It seems that I've had many conversations this holiday season about Santa Claus and what we will be teaching our son. Ken and I have talked about this for a while now, and we have decided not to teach our children that Santa is real. Instead we will treat him just as any other fictitious character our children would know about from books or the media. It seems to be the most sensible approach that I can think of.
I know that I want to teach our child about Santa before somebody else does. It is much better that they hear from us that Santa is based on a real person who used to help the poor instead of being a real person who is magical. Christmas in our house is about Christ, and there's no reason to perpetuate the belief that Santa comes into the house to give good kids presents at night. We're not even convinced that presents are all that important, unless we're giving the kids something they really need, like new clothes. I know that we're going against the norm, and even against what our parents did when we were little. It doesn't sit well with me to lie to a child, though. I think that kids are perfectly capable of understanding that certain things are not real. My nephew loves lights, frosty the snowman, and other holiday things, but when asked why we celebrate Christmas his answer is, "because Jesus loves us." Even a child can tell the difference between fun fictional things and the real reason behind this winter holiday. I wonder why adults think they won't be able to handle the truth.
I do think that the idea of Santa can offer a somewhat tangible example of somebody displaying Christ-like qualities that kids would understand, like being charitable, loving one's neighbor, caring for widows/orphans. We make parallels between things today and things from the Bible, and I see no harm in pointing out to children the positive actions the original St. Nicholas did. I do not believe the character himself is inherently evil, but the way society exalts him to a god-like status is wrong. It is no different from the way we worship food, tv, sports, comics, video games, etc. It just happens to coincide with a holiday dedicated to Christ. In reality we should be worshiping Christ every day, not just on a select few days of the year. We must be careful not to let anything become more important than our Savior.
That's my view on Santa- fictitious character based on a real person who did nice things to help others. Great opportunity to segue into Christ's characteristics and the real reason we are celebrating Christmas. After you discuss it with your children there's really no need to re-approach the topic, since I think kids are pretty smart and there's a reason Christ said our faith should be child-like. They know that Jesus loves them, and they accept it. Santa need not be a substitute.