Is Santa Claus harmless fun?

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I have a friend who loves the Santa Claus tradition at Christmas. She and her husband go to great lengths to convince their children that Santa Claus exists. They make prints in the snow (including on their roof), leave a little pile of coal dust in their living room, and consume the cookies and milk left for the jolly, old man.

Another friend refuses to have anything about Santa around the house. She feels that it takes away from the true message of Christmas and only confuses her kids.

So what's right? Is Santa Claus harmless fun or in direct opposition to Christ? The debate could go on forever, but I have a few thoughts on the matter. Feel free to take them with a grain of salt and let me know what you think.

Santa Claus is an impossible character to ignore in our society from mid-November to the end of December. He is splashed everywhere on TV, billboards, magazine ads, internet commercials, and is even used as a selling agent on infomercials. And I have to admit, I like the idea of the old guy. Who wouldn't like someone who leaves you presents in a magical way?

That said, I can see some harm in the whole idea as well. I remember a young boy whose parents went through a bitter divorce before Christmas. His mother had very little money, but she found a used coat with a sports team she thought her son would like. She wrote on the tag that it was from Santa Claus. When I asked the boy what he got for Christmas, he said bitterly, "Santa gave me an old, used coat. Why would he do that?"

So I fall somewhere in the middle. I like having fun with Santa, but I never try to convince a child that he is real. I love telling kids the basis for the Santa Claus story in the traditional tales of St. Nicholas. And it's hard to beat the cadence and charm of "A Night Before Christmas." But I treat the whole subject of Santa Claus the way I would a fairy tale. It's a story of great charm and fun, but it just isn't real. And like fairy tales, it introduces us to a magical world where wrongs are righted and the smallest, most overlooked person gets rewarded for their good behavior. Perhaps in those tales, we discover a longing for a savior who will right all wrongs and forgive us even when our behavior is more "naughty" than "nice."

JoHannah Reardon has written a devotional book called Undone by Majesty and Mystery, as well as seven fictional books and a family devotional guide.

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