Throwing Santa Under the Bus

Santa hat isolated on white
It all started so innocently. An inspiring tale of a generous soul, who would steal into the wintry night and secretly toss bags of cash into windows, the recipients too poor to have dowries. The legend of Saint Nickolas began.

So, how did we stagger so far and end up with the larger-than-myth Santa Claus? How did the paradigm of clandestine generosity morph into the progenitor of holiday indulgence?

This red-suited elf became problematic when he evolved into a supernatural being. Call him out —a false god. He flies through the sky with a team of reindeer, to every child-filled home in a single night, drops down sooted chimneys (even when there isn’t one), takes time for gingersnaps, and distributes bicycles, Barbies and Backgammon.

He possesses god-like knowledge, presence and power. He claims a moral element but in the end he’s a softy. He promises to reward only good behavior, but children soon learn that even the worst offenders are not disqualified from his list.

“He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake”. Since when did Santa Claus become the judge of good behavior and goodness?

Proponents present to children a deified being who delivers their wants but never calls them to account for misdeeds. Alas, a few short years and they learn that Santa is only an invention of well-intentioned parents hoping to add some fun and magic to Christmas.

We can’t blame unbelievers, for they know not what they do.

But, come on Christian parents, is the story about the baby who came to save the world not spectacular enough?

Is the angel’s announcement to be told alongside a fantasy of lesser glory? Should the sacred manger have to share the spotlight with one who instills greed and excess in our kids?

Why have we been duped by the world’s substitute explanation for our most holy season? Why can’t we as Christian families explore together the wonder of what really happened that first Christmas? Then perhaps, we can lead our children back to the example of Saint Nickolas, one who found immeasurable joy in anonymous good deeds and lending a hand to the poor.

For further reflection on this topic here is a link to a blog post from Desiring God which includes a 6-minute audio from John Piper

13 comments to Throwing Santa Under the Bus

  • Amen. Thank you for writing about this problem so beautifully.

    • Hi Susan, I actually wrote this a few years ago, and last year I hesitated putting it on the blog because I didn’t want to stir up controversy. Every year I feel more resolved in my conviction about keeping our Christmas untainted by the world. I know I’m taking a risk to post this.

  • SEW

    One of several deciding factors as to why I left a former church was when the pastor was coerced by some parents to recant his comment from the pulpit that Santa wasn’t real. He made a video the following week directed towards the children explaining that he misspoke.

    You’ve written exactly what has been on my mind, but I just couldn’t find the words to say it tactfully. Thank you.

  • Mickey Waite

    Well said Janet, this is a great post I agree with you wholeheartedly. Jesus is the reason for this season and without Jesus we have no hope.

  • Kelly

    Thank you! I so agree with “We cannot blame unbelievers, for they know not what they do.” In our discouragement we are tempted to rail against all the commercialism we see, haughtily shout “Merry Christmas” in response to the “Happy Holidays” given on the street, and sink deeper into our dissatisfaction of all that is “wrong” with our communities/culture. Yet, in our own homes we can make a beautiful and gracious difference. We can point one another to the Truth knowing that we are blessed knowing that Christmas – the person! – is here!

  • Tony

    Our dearest Janet, I am so glad that you posted this. I as well as a lot of my family and friends have felt this way for so long. You just seem to be able to articulate it much better. It is very close to the point where I would prefer this “festive” time of year would even not come because it has gotten so commercialized, I am basically sick of it. If only we could just get to a simple celebration of the birth of Christ, center on that, and that’s it, but in this fallen world, THAT will never happen. Ok, that’s it for my rant. (Hey, you started it. Haha!) Keep up the good work. We love you!!
    Brother and Sisters in Christ.

    • Thank you Tony. As I said in the blog post, we can’t blame the world because they are not expected to treasure Christ. He is our Lord, and we are reminded at Christmas what his incarnation means to us. Let’s keep it a holy celebration.

  • Chérie

    Thank you for posting this regarding Satan Clause…ahem…Santa Claus. I agree with you Janet. This is something I have felt so strongly about for years and have taken a LOT of flak about it from my non-believing family members. The explanation given by John Piper is so amazing. Shared it with several people.

    • Hi Cherie, I was actually waiting to see what you had to say about this. I’m not surprised! For many believers this is an issue that takes time to process and build convictions about. I grew up in a secular home and Christmas was all about Santa Claus, nothing else. When I became a Christian in college I felt a little ripped off because I’d missed the whole true meaning of the incarnation. I didn’t want my kids to miss out on real story so we skipped Santa Claus.

  • Sue Bond

    SO well written, Janet. Thank you for having the courage and the conviction to write it and post it.

  • sheila payne

    I love it. My children are now 24 and 26 and even this year, I got the “how could you have taken away that magical part of childhood from your children” comment from a couple of people. BECAUSE THE TRUTH IS AMAZING ALL ON ITS OWN, YA’LL”. Now that our sons are grown, they can speak for themselves and they are glad to not have the Christmas story messed up by the lie. They plan to skip Santa too when they have children.