But Santa Claus is not
just omnipresent, he is also all-seeing and all-knowing.
He has the divine power of omniscience, and this not
only on Christmas Eve but all through the year.
is Santa Claus?
Children are taught that he is the person who performs
miracles and wonders every Christmas Eve. He is able to
create and deliver virtually any present any child can
imagine. He can fly through the sky and deliver these
gifts to billions of children all over the world - all
during one night. And not just any old presents but
exactly the ones desired by each individual child.
He sees you when you're sleepin'
He knows when you're awake,
He knows if you're been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake ...
People imagine similar powers for their god:
You see me, whether I am
working or resting;
In addition, children are taught that Santa Claus is
all-good and all-just; He rewards the good children and
leaves the bad ones empty handed. Perfect goodness and
justice are also attributes of deity. In other words,
Santa is really a god who performs miracles by his own
powers. To be sure, he is a kind of childish god. He is
concerned only about children, and he brings childish
presents. But that's the only sort of god who could have
any meaning for the young child. Adults think of their
deity as the creator of all things visible and
invisible, but such an entity is beyond a child's
comprehension. What children can relate to is a creator
of toys and goodies. While grownups characterize their
god as all-holy, all merciful, all-just, all-powerful,
omnipresent and infinitely perfect, this conception is
too vast, nebulous and remote to have any meaning for a
little child. Children from 2 to 8 - the Santa Claus
years - cannot grasp such a transcendent abstraction;
they can only relate to a material being. Santa is such
a god-in-the-flesh - a deity tailor-made for children.
Santa has not always appeared the way we think of him
today. The first well-known gift-giver was a true
person--St. Nicholas. He lived in Myra (today we know it
as Turkey) in about 300A.D. Born an only child of a
wealthy family, he was orphaned at an early age when
both parents died of the plague. He grew up in a
monastery and at the age of 17 became one of the
youngest priests ever. Many stories are told of his
generosity as he gave his wealth away in the form of
gifts to those in need, especially children. Legends
tell of him either dropping bags of gold down chimneys
or throwing the bags through the windows where they
landed in the stockings hung from the fireplace to dry.
Some years later Nicholas became a bishop--hence the
bishop's hat or miter, long flowing gown, white beard
and red cape. After his death he was elevated to
sainthood. Eventually the Catholic Church started
celebrating Christmas and St. Nicholas was incorporated
into the season.
Finally, from 1931 to 1964, Haddon Sundblom created a
new Santa each Christmas for Coca-Cola advertisements
that appeared world-wide on the back covers of Post and
National Geographic magazines. This is the Santa we know
and love today with a red suit trimmed with white fur,
leather boots and belt, long white beard and a pack of
toys slung onto his back.
History of Santa in America:
Santa Claus can be
traced back for four centuries in the U.S.:
1600's: The Puritans made it illegal to mention
St. Nicolas' name. People were not allowed to exchange
gifts, light a candle, or sing Christmas carols.
17th century: Dutch immigrants brought with them
the legend of Sinter Klaas.
1773: Santa first appeared in the media as St. A
1804: The New York Historical Society was founded with
St. Nicolas as its patron saint. Its members engaged in
the Dutch practice of gift-giving at Christmas.
1809: Washington Irving, writing under the
pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker, included Saint Nicolas
in his book "A History of New York." Nicolas
is described as riding into town on a horse.
1812: Irving, revised his book to include Nicolas
riding over the trees in a wagon.
1821: William Gilley printed a poem about "Santeclaus"
who was dressed in fur and drove a sleigh drawn by a
1822: Dentist Clement Clarke Moore is believed by
many to have written a poem "An Account of a Visit
from Saint Nicolas," which became better known as
"The Night before Christmas." Santa is
portrayed as an elf with a miniature sleigh equipped
with eight reindeer which are named in the poem as
Blitzen, Comet, Cupid, Dancer, Dasher, Donner, Prancer,
and Vixen. Others attribute the poem to a contemporary,
Henry Livingston, Jr.
1841: J.W. Parkinson, a Philadelphia merchant,
hired a man to dress up in a "Criscringle"
outfit and climb the chimney of his store.
1863: Illustrator Thomas Nast created images of
Santa for the Christmas editions of Harper's Magazine.
These continued through the 1890's.
1860s: President Abraham Lincoln asked Nast to
create a drawing of Santa with some Union soldiers. This
image of Santa supporting the enemy had a demoralizing
influence on the Confederate army -- an early example of
1897: Francis P Church, Editor of the New York
Sun, wrote an editorial in response to a letter from an
eight year-old girl, Virginia O'Hanlon. She had written
the paper asking whether there really was a Santa Claus.
It has become known as the "Yes, Virginia, there is
a Santa Claus" letter.
1920's: The image of Santa had been standardized
to portray a bearded, over-weight, jolly man dressed in
a red suit with white trim.
1931: Haddon Sundblom, illustrator for The
Coca-Cola ™ company drew a series of Santa images in
their Christmas advertisements until 1964. The company
holds the trademark for the Coca-Cola Santa design.
1949: Johnny Marks wrote the song "Rudolph
the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Rudolph was relocated to
the North Pole where he was initially rejected by the
other reindeer who wouldn't let him play in their
reindeer games because of his strange looking nose. The
song was recorded by Gene Autry and became his all-time
best seller. Next to "White Christmas" it is
the most popular song of all time.
1993: An urban folk tale began to circulate about
a Japanese department store displaying a life-sized
Santa Claus being crucified on a cross. It never
1997: Artist Robert Cenedella drew a painting of
a crucified Santa Claus. It was displayed in the window
of the New York's Art Students League and received
intense criticism from some religious groups. His
drawing was a protest. He attempted to show how Santa
Claus had replaced Jesus Christ as the most important
personality at Christmas time.
The Theology of Santa
Santa, as taught to most children, has most of the
attributes of God:
He is virtually omnipresent. He can visit hundreds of
millions of homes in one night.
He is omniscient. He monitors each child; he is
all-seeing and all-knowing; he knows when they are bad
Although not omnipotent, he does have great powers. He
can manufacture gifts for hundreds of millions of
children, and deliver them in one night -- each to the
He is all-good and all-just. He judges which children
have shown good behavior and rewards them appropriately.
Bad children are bypassed or receive a lump of coal.
He is eternal.
He rewards good and punishes bad behavior.
However, there are negative aspects to Santa's behavior
that can damage a child's self-esteem:
In practice, children are not
rewarded with gifts according to their behavior; they
receive presents according to the amount of money that
their parents are willing or able to spend on them at
Christmas time. A child may receive little or nothing
from Santa because his/her parents are poor.
Unfortunately, the child has probably adsorbed from the
media and their friends only bad children get nothing
from Santa. He/she might begin to look upon themselves
as a bad person. This may well damage their self esteem.
Most children in Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Jehovah's
Witnesses or some other faith traditions do not receive
gifts from Santa. But when they go to school, they see
that their Christian contemporaries have been given
presents. They might feel that they are less worthy than
their friends, or that their religion is inferior to
Christianity. To protect from this kind of mental
development, most of the Non-Christian Parents should
think some alternatives.
What should children be taught about Santa Claus?
A "Santa Truth Poll" on familyeducation.com
shows that, in the estimation of adults, most children
stop believing in Santa Claus between the ages of 8 and
There are many opinions on what we should teach
children about Santa Claus:
Santa Claus is an important part of childhood: Carleton
Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW believes that "all children
have the right to be fascinated and enchanted by the
nurturing, age-old myths and fables of their culture.
Santa Claus, and yes, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth
Fairy engage a young child's sense of wonder." He
implies in his essay that parents should originally
teach their children that Santa exists. He suggests that
when the children develop doubts about the reality of
Santa, that the parents refrain from admitting the
truth. Rather, they should stand by to support their
kids when his/her "fantasies and myths grudgingly
give way to more mature, confusing realities."
Belief in Santa Claus is dangerous: The Rev. John
Eich suggests that teaching a child about Santa can
backfire. "When a parent says 'Yes, there really is
a Santa Claus and his reindeer can fly,' he is no longer
playing a game. The parent is lending his personal
authority as a parent to the myth, giving it the ring of
truth." When the child later finds out that there
is no Santa Claus, then she/he might also doubt other
From Engineering Prospective:
1) No known species of
reindeer can fly. BUT there are 300,000 species of
living organisms yet to be classified, and while most of
these are insects and germs, this does not COMPLETELY
rule out flying reindeer which only Santa has ever seen.
2) There are 2 billion children (persons under 18) in
the world. BUT since Santa doesn't (appear) to handle
the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist children, that
reduces the workload to to 15% of the total - 378
million according to Population Reference Bureau. At an
average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household,
that's 91.8 million homes. One presumes there's at least
one good child in each."
Teaching about Santa as a myth: Parents can
teach the historical legends associated with St.
Nicolas. They are great stories which discuss the
importance of generosity and sharing even if they are
based on events that never happened. At the same time,
parents can teach Santa Clause as a modern
secular/cultural myth. Children can still enjoy the
story without actually believing that Santa exists.
Families can still pretend that gifts arrived from
Santa. Since the child has always considered Santa to be
an imaginary person, he/she will not be disillusioned at
their parents when their friends tell them that Santa
does not exist.
A lesson for today
Parents should be aware that fostering a belief in the
Santa Claus of today may backfire later. A child looks
to parents to furnish everything--food, comfort,
courage, and truth. When a parent says, “Yes, there
really is a Santa Claus, and his reindeer can really
fly,” he is no longer playing a game. That parent is
lending his personal authority as a parent to the myth,
giving it the ring of truth. What happens later to a
parent’s credibility when the child finds out that the
story isn’t true? Maybe the other things a parent has
said about safety, moral values, right or wrong aren’t
If you once believed in a man who knew what you were
doing, who had amazing abilities, and who gave you nice
things, and he turned out to be a fake, why should you
believe in another man who knows what you are doing, has
amazing abilities, gives you nice things--Jesus Christ?
If you get burned once, why get burned the second time?
Wouldn’t it be better to be honest with our children
right from the start, and teach them the difference
between truth and make-believe?
Some people love Santa Claus so much that they forget
about Jesus. Some churches burn the present day Santa
Claus in effigy. Both extremes are too much. It’s
better to remember the real Nicholas, who can serve as
an example of how to really keep Christmas.
Don’t think “Look what the world is coming to.”
Rather think “Look who’s coming into the world!” A
little girl was once asked, “What is a saint?”
Thinking of the heroes of faith who are pictured in
stained glass windows she answered, “A saint is
someone who lets the light in.” That’s how we best
perhaps can use the myths about Santa Claus. Let’s use
them to let the “light in,” Jesus Christ the light
of the world. Let’s keep Santa Claus always kneeling
at the manger of his Savior and ours.
Santa Claus has at least
temporarily saved Christmas, both for Christians and for
Sources taken from: