Before the 1931 introduction of the Coca-Cola Santa Claus, the image of Santa ranged from big to small and fat to tall. Santa even appeared as an elf and looked a bit spooky. The modern-day Santa Claus is a combination of a number of the stories from a variety of countries. Now, back to the question:
Christie and I made a decision many years ago that Santa would be part of our Christmas celebrations. We made this decision for two reasons:
Firstly, Santa IS a real person – or at least WAS. Santa Claus is Saint Nicholas, born in 270AD to a very wealthy family. He was a committed Christian who eventually became Bishop of Myra – part of modern-day Turkey. Due to the many miracles attributed to his ministry he was also known as Nicholas the Wonderworker! He had a reputation for secret gift giving; in fact he eventually gave most of his family fortune away to those in need, and thus became the model for the modern-day Santa Claus.
The second reason we include Santa in our Christmas celebrations is because children LOVE fantasy! Ever watch a child’s eyes light up as you tell them a wonderful story? Fantasy and role-play is vital to a child’s healthy development. It allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, intellectual, and emotional strength. It is vital to healthy brain development as well as helping them engage and interact in the world around them. It allows children to create and explore a world they can master, and conquer their fears.
The Christian faith has been the catalyst for so much creativity over the centuries including great inventions and discoveries, music, painting and writing. Incredible creativity that has come out the God-given imaginations of men and women created in the image of God.
Fantasy has been used over the years as a powerful tool to communicate Christian truth. Authors like JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis expressed their Christian faith through fantasy and gave us works like Lord of the Rings and Narnia Chronicles that millions around the world are still enjoying and learning from today.
The Bible itself uses lots of imagery in an attempt to communicate spiritual truth to human beings. Since the beginning of time God has chosen to speak to people in dreams and visions, pictures, poems, songs, stories, and imagery. Jesus’ taught in parables. God could have given us a list of things to do and not do, but rather He chose to weave truth into creative writing so that our imaginations would be stirred.
For these two reasons we have embraced Santa into our Christmas celebrations. The children leave him and the reindeer snacks and drinks on Christmas Eve. Santa leaves them a note and gifts – and makes a terrible mess in the process! The kids love it – it’s a wonderful part of Christmas. Of course our children also understand that Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ birthday. They love the Lord and are growing in their faith. Jesus is central to Christmas but that doesn’t mean that Santa has to be excluded.