Growing up we decorated for Christmas the Saturday after Thanksgiving every year. My dad, brother, and I would pile in the car – a burgundy Chevrolet Monte Carlo, mind you – and make the trek to the Christmas tree farm. Having grown up 20 miles outside of Atlanta, my husband doesn’t believe me when I tell him that I never saw pastures of land and farm animals. Well, this was the one day of the year that I may have seen a cow or two.
My mom didn’t go with us because she said she couldn’t bear walking through a Christmas tree farm bypassing the short, thin Virginia Pines for the tall, beautiful Frasier Firs. “It would break my heart”, as she put it, and she’d want to take all the Charlie Brown Christmas trees home.
That didn’t bother us, though. We hunted for the perfect tree, cut it down, piled it on top of that Monte Carlo (I still don’t know how that happened) and carried it home.
When we got home all the house lacked was the Christmas tree. The stockings were hung, and every form of Santa Claus you can think of decorated our house. We had a three-foot Santa Claus doll holding a can of Coke (I’m from Atlanta, remember?), Santa Claus blankets, Santa Claus porcelin figurines, and even a handmade pillow that said, “This house believes in Santa.”
The funny thing is that I never believed in Santa Claus a day in my life.
In fact, one of my favorite memories of Christmas is me going downstairs while my parents were putting out the “Santa” toys. Then there was the year I found this yapping puppy dog that ran on batteries that I had asked for, already wrapped, and I unwrapped it, played with it in my room, and rewrapped it. My parents still don’t know about that one.
And of course there was the infamous time I told my friend that Santa Claus wasn’t real. I didn’t know I was doing anything wrong. I was just stating the facts. She bit me, and then ran into the house crying.
When I was in my twenties I asked me mom why I never believed in Santa because it’s not like my parents had some conviction against Santa Claus. We still played the game. We went to the mall every year and sat on his lap and had our picture made. I told him what I wanted for Christmas and even made a list. I think I even called him on the phone one time. My mom asked me what I wanted from Santa each year, and she said things like, “You have to believe to receive.”
Except I didn’t believe. And I still received.
When I asked my mom about it she told me that she just never wanted to lie to me. She said it was importnat for her to tell me the truth, so she told me the truth, and we went along playing the Santa game for the rest of my childhood. I loved playing the game. But I always knew it was just that – a game.
I remember expressing to her my disbelief that she stole such a magical time of my childhood because she didn’t want to lie to me. However, now, many years later and with my own two-year-old daughter, I appreciate my mom for telling me the truth, and I appreciate her playing Santa with me.
As a Christian, I’ve read all the arguments against Santa Claus, and I get them. In so many ways our world is one big lie because for right now our enemy, the father of lies, is this world’s ruler. It’s hard enough to get people to believe that God came to earth as a baby and died for their our sins because He loves them so much, and that is truth. Then we also tell them that a jolly white-bearded man comes down the chimney to bring toys to kids all over the world. Except that story’s only good until you’re ten-years-old. Then you better understand you’ve been dupped.
However, as a former little girl, I know how fun it is to dream, to pretend, to imagine a world where tiny elves are far away crafting your heart’s desires. Where all of your favorite things are free and someone magically appears to deliver them to you. I loved imaginaing the North Pole, Santa’s workshop, and Rudolph’s red nose.
Now I see how genius my mom was in her deliverance of Christmas. She kept Jesus at the center, never told a lie, and yet managed to take me into a world of fantasy and make-believe and fun. It was the perfect example of being in the world but not of the world.
For one month we played the game of Santa Claus. But all year long we lived the Truth of Jesus.