I am proud of what I and so many other Santa performers do. I am passionate about my role every Christmas. At churches I have attended in the past I have been very open about my December job (playing Santa) and despite the tut-tutting and shaking of heads from some Christians, I will continue to do this work. Why? It is simple. For some children Santa is the only time they may experience unconditional love. I believe I am doing God’s work in my own way. I do not shout it out but I quietly love these children and I try to emulate Jesus. Now, I know that not all Santa’s are Christian - some are - but when I put on my costume, I feel different. In a way I feel, in my own personal way, that I am channelling the love of Jesus.
I am from an English background and the churches I attended in England had no issues with Santa Claus or Father Christmas (as he is generally known in England). In the churches I have attended in Australia, I have noticed some Christians with a fear, disgust and an “anti” stance to the idea and involvement of Santa in Christmas.
Many churches have evicted Santa from their Christmas shows and the idea of Santa has turned from a fun-loving mystical character, to something that has been labelled anti-Christian.
Would Jesus Approve of Santa?
I saw on YouTube recently a Christian Pastor in Texas who confronted a group of parents and children who were lining up to see Santa Claus. The Pastor apparently harangued this group of people, including minors, telling them Santa Claus does not exist and that Jesus Christ does. What has this pastor done? Is it kind? Is it loving? Would Jesus approve? I think my Jesus would probably not approve.
When my children were little, a volunteer Sunday School teacher told their class that Santa does not exist, which resulted in tears from 70% of the children. Granted, in this church some parents did not support the Santa role in their personal Christmas and their children have accepted that their gifts came from their parents. But the majority did have the fun of having Santa in their lives. Also, we enjoyed the tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. Childhood is a magical place and should not be destroyed by possibly well-intentioned or vocally critical or judgmental people. In addition, personal family choices should be respected.
This may sound odd, but to some children Santa is the only person they get unconditional love from. It is not about gifts (however that is part of the tradition) but it is about happiness and a little joy, for some. For me: it is about connecting.
I saw a report about a child who was dying and wanted to have his last Christmas. A Santa came and spoke to this child and as he spoke the child died in his arms.
Last year a small boy told me as he sat on my lap, what he wanted for Christmas. “A bed.” he said. “My Daddy used to hit Mummy, so we left and moved in with my Aunty. I am sleeping on a couch and I would like a bed.”
This Christmas a small girl, around 5 or 6 visited me. Her father and older brother had photos taken with me also. I asked them what they wanted for Christmas. We took photos and I wished them a Merry Christmas – the usual thing. As they walked away some distance, the little girl suddenly ran all the way back to me. “Santa?” she said, “my Mummy is dead.” I was taken aback and before I could respond she ran back to her Father and Brother.
Periecho Contributor Christopher Newport as "Santa"
Another child asked me if I (Santa Claus) took all my clothes off to get into his house. Both his parents and I were slightly in shock. You see, he thought I was too big to get into his home. His parents and I found it to be very funny. Children’s logic eh?
In my experience, small children share with Santa how they feel. They share thoughts that they do not always share with parents, family members and/or others.
Children are precious and they deserve the fun of Christmas (however that looks in individual families). The character of Father Christmas (Christ-Mass) and Santa Claus (Saint Nicholas) can have a special part in Christmas.
Saint Nicholas was a Jesus-loving man of charity. He obeyed Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor." Nicholas used his inheritance to help the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made a Bishop while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships. Under the Roman Emperor of the time, who ruthlessly persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, and was exiled and imprisoned.
Matthew 19:13-14 says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Too easy to condemn, so hard to accept
I really don’t want to get in the historical context of historical fantasy figures that loom large in our traditions. But, I feel that the Church, whom I love, so often gets things wrong. With so many issues in the world today, why focus on so many trivial, unfair issues. The church seems to focus on certain things and get really hot under the collar about it.
I say “The Church”, but I really mean “some churches” and “some Christians”. Sadly there is a worthiness and judgementalism that pervades our faith. It is too easy to condemn and so hard to accept those who do not fit into the Christian “box” which, for some, unfortunately includes Santa Claus performers and Santa in general.
Would Jesus exclude and expect change from gay people? Would he support a shady and misogynistic President? Would he hurt children? And finally, would he enjoy Santa Clause? If we were to follow the nature of Jesus, the world would be better off - maybe even Christian. I believe some Christians behave more like anti-Christians. Why are people so hard on each other? Is this love?
Santa is about love. Could Santa possibly contain the Holy Spirit?
One Sunday a Christian boy came to see me. I said to him “What have you been up to today?” He said he had been to church and was now shopping with his family. I said to him, “Isn’t it awesome that Santa visits you on Jesus’ birthday.”
Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas or Father Christmas has a huge point in Christmas. He is part of the celebration of Christmas. He exuded the heart of Christ. Christmas is a time of joy, giving and celebrating the birth of Jesus.
And that is good enough for me.
Christopher wants to see fairness in the world and desires to see the doors of Christianity open to all. He has been a drama junkie for decades. He found God in the 1990’s but too often sees faith and belief being used to promote individuals doctrines. Chris enjoys reading, theatre, good food and good company. Chris loves music but can’t play a note. He has two adult children and a patient wife. He lives in Melbourne Australia.
See previous articles by Christopher Newport