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What should I tell my kids about Santa?

Q. What should I tell my children about Santa Claus? We have arguments in my extended family every year about the matter.

A. It’s a perennial debate among Christians: Is Santa Claus a bit of harmless fun? Or is the tale actually a lie that turns kids’ attention away from Jesus?

Why not just tell children the truth? Tell them the story of the real, historical St. Nicholas — a man whose life pointed beautifully to Jesus. If we share with them the story of the real St. Nicholas, we won’t be turning their attention away from Jesus. Instead, we’ll be showing them how the Child of the manger can shine even now through a heart that’s devoted to Him.

Born in Asia Minor more than sixteen centuries ago, Nicholas was a bishop who gave his life to serve others. He worked miracles and brought many people to faith in Christ. He also shared his wealth with the poor and took special care of children.

We don’t know much more for sure than that, though legends abound. But this much is certain: St. Nicholas shone so brightly with the love of Jesus that Christians came to honor him all over the world.

Over the years, some honored him by dressing up like him and giving children gifts. As his fame spread across many countries, his costume and his name took many forms. The Dutch called him “Santa Claus” and introduced him to America. In our country, the red suit, sleigh, and reindeer were added to his portrait.

Whatever we may think of these more recent notions of St. Nicholas, they shouldn’t keep us from telling our children the truth about a great servant of God.

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