To Santa or Not to Santa? by Brian Dembowczyk

s41315ca105437_31.jpgHamlet almost had it right. “To be or not to be” is a great question, but for many Christians, “To Santa or not to Santa” is truly the question to ask in December. Whatever you decide, can I make two recommendations? First, let’s extend grace to one another. The unity of the church should be strong enough to withstand a man in a red suit. Second, as a parent, don’t forget to filter this issue through the lens of honesty and tactfulness.

If you choose not to include Santa in your Christmas tradition, you will need to help your child respond to others who believe in Santa. While they may be tempted to tell their friends the truth about Santa, perhaps it would be best for them to demonstrate tactfulness and refrain from doing so.

If you decide to include Santa as part of your Christmas celebration, you will need to think through the implications of presenting Santa as real. One of our goals as parents is for our children to have the confidence that whatever we tell them is true. Don’t we undermine this when we claim that Santa is real? Perhaps the better approach is simply to share that Santa is make-believe. You can still have fun with Santa without compromising your child’s trust in your absolute honesty.

There’s one other important factor concerning telling your child that Santa is real. What happens to your child’s understanding of Jesus when he learns that Santa is not real? For years you have told him that Santa was real and at the same time also told him that Jesus is real. I would encourage you to consider carefully if your child’s understanding of — and genuine belief in — Jesus is worth a brief season of believing in Santa.

Brian Dembowczyk is Associate Pastor of Discipleship and Assimilation at FBC Tampa, Florida. He is married to Tara and is father of Joshua (5) and Hannah (3). You can follow Brian on Twitter at @BrianDembo or check out his blog at


Our daughter (pictured above, with Santa at Sears) is 2 this year, and I still don’t think my husband and I have decided what to do about the Santa conundrum. He grew up not believing; I learned there was no Santa when I found his wrapping paper hiding in our basement around age 8. Did it damage me? Not much. But I see the author’s point. I’m interested to see what you have to say on the topic!

Our friend Rebecca Ingram Powell is doing a series on Santa Claus this week over at her blog that you might want to check out as well! – Jessie, Resident ParentLife Blogger


  1. My husband and I decided early on that we didn’t want to do Santa. Neither of us had a bad experience as children, we just didn’t want to deal with it. First, although fun, we view it as lying to our children. We didn’t want them to question why we lied to them when they figured it out. Second, we don’t do very many gifts, 2-3 small presents for each child, and that’s hard to split up between Santa and Mommy & Daddy. Lastly, we felt, for our family, taking Santa out of the picture would help us focus on celebrating Jesus’ birth. We know many families who do Santa, use it to add fun to the Christmas season, and still teach their children about Jesus’ birth. But it wasn’t the approach we wanted to take. My children seem okay with it and know not to spoil the fun for their friends.

  2. Stacy Landess says

    well here is our take on it…we don’t do Santa for 2 reasons
    1. we didn’t want to lie to our kids esp. since one day they would know the truth and want to know why we lied. 2. We always want Jesus to be the focus and the reason for the holiday. That said we don’t restrict movies about Santa or refuse Santa decorations or clothes. We explain that Santa is like Dora, Mickey, etc. All those characters we love but realize aren’t real. They have always know their gifts come from us. We also explain that some families do “play” Santa and that some of their friends think Santa is real and it isn’t our job to tell them and it doesn’t make them bad people if they do believe in Santa. That is between them and their parents. There has been a time when both of our girls have told us they wanted to believe Santa was real. We tell them it is a fun thought, but realize that Jesus is the only one who can “see you when your sleeping and know when your awake and know when you have been good and bad”, that it is important not to put a fictional character in that position. Along those lines we don’t do the Easter bunny, Easter is about Jesus resurrection and I tell the kids I am their tooth fairy…for the same reason how do we teach them not to lie and lie to them about these areas.

  3. Tiffany Bllumenberg says

    We chose to not believe in Santa. Mommy and Daddy bring our presents just like the wisemen brought Jesus presents. Although we have to let him know that other children including my niece and nephew believe in Santa.
    To let him know that it is Christ’s birthday we make Jesus a birhday cake.

  4. We also chose not to believe in Santa. Instead, we chose to say something like, “Santa is a game that every family plays. Each family plays the game differently. In our family, Santa is a fun story, but Jesus is the true reason why we celebrate Christmas.”

  5. Tricia Gray says

    We do Santa. First off, I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. I started going to church on my own when I was 16 and was saved when I was 17. To me Santa isn’t a big deal, I believe its just a lot of fun. We also focus a lot on Jesus’ birthday. My husband became a Christian shortly before we met and its been important to us to teach our child as much as we can while we learn. We are very much involved with our church family and learning every day about our Savior. A quick side story: The other night we were driving around our town looking at Christmas lights with our almost 3yr old. We found a nativity scene and it brought me sooo much pride that my daughter knew who everyone was. Then she had us on a hunt looking for more Baby Jesus. Sad to say we only found about 7 of them. But, as new Christians we do have a little Santa and this will be our 2nd year having a birthday party for Jesus. 🙂

  6. My personal feelings about Santa have evolved over decades. My oldest son, now 26 was taken to see Santa. Later on after having two more sons, we didn’t do the Santa story with them. It’s a tough call to say it’s wrong for everyone. I think by the time the second and third son was born, the idea of lying was bugging me a lot. We never made a big deal about those who do like to do the Santa story, but it was hard having them keep their mouths shut at the right time since they didn’t believe. We have various decorations in the house with Santa, so I am not so strict that images of him are not allowed.
    I think as a former Sunday School teacher of small children, what now bothers me the most is that Santa is “always watching to see if you’ve been bad or good”….hence the idea that it’s good behavior meriting a large spread of gifts at Christmas. My heart always sinks at the idea of some child whose family is destitute or struggling to survive, getting no Christmas and wondering if they did something wrong to deserve it. Just my thoughts………..

  7. Very interesting points. I’ve been noncommittal about the Santa issue as I wasn’t sure what I would do. These are wonderful points to consider.
    Thanks for sharing!

  8. I’m so glad to see this article. My husband and I come from two very different backgrounds. Both of us came from Christian homes, but my Christmas experience was all about Santa and, oh yeah, it’s Jesus’ birthday. His was all about Jesus and they didn’t do Santa gifts.
    We decided early on in our marriage before we ever had children not to do Santa. Our reasons were similar, but from different angles. He sees it as a lie to your child…precisely what one of the paragraph’s mentioned. I come from that angle, but I also remember that I was very confused about Jesus after that. I was saved the summer before I found out Santa wasn’t real, at age 8. Once I found out, my first thought was, “So do we ‘pretend’ to celebrate Jesus too by going to church every week?” I wrestled with that for years.
    My first child is three this year and is in preschool. Her Christmas party is tomorrow and S.C. is coming to surprise them all. At this point, we talk about Santa just like we talk about Christmas trees. It’s just a fun decoration to put up and we don’t make that big of a deal about it. All of the gifts our kids get are from us or our parents. We certainly don’t want to tell her he’s pretend at this point because she would go blab that to everyone of her little friends. At this point, what we’re doing is fine, but I’m a little concerned at what she’ll think when someone asks her, “So what did Santa bring you this year?” We’re still thinking of a way to handle that one.

  9. Stacey Kuhner says

    We allow our children to enjoy the tradition of Santa Claus, but they know that Christmas is a birthday celebration for Jesus. They love birthday parties so much that we have a birthday cake and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus every year. It is as much fun, or more fun, as it is to worry about Santa bringing them gifts.

  10. My husband and I decided not to do Santa with our kids for several reasons. The number one reason being all the lying that comes with the Santa game and the second that I was heartbroken when I found out the truth as a child. It was a very difficult experience.
    We are having a hard time this year as we will be spending Christmas with cousins who do the Santa thing and I am afraid our 3 year old is going to spoil it for them. She knows all about St. Nicholoas and the traditions that go along, and we are working on explaining things her cousin’s might say and how to respond. We’re praying that she can understand well enough for everyone to have a good Christmas.

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