Why do people feel that lying to their kids is central to celebrating the birth of Jesus?
Yes, I am that parent. If my first sentence bothers you, you should probably stop reading now.
Seriously, though? Christians love celebrating the birth of Jesus. And they are often very serious about how and why they and others celebrate. A few examples if you will…
Jesus is the reason for the season.
A baby changes everything.
Say Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays.
There is a “War on Christmas”.
Christians also love the Bible. They love to have Nativity plays this time of year. Big, elaborate ones in many cases costing thousands of dollars to produce. They love reading the Bible passages on Christmas Eve about the census and Mary and Joseph traveling to be taxed. They love to tell about the baby Jesus, born in a Manger. Born to die as the songs say to take away our sins. A baby changes everything.
All year long these same people teach their children about being honest. They even punish their children for lying. They may go easier on them when they are in trouble if they tell the truth. They use verses like:
Lev 19:11 Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another.
Prov 12:22 The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.
Col 3:9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices.
Eph 4:25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.
Heck, it is even in the 10 commandments.
Exodus 20:16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
With me so far?
You know where I am going.
Santa & The Elf on the Shelf
Lies. Blatant falsehoods. They are both lies told to children over and over and over by the people who teach them about Jesus and honesty and loving your neighbor. The people who are supposed to love them the most.
No, not at all. These are both traditions that you can have without lying to your kids. Our kids always knew the truth and we still had gifts from “Santa”. Still put out cookies. Still watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Coming to Town.
At this point, I want to implore you. Stop lying to your kids. Tell them the truth. Ask their forgiveness for deliberately deceiving them. They might be mad. They probably should be. How would you feel if the people you trusted most in the world had constructed an intricate web of lies that they convinced you were true for 10 years of your life? I am guessing a little like Belle. In case you haven’t seen the story Belle is 10 and found out this year that her parents had been lying to her about Santa. She sent them the letter you see below. Then, you know what they did? They apologized. Wait, no. They laughed at her and put the note on the internet.
And, then this morning I saw this story about a 7-year-old girl who was, according to her mom, “hysterical crying, she was panicking” when she called 911 because she accidentally knocked over her elf on the shelf while her mom was napping.
You see kids, they get that this is serious. And yet some of you are so mad at me right now you want to throw your computers. You want to go on with the lie because it makes Christmas more magical. Isn’t the birth of Jesus magical enough without Santa and The Elf?
Many people actually use the “naughty and nice lists” and the elf’s job of reporting back to Santa as a way to manipulate their kids into good behavior. Do we not see the irony here. You are using a made up story (a lie) to teach your children not to lie (or do other naughty things). Last story… I overheard two mom’s talking the other day. The one mom was telling the story of how her son had dropped the F-bomb in carpool. When he got home, she confronted him about it and he lied because he didn’t realize she already knew about it. As his punishment, she had him write letters of apology to the other kids in the car as well as the mom who was driving. While he did this, she wrote her own letter. When her son asked who she was writing to, she said, Santa. This is the gist of her letter. Dear Santa, I am writing to you because Jimmy (not his name) said the f-word and then lied to me about it. I hope he will be able to straighten out in time to celebrate Jesus’ birthday.
No. I am not kidding. A letter to Santa (lie), using him and Jesus to shame her son and teach him not to lie.
I am just saying, wouldn’t it be better to just teach our children empathy? Wouldn’t it be better not to deliberately deceive them? Doesn’t teaching not to lie by lying seem just a little wrong? Jesus said we should love our neighbor as ourself. Are our children not included in this? These lies we tell ourselves (this makes Christmas more magical/it isn’t really lying) and the lies we tell our children (the elf watches you all day and comes alive at night etc.) are just that, lies.