Post Author: Bill Pratt
In part 1, we introduced the question of whether Christians should celebrate Christmas, and in part 2 we finish answering the question.
What about Santa Claus? Are we deceiving our children by letting them believe in Santa Claus? It turns out that the origin of Santa Claus may actually be historical. CRI explains: “The name ‘Santa Claus’ is an Anglicized form of the Dutch Sinter Klaas, which in turn meant ‘Saint Nicholas.’ Nicholas was a Christian bishop in the fourth century about whom we know little for sure. He apparently attended the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325, and a very strong tradition suggests that he did show unusual kindness toward children.” Obviously the traditions about a red-suited man with flying reindeer is not historical, but it seems there was an actual Saint Nicholas.
Fine, you say, but aren’t we lying to our children, and won’t we cause them not to believe us when we tell the truth about Jesus? The reality of childhood is that children under the age of roughly eight are developing an awareness of the difference between reality and fantasy. They don’t understand the difference between the two, so, as parents, we pretend there are invisible friends, a tooth fairy that leaves money, and a Santa Claus who delivers gifts. Are we deceiving them? I don’t think so. Instead, I think we are encouraging their natural sense of wonder and their fertile imaginations.
Every child comes to an age when they are ready to separate fantasy from reality, and this is when we should be clear that Santa Claus is pretend and Jesus is real. The age depends on each child, so parents have to make a judgment call, but it seems highly dubious to me that a 6-year old child believing in Santa Claus is going to destroy her belief in God. Virtually everyone I know grew up believing in Santa Claus and doesn’t experience post-traumatic-Santa syndrome.
What about Christmas trees? Are they pagan symbols? The CRI article cites the following information from the Encyclopedia Britannica:
The modern Christmas tree originated in western Germany. The main prop of a popular medieval play about Adam and Eve was a fire tree hung with apples (Paradise tree) representing the Garden of Eden. The Germans set up a “Paradise tree” in their homes on December 24, the religious feast day of Adam and Eve. They hung wafers on it (symbolizing the host, the Christian sign of redemption); the hosts eventually became cookies of various shapes. Candles, too, were often added as a symbol of Christ. In the same room, during the Christmas season, was the Christmas pyramid, a triangular construction of wood, with shelves to hold Christmas figurines, decorated with evergreens, candles, and a star. By the 16th century, the Christmas pyramid and Paradise tree had merged, becoming the Christmas tree.
Christmas trees would only be a problem if Christians were worshiping them, but clearly they only serve as decorations; they seem harmless.
So, what is the conclusion? Should Christians celebrate Christmas? It seems that we are free to do so, as long as we keep the emphasis and focus on the birth of Christ, advice we’ve all heard before. There is no need to fear the celebration of Jesus’ birth, or Santa Claus, or Christmas trees. On the other hand, nobody need feel that they must celebrate Christmas. If you don’t feel that the holiday, as it is currently practiced, is spiritually nurturing your family, then you are well within your rights to skip it. Our family enjoys the Christmas season, and we have tried to emphasize the Christ-ness of this celebration, so we will continue to celebrate Christmas.
What about your family? Do you celebrate Christmas?