The Santa Issue

When I was around eight years old, a neighbor asked me what I asked Santa for Christmas, to which I promptly replied, “I don’t believe in Santa. My mom and dad buy my gifts.”

Her frosted blond hair curled in horror and she quickly recovered with, “Well, just because you can’t see him doesn’t mean he’s not real. He lives in your heart.”

Jesus lives in my heart,” I shot back.

This little exchange was, I believe, the seed of the bad blood that continued over the years. It was obvious she never liked my know-it-all confidence and clearly preferred my cute little sister.

My parents were of the opinion that lying is always wrong and taught us the stern truth about Santa: there was indeed a gift-giver named Saint Nick, but never the portly intruder in red that invades homes worldwide via chimney every Christmas Eve, eating our cookies and stuffing our socks.

Besides offending my middle-aged neighbor, I don’t know if I ruined anybody else’s Christmas that year.

It’s the last part that has kept me from telling my son the absolute truth right away.

Kids are natural town criers. I’ve never met a little kid that knew the truth about Santa that didn’t crow about it to everyone they met. Telling kids about Santa too soon is like telling them about sex before they’re ready – everyone will hear about it and squirm. Some just cry.

My son is four and has asked if Santa is real and I just ask what he thinks and listen to him reason out what he believes is true. Right now, he is of the opinion that because reindeer are real, Santa must also be real. I’ll just let him go with that for now. I don’t want him going around telling all his little friends that Santa is a fake and be responsible for crushing their candy-coated dreams.

How we deal truth is important. We can treat it like a gift or a closed fist.

I won’t lie to my son about Santa, but there are a couple of reasons I’m not in a hurry to stamp out his budding faith with one reality-infused whump.

First of all, I want to help my son be sensitive towards the kids whose families have built up visions of Santa with jingling bells and reindeer hoof prints. For him, this is just the beginning of learning to respect what others believe. I don’t ever want him thumping heads with truth, but to reach hearts with kindness.

Secondly, I don’t want to disrupt his current understanding of faith.

I don’t want him to quickly dismiss anything he can’t see as false and unlikely. As he’s starting to weigh out the signs of what could make Santa “real”, I want to take his search for evidence of this “other” even further and point it to Jesus. Eventually he will learn that the signs do not point to the North Pole but to a very real Jesus that compels us to celebrate.

For me, Santa is just the beginning of the conversation. It’s the opportunity to talk about love and truth, faith and the unseen. But rather than pump him with the belief that there is a kindhearted Santa with gifts for him once a year, I choose to redirect his hope towards a grace-filled Savior that has blessings in store for him all of his life.

My Family Killed the Birthday Song

Birthdays are a really big deal in my family. As there are thirty-one birthdays to squeeze into just twelve months (that’s not even including the out-of-towners), we do family birthday parties every month or so and celebrate several at a time.

Now we are a pretty frugal and eco-conscience group, so we don’t require cards and presents for everyone and we certainly don’t spend lots of money on food, décor or location. It’s a potluck style dinner at my uncle’s house every time.

But while we are never extravagant with the menu and trimmings, we go completely overboard with singing Happy Birthday.

This would be my grandma’s fault.

She insists on singing it to each and every person. The most recent party was for nine birthdays. Now the song is already naturally aggravating, but imagine singing it nine times……my eye twitches just thinking about it.

To make matters worse, we thoroughly abuse the song with the musical equivalent of kicking Happy Birthday in the groin: kids punching every few beats with “cha-cha-CHA”, grandpa’s slow operatic bass rumbling along the bottom, grandma’s thick Cuban accent pummeling every syllable with over-enunciation and only a few of us trying to keep some semblance of the song by staying vaguely in tune. Alas, the once sprightly song has been beaten down and bedraggled from having every note stretched out to accommodate all the weirdos in our group.

Our rendition of Happy Birthday sounds more like a dirge than a celebration.   

It’s annoying, it takes forever and it feels like a reckless waste of precious minutes – and we are working with some very short attention spans.

But she will not bend or budge. To my grandma, it is of upmost importance to honor every single family member celebrating a birthday. While the rest of us are cringing every time another child sprays a mist of hot breath and spit on their round of candles and song, grandma is beaming. To grandma, they are precious and worthy of stopping everything to honor them and sing their name. After all, if they weren’t born, we would never have the pleasure of knowing them, so the day of their birth is an important anniversary that calls not only for celebration, but deliberate recognition.

Sometimes, I hate to admit, I treat Christmas with the same impatience as our family parties. Every year seems to go quicker and time for squeezing in the festivities gets away so darn fast. In my selfishness, I want to just have the parties and treats and skip the honor and recognition because it brings everything to a screeching halt.

The family of God is crazy bunch. Weirder than my relatives, stranger than any uncle you may have (you know, the ones that corner you to tell you the much-too-intimate details of their colonoscopy), yet he welcomes us – that alone is enough to get excited about. But more than that, he truly loves us, enough to give us the ultimate gift of his Son.

So let’s stop the party in its tracks to honor him this Christmas, because if Jesus wasn’t born, there wouldn’t be a party for all of us weirdos to celebrate.

Angie Derrick 12/9/2011 ©


  • I believe in Jesus, loving people, living fully and creating good things. Whether it's art, food or finding solutions, I am always in "creative mode". With this blog I hope to encourage and help others to live in whatever "mode" God has called them to.

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