I humbug Santa

AKA – Why I killed Santa and would do it again

I just finished e-mailing my brother John, who is currently on deployment with the US Army in the Middle East.  He had called earlier today and then sent an e-mail wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.

The thing is, Christmas is also John’s birthday.  But for 40 years now (Dude, is he really that old?  That would make me…. 2 1/2 years less old) John has shared his birthday with Jesus.  And although my parents tried to differentiate between their savior and their son, I’m afraid we all know who got the short end of the stick when John was growing up.

This is an all too real problem for many whose birthdays coincide with major holidays.  Its hard to compete.

And that is why Santa must die!  And that’s why I no longer regret killing him a few years ago.

I’ve been teaching 6th grade for 11 years now.  Two years ago was the only time Santa ever came up in my class.  I thought for sure that all of my students knew that Santa was fictional by the 6th grade.  So when they asked me if Santa was real, I hesitated and then said “that as far as I knew, Santa didn’t exist.  That he was actually based on a Christian priest in Turkey, Saint Nicholas.”

I didn’t think anything else of it until the next day when an irate parent accused me of killing Santa Claus. That her son still believed in Santa and that I had ruined Christmas.

I felt bad.  That was never my intention.  During the course of our conversation she said that she wanted to keep her son innocent and encourage him to enjoy his childhood.  Basically, she didn’t want him to grow up too quickly.  Santa was one of the last childhood vestiges of innocence that her son had.  And I had killed Santa.

I’m not used to getting parents mad at me.  In fact over the 11 years of teaching I can count on my hands how many times I’ve had parents PO’ed at me.  For some reason I’ve been fortunate to have a good repoire with my students and their parents.  So when this parent was mad at me it caused me some serious reflection.

During our conversation I remember giving my arguments for why I was even talking about Santa during my Social Studies class. We talk about religions in 6th grade, culture, holidays, festivals and cultural diffusion (Christmas being a great case in point) and I strive to be honest with my students.

Honestly, I don’t know why I didn’t kill Santa in every one of my social studies classes for the past 11 years.  I’m a mass murderer.  Or at least I’m premeditating the murder of a thousand Santas.  I’m a monster.

Let’s see if my monster logic is a crazy as it seems.

As mentioned, Santa is a legend based off of one, possibly two, Christian priests named Nicholas.  But few people in America know this much.  And Christmas?  Well it was the Mass celebrating the birth of Christ.  In the few classes where I’ve taught a brief lesson on Christmas this information alone is more than most of my students have ever heard.  Next, Holiday.  Well Holiday literally means “Holy Day.”  Gaskets are blowing.  Minds are opening.  Kids are waking up.  Its amazing.

And as my brother John can attest, sharing a holiday means someone’s going to the get the short end of the stick.  I hate to be the person that repeats the mantra but “Jesus is the reason for the Season.”  So I won’t.

The reason my wife and I have never taught our children that Santa is real (though we have shared with them the story of the real Saint Nicholas) is that we want them to believe us.  If we purposefully lie to them for 5-12 years (depending upon when they catch on) then what other of our beliefs will they suspect are also lies?  We want to carefully guard those things that we really do believe.  If we are so careless with the truth and lie to them about Santa then one day when they “grow up” they will question everything we taught them.

A group of athiests has also made this connection and compares Santa with the Easter Bunny, Leprechauns and Jesus.

Which leads me to a related, but divergent, thought.  What is the power of belief, if what one believes in is false?  It seems our society really values belief.  We are amazed by Tim Tebow’s beliefs.  We have movies encouraging us to “just believe.”  We even have a major add compaign by Sony Playstation encouraging people to “Make Believe.”

Pardon me for killing Santa, but I don’t care what you believe.  Honestly, you shouldn’t care what I believe.  Has anyone lost sight of the fact that there is truth and there are lies.  When we celebrate lies as a means to keep our innocence are we doing ourselves any favors?

Now, I do think we should show respect for others beliefs (which is why, don’t worry parents, I won’t kill Santa in my class anymore), but eventually the truth always wins out over falsehood.  I’d much rather be on the side of the cold hard facts then on the warm mirage of falsehood.

Final illustration.  There are two gifts under the Christmas Tree (also a pagan symbol that has nothing to do with Jesus – but I digress).  One is a huge box full of cheap toys that will all break or get lost within a month.  The other is a much smaller box that contains a notebook.  Its easier to get kids excited about the huge box, but where’s the challenge in that?  The smaller gift, while obviously less puffy and jolly, is infinitely more valuable. Inside of that box is a notebook full of the account numbers and passwords for their College Savings Accounts and Trust Funds as well as a family history and parental words of wisdom.

Ironically, the truth of Christmas makes an even greater, fantastical story then the made up ones ever will.  This is one of those cases where the truth is stranger than fiction.  Santa isn’t real.  There is no Santa’s workshop, flying sleighs, elves or red nosed reindeers. The truth is that the God of the universe loves us so much that He came down here and dwelt among us.  God became man.  And this man didn’t raise Easter bunnies or lay colorful eggs.  What this God/Man did AFTER He got here is another case of Truth trumping fiction.  But that I’ll have to save that for the day when I hunt down and skin the Easter Bunny.


  1. Wow, Phil – that is really powerful. Made me really think about the messages I’m giving my kids in the name of “imagination.” Time for me to get out my knife and kill Santa too.

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