Why My Son Won’t Believe in Santa

Why My Son Won’t Believe in Santa

My wife and I are three and a half months away from having a son as I write this blog. We are excited, sobered, and looking forward to this new addition to our family.

The Crazy Decision

My bride and I have decided that we’re not going to teach our children that Santa brings them presents at Christmas. We feel very strongly that, while Santa Claus may be a completely harmless person in whom children believe, we want the “magic” of Christmas and the part that overwhelms the imagination of our children to be the incarnation of the Son of God, and not a man that will bring them presents if they’re good enough.

Just to be as clear as possible, I am not and will never judge parents (or to-be parents) that don’t agree with me. And I hope I don’t come off as legalistic or anti-Christmas. Christmas is my favorite time of the year, by far. I love Christmas. I love the lights, the gifts, the joy, the time off from work and school (Hallelujah!), and I myself believed in Santa when I was a child. So before I tell you why Jacob won’t be hearing too much about Santa, I want you to know that I will never judge anyone who disagrees with me.


Why no Santa Claus?

I’m 25 years old. I don’t know too much about actual parenting yet, as you might have guessed! And yet, there are several reasons we know that we won’t be teaching our children about Santa Claus…

1). Santa coming down the chimney can overshadow the “magic” of God becoming a man. Which is more gripping to a child: God himself becoming a man 2,000 years ago, or a jolly, bearded man who rides a sleigh with magic flying reindeer, and who will be coming down my chimney once a year to bring me presents?

The story of Jesus being born as a baby still attracts the attention of children, and yet, it seems that most children care much more about Santa and the presents he will bring, even though one of these two stories is true and the other is not. Why let a harmless, yet untrue story overshadow a world-altering true one?

2). Santa is the polar opposite of Jesus. Jesus came to die for the sins of those who would believe in Him, no matter what they ever did or will do. He imparts salvation, faith, and grace to us despite our sin. He loves us unconditionally and gave his life for us. Santa, on the other hand, will bring us gifts…maybe. His gifts are conditional. We must be “good for goodness sake”, not because we’ve been given an eternal gift despite our failures.

Christmastime is a perfect time to teach our children the Gospel. Jacob will receive gifts at Christmas because of the unconditional love that we have for him! We, as parents, can give them these earthly gifts and teach them that, in the same way, Jesus gave them an eternal gift despite their sin. Their obedience, and our acting “good” can come out of an overflow of being amazed at God’s free gift of salvation! Why bother with Santa, when Jesus is better?

3). Santa Claus isn’t real. I hope I’m not too quickly dismissed for saying this, but telling our children that Santa Claus is bringing them presents…is telling them something that’s not true.

I realize it may not scar them for life, as I myself believed in Santa, found out the hard news, and turned out just fine! And yet, even before Jacob can walk, talk, or play, I want him to be able to trust his mother and I in every single way. I want him to be able to believe everything I tell him, and know that I would never lie to him. I want to be the best example of our heavenly father as I can be, so that when we teach him about God, it’s not too difficult for him to imagine a heavenly Father that loves him and whom he can rely on for guidance and truth. This, at least in my estimation, includes never telling my child something that I know isn’t true.

UPDATE: After posting this, I had a great discussion with a parent who said that he and his wife weren’t lying, but “pretending”. I think this is a great point, that it’s totally O.K. to pretend with children. But one question to consider: Do they know you’re pretending? Is it like me and my son pretending to be animals, but knowing that we aren’t actually animals? Or is it our children actually believing that something is happening? If they think it’s real, they’re not pretending.


My main goal in posting this is not to rattle feathers, nor is it to make parents feel bad for telling their kids about Santa Claus. My goal is to share how I hope to take every opportunity I have as a parent to teach my kids about the Gospel. Anything that may distract from that I am willing to give up, even at the cost of having to figure out how to keep my child from telling everyone at school that Santa isn’t real!

My other encouragement is that even if your kids do believe in Santa Clause, don’t make the Christmas presents conditional! Take it as an opportunity to teach them about the one, greatest gift that Jesus gave us 2,000 year ago, a gift that was given “while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8).


8 Comments Add yours

  1. amberley says:

    Agreed ryan! My husband loves the idea of santa so while we will be doing that we are also doing a happy birthday jesus party every christmas and reading the christmas story from the bible to reiterate the true reason for the season.

    Ashley’s girls do not believe in santa…she explained to them the story of Santa and how old st nick used to go around town and give toys to kids in need and santa became a worldly thing people did ay christmas to remember him by…she also tells them that other kids don’t know that he’s not real yet so it’s their little secret. They are now 4&6 and they haven’t ruined any kids christmas yet…that I know of ; )

    So happy for u and your wife! I’m pray for a healthy lil boy and all the happiness for yall!

  2. While I am not yet a father, but hope to be soon by the grace of God, I too have strong feelings Christmas and how children ought to perceive Santa Claus. At one point, I thought along the same lines as you do, that children should be taught that Santa isn’t real, or that Santa should be simply ignored all-together. But, in today’s world it is not only improbable that one would be able to successfully ignore Santa, and in my current view, doing so would entail missing out on a golden opportunity to teach many of the lessons of our faith.

    Santa Claus, St. Nick, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, is a varied and splendorous character whose qualities sometimes contradict one another. At his best, St. Nick is an image of Christ as he was a real mean, a true Christian saint who gave money to the poor. Furthermore, the tradition of his gift-giving to children does not derive from any bias on his part towards the “good” children as he would have understood human nature from a Christian point of view rather than from a modern or postmodern perspective. St. Nicholas of Myra placed coins in the shoes of any children who left their shoes out for him. I feel it almost too obvious to relate St. Nicholas’s actions to the life of Christ who gives freely of himself to anyone who, like a child, believes enough in Him to put their shoes out for him.

    Now, do I think that children ought to be taught that all of the stories about Santa are true? I don’t think that children necessarily suffer any harm in believing that Santa comes down the chimney and leaves them presents, especially if the nature of Santa is explained as that of Christ, giving unconditionally. This idea of good children vs bad children obviously derives from parents trying to manipulate their children into behaving in accordance with their wishes. But, just because other parents manipulate their children thus, doesn’t mean I will have to reject Santa. This again, is a good didactic image of God and Christ. Many Americans believe in a Santa Claus who gives good things to the good and bad things to the bad and ultimately isn’t real anyway; just like many Americans believe in a God who gives good things to the good and bad things to the bad and ultimately isn’t real anyway. God doesn’t keep a naughty and nice list, why should Santa? After all, the best gifts are those undeserved, otherwise it’s not a gift, it’s a reward.

    Christmas carols demonstrate this disconnect between views of Santa. For example, see “Here Comes Santa Claus.” Gene Autry wrote in this song, “Hang your stockings and say your prayers [to God,]” “Santa Claus knows we’re all God’s children/That makes everything right/So fill your hearts with Christmas cheer” and “Peace on earth will come to all/If we just follow the light/So let’s give thanks to the Lord above/That Santa Claus comes tonight!” These words reflect a view of Santa in line with a Christian world-view. Gene Autry also wrote Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer which relates an image of Santa who saves ostracized children, redeems them, and sees the best in them.

    I think it is important to relate to children that St. Nick was a real man who did good, not a legendary figure who brings them gifts if they’re good. The extent to which children are told that Santa is “real” is up to each parent I suppose. I tend to like the idea that Santa is a Saint who we remember and emulate on Christmas. I think children can be told stories about Santa, and we can still perform the rituals, without developing in the children an unhealthy sense that Santa is real and gives gifts to the good and coal to the bad. I’m 24 and I love Santa and get really excited on Christmas and I think teaching my children to understand Santa the way I do is not too crazy.

    Teaching children that Santa brings the gifts and then saying, “Actually, your mother and I buy you the gifts” is lying, I agree, so why can’t we teach the children about Santa and tell them that we buy gifts for children in order to emulate Santa. It could even be a thing where I could dress up like Santa and they would get a kick out of knowing that I was dressed up like him rather than thinking I was actually him. I think you’re right in pointing out the damage that can and does happen to children when they “find out” that Santa “isn’t real.” It instills in them a cynical skepticism about supernatural figures, perhaps stunting their faith in God. I hope that my children will come to understand God the way I do, so I hope that they will come to understand the spirit of Christmas the way I do. I don’t think our two perspectives are that different, but I think that you may be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Santa can be a great didactic tool, who can teach children about loving one another, self-sacrificial generosity, gift-giving, grace, and God.

    1. Ryan Gilbert says:

      Actually, I think our views are almost the same. I’m totally cool with telling children of the historical figure of St. Nicholas. In fact, that’s our plan when our kids ask about who he is.

  3. april says:

    I wish i would have followed this. I have some friends who did this and it has been so much better for there kids.

  4. dave carter says:

    Ryan, I agree.
    My wife and I also decided not to talk about Santa and this was 50 years ago.
    They will pick up the santa stuff from the other kids.
    They understood where the Christmas emphasis should be.

  5. Laura Derk says:

    For those who are looking for a letter from Jesus rather than Santa.. you can find them on our website http://www.scrollsunlimited.com
    Merry Christmas to all…

  6. Cara Bynum says:

    first of all, I want to ask you were in the Bible you find that we, as Christians, are to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We are commanded to have a memorial of His death every Sunday, but we are never told to wish Him happy birthday. Birthdays are something that WE decided to celebrate, and as such, I will not teach my children that “Jesus is the reason for the season” because, frankly, He isn’t. My kids will celebrate Christmas as the secular holiday that it is. They will believe in Santa Claus because he is Christmas. My children will celebrate giving, and they will learn that you have to behave to get presents from Santa (although I haven’t heard of too many parents who actually deliver coal from Santa), just as they have to obey God and remain faithful to Him in order to go to heaven. Santa may not be a “real” literal person, but that’s because Santa is hundreds of thousands of people, parents and grandparents, who are being selfless and showing what giving really is.

  7. CP says:

    We made this same decision around age 25 and felt strongly. It was also pretty trendy, a la Jen Hatmaker and Matt Walsh. The problem: there’s a strong possibility your kids will watch the excitement in peers at school, hear songs on the radio, and feel deeply left out. I tried to backtrack and instate magic for my youngest when I realized all he wanted was to fit in… to not feel confused after EVERY Christmas movie asserted BELIEVE. Hell, even I wanted to believe again. Now for me Christmas represents who I don’t want to be — fundamentalist, assuming a kid who has no idea what a virgin birth is will be beaming in the eyes about Jesus instead. Now that he is almost 7, it’s a bit of a joke that I try to get him to believe when he doesn’t really. But overall I would turn back the clock 1000x over and give them the magic my parents gave me. It has left a bit of a holiday scar on my heart… because it also represents a vast disagreement between myself in my husband in which I don’t want to be so staunch and honest any more but he does.

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