Fr Newman got into hot water some time ago for explaining to the children of the parish that Santa Claus was (I believe his words were) “a fat pagan elf.” I was rather amused by his outspoken defense of St Nicholas, but I believe there was a minor firestorm among the families in the parish…much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth (and that was just the mothers)
I’m on his side, and call me a Scrooge, but I never lied to my kids about Santa. I thought it just wasn’t fair. I had told them from the beginning that there were really only two rules: 1. Never lie 2. No direct disobedience. That seemed to do the trick and all four have turned out to be nice kids.
So why would I break my own rule and lie to them about Santa Claus. Furthermore, the lie is so extravagant. Santa Claus visits every home in a reindeer driven sleigh on Christmas Eve? He comes down the chimney? Rudolph eats the carrot left for him? C’mon. It’s not fair. Furthermore, if you tell your kids this stuff you’re setting yourself up for a fall later. They’re not going to trust you.
Especially they’re not going to trust you about religion. You take them to church for Christmas and tell them a beautiful story about a baby in a manger and shepherds who see angels who come to them in the sky at night and wise men who come on camels and bring rich presents to the little fellow asleep in the hay. So they’re supposed to believe that story, but they’re supposed to also believe the one about the fat elf, the toys, the persecuted reindeer and all that baloney?
Here’s what happens–if you’re not careful, they bundle all the stuff up together in their minds and when they learn that Santa’s a fake they figure all that other Christmas stuff was a fake too. Angels? No more real than flying reindeer. Wise men from afar? Much the same as Santa at the North Pole. Babies in mangers receiving gifts? It’s like the presents under the tree. Conclusion? The Christmas story with Jesus and Mary and Joseph is just another make believe.
So we didn’t tell the kids there was a Santa Claus or an Easter Bunny or a Tooth Fairy or any of that nonsense. We weren’t total spoil sports though. We put out presents and left sherry and a mince pie for Santa and a carrot for Rudolph, but when they came down and saw half a mince pie and half a carrot we joked and said, “Geesh, kids, it was Dad who drank the sherry and Mom who ate the mince pie. Santa Claus is just a fun story.”
Isn’t that the best way? Allow them the fairy tales and fun stories, but don’t lie and pretend they are real the way the true Christmas story is real. Help them distinguish historical truth and gospel truth from fairy tales and all that fun stuff. You’ll be doing them a favor.