When our children were young, we decided to emphasize the real St. Nicholas, a Christ-follower, and how this historical person had eventually been turned into Santa Claus, a fictional character. We still had stockings filled by Santa on Christmas morning. However I am quite sure, and our adult daughters now agree, that we all understood Santa was pretend, that Mom or Dad was the real giver of the presents. We also made sure to celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6. In fact, on St. Nicholas Eve, we had our daughters put their shoes outside their bedroom doors. In the morning they found little candies, coins, and maybe a small toy. We did this as a reminder or remembrance of the Bishop of Myra, St. Nicholas, a very real Christian man who lived as Christ taught.
Below is an excerpt from www.AnnArbor.com -
There is a crucial difference, to my mind, between sharing values and beliefs of your own with your children, as you do with religion or morality, and telling them something is true that you don’t actually believe. If you believe in Santa Claus too, then you aren’t lying to your child. If you don’t believe in Santa Claus, and say that he is real, you are lying to your child. I’ve stated this bluntly, for the sake of the logic of the situation, but I do have a solution to suggest that is based in the history of the Santa Claus idea.
The historical Christian Saint Nicholas was noted for his care for the needy and his devotion to children. In other words, the story is one of loving and giving. That is a beautiful story, filled with important feelings and messages for people of all ages. And there doesn’t have to be any magic around loving and giving, since that is what we all really do at this time of year, for our families and our communities.
You might say to your children that “Santa Claus is a beautiful story that many people all around the world tell at this time of year, when we especially show our love for each other. When we tell about Santa bringing gifts, we are talking about the gifts of love and caring, which we also show with presents to each other.” In this way, you are pointing out the underlying meaning of Christmas and de-emphasizing the material. In an ongoing way, you are also teaching the difference between real and pretend and enriching your child’s mind with an understanding of symbols and metaphors.
You can tell your children that “everyone loves that beautiful story. Some people love it so much that they want to believe it’s true. We respect other people’s beliefs, so we won’t disagree or make fun of them. You and they can each think what you want, and everyone can enjoy loving and giving at Christmas.”