No matter how hard we try as Catholics to keep this blessed season focused on preparing our hearts for Christ and His birth on Christmas we are bombarded by secular culture. The Faith Formation classrooms are no different. I have to mentally and spiritually prepare myself for this time of year to keep the sanctity of Christmas while explaining the origins of most secular traditions. There are a variety of different ways to answer the question that I pose in this blog. I am merely sharing my quick answer and why I answer the way I do. As I grow both spiritually and in the knowledge of the different traditions that families have here at St. Mary’s my answer will most likely change.
The question this blog is focused on Santa. Nowadays there are so many movies, stories and theories out there of how Santa does what he does, how he became Santa etc. That is difficult to know what theory each family goes by and not let the cat out of the bag so to speak. One of my biggest fears this time of year is that a student will learn the “truth” about Santa in one of my classrooms.
The students pose the Santa question in two ways:
Do you believe in Santa? – I love when this one is asked because I am able to say “Of course, don’t you!” without a shadow of doubt. The meaning and sentiments of what Santa stand for: pure love, selfless giving, compassion, joy, believing in something one cannot see and community is evident in our world especially during the holidays. We are able to take those attributes that expand the conversation to learn about God and His love for us all. The Spirit of the Christmas season is something that I believe in because I believe in Jesus Christ whose Love is shared in the context of Santa. The Christmas season allows us to take a step back from the crazy world we live in and see God’s hand in each human being, each kind word and action, every smile and wrapped gift we find under the tree.
Is Santa real? – It took me a while to wrangle with this one because of my theological brain and my rational (scientific) nature. Some background- The legend of Santa is derived from the life of Saint Nicholas who lived in the third century. He lived a life that obtained him sainthood and eternal life with God in heaven. Therefore Saint Nicholas (Santa Claus) was alive on earth and now is alive with God in heaven interceding for us whenever we call upon him. Therefore, yes Santa is real theologically speaking. Another way to look at it is that St. Nicholas is alive in every action of love, generosity and compassion that is made in his name.
There is a great deal of controversy regarding this topic as I mentioned in the beginning when it comes to Santa. The message I want to get across is that when your child is my classrooms I do everything in my power to refocus Christmas to its actually meaning (birth of our Savior), prevent the outing of Santa Claus and pass along the love and ideals that the life of St. Nicholas showed to allow the students to stay children a little while longer as the world keeps pushing them to grow up too fast.