I have been thinking about this, sort of pondering it in my heart as I watch the second generation of this being played out in my grandson.
Although I had always believed in God, in June 1988, when Christina. my first daughter, was 6 months old, I made a commitment to Christ in a new and personal way. It was only six months later, when Christina was turning 1, that she had her first Christmas and in my new zeal for God, decided not to include Santa Claus in the tradition. Instead Christina was told that grandparents, aunts, uncles and mom and dad give presents. We had a wood manger with plastic figures and every year we played out the Christmas story with the plastic figures of Mary, Joseph, the shepherd and angels. We read stories about the Christmas story and as she grew older, we went to church, she sang on the stage and went to classes where the Bible story of Christmas was taught. Oh, sure we had Santa figures in our home. We also had a lovely picture book, The Night Before Christmas. But I never told either daughter that Santa was real. I told them Jesus, Mary and Joseph were real. The angels were real. The wise men were real.
When they went to pre-school, I remember one day when a mom asked my younger daughter Debbie what Santa was going to bring her for Christmas. Debbie, always shy, just looked at her and said nothing. Debbie did not know what to say because this was not her world.
When they were little, I took them to sit on Santa's lap and have their photos taken. But I never taught them to ask Santa for presents, to write him letters, to be good so that he would not put coal in their stockings. Instead I told them to pray to Jesus for everything, to read His Word, and that He came to earth because we all could not be good enough. Jesus became a baby so we could know Him and He could save us, because we could never be good or smart or talented or strong enough to save ourselves.
The year Debbie was in first grade, she asked me if she could pretend Santa was real. I smiled and told her, of course, that was a wonderful thing to pretend.
When I joined a church, both the Pastor's and the worship leader's kids believed in Santa Claus. Repeatedly, I had to remind my daughters to keep the secret. Of course, I do not believe that telling your kids there is a Santa is somehow un-Christian. This is not a hill I am prepared to die on. However, for better or worse, I have have broken the Santa tradition for my family. My daughters do not know how to make-believe Santa. Instead, this year, Giovanni, astute and eager for to the things of God, has played with the plastic manger people and has gone to church class and sang "Happy Birthday Jesus" on the stage with his church class. He even memorized his verse, Luke 2:11. The excitement and wonder of the season has not been lost on him as he ponders God becoming a baby, the angels who broke out of heaven to sing to the shepherds, and the wise men traveling from a far place, following a super star to find Baby Jesus.
It is my opinion that if you believe in the Word of God, there is plenty of excitement. I remember the disappointment when, as a child, I had to give up my belief in Santa Claus. I now have more than made up for the awe and wonder in the truth of the season.
Jesus, King of Heaven, Lord of the angels, laid down His crown and all His spectacular glories to come close to us, even as close as a baby. He did this because He loves me, my family, indeed all of us. The endlessness of the wonder of that act can be awesome for eternity and needs no embellishments. My daughters and grandson are evidence that even the youngest child can understand and be awed by the truth. The pretend is not needed.
So, the answer is no, I think that for my family at least, I did the right thing. Giovanni never did ask me this question: Is there really a Santa Claus? Instead he asks me questions about the angels, Mary and baby Jesus.
After all, isn't that the real question and the real reason for the Joy of the season?
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord. ~ Luke 2:11