Why G. K. Chesterton Believed in Santa Claus

I thought I’d start off the annual Santa discussion with this fine article: brandonvogt.com/g-k-chesterton-believed-santa-claus/. You’ll also find a link to another article about “lying to children” about Santa: theradicallife.org/are-you-lying-to-your-children-about-santa. Enjoy, everyone. And have a Blessed Advent. :smiley:

We don’t do Santa in my home. Or introduce Santa to my child for 2 reasons.

  1. Santa is a western tradition. My husband was raised in an asian third world Hindu home. However he was taught in a Roman catholic convent school with catholic nuns. His family never celebrated Christmas or did anything related to Santa, they’re hindu. Once more the nuns made a big deal out of advent and of Jesus birth but did not mention Santa Claus either. Hence the image of Christmas that my husband learned from the sisters, was that of advent and the birth of Christ. Santa is not part of his tradition…nor is it important to him.

  2. the second reason we don’t do Santa in my home. Is because I also never had a strong belief in Santa. When I was growing up my parents were poor. I remember 3 years in a row where we did not have Christmas presents. Although we did celebrate advent and Christmas. I learned early on that Santa is make believe. The tradition of Santa Claus has no importance to me. Although I do teach my son about Saint nick and we love and venerate that saint. We don’t teach him the mythical Santa Claus.

Santa Claus is just not part of neither mine nor my husband’s holiday tradition. And we dont desire to make a tradition. So we don’t teach our son about santa. My son has asked about santa, he’s 4. We’ve told him that santa is make believe. I make a BIG deal in our home about advent. And about Christ’s birth. And believe it or not my husband loves it too…I always see his prayer life grow stronger during advent, I think he has a lot of fond memories of his time with the sisters in his youth during advent in the convent school. As far as bringing Santa into our home, for me and my family it just seems like Santa would be so excessive for my family. Advent and Christmas is already so celebratory, adding Santa Claus to our family tradition would be too much.

He has made Santa into God! Idolatry!

Lol, just kidding, I know he means a metaphorical Santa, not the real one. But I still think Catholics could learn a lot by focusing on Santa not as a metaphor nor as a myth, but as a real saint to whom a lot of mythological ideas have been attached. When I hear Santa, I think of Nicholas of Myra, and I think of it as a teaching moment about the man behind the myth.

I think he is saying that as he progressed from child to adult, his child-like understanding extended into a greater consideration, an expansion of thoughts and ideas beyond Santa, incorporating God into his adult world-view, rather than simply being a metaphor as such.

Well, I believe GKC is referring to Santa as the personification of joy, abundance, good-willed, charity, kindness, merriment, etc. In the West especially where so many are shy of religious affliations, perferring to be “spiritual” over religious (a silly idea, I know), Santa can be a crack in the door to authentic faith. The reason can I say this is in St. Paul’s words:

Eph. 5[9] (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true)

Phil.4.[8] Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

We Catholics are not Puritans who believe the flesh is totally corrupt. We believe that Christ redeemed our flesh and makes it pure. Therefore, the innocent delights of the flesh, if not enjoyed in excess, are perfectly acceptable and can be beneficial to our spiritual well-being. As Hilaire Belloc, famous Catholic apologist and dear friend of GKC wrote:

“Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There’s always laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino!”

GKC rejoiced in all the little things that God had granted him, such as feet to put into his stockings. Santa represents that joy in the little things God has given us. I think when Catholic children ask about Santa we ought to rescue the “jolly old elf” from the commercialization of our modern world and place him among the mythology in which fawns dance in the snow for shear joy in loving Aslan, as C. S. Lewis’ Chronciles of Narnia tells us. Such fantasy characters tell us about eternal truths and joys in ways that make them less frightening to modern man. As Lewis also said they get the concepts of joy, beauty, truth, etc. past the “watchful dragons” of cold materialistic logic and minimalism.

Or it can be the crack in the door to lead someone to atheism. I’ve heard it compared by many atheists who claim that believing in the mythical creature of Santa is similar to believing in God. I’ve also heard by a few atheists that when they found out the “truth” about Santa, that they also started to doubt the existence of God.

“Once I realized my parents lied to me about Santa Claus and the tooth Fairy I began questioning whether God was a lie to make people feel comfortable too.”
I’ve seen things like that.

Really, if you want to celebrate the gift giving do it on the 6th of December (St. Nicholas’s feast day and the traditional day for many countries).

St Nicholas and Santa Claus

Saint Nicholas and the Origin of Santa Claus

Some Christians believe that tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons will teach you the occult and devil worship.

Some atheists believe that Live Action Roleplaying Games (LARPs) like Santa and The Tooth Fairy will teach you atheism and skepticism.

I believe my parents taught me the difference between games and reality.

And what kind of excuse is that, really? Of course we know that Santa is merely a fairy tale for children. So is Peter Pan and a lot of other fictional characters I once wanted to believe were real. The essence of Santa is faith and hope and belief in more than oneself–in generousity and kindness, etc. Only someone with a chip on his shoulder the size of Mt. Everest could ever really make such a ridiculous claim. So, they didn’t get the pony they wanted for Christmas so Santa doesn’t exist and God doesn’t exist? Really? Pretty lame reasoning and babyish, too. :rolleyes:

I wouldn’t dismiss their claims so easily. There very well may be truth in an atheist saying that when their belief in Santa was taken away from them, that it also shook their belief in God.
Many of the attributes that are attributed to Santa, are also attributes that belong to God.

Omniscience for example:

  1. It is said to children that Santa: Knows when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows when you’ve been bad or good.
    This is a myth. As if Santa is watching over them

Compare the above statement to God’s omniscience:
2)God knows when we’re sleeping, he knows when we’re awake, he knows when we’ve been bad or good.
This is a theological truth.
It’s a truth that I’m teaching my child already…
When he say’s “Mommy I’m afraid of the dark.” I say, “Let’s say a prayer to Jesus, he loves and watches you even as you are sleeping.”

Again, both of the above 2 statements are the same…the first one is a myth, the second one is a truth.

I think that depending on how fiercely a parent pushes the Santa myth, that they can possibly damage their belief in God. I’ve known parents who had their children so fiercely believe in Santa that they even placed reindeer turds in their backyard. I’ve also known parents who have told their children that as long as they believe in Santa that they’ll still receive a good “Santa” present. But, if they don’t believe then, no present.

But, there will come a time in that child’s life that intellectually, they will come to the clear understanding that the omniscient Santa, who has the Super power to be present all over the world on a single night is a myth…for some of these children this knowledge may shake their faith in God…because they have also been taught, that God is omniscient and present all over the world.

I think it is a matter of how a parent introduces Santa in their home…If they have made it clear with their child from the beginning that Santa is a “game” and include the child on the myth, such as peter pan and sleeping beauty, then there is no damage in that.

But, if a parent fiercely pushes the belief in Santa to obtain absolute belief in the man, and attributes powers to Santa that is attributed to God. Then yes, I think that this could introduce doubts to the child’s spiritual beliefs when the time comes for the child to stop believing in Santa. If they were so strongly taught by their parents to believe in Santa, who has all of these powers, and he is a myth…then how can God also not be a myth?

I still say that only someone who still thinks like a baby would hold onto a grudge against God because of Santa. We all have to grow up and face what is real and what isn’t. It’s a poor excuse for them to be angry over nothing–making it seem like they have a legitimate beef. The reasonable response to learning there’s no mythical Santa is to transfer one’s belief and affections to God and his saints, or at least to God for those who don’t believe in the Communion of Saints. I simply can’t take any adult seriously who uses Santa as a real, substantial reason for not believing in God. It seems they missed the whole point of fantasy characters in their blind acceptance of narrow materialistic atheism in which they think they have complete control over their lives–as if that’s even possible. I believe it’s a symptom of the “no one is going to pull the wool over MY eyes again” kind of adolescent idea that most people seem to grow out of.

Some atheists , yes I believe that they can be very angry with God. But for others I don’t think that they have any beef with God. I just think they lack an internal belief in him. Kind of like me. I don’t believe in Santa at all nor do I encourage my child to believe in santa. That does not mean that I have a beef or anger with Santa. It means that internally he means nothing to me. Saint Nicholas I love, and I can venerate him every day of the year if I choose. But to the mythical creature of Santa Claus I feel nothing for that. It sits in my mind as a myth…likewise for some atheists I don’t think that they are angry with God. I think that They lack an internal faith in God. …they place God in the same place where I place Santa.

And secondly, we’re talking about children here. We have parents who from their child’s very young age promoted Santa with such strong exuberance they ignite a strong faith in their child in the mythical creature Santa Claus. It is not surprising when that child reaches the age of reason that for some children they are shaken internally, and as their faith in Santa is gone, and all of the things their parents taught them about santa, that they may also start to doubt the truth that they learned about God.

This is the very direction I’d hoped to avoid here. I posted the article to celebrate what it is GOOD about Santa not to rehash for the umpteenth time every single objection. For those who can’t stand Santa, I say that’s their loss. I will be thankful for every good thing in the world that in ANY way points to what is good, beautiful, kindly, sweet, charitable, generous, abundant in spirit, etc. instead of picking at harmless fantasies meant to amuse children. So, please no more horror stories about Santa, everyone. Let’s talk about the good memories we have of Santa and Christmas, and what it meant to us and still means to us. :tiphat:

As a child Santa meant a lot to me, much more than any other holiday fantasy character, and not simply because he was credited with bringing us presents. Every fantasy that lasts speaks to us of eternal values/virtues and points to Christ himself, as Santa can and does for many of us–after all the origins of Santa is St. Nicholas, and all saints point to Christ, that is why they are saints.

Belief is always good, even if it is a bit misdirected, because it takes us out of ourselves to think of others. Santa does this because we are reminded to be generous and giving in celebration of the Christ Child, who gave us the greatest gift–redemption and salvation, and more, his very self for our own possession. In possessing Santa, or indeed Our Lady and the saints, we do possess Christ because he is in them and they are in him.

This has been making the rounds on FB:

Considering most who post on FB are apostate Puritans it doesn’t surprise me in the least. :stuck_out_tongue:

There seems to be no room for joy in the ordinary delights of life for them nor any place for a rich imagination except for ways to be cynical, sad to say.

Oh joy and gladness, I see a Santa Claus thread on the screen. I never learned much about Chesterton but I’m somewhat acquainted with Santa Claus. Santa may not rate very highly according to normal serious doctrinal standards or dogmatic standards, but I think that he is probably above average according to typical Broadway standards or Hollywood standards.

Santa is also popular on Google every year, especially for 24 hours on Christmas Eve with his pleasantly hyperactive journey around Planet Earth. With a little imagination (or maybe a lot of imagination, lol), we might even find some faint resemblance or connection between Santa’s global journey and the theological notion of agility. Agility is considered to be one of the qualities of resurrected glorified bodies, along with other qualities such as integrity, impassibility, subtility, and clarity, as mentioned for example by Ludwig Ott in Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, English translation by James Bastible, 1974, pages 491-492 (although of course with no reference to Santa Claus). In any case, I think that good positive idealistic mythology can serve as a valuable optional non-literal means of expression for various aspects of truth and reality. Here is a picture of Santa that I took last week (lol, tell me another one) at the North Pole with my iPhone.


attribution public domain

And the Google Santa Tracker is already partially online as of today.
It’s a very wide village panorama with interactive left/right directional arrows on the screen.

Well said.

C.S. Lewis, while not a Catholic, decided to place Father Christmas (the British version of Santa Claus) in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” over the strenuous objections of his friend, J.R.R. Tolkien (who was a Catholic). Tolkien’s objections were literary rather than theological, as he felt it weakened the work to combine fantasy characters from too many traditions.

I love and admire Tolkien, but I have to disagree with his view on this matter.

(He also disliked Lewis’s use of satyrs, which he saw from the classical tradition as violent, sexual creatures. As satyrs are mentioned in the Bible, it’s interesting to speculate whether Tolkien or Lewis believed in them…)

As Father Christmas/s appearance in the book is explicitly a reference to a Christian tradition, and a clear allegory as a harbinger for the appearance of a majestic lion (like the Lion of Judah, Christ Himself), and the Incarnation’s effect on a frozen world ruled by a sinful analogue for Lucifer, I think it works quite well. When my kids were younger and we went to see the film adaptation in the theater, there is a quite suspenseful (for a child) scene where the children who are hiding hear the approaching sleigh bells of what they think is the White Witch. The sleigh stops near where they are hiding, and as the children arise from hiding and see Father Christmas, they (and most of the other children in the audience) let out a happy, excited gasp. I don’t think that is because they thought of Santa bringing presents. Although a fantasy character, he is also a symbol of goodness and kindness and charity, thanks to his origin with St. Nicholas. It’s a lovely scene.

Lewis was using some deep theology there, and this was a wonderful way to introduce the theme of the Fall and the Incarnation to young audiences in a pleasing and exciting way.

Santa Claus is a symbol, and we Catholics are all over those. Our Mass and the other Sacraments are full of them. They point the way to a higher truth, so in some respects, they cannot be said to be false or a fantasy.

I pointed my children towards the very real St. Nicholas early on as a model for Santa Claus, but the allegorical figure of Santa can serve a good purpose. I don’t think many children are harmed or that Santa is a Secret Gateway to Atheism. Atheists account for less than 7% of the American population, and as about 100% of American adults no longer believe in a literal Santa Claus, his effect on faith seems to be minimal with all but a tiny subculture of the American population, and an even smaller subset of them.

Just as an aside, my mother STILL sends me gifts noted “From Santa” (I’m 35 and married). I know that they’re from her, and she knows that I know that they’re from her. Her point is, and has been, that Santa represents the giving spirit that we should all have, especially around Christmas.

By the way, Dickens also used Santa Claus/Father Christmas in “A Christmas Carol”. He appears as “The Ghost of Christmas Present”, and while his primary purpose is to spread joy and cheer, he also points out the abject poverty of the Cratchitts to Scrooge, and with his final good-bye shows Scrooge the evils of “Ignorance” (actually willed or feigned ignorance) and “Want” (actually desperation caused by such “ignorance”). The point he was making to Scrooge? Don’t pretend that there are no people in true need, and don’t act as if it’s primarily the government’s job to take care of them (“Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” - Scrooge’s line from earlier in the short story that the Ghost repeats back to him).

And remember, one of the legends attributed to the real St. Nicholas of Myrna is that he rescued three sisters from being sold into prostitution by delivering bags of gold (under the cover of darkness) to their father. You want to teach kids about Santa? When they get old enough to understand, teach them to be Santa. Yes, there is a Santa Claus. But only if we become Santa - by shining Jesus’s light on the world.

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