Five Reasons Not to Teach Kids To Believe In Santa

Closeup of Santa peeking out window from behind curtains

If you’re reading this article, chances are that you’re already wondering if I’m some kind of Scrooge who is opposed to a little harmless Christmas fun. I get it, and I’m not.

Christmas is wonderful, and I love all the fun that goes with it. And I do believe that there is a fun place for Santa in our Christmas celebrations, which I will get to later on.

Yet, I believe that as a society, and even within the circle of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, we’ve made a mistake in treating Santa as a magical, factual being.

Before I get into this, let me be clear. My purpose here is not to judge past actions. If, in the past, you have told your kids that Santa is real, I’m not here to pass judgement on that. Instead, I’m hoping to encourage thoughtful, prayerful consideration about how parents should handle the issue of Santa Claus as we go forward from here.

And so, to begin, here are five reasons not to teach kids to believe in Santa.


Lying About Santa is Sinful

Surprised Santa Claus closeup
No matter the reason, causing kids to believe in Santa, however we go about it, is lying.

“Bah Humbug,” you might be thinking. “What’s wrong with a little “Santa” fun?”

It’s a fair question, and I’m all for having fun and making Christmas as delightful as possible. But the fact is, when we tell our children that a jolly old elf in a red suit flies around the world and enters each house to deliver presents on Christmas Eve, we are simply not telling the truth.

Whether we directly tell our children lies about Santa, or whether we create circumstances to cause our children to believe, the fact is that we are causing our children to believe something that’s not true.

Simply put, we’re lying, and God’s Word is clear about the sin in this.

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

Colossians 3:9-10

Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another.

Leviticus 19:11

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

1 Corinthians 13:6


Lying About Santa Breaks the Trust Between Children and Parents

Closeup on Santa's hands, wearing boxing gloves
Sooner or later, every child discovers the truth about Santa, and when they do, they also realize that their parents have spent years lying to them. Every time.

Am I overreacting? You might think so, but consider this. When children discover that their parents have been lying to them about Santa, there is always another question that follows.

What else have my parents lied to me about?

This gives our children a valid reason to question their parents in all other matters.

The importance of trust between children and parents (and in any relationship, really) cannot be overstated.

When kids discover that their parents have lied to them about Santa, they also have reason to question whether Jesus is real. I’ve personally known children who struggled in their faith after discovering that their parents had lied to them about Santa. Do we really want to risk derailing our children’s faith in Christ just so that we can make them believe in Santa?


Santa’s Character is Elevated to Divine Status

Closeup of a man's hands writing a letter to Santa, asking for a Playstation
Telling kids that Santa knows everything, sees everything, and has the power to be everywhere and grant every wish is akin to making him a god.

Again, you might think I’m overreacting, but think about this for a moment. What kinds of things do parents tell their children about Santa?

godlike qualities assigned to Santa

• All-knowing (He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good)

• Nearly all-Powerful (Able to fly up chimneys, able to make reindeer fly, able to travel the globe in a single night, able to grant every child’s wish)

• Immortal (Santa never dies)

Throughout history, there have been numerous false gods with fewer fictional powers than jolly old Saint Nick. Whether we think of it this way or not, Santa fills the role of a false god. And of course, the Bible is clear about how we should respond.

“You shall have no other gods before me.”

Exodus 20:3

I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God.

Isaiah 45:5

Praying to Santa?

Prayer, at its core, is the act of talking to God. Yet, for many children, prayers of a kind are offered to Santa. When letters are sent to the North Pole, asking Santa to grant a child’s wishes, is this not a prayer of sorts?

In whom do these children place their hope and trust?

“Gather together and come; assemble, you fugitives from the nations.

Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood,

who pray to gods that cannot save.”

Isaiah 45:20

By encouraging our children to believe in, trust in, or even to write to Santa Claus places Santa in a position that should only be occupied by Jesus.


Santa Pulls Focus From Our Savior

A manger, like the one Jesus was laid in, with ragged cloth on a black background
Children who believe in Santa will place the hope, trust, and adoration which belong to Jesus in Santa instead.

Sure, children will know enough to say that Christmas is all about Jesus, but let’s get real. Jesus simply isn’t as much fun as Santa.

Undoubtedly, Jesus offers us far more than Santa could ever hope to bring. The forgiveness from our sins, the fellowship with God, and everlasting life are incomparable blessings. But to children, these are abstract concepts.

Santa, on the other hand, is someone they can see at the mall. They can sit on his lap and talk to him. They can hear his voice. They see that he has eaten the cookies and drank the milk left out for him on Christmas Eve. And of course, they can see the gifts that Santa left under the tree.

Eternal salvation may sound good to a child, but let’s face it. In a child’s mind, that’s nothing compared to the hot new toys or games that can be played with on Christmas Day.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Colossians 3:1-2


Santa Encourages Selfishness Instead of Selflessness

Closeup on Santa's face with a "who me?" expression non his face
Santa is adored because he gives kids what they want. If Santa wasn’t known for fulfilling kids’ desires, he wouldn’t be so loved.

Why is Christmas the most loved of all holidays? Why is Santa so adored?

Kids love Easter because they receive Easter baskets and candy. They love Halloween because they get to wear costumes and receive candy. But Christmas? That’s the king of all holidays for kids, because that’s when they receive the most toys, the most games, and the most gifts for themselves.

This is not to say that I’m opposed to the traditions of gift-giving. Not at all. But when we train kids to believe that a godlike Santa will grant their every wish, we’re encouraging kids to delight in selfishness rather than self-sacrificial love.

In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Acts 20:35

[Love] is not rude, it is not self-seeking

1 Corinthians 13:5

What To Do Instead

Earlier in this article, I said that I believe that there is a fun place for Santa in our Christmas celebrations. Now, let’s take a look at three things we can do to keep Christmas properly focused on Jesus without ignoring poor Santa.


Focus on Jesus

Closeup on a simple nativity set of figurines with lights in the background
Jesus is the reason for the season, but He’s also the sole source of all hope, love, peace and joy.

Rather than training kids to believe that a fictional version of Santa Claus will bring them gifts, train children to understand the Biblical truth that God is the true giver of all good gifts.

When children understand that all they have is a blessing from God, they begin to realize that God is the source of all their blessings, which flow from Him through other people and circumstances in their lives.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

James 1:17


Treat Santa as a Fun, Fictional Story

Closeup on a cute plush Santa doll
Just as children enjoy Frosty and Rudolph as fictional characters, Santa can be enjoyed as a fun, fictional character who reminds us of the joy of giving.

Some parents, desiring to keep their kids focused upon Jesus, attempt to ignore Santa, or worse, act in hostility toward him. That’s a tough course. Santa is seen everywhere at Christmas, and if we refuse to acknowledge and address who the guy in the red suit is, our kids will once again have reason to distrust us.

While Santa is not the focal point of Christmas, he can still be part of it if he is kept in the proper context. As with other fun fairy tales, Santa, like Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph, or Buddy the Elf, should be treated as a fun, fictional character.

I’ve seen families successfully taking this approach with their children, training their kids that Santa is a fun, make-believe story that they can enjoy at Christmas. Our own children grew up with this understanding and never felt cheated that they didn’t believe Santa was real. We watched TV and movies about Santa and enjoyed the fun, but our kids also knew the truth.

What about other kids who believe in Santa?

Even if you teach your kids the truth about Santa, most of their friends will still believe that Santa is real. In those cases, your kids might be tempted to pridefully declare that they know the truth, that Santa is make-believe. This won’t be helpful, and can lead to arguments and fights.

Your kids’ primary goal shouldn’t be to “straighten out” other kids who believe in Santa, but to show other kids the work of Jesus in their own lives.

Instead, train your kids to answer their friends’ “Santa comments” with a gentle acknowledgement that Santa is a fun story, but that Christmas is truly all about Jesus. Here are a couple of ways in which your children could answer their friends:

Example answers for friends who believe in Santa

“Santa is a fun story, but Jesus is the One who really gives us everything we have.”

“I know you believe in Santa, but my family celebrates Jesus at Christmas.”

Santa in relation to Jesus

One of my favorite Christmas decorations is an image or figurine of Santa kneeling, hat off, at the manger of Baby Jesus. If Santa were real, I believe that’s what he’d be doing. Historically, in fact, Saint Nicholas was a Christian bishop.

In that context, as a jolly old man in a red suit who practices generosity in the name of Jesus, Santa belongs at Christmas, and can be a fun part of our celebrations.

Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.

Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment.

Ecclesiastes 11:9

Fun, whimsical stories of flying sleighs and a jolly elf in a red suit can be presented as the fun, fictional tales they are, right alongside of walking, talking snowmen and flying caribou with illuminated noses. But at the end of it all, the true joy, hope, and gifts of Christmas come only from Jesus. It is good to enjoy these times with our children, but it matters what we teach them.


Encourage Kids to Focus on Giving Instead of Getting

Wide shot of silhouette of three crosses at sunset
Santa fictionally gives toys to kids, but Jesus factually gave His life for all.

With Santa in his proper, fun, fictional, peripheral place, we can better focus our kids’ attention on our Savior, who gave us the ultimate model of love.

This is what makes Christmas truly worthy of celebrating.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Romans 12:10

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!

Philippians 2:4-8

At the end of it all, Christmas has a place for Santa, but it’s not on the throne. Instead, let’s work to ensure that children are told the truth about Santa.

And when we do that, we’ll be better able to tell them the truth about Jesus.

All photos courtesy and

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