We're all busy, so I'll make this quick.
We do "No-Panic Santa."
I don't worry about it. Honestly, I don't. When Anne-with-an-e was a baby, I worried (a lot) that lying about Santa would mean that one day she'd think I'd lied about God, too. When she was two years old, people would ask her what Santa was going to bring, and she'd stare blankly at them, wondering who in the world they were talking about.
But then, my own past Santa fun crept into our Christmas traditions, and so, yes, we started "doing" Santa. (Why does this blog always sound slightly confessional? "Hi, I'm Karen. And I lie about Santa.")
Well, I don't out and out lie. I imply. I play a game. We get a visit from St. Nicholas on his feast day ... we have presents from him on Christmas morning ... We wink, we leave cookies, we love the magic.
And, although I completely respect the many different ways that good Catholic parents handle this question, here's the reason I don't worry that "the Santa lie" will lead to atheism:
God is real.
My children will know, see, and feel His fingerprints on their lives. We have seen God at work, and we know He isn't the stuff of toyshops and flying reindeer.
Yes, Ramona will learn that Santa was just a lot of fun pretending. But, she'll also know that Jesus is a powerful King.
Feelings on Santa vs. no-Santa are subjective and personal, and I would never say that my way is universally the best. I can understand the other side. I'm just saying that personally I no longer fret over it. And, since there's no doctrine of the Church that says we must not do Santa, I think I'm in faithful territory.
And, sometimes, even the most roundabout of ways of celebrating things can have lovely, unexpected, faith-filled results. I thought of that when I reread this old post on Santa, at The Wine Dark Sea.
"The Santa myth can be in our secular world a sort of pre-gospel."
I completely agree. As someone who grew up with Santa, but without religion in Christmas, I can say that Santa was indeed pre-Gospel for me. Santa was unconditional love. The times I was bad? He never left me a lump of coal. Not once. (Thanks, Mom and Dad.)
And Santa was magic.
God is the ultimate Unconditional Love and the True Magic.
I know that somewhere, deep down, the child who loved Santa was yearning for Christ.
And He came to me. Just as Santa did. But when He came, the Magic was bigger, and powerful.
And when He came, the Magic was here to stay.
12/24/08 Edited to add this great bit of G.K. Chesterton, courtesy of Chris in the comments:
On Christmas morning, he [Chesterton] remembered, his stockings were filled with things he had not worked for, or made, or even been good for.
The only explanation people had was that a being called Santa Claus was somehow kindly disposed toward him. “We believed,” he wrote, that a certain benevolent person “did give us those toys for nothing. And ... I believe it still. I have merely extended the idea.
“Then I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking; now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void.
“Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dolls and crackers, now I thank him for stars and street faces and wine and the great sea. Once I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking.
“Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside; it is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic good will.”
Aaahhh ... no one can say it quite like G.K. Thank you, Chris.