Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas

Catholic families have a wide variety of Christmas gift-giving traditions. While many children grew up receiving gifts from Santa Claus, families in some areas of the country are making the decision to not celebrate Santa in their homes. Is it wrong to lie to our kids, or is Santa a harmless and fun Christmas tradition? While it’s up to each family to decide what is best for their kids, here is some advice that Father Simon shared with a concerned mother.

“A couple of weeks ago, my seven-year-old found out that Santa wasn’t real, and later that evening it came out that she basically didn’t trust in my trying to teach her the faith about God and Jesus. … She’s pretty logical, and one of the questions she had was, ‘How can we know that what we believe about God and Jesus is real and it’s not a story?’” asked Francesca, a listener from Texas.

Saint Nicholas
Saint Nicholas

“First of all, I would back up on the Santa Claus thing. I would say, ‘Of course Santa Claus is real, except that’s not his real name. His name is Saint Nicholas and ‘Santa Claus’ comes to us from the Dutch language. And … he really did give gifts to people and we celebrate in imitation of him, his generosity,” said Fr. Richard Simon, host of Father Simon SaysTM on Relevant Radio.

The best way to help a child to understand that Jesus is real is by helping them to form a personal relationship with Him. “The way that you can know that Jesus is real is by talking to Him. You don’t talk about Jesus, you talk to Him. Say, ‘Jesus I want to talk to you.’ And tell her that Jesus will talk back, not the way people talk back but in the Bible and in the stories of the Bible, and they’re very real. That’s how I would approach it.”

The next day, Fr. Simon continued his discussion of the topic, explaining that trust and openness with your kids is important to helping them grow in faith. “I firmly believe we need to tell our children the truth. If you have a child who asks, ‘Is Santa Claus for real?’ Say, ‘Yes, Santa Claus is for real. But his real name is Saint Nicholas and he was a great bishop and all the stuff about the jolly red fat man in the suit, that’s for fun. But there really was a Santa Claus and we know the real Santa Claus. It’s nice to pretend the other stuff with the reindeers and the North Pole and the elves, that’s all fun. But the real Santa Claus was a bishop who loved the Lord and gave gifts.’ So, tell them the truth. Do not lie to your kids!”