Today is the Feast of St. Nicholas, and I’d like to take the opportunity to revisit a concept that always gets me a lot of grief when I bring it up, but I am absolutely determined in this: PLEASE DON’T LIE TO CHILDREN ABOUT SANTA CLAUS.
Or, put more simply, PLEASE DON’T LIE TO YOUR CHILDREN, PERIOD.
Think about it: Christmas is THE most important holiday of the year for children. For most children, receiving presents is THE top feature of Christmas, and the Nativity of Our Lord is secondary, and I’m not attacking anyone in this – it is very natural. In the mind of a Christian child Christmas is “I get presents (primary) because the Magi gave Baby Jesus presents (secondary).”
So, the entire holiday celebrating the birth of Christ revolves around gift giving and receiving for children. Now, do we really think it is a good idea to completely tie up in this a massive lie that the child’s presents were miraculously delivered by St. Nicholas? Let’s take the most important Christian holiday in the mind of a child and turn it into one giant exercise in deception… BY THE CHILD’S OWN PARENTS?
Folks, the Eighth Commandment exists for a reason. When people are lied to, and the lies are discovered, as the lie of “Santa bringing gifts” is as a veritable rite of passage for children, this causes the person in question to be scandalized into LOSING FAITH. Lying leads to a loss of faith. In this case, the loss of faith comes between the child and the parents/adults. What a HORRIBLE thing. I cannot understand why any parent would ever do ANYTHING that would cause their children to lose faith and trust in them. How is that anything other that completely awful? Why would anyone NOT shudder at the thought of driving ANY wedge between themselves and their children?
In this case, the damage can clearly be extremely grave. A child looks a Santa and Christmas and thinks, “Well, if Santa was a lie, then Jesus is probably a lie too. They’re just waiting to tell me until I’m older, or that I’ll figure out that Jesus is just a story too.” And for children being raised Catholic, obviously this would also be projected by the child onto the Eucharist. “Oh, that’s just a story, like Santa Claus bringing presents. The bread and wine isn’t ACTUALLY Jesus. That’s just something they tell kids, like Santa bringing presents.”
So what do I think parents should do? Tell your children all about St. Nicholas and all of his miracles. By all means, decorate your house with St. Nicholas. Just don’t tell the children boldfaced lies about the source of their presents under the tree on Christmas morning. It isn’t difficult. JUST. DON’T. LIE.
What about talking to children about horrific things like sexual perversion, rape and abortion? Do we need to traumatize children by telling them everything about these and other terrifying sins? Of course not. But we should be honest. For example, if a six year old asks about one of these crimes, one could say:
“I can’t tell you exactly what the means right now, because it is very scary and might give you nightmares – it is scary to adults and gives us nightmares sometimes. Someday I will tell you, but not yet, because I don’t want you to worry. These are things that adults have to worry about, not children of your age. But I will explain it to you, probably when you are thirteen or fourteen. But not now.”
JUST. BE. HONEST.
PLEASE. DON’T. LIE.
Even to children. Especially your own children. Ever. Breaking a Commandment isn’t “cute”. Tying the practice of Christianity to outright deception in the mind of a child BY HIS OWN PARENTS is NOT COOL.
I’m pretty sure St. Nicholas would agree with me on this one, and I would imagine that he is less than thrilled with what the post-Christian consumerist west has done with his name and likeness.
As a bonus, here is a WAAAAAAAY back pre-SuperNerd Podcast I recorded in December of ARSH 2013 wherein I discuss exactly this. The Santa Claus topic begins at the 28:55 mark. The embed below SHOULD be cued up.
As always, I hope this helps.
St. Nicholas of Myra, pray for us!
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us!