that Santa--not God-- has provided for them -. It is this same kind of Christian double speak (saying things that sound loving, but are filled with contempt) that lead to wonder phrases like "Hate the sin, but love the sinner". Just admit that you want to punch the sinner in the nose! Then maybe once you are in an honest place, you can deal with your anger and hate issues.

So how over the top was I?


Yael said...

You weren't over the top. I liked your analog and digital analogy.

I would be curious how the person explains to their child how God provided the present when the kid knows dad went out and bought it. Isn't that also a form of lying? I mean, if we're going to be strictly literal, God is pretty far removed from the actual present buying activity.

Plus, as you brought up, surely all the presents, lights, food, and family get-togethers also detract from the 'true meaning'.

Now surely I am much nicer than these folks? I've never called you a liar!

Take care and thanks for stopping by.

societyvs said...

Good debate about Christmas traditions there - kinda funny to me - but real good job.

I have no problem with Santa - I know he is fake - but I like the holidays with him included in it. My wife and I give presents to one another and we still write 'from Santa' on the presents - to keep ourselves young and funny if anything. The whole season bothers me very little - it's totally fun.

Is telling a kid about Santa a lie - I am not sure about that - like someone mentioned it's fiction - or playing on that fictitious tradition. Kind of like acting during the Christmas season - which is also fun. When I found out santa wasn't real - guess what - it never broke my heart one bit (so for people trying to protect the children - get over it). To me, looking back now, it was all in good fun.

Andrew said...

Thanks for the input you two! I always appreciate it.

What always amazes me about these kind of folks is THIS is the kind of issue they focus? It's friggin Santa for cryin out loud. Not world hunger or inner city gang violence! To me, it so petty. Not that they do not want to do Santa, but that they want to argue about it!
I cannot help but think of the Ferris Bueller quote:
"Pardon my French, but Cameron is so tight that if you put a piece of coal up his ass in two weeks you would have a diamond."

Yael said...

My father used to get all worked up about this kind of stuff, too. You can only imagine, if they will go round and round online with strangers, imagine what it must be like for their families!

Fortunately one year all of this came to an end at our house. Dad said no more Christmas decorations, but then relented a bit and let us kids put them upstairs where he wouldn't see them. It was the most dismal Christmas. The next year all the decorations were back up downstairs, tree and all, and never another word said.

My sister, may here memory be only for a blessing, had one of those very nice Santa villages displayed in her house with pieces she accumulated over the years. My father seemed to enjoy it just as much as everyone else.

When we stopped celebrating Christmas, the first year we only had a menorah. We didn't like the plainness at all! The next year we had up lights in the windows and every year since we have added to our decorations. I don't care if some people get annoyed that we have so many decorations and leave them up for weeks. It's supposed to be a celebration, we're celebrating in a way that is fun for us, and as you pointed out, Andrew, THIS is the most important thing in the world to be upset about? Puh-leeze.

Mike said...

It's no wonder you were exercised by this exchange. You worked hard and made some good points with someone who was not in recieve mode.

I'm not lying.

Analogically yours,

Andrew said...

Yael- It sounds like we had some similar experiences growing up. My folks weren't really all that fundamental, but our faith community was. We didn't really fit, but my folks were too young in their faith to realize there were alternatives available.

What I recognize now about that fundamental mindset is that there is a need to deny oneself pleasure. Looking back, I remember people apologizing for having too good a time. I remember people giving up innocent pleasures because they felt those pleasures were becoming idols.

I think sometimes people can "fast" from certain pleasures for a time as a spiritual exercise, but I did not see it being done in that way. It was impositional, both on themselves and those around them.

Mike- As I look back over the conversation, and some of their subsequent comments, I realize some of the core problem. They were not content to see it their way, while I saw it mine. They wanted me to talk them into my way of thinking, confident that I could not. That was never my point, I did not want them to see it my way; I wanted them to see that "I" saw it my way.
I think this quote by Gandhi is apropos -
"If you cannot feel that the other faith is as true as yours, you should feel at least that the men are as true as you."

Joe Martino said...

It seems to me that you wanted me to agree with you. I never called you a liar. I said that I can't get around that. I repeatedly said that I respect your right to do it your way with your kids. I said, I PERSONALLY can't get around that one. So because I can't get around that, I'm a hypocrite that isn't in "receiving mode"? That's bull shit.

Joe Martino said...

Oh and I love how it wasn't an honest question because I didn't agree with you. Show me where I said, you were sinning. Show me where I disrespected you. As for the person who wanted to know how I was not being honest because I bought the gifts, God didn't provide them well let's see...maybe and I'm just throwing this out there--maybe God provided the money for me to buy those gifts.
Andrew, you have a knee jerk reaction to this. I can respect where you are at and disagree with it. In fact your whole little rant there sounds a little "digital" to me. Sounds like you want me to be all in with you.

Yael said...

As for the person who wanted to know how I was not being honest because I bought the gifts, God didn't provide them well let's see...maybe and I'm just throwing this out there--maybe God provided the money for me to buy those gifts.

My name is Yael and I'm a Jew. I'm pretty sure God didn't hand you the money in person. No doubt if God had, God would have told you to spend it on something more useful in this world than more toys for kids, but I'm just throwing this out there....

God provided you the money to buy the gifts. Yeah, and you didn't have to go to work to earn any of it?

God provided the job. And you didn't need to interview and prove your worth?

God provided you with the skills to qualify for the job. You never went to school to learn those skills?

God gave you the intellect so that you could learn the skills. Yep, and of course you didn't need to study? Your parents didn't need to push you?

It's not like you can say, "God, give me money," and it falls from the sky! You telling your kids God gave them presents is almost as much a stretch as saying Santa gave them presents. The reality is that parents give their kids presents and God is only remotely involved if at all.

I would hope that God could find better causes to be concerned with than providing a stack of presents for pampered American kids. Like perhaps a bowl of food for a kid living in a garbage dump in Manila? I personally prefer kids to think Santa is the one involved in all this present foolishness rather than having them think this is the kind of BS with which God is concerned.

Joe Martino said...

Thank you for that perspective Yael.

Yael said...


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