Ah, Santa. That jolly old fellow, inextricably connected to our Christmas season. Also an eternal source of conflict among Christians and non-Christians alike. Everyone has different ways of dealing with Santa, from those who embrace the mall photos and write "from Santa" on every gift, to those who are quick to point out that "Santa" rearranged spells "Satan" and cover their children's eyes whenever a Coca Cola ad comes on TV.
Our children are very young yet so we really haven't had to deal with Santa very much. Although this is Eli's third Christmas, it's the first one where he's really at all aware. We encountered Santa at our community tree trim, and despite a little trepidation Eli took his place in line to receive his treat bag full of candy. Then proceeded several days of talking about "Satta! Canny!" after which Santa quickly faded out of his little memory.
My growing up is filled with clear memories of my own reaction to Santa Claus. We didn't "do" Santa in our family. It was always clear that Santa wasn't real, and our presents were always "From Mom and Dad." It certainly didn't make Christmas any less exciting for us as children - after all, these were presents - who cares who they're from!
My attitude about Santa was one of somewhat smug superiority over my less-informed friends. I had been carefully instructed and admonished that I was NOT to tell them that Santa wasn't real. I wasn't to lie to them, but just avoid the subject. I was fine with this. I remember that it would annoy me when store clerks or people at church would ask me if I was excited about Santa coming. I wanted them to know that I knew, and that we didn't have to keep up the charade. Inquiries about Santa were usually met with an annoyed glance and an "I know that Santa Claus ISN'T REAL" from little Emily. My mother found it awkward. So did the store employees. In retrospect I can see why.
My darling next sister had a very different perspective. She was much more tender-hearted than I was. While I was content with my superior knowledge, she was crushed that her poor friends were so deceived. In her little mind, their parents were lying to them, and she would be their saviour. Despite my parents' attempts to restrain her, I'm sure she spilled the beans on more than one occasion, tears in her eyes, earnestly pleading with her young friends to see the truth.
Lianne (Santa-hater), Me, Ariel (The Pretty One), Naomi (Baby)
As we got older and this became less of an issue, my arrogance was replaced with apathy, while her genuine concern was replaced with resentment. She hated Santa Claus. Even as an adult I'm pretty sure she still dislikes most things connected with him. I am sure that when she gets married and has little ones of her own there will be no Santa Claus in that house. Might have to write it into the marriage contract...
My two youngest sisters were much like me, maybe not so arrogant but definitely not as passionately anti-Santa as Lianne was.
So the question remains, what to do about Santa? Having grown up the way I did I have a very hard time imagining ever encouraging my children to believe in Santa. That being said, I would never object to parents "playing" Santa with their children, as long as they weren't lying to them. Some things are black and white, and the Bible clearly says not to lie. It doesn't say that there are exceptions, or it's ok if it's a harmless lie, or a lie that will help people, or a lie that is fun, it merely says don't lie. I try not to question what the Bible says. It generally turns out to be right. So I wouldn't lie to my children. I also will not demonize Santa, since I see no problem with pretending and make believe.
Ultimately, I don't want the focus of Christmas to be Santa or no Santa, "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays," presents or donating money. I want it to be about the birth of Christ, not controversy. That's my goal for this season!