In Defence of Father Christmas

Dear Friends and Family,

As Christmas Day is fast approaching, I thought I would write on a subject rather close to my heart: Santa Claus, or as he is known here, Father Christmas.

A collection of letters J. R. R. Tolkien wrote to his children from Father Christmas

A collection of letters J. R. R. Tolkien wrote to his children from Father Christmas

I believed in Santa Claus until I was 12, nearly 13. All in one day, I lost Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. I realise that I was older than most when I stopped believing. I had to ask my mom pointblank. She said, ‘Do you want the truth?’ Yes. I did. And so she told me there was no Santa Claus. This didn’t shatter my world. Somehow, I still maintained a sense of magic and mystery in the world around me. A few months later, I would decide that Christianity, that Jesus was real and before my next Christmas I had dedicated my life and death, and whatever he chose to give me after, to Christ.

I know that some parents are afraid of introducing Santa to their children because they may give up on God as well. I, however, can honestly say that being raised in a home that put no emphasis on God, loss of Santa did not make Jesus seem less plausible. I truly believe that belief in Santa, in magic in this world, prepared my pre-adolescent heart and mind for belief in one greater than Santa. I understand that Santa can be misused, he can become the face of crass consumerism and can make children of less wealthy families feel misused and abused by the goodly giver who gave them less than the rich boy down the street. However, I think as Christians we ought to take another look at Santa, or as I have come to prefer, Father Christmas.

The reason I prefer Father Christmas to Santa Claus is twofold. First, by making him Father Christmas we detach him from the real figure Sinterklaas, or St Nicholas about whom I wrote on his feast day. This allows us to discuss who the real St Nick was and what he did (i.e. giving gifts and punching heretics). Second, by using the title Father Christmas, he can be as old as the birth of Christ, connecting us ,even more firmly than the Bishop of Myra, to the event that we celebrate in the Feast of the Nativity, namely, the Incarnation of God. Father Christmas can become a figure directly linked with the giving of the gift of God become man.

One thing I do to support the belief in Father Christmas is to write to my nephews every year a letter from Father Christmas. I got the idea of Tolkien and have used similar, but never the same, characters he used to populate the North Pole. This way I can give them a bit of fun, as some kind of adventure or other seems to happen each year, but can also introduce notions about the true meaning of Christmas, that the world is a place where ‘magic’ can and does happen because of the God who created and upholds it.

Below is yet another video from the splendid Alison Milbank. Please watch it and consider incorporating Father Christmas into your family and your community.

Sincerely yours,
David

5 comments on “In Defence of Father Christmas

  1. Colin says:

    David,

    Great post, especially the separation of Santa/Father Christmas/St. Nicholas.

    I too believed until I was at least 12, though around then (Grade 6) I remember calling it into question, but also being frustrated and angry with other kids at school who refused to believe or pegged it as childish.

    One thing my mother and father did which is something that I will surely carry over when I have kids is that whenever I would ask my mother, ‘Is Santa real,’ my mother’s answer was never an explicit ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ but, ‘I’ve told you once and I’ll tell you again, Colin–He’s the spirit of Christmas.’ Which, looking back on it years later is a phenomenal response. Obviously she wasn’t trying to ‘hijack’ the actual -reason- for Christmas, that was taught explicitly, but cementing him as the ‘spirit of Christmas’ meant, in a way, that he couldn’t not be real but also that it didn’t matter whether one had ‘proof’ of his existence or non-existence.

    It made the magic real, it made the spirit of it real and it certainly helped to understand more about what the time in the calendar is about.

    C

    • Colin,

      Thanks for your comment. My mom did the same thing, though my dad frequently made it quite clear that he did not believe.

      I have no problem telling my children that FC is real. It will make for an excellent conversation later.

      Yours,
      David

  2. […] another nickname for Nicholas like Nic/Nick). Having written on this subject already last year (In Defence of Father Christmas), I will leave it and continue to provide my defence of Father […]

  3. […] Christmas tend to put me in the mood for fairy-stories and fantasies. After all, it is a time of magic, of enchantment, for the God has entered Creation. Easter, however, puts me in mind for poetry. […]

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