Santa Claus, Rudolph, The Virgin Birth, The Lies & “TMI’s” We Tell Our Children

Every time I see a picture like this of Jesus and Santa Claus together, I go out of my way to say “Season’s Greetings” to a fundamentalist.  I get asked quite frequently what we tell our children about Santa Claus. Our kids are a  bit young so we only give them the 101 – Santa lives at the North Pole, he’s got reindeer that pull his sleigh and he gives good boys Christmas gifts and takes “Blue Bear” and “Elmo” away from the naughty boys (each family has their own traditions you know).

Every so often, someone either politely implies (or states matter of factly) that we are lying to our children. Perhaps in some sense this is true but when we are talking about toddlers and pre-schoolers, their reality is a bit clouded so much of the scope of truth is often irrelevant for them. However, I did see Talladega Nights and I am committed to telling them before they become race car drivers praying to the Baby Jesus (fortunately, it will be easier because they’re not being raised in the South) ;)

Still, I find myself thinking about this. We “celebrate” pretty much everything in the Ghali house because generally, it’s fun. Halloween? Absolutely. I’ve said it numerous times – getting dressed up as your favorite superhero and getting free candy from your neighbors and friends seems like a Christian idea to me. Could I go without the Halloween costumes that are straight out of Victoria’s Secret? Sure. Just like I could go without fruitcake at Christmas and the Dallas Cowboys at Thanksgiving. But as always, you get the good with the bad.


Like I said, we enjoy some version of these holidays. We get excited for the Charlie Brown Christmas special, we take our kids Christmas tree shopping, we take down our tree when we suspect that one of the kids is allergic to it and we make our kids sit on Santa’s lap even though they are suspicious of the jolly old man.

Find me the family that says, “We want to be able to say that we never lied to our children” and I’ll help them see my point of view just after I coach their three year old to ask, “Daddy, where do babies come from?” Kidding, kidding, I could never be that spiteful.

These days we spend most nights telling the story of how Jesus was born in a manger. But in all honesty, I always skip the adjective “virgin” when describing Mary. My three year old is sharp and I’m not ready to answer the question, “Daddy, what’s a virgin?” “Well son, it’s a term used to describe a woman before she “knows” a man. And when I say “knows” (wink, wink), I am of course politely implying the biblical usage of that. You with me, boy?” This will be likely be met by a cold stare then followed by a slightly different rephrasing of the question, “What’s a virgin, Daddy?” Believe me, among the last things I need right now is for my pre-schooler to teach the other pre-schoolers about the “birds and the bees.”

Of course, we all want to say to our children, “I never lied to you about anything” but I’m not sure these things will disqualify us  from such a claim (if in fact, that claim can ever be made). My goodness, we insist on having on Biblically inaccurate nativity scenes. You know the one with three wise men in them? Did the Magi get there so fast because they were able to charter a jet to Bethlehem?

I’ll admit, I did think twice when a woman I respect said that she is concerned with telling her children “competing ideologies”. She comprises and gives a very brief version of it all. I gave that some thought and mentioned it to my wife but later that day, my subjectivity got the best of me – isn’t’ everything a competing ideology? What seems best to us is keeping the central story of Christmas, central. The rest is not only secondary, but Santa Claus, Rudolph and friends are decorative pieces to the story – like the three wise men. The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation are deeper truths of the story to be understood at a more appropriate time.

So, til then, good boys get Christmas gifts from Santa and they thank God for Baby Jesus who came to show God’s love to the world.


  1. Great post Tim. I have had similar thoughts and conversations with others. Like you, I find peace in placing appropriate value where it belongs. I have also discovered the mystery and beauty of reclaiming certain elements of holidays when we can (like All Saints Day origins) or the real Saint Nicholas. Merry Christmas my friend.

  2. Hey Dan, hope all is well.
    I’m with you and I like how you put that – thanks for commenting.
    Was going to mention the story of St. Nicholas but my word count was getting too high – lol.

    Merry Christmas to you and Lauretta.

  3. Oh my word I LOVE the scene from Talladega Nights!! I use it as an opener during the Who is Jesus Talk on Alpha!!! Great ice breaker ;0) Thanks for making me laugh out loud this morning!

  4. Lol – it really is one of my favorite scenes too and I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of that one.
    Cool that you use it at Alpha. I keep thinking that I need to stop by and visit some time. Thanks for serving in that way and thanks for reading Lisa. Have a great Christmas!

  5. Steve Davis says:
  6. Heidi Pestana says:

    Great post! John and I have been discussing this a lot over the past few years. He decided a few years ago that it would be best to never lie to our children. Our oldest took it pretty hard and was convinced we were lying to her when we told her the truth about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny. Pretty funny… John just sat down with our 3 year old about a week ago and discussed how Santa is not real but Jesus is real. But we still get gifts from Santa because it is fun to pretend. It’s a tricky topic. But we thought it best to explain the truth (minus the virgin part until it’s age appropriate) but still allow the “fun stuff.” Hope you have a very Merry Christmas, with both Christ and Santa! :)

  7. You are a delightful, provocative thinker and I so enjoyed reading this post. Have I been less than truthful to my kids? Absolutely. Do I feel bad about it? Absolutely not. God knows the spirit in which words are spoken and kids are smarter than we give them credit for, but I think you’ve got that figured out well avoiding key words. All the best and have a wonderful Christmas.

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