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What’s the ‘Truth’ about Santa?

In case you missed it on the Corner, Nancy French “outed” her family as “Santa truthers.” For them, it boils down to the real meaning of Christmas.

The Christmas story is this:

God gave us the perfect gift even when we did nothing to deserve it. (And, in fact, deserved a lot worse than a lump of coal.) Instead of looking at us in our sin and putting us away, God was overcome with love for us. He didn’t hold our wrongdoings against us. Instead, at great cost, He gave us a way to be forgiven and reenter into communion with Him. That gift was His son, in the form of a baby.

The Santa story — other than the tales associated with the historical St. Nick, who’s simply a footnote in this commercial age — is this:

There’s a jolly, wonderful, magical being called “Santa” who is watching you. If you do something wrong, your name will be crossed off the “nice list” and put on the “naughty list.” Want good presents? You had better behave.

Which story is actually better and more comforting? The one that has the added benefit of being true. 

Nancy wrote in response to an article that unfairly characterized families that make this choice as being unimaginative. The article also argued that Santa truly represents the reason for the season. 

I have to say this is the first I had heard of anyone making this choice because they felt it was more faithful to their religious beliefs. Previously, I had heard arguments from the child-rearing angle – that in telling such tales “children take the feeling of betrayal and confusion into adulthood, and it has long-lasting effects on the parent-child relationship.” (Doesn’t seem likely in a relationship that is otherwise strong, but I’m not the expert.) 

I was happily surprised to see that PBS.org actually takes a pretty healthy approach to the story of Santa, and even points out that you can read religious-oriented books about him. (But of course, they also end with the noncommittal statement that “there is no right or wrong way” to talk about him.) And not surprisingly, there are atheists who would be more than happy for Santa and his remaining religious ties to fade away.

Weighing all the arguments, there is a part of me that wants to join Nancy and her family. I do feel that Christmas has become for too commercial, and that we have lost the real reason for the season. But I can’t let go of the tradition of Santa. My husband and I try to not stress the “naughty or nice” list and focus more on the spirit of giving that Santa represents as part of the incredible gift of salvation from our Savior’s birth. We feel the “truth” can be told in many ways that do not betray our faith — even including the myth of a jolly old elf.

This survey had it split relatively evenly, but more folks chose the truth. What do you think?

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