Putting the Santa Back in Christmas (Movies)

We walk in the door on a random Friday in December. Its 5pm. I’m wondering […]

Sarah Condon / 12.6.18

We walk in the door on a random Friday in December. Its 5pm. I’m wondering what promising yet disappointing frozen Trader Joe’s entrée I can provide for my children. In T-45 minutes there will be a Christmas Happy (?) Hour at my house for a church board. St. Mountain of Laundry sits on my dining room table. My hair desperately needs to look less flat and my arm pits smell has conquered my morning deodorant application. This is Advent in the Condon household.

And all I want is to turn on the damned television and trust that Aunt Netflix-Hulu (she’s a modern gal!) can provide my children with a holiday film to make things feel a little less yell-y and a little more jolly. But she will fail me. Every. Single. Time.

Typically Christian bloggers go after the ever easily blamed “Hollywood” for its lack of morality. But I’m not looking for television to teach my kids moral living. I’m looking for it to keep them out of Santa Claus Therapy. To be clear, I am not bothered that the Biblical Christmas story is in almost no Christmas movies. And I couldn’t give a hoot about their commercialism.

This is my missive against children’s Christmas movies because almost all of them try to ruin Santa Claus.


At the close of the day, I just want to put my babies in front of something seasonal and warm. But your average holiday movie invokes Freudian level psychoanalytic doubt about St. Nicholas. Consider yourselves on notice, La La Land; I’m officially done with you complicating the Condon family’s Fa La La’s.

If you have not bartered theatrical taste for Christmas entertainment then let me tell you what these “movies” are like. The script is real bad. And the people are real cute. There is a child, typically with a dead parent, a dog that talks, or both, who is in the middle of an existential crisis about whether or not Santa Claus is real. The movie involves this child being up against the “bad guy” who “does not believe in Santa.” Typically this bad guy is their widowed parent. Eye roll. Eventually, the child is able to encounter the magic of Santa and decides that the fat man in the red suit is real. There are elf antics. The dog might almost die. The end.

And there sit my doe-eyed, ever-believing children trying to figure out why the realness of Santa was even up for debate.

I have a lot of thoughts about this whole Santa Claus Denial genre. First of all, it’s like the Historical Jesus Movement has picked a new target. It’s a deconstructed Santa, everyone! Merry Christmas! I realize that is the most church-nerd-meets-motherhood thing I have ever written. But seriously, shall we tear down everything that brings people comfort?

(Incidentally, if you are now thinking, “But Sarah, Jesus is real! Santa is a lie!” Agreed. But lying to children is a fundamental part of good parenting. “You’re a great tennis player!” or “Oh! I love how your bangs look like you cut them yourself!” Tell me I’m not right.)

Second, and this is a big one, I wonder if this is just a way to sneak in bad news? Like, it might soften the blow if kids hear it first on the screen. This is chicken parenting, if you ask me. Sex, Santa Claus, and the Savior. You need to be the first one to tell your kids exactly how these things work.

I have a third theory. One that I’m not proud to share. But it comes from the dark recesses of my brain. And since Advent begins in the dark, I have no one to blame but myself. So here goes:

I think we collectively want to ruin Christmas for children. You heard me. Kiddos are the last frontier of joy experiencers this time of year.  Mothers have been hustling for our worth for generations during the month of December. These days, even fathers are swimming in the misery of should. We have lists for our lists. We have to figure out gifts for people we loathe.

But children! Children do nothing this time of year. Which is the crux of the matter.

Think about the differences between your childhood Christmases and the ones you have now. When you were little you just showed up! People fed you incredible food! People gave you gifts you did not deserve! The lights were beautiful! The tree was beautiful! The people you loved were beautiful!

Christmas for a child is so much more than we could ever conjure for ourselves. It is beatific and entirely unearned. Christmas for children is a vision of what heaven could be like. Everything is gorgeous. You didn’t earn any of it and you just get welcomed to the party. For so many reasons (my own #righteousness at the top of the list), I want to believe that my kids see Jesus as the figure behind all of this goodness. But real talk, it’s Santa.

Of course, given just how different their experience of Christmas is from ours, we would do well to note Jesus’s words spoken over children in the Gospel of Matthew:

Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Santa Claus is the great symbol of children doing nothing this time of year. And this is the mysterious thing when Jesus tells us that we must become like children. They really do not do anything any time of year. What does it even mean to become child-like? Perhaps God is not calling me into hosting another Christmas party. Or shoving my children in front of another terrible Christmas movie. Perhaps he is calling me into less, into lowly, into nothing, into need of him.

The nerve of children just enjoying Christmas! It is no wonder we want to ruin their favorite part. And while I am too old for the big guy in the red suit to bring me anything tangible, maybe I just realized, he is still giving me a gift.