Seeking Advice/ideas About Santa Claus and Christianity Together

Updated on November 05, 2008
W.C. asks from Red Bank, NJ
30 answers

I have been seeking ideas on keeping the real Christian meaning of Christmas, but still letting my four year old have fun with the idea of Santa Claus. He is asking a lot about Santa this year - where he lives, etc. I don't want to alienate him from his friends who believe in Santa, but don't want him to just think Christmas is getting toys from a man in a red suit. We were not involved as much with our church when my older sons were young enough to believe in Santa and I think they focused too much on what they were getting.

I thought of using stories of the real St. Nicholas, but it seems like not a lot of info is out there. Does anyone have ideas on the subject?

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So What Happened?

Wow! Thanks for all the responses - and ideas! I brought up Santa Claus while reading bedtime stories and told my son that Santa is a generous man who celebrates Jesus's birthday by giving to children, who he also loves very much. I also said giving to others is what Jesus wants us all to do. I was glad that my son starting focusing more on the birthday part of it and starting asking more questions about Jesus.

I like the ideas of tying in the 3 gifts of the wise men and having a nice collectible nativity to add to each year. I also think we will have a birthday cake for breakfast this year too.

Thanks again for all the great ideas.

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J.B.

answers from New York on

Hi W.,
If you would like to have some info about the real St. Nicholas, try to find it in the Netherlands!!!!
We still celebrate St. Nicholas on the 5th of December and we celebrate Christmas without Santa Claus (because we didn't grew up with that).
There is a lot of info on the web, try words like Sinterklaas, Sint Nicolaas and you will finf a lot of info.

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K.G.

answers from Jamestown on

My daughter is now 9 years old. But she has always known there is not really a Santa Claus. However, we have taught her that it is ok to pretend. Just like she pretends when she plays.

But we also explained that she should never tell other kids that it is pretend because it might upset them and that it is for their own parents to tell them.

She still gets gifts from "Santa" as do my other kids who are teenagers. Santa is just part of the fun in Christmas.

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C.R.

answers from Rochester on

Dear W.,
It is so refreshing to see more and more families keeping the focus of the TRUE meaning of Christmas where it should be. I have 5 children (ages 11-2) and we have always put Christ at the center of the season first, and have also talked about St. Nicholas. We have never been to the mall to get our pictures taken with Santa and the kids have never asked for it.

I think becauase they have learned the true meaning of Christmas, have developed a spirit of giving, and have learned about St. Nicholas (who was and was and is a real person in heaven) the focus of (secular)Santa in the big red suit is not a big deal. If they asked about the Santas they would see in public, we always told them that they were his helpers, and that St. Nicolas didn't come until December 25th. We added that he couldn't come until the 25th because Jesus's birthday wasn't until then. We always keep the excitement in it all to not ruin it for them.

We also celebrate the season of Advent, too. Advent, which means the coming or arrival of something momentous, is a time of waiting for all to prepare our hearts for the birth of Christ. Unfortunately, it is hard for anyone to celebrate this season with Christmas stuff going up well before Halloween!!! I personally dislike the day after Thanksgiving. I personally try to do my shopping before Advent begins, although I will say it is difficult. I do, though, focus on preparing my heart in those 4 weeks. This is how our family celebrates the season of Advent:

1. We have an Advent Wreath and special prayers we take out the first Sunday of Advent. We light a candle each week and say the prayers at the beginning of dinner. Each child takes turns to blow out the candle at the end of the meal.

2. We don't put up Christmas decorations, don't put up our tree, or listen to Christmas music until about 1 week before Christmas; this year it will most likely be December 20th when we decorate it as a family. We do this because it keeps us focused on being vigilant.This is how Mother Mary and St. Joseph were, right? We do put up winter decorations (snowmen etc..), though, and the Christmas music is turned on when the tree goes up.

3.The TRUE Christmas season is from December 25th - Epiphany. My thoughts on this are would you decorate and get ready for someone's birthday well over a month in advance? To me, when the day finally came, because all of the preparations and excitement had been going on so much beforehand, the zeal wouldn't be there very long.

4. We don't put the baby Jesus into the manger scene until the morning of Christmas, and the youngest child has this honorable task. We all then sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. If we are going to Mass Christmas morning, we let the children open their stockings and wait to open gifts after Mass.

5. On the feast of Epiphany our three wise men figures arrive at our manger scene and we celebrate with singing "We Three Kings". They start their journey from the west part of our house when the tree goes up, and travel east to the the manger scene. This year we hope to start some other traditions appropriate for the feast day.

6. We watch the video "Nicholas: The Boy who became Santa", "The Toy That Saved Christmas", and "Star of Christmas" throughout the season. These are great childrens' movies with the right message!!

There is a link below where you can find these movies, as well as two others you may find helpful. I hope this helps and please reply to me personally if you want more information or ideas.

C.

(http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=30342)

http://www.ignatius.com/ViewProduct.aspx?SID=1&Produc...

http://www.stnicholascenter.org

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J.F.

answers from Buffalo on

I love nicole m's answer: that Jesus loves children and Saint Nicholas wants to celebrate his love for Jesus and children which is why he leaves us presents on Jesus's birthday.

In my childhood (and still now) we were a very Christian family, Jesus was our center, and Santa was definitely not the focus of Christmas - but was always a fun part of Christmas morning! As long as you are still focusing on the nativity and the reason for the holiday which is Jesus, I don't think Santa is harmful.
We each only had one "Santa gift" every Christmas, the rest was from eachother. We still went and sat on Santa's lap to tell him what we'd like for Christmas and did a bunch of other celebrations of the holiday - cutting down a tree, making cookies, having sticky buns Christmas morning, listening to all sorts of Christmas music. But the focus of Christmas eve and morning was still Jesus - we even went (and still go!) to a Christmas eve service in a freezing cold barn every year! One of my favorite traditions!

I also like the idea of having children donate toys at Christmas time. The day after Christmas is when we go through toys and I have my step-daughter pick out ones she'd like to donate (not broken toys, those get tossed, but nice ones that she usually still wants to keep), this way she's not accumulating too much and it shows her the gift of charity.

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A.O.

answers from Rochester on

We do not put Jesus in the nativity when we set it in December. The first present on Christmas morning is always a beautifully wrapped gift....inside is Baby Jesus. We place him in his place in the nativity and then continue with the gifts from Santa.

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C.H.

answers from Rochester on

Ok, I am going to step out on a limb here, but why do we as Christian parents feel the need to lie to our children and tell them there is a magical man in a red suit, who lives at the North Pole with elves that make all the toys, and who flies through the sky in a sleigh pulled by magical reindeer, landing on our roof tops and sliding down our chimney to deliver toys to all the children of the world in one night? How can we teach our children to be truthful and not to lie if by our own example we are showing them that it is ok to lie. When you finally tell them the truth about Santa Claus, will they then question the reality of Jesus Christ or believe He is just another lie another ficticious character like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy? Please understand, until last year, we too used to feed our children the lies of this world by perpetuating Santa Claus and then we came to our senses and realized that all that did was confuse our children and it certainly did not glorify God. So, we told our children the truth (then 2 and 4)about where the "legend" of Santa Claus began, who St. Nicholas was and most importantly the truth of Jesus Christ. I want my children to love the Lord, to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and to know the truth of who God is. I think it is important for us as parents to focus on the salvation of our children and not perpetuating the lies of this world. "Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who deal truthfully are His delight." -Proverbs 12:22 Well that is my two cents for what it is worth.

God Bless,
C.

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M.P.

answers from Albany on

I see you already have a ton of responses, but I wanted to add what I have decided to do with my kids (now only 2 and 3). We have a birthday cake every year for Jesus and we have this great book (that I think we actually got at the Christmas Tree Shop or something like that!) that tells the story of St. Nicholas and why gift giving is tied to Christmas. On Christmas day my kids get three gifts from Mommy and Daddy because Jesus got three gifts, then Santa fills their stocking just like St. Nicholas did. We are a believing family who already talks about and to Jesus every day, so he is more part of their life than Santa would ever be, but it is fun to have that make believe childish part of their life at one time of the year. I think we have found a good balance between the two!! Good luck!

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C.M.

answers from Syracuse on

It is just an idea and it is what we do in our house....Beacuse the baby Jesus received 3 gift from the 3 wise men...santa only brings 3 gifts to help us remember the importance of what happened that day....we also allow the kids to have a cupcake for breakfast and we sing happy birthday to Jesus....Just an idea. Have fun

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M.L.

answers from New York on

At that age, my (Christian family) still believed in Santa. Try adding some more service...maybe things that have nothing to do with Santa at all. Work in a soup kitchen, or put together a basket of "Christmas" (food and toys) for a needy family in your congregation or neighborhood. Bake cookies for your neighbors and make sure he's part of the Chrismas card signing. There are SO many other parts to Christmas that make it wonderful. At age 4, he might not recognize all of them, but don't keep Santa the focus of everything. Help him recognize traditions and other things that make this season wonderful. At the same time, I don't think there's any harm in telling him Santa lives at the North Pole, has elves to help him, etc. It's a story, and it's a really fun one. Eventually, he'll learn that Santa isn't "fake", he just isn't one man - it's every person who works hard to make that one day special for someone else.

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R.P.

answers from New York on

Hi W.. I am a christian who has two small daughters aged 5 & 6. While we do talk about Santa Clause and discuss where he lives, we also talk about Jesus and the real meaning of Christmas. My mother got them the Nativity from Fisher Price Little People so they know eveyone that is involved. They even have books in the book store that tells the chrismas story that is designed for small children. Most important is to remember that he is only 4 and he may not "Get it" this year. But the more you do this each year the more he will understand. Enjoy! And have a Merry Christmas!

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S.H.

answers from Buffalo on

What we have always done is talk with them about how God gave Jesus to us as a gift at Christmas and that was very generous of both He and Jesus. We think that Santa is being an example of how God would like for us to be kind & generous with each other.
Or since it is Jesus' birthday, maybe Santa wants to give all of the kids gifts to celebrate. We tell them that we are not sure but we think those might be the reasons. Also, every Christmas, Santa brings us a gift to remind us why we celebrate. ex. last year, he brought our family a wooden Cross made from an Olive tree from Bethlehem. He wrapped it with a note asking us to remember that it is because of Jesus that we celebrate Christmas.
Good luck and Merry Christmas to you and your family!!!

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S.P.

answers from New York on

Hi W.,
I say ABSOLUTELY talk to them about St Nicholas. He is, after all, the origin for the tale of Santa Claus (a variation on the Dutch for St Nicholas). He was a real person, which can help the kids from feeling the whole thing was a sham. And the miracles he performed, especially for little children, are every bit as 'magical' as anything Santa does, and he did give gifts to children, and is considered a patron saint of children. And what could be more rewarding for a Christian parent to give children a saint to love as much as they love Santa?? I know there are resources out there, and if you are stuck, I'll try to help you find some.
S.
[email protected]____.com

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T.M.

answers from Utica on

I am a Christian also

When my girls were small and Santa Claus was the topic, they first only got one gift from Santa. Never more than one. After all Santa had to gift to all the other children in the world, and they also knew that Santa was a real person, St. Nicholas was a kind gentleman who gave coal to the poor so they would have heat when it was cold. The kids understood where the meaning of coal in the stocking came from and that it really is not something bad. So when they finally realized that St Nick passed away and is no longer in the world today, they were able to deal with the reality that we include Santa as a tradition. They also knew the gifting was Mom and Dad or Mom or Dad, whatever the case maybe, so there was no discouragement the next year over lack of Christmas.
T.

after reading the rest of the ideas, i remembered that my mom has a speckal to her statue, which i would someday love to put under my tree. It is Santa kneeling and praying over the baby Jesus in the manger. That sure would bring it all together.

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A.G.

answers from New York on

We are a Christian family and have never encourage the Santa idea. When our oldest was little she was terrified of "Santa" at the mall so I had to tell her it was a man dresses up. Then it became easy because her Grandpa was "Santa" for a local function and she thought that was awesome. I told her the story of the "original" St. Nick and that he was a great person that decided to help people in need but do it without letting them know. We play "Santa" to a family every christmas now to encourage our kids to do something nice for someone without having to get credit for it.

Our family reads the Christmas story and pray before a present is opened and we make sure our kids understand that Jesus came to earth as a baby and that Christmas is HIS birthday celebration. We have birthday cake and even sing Happy Birthday to Jesus.

There is nothing wrong with Santa but make sure he knows that Santa does what he does in celebration of Jesus's Birthday. There is a picture I've seen that I love of Santa kneeling at the Baby Jesus's manger.

We take our kids to christmas parties, take pictures with Santa and have a great time. When the 2yo asks about Santa (whenever that is in the future) she will be told the same thing the older one was told. We told our daughter that she should let her friends love Santa if they want and if she says anything say that Christmas is fun because its Jesus's birthday and we get to have a big party! She is also in a Christian school so that helps but there are still kids who believe in Santa.

A word of warning though about Santa. My Mom's best friend when she was about 8yo cried and was sad the day after Christmas. When my Mom and her talked about it she had got some great presents. Mom didn't know why she was sad until Vicki told her that her parents NEVER gave her a christmas present that they were all from Santa. My grandparents always gave Mom 1 present from Santa and signed all the rest "with love Mom and Dad". Vicki's parents always signed ALL the presents from Santa. There were never many gifts but when she saw the tags of Moms from her parents it made her sad that her parents NEVER gave her a Christmas gift. Santa can be fun but even if you want your kids to believe in Santa make sure they know the love and thought that you as parents put into it.

Our saying is "Lets keep Christ in Christmas" and how can you go wrong!!!!!! God Bless!!!! A.

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S.T.

answers from Albany on

W., I will talk to my mother-in-law to see what more information about St.Nicolas. My children do not really know much about Santa Claus and I don't talk much about him at all. I am focusing on keeping Jesus Christ in the picture because it's really about Him, not Santa Claus. When they get to the point asking mroe about him and hearing it from other children, I will explain that there are people who believe that Santa Claus is an importatn person in Christmas, but not he's not, Jesus Christ is. Ther are children who believe in Santa Claus and we haveto respect that is what they believe but you can tell them about Jesus Christ and they need to respect your beliefs (and the TRUTH). I am interested in knowing more about St.Nicolas too, so if you get any, let me know. Thanks and I'll pray for Jesus's Wisdom for you and your family.

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K.W.

answers from Buffalo on

I think the way you present the idea of Santa is what's important. Santa is everywhere during the holidays, why take the wonder out of it? All around us, the focus is on 'getting' as opposed to 'giving', but it doesn't have to be in our families.
I never told my kids that Santa was real or not. However, I did tell them that St. Nicholas was very real and a very giving man. The idea of Santa Claus was taken from that feeling of giving. We had many magical times watching out the window talking about the miracle of Christmas. How special (and FUN) that Christ is so wonderful that we 'give' presents and do things for people to celebrate His birthday!
When asked if Santa is real, I've always said I've never seen him, but I know that the feeling is real. I can pretend and my kids were 'almost' positive that I was playing. That sense of wonder is so special. Santa's red suit isn't the important thing - the Christmas miracle is real !

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J.O.

answers from New York on

My son was also asking many questions about Santa at that age and I did talk to him about the real St. Nicolaus. We discussed the magic of someone being so generous and open hearted and why people continue his tradition.

We don't go over the top in consumerism in our house. In fact we are probably somewhere on the bottom, but my children are very happy.

My son was very respectful of his friends and never let on about Santa.
I suggest you follow your gut, whatever that decision is.

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S.S.

answers from Binghamton on

You are struggling, as we all do, against the commercialism of Christmas and it is an uphill battle. I do think, however, that the idea of Santa Claus can embody the true spirit of Christmas: the idea of selfless giving, of magic and wonder. You can help him understand the power of giving by having him select one of his own toys to give to the local children's hospital, or buy one with him if you can afford that.
I think it is natural that children focus on what they will be getting, and having him select something he likes and would like to have for himself to give away can be a powerful reminder that giving can be as wonderful as getting.
Have you thought about starting to collect a nativity scene if you don't have one already? I did this with my girls and it was not only fun. It was a nice lesson about delayed gratification, since we could only afford a few pieces each year. Now we have a beautiful set that focuses on the birth of Christ, a nice reminder in this era of consumerism.

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S.M.

answers from New York on

I have two children. I have explained to my oldest daughter that Santa is there to help children that doesn't have nice things and that need our help. I also tell my oldest that christmas is not about gifts and that its about giving and receiving love. She so far understands. I think because my husband and I do so much for her throughout the year that christmas for us is real small but we are around alot of family. I try to push family in my daughters mind 100%. Santa is going to be around so let it go. Just prove the meaning behind santa thats all

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A.H.

answers from New York on

I make sure we go to church.. and when we get home - the kids get presents from baby Jesus. Since it's Baby Jesus's birthday - baby Jesus wants us all to get gifts and spread love. My kids - even when they were little - I would bring them to the store - each with a dollar or two.. and they would pick out a very small gift for everyone in the family, brothers, sisters, mom and dad. They would go home and wrap them.. so they also spread the love. Then on Christmas morning they got a few toys from Santa. So I try to incorporate all aspects of Christmas - with giving and with love for one another. My son is now 12 and he is saving his money to go buy gifts on his own this year. It's important that they give to one another too.

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M.T.

answers from New York on

I would go with the spirit of giving theme, and make sure that your son has plenty of opportunity to watch you (and to help) to share the spirit of giving with others this holiday season.
Good luck.

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E.T.

answers from New York on

Hi W.,
Here's an idea that I think I am going to try when my son gets older (he's only 9 months old now). I am Catholic and agree whole heartedly that the meaning of Christmas needs to be maintained. When Jesus was born, the Wise Men brought him 3 gifts. If it was enough for Jesus...then it's enough for our own children. I realize that this can be tough but if you start now, it might be easier. Good luck and I hope you have a merry one!!

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L.G.

answers from New York on

Why is Santa a big deal? i am willing to bet that most of us grew up with Santa and we turned out fine. Yes christmas is about Christ's birth but I see no harm in Santa. What i do to keep the Christ in Christmnas myself is i tell my daughter that Santa needs our help because there are so many boys and girls in the world and many don't have nice things like she does. So Santa asks us to help him make their christmas nice. We also tell her god likes it when we help others and not just at Christmas.

Many charities have toy drives.. what about asking your 4 year old to go through his toys and give away what he no longer plays with. That way a child would have a toy and he has room for new ones he may get.

Read them the story of Jesus's birth. Make cookies for a friend or a gift. take them to help in a soup kitchen or making food baskets. i think there is room for Santa nd Jesus. Sant may not exist as a person.. but the spirit of Santa.. that of giving to others is a good thing for all of us.

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L.S.

answers from New York on

What about something along the lines of Santa Claus is a very generous man who give presents in honor of the birth of Jesus Christ, and take it from there...

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B.W.

answers from Rochester on

You've already had tons of advice about what you should tell or how you should incorporate....have you asked your son what he thinks? As christians, our children should have an understanding by 4 of who Jesus is. I know my kids did. When it came to the Santa part, we had serious struggles trying to incorporate him into our very christian structured home. I asked the kids what they thought. It always surprises me the level of intelligence a child really posesses. They defined Santa for our home. They reasoned out his position for the Christmas holiday season. Why should you have to spell out anything about this mystical being? Your son, if he has been brought up in a Christian home with emphasis on Christ, has the ability to define santa for himself. The same holds true for the tooth fairy, easter bunny, and leprachauns.

Too many parents feel they're lying to their kids so let the kids make their own space for the fantasy creations of the secular world. We are to be in the world but not OF the world. That means that we focus on Jesus, but still keep abreast of the dealings of the world so we're not sitting targets or caught off guard for evil. Santa is the secular focus of Christmas. Jesus is the Christian focus of Christmas. You can have both so long as you keep your focus on Jesus and be aware of Santa.

If it's too hard this year, do Santa on Christmas eve and Jesus on Christmas Day or vice versa. Just don't think you have to have all the answers - kids can give you the answers if you open your ears and heart to hear them.

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J.P.

answers from Buffalo on

Hi W.
Isee you have a few responces already so I will be breif. I had the same question. My girls are 5 and 2. The oldest didn't even really pay much attention to Santa until last year. One really special thing we do...On Christmas eve (day) we bake a birthday cake for Jesus. I let the girls decorate it and then they can each have a piece on Christmas morn. Yeah, okay not the healthiest option ever, but what kid wouldn't remember getting to have cake for breakfast? And of course they then know the reason why. This is the most special birthday of all! It was something I had heard somewhere and it seem so have worked. My older daughter stopped us before we opened our presents last year because she had to put baby Jesus in the manger first! It was a beautiful Christmas morn.! We also adopt an angel off of the salvation army tree. My daughter loves to pick out thing for thr "little angel girl" who doesn't have verry much. We empasize charity all year so it doesn't come as a surprise at the holidays. If you empasize the important things, you can have both. Good luck!

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A.D.

answers from New York on

Growing up, we were always told that Santa Claus was the spirit of Christmas, and that doesn't change once you find out he isn't real. Christmas for us was a reason to bring family together. I think you can incorporate Santa and gift-giving as part of the celebration of Christ's birth either by discussing the Three Wise Men bringing gifts to baby Jesus or just by saying that you exchange gifts on that day to celebrate his birth.

My daughter is 5 and has been talking about Santa for months already, she's fascinated by the whole Magic of Santa Claus, you have to admit he's an exciting guy for a kid, lives at the North Pole (how do you get there?), travels around the world at Midnight on Christmas Eve bringing presents to all the good girls and boys, knows if you've been good or bad, has flying reindeer. He's magic and it's exciting! My daughter is drawing pictures for Santa and she wants to wrap them up and leave them as a present for him on Christmas Eve.

We're not a very high consuming family. My daughter knows she gets gifts on her birthday and at Christmas (from family and Santa Claus) and that's it, so whenever she asks for something I tell her she has to wait for one or the other, whichever's closest. Use the fascination with Santa to encourage generosity, and if needed, to encourage good behavior (nothing wrong with a Santa's watching you warning).

Build strong family traditions that will last long past his belief in Santa AND most importantly, use the Christmas magic to enhance your religious beliefs. I don't care if you homeschool, have no TV, and never let your kids out of the house, Santa will still come through. Don't try to shut him out, just use the whole magical time of year to add to the Joy of the season. Your Christmas celebration will be about Christ, just make sure it's a celebration.

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L.H.

answers from New York on

There shouldn't be any problem. Catholic families have done this for years. I even knew the story behind the Chrismas tree and what it represents. There was always a nativitiy under the tree right next to the train. An angle always topped the tree to anounce Jesus's birthday. Santa was always thought as of St. Nick. Santa was really no different than us giving each other gifts....It's just that he was viewed as a very generous person. For us the whole idea of gift giving and Santa giving gifts was to try to be like God, only God gave us the best gift of all....his son.

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A.D.

answers from New York on

Hi W., Saint Nicholas is the Original Santa Claus. Yes the media and the stores have blown Christmas out of proportion. The gifts also came from the Wise Men. We should remind our children that JESUS is the reason for Christmas, God's great gift to mankind. It is OK to have a balance of both. I'm sure you can find some stories at the library. Also check into Kris Kringle, he was a gift giver too. Many stories have been passed down through the years but the most important is the birth of Jesus Christ. Many blessings, Grandma Mary

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N.M.

answers from New York on

I have told my kids that Jesus loves children, so Saint Nicholas wants to celebrate his love for Jesus and children which is why he leaves us presents on Jesus's birthday.

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