One of the great debates around Christmas time for Christians is whether or not to encourage or allow the belief in Santa Clause. I have friends and family on both sides of this debate so I want to be careful here. I have a great deal of respect for the desire to keep the focus on Jesus and His birth at this time of year. I want to encourage that focus, too.
And, yet, I allow my children…I encourage them even…to believe in Santa Clause.
We…my husband and I… don’t just stop there. We also have elves that visit our house every year during this season. Some would say that at best I am distracting from the message of Christ. At worst I am lying to my children.
The debate over whether Christians should teach their children to believe in Santa Claus is one of long pedigree, and honestly I’m not sure where I stand on it. My parents led me along in this way until my knowledge of geography led to too many hard questions, at which point my mother, carting me to yet another doctor’s appointment, caved. She solemnly charged me, though, to keep it to myself, lest I upset other children.
I do think, however, that Santa Claus notwithstanding (and St. Nicholas himself belted Arius in the mouth, something I try to do in a non-pugilistic way here) children are best formed being introduced to fantasy. Fantasy, like any other fiction, is yet another way of letting people think about reality, and that’s not just for children.
For me, visions of overweight men attempting to come down chimneys (an absurd concept in South Florida) paled besides the incomparable J.R.R. Tolkien, whom my hippy-dippy prep school English teacher introduced me to. But Tolkien has a cautionary message for people like Emily Stone who don’t mind their children playing with elves.
Unlike most fantasy writers, Tolkien conceived of the elves as a tall race. For example, his son Christopher figured out that Galadriel, probably the most eminent elf in The Lord of the Rings, was 6’4″ (193 cm) tall. So if Galadriel and some of her elven friends show up for a pick-up game, I’d keep the kids inside. (They probably play a mean volleyball game and aren’t slackers at golf, either).
But if they can keep up with this bunch on the court, they’ll probably have a scholarship under the tree.