Menu Close

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Michelle Lesley Says It’s a Sin to Tell Children Santa is Real

jesus santa

We have raised our five year old to know that Santa Claus isn’t real. Now that he’s getting old enough to have conversations with his little friends, how do we explain to him what to say to them when they talk about believing in Santa? I don’t want him to crush their dreams but I also don’t want to teach him to perpetuate the lie for his friends.

This is a great question, and one my husband and I also had to address with our own children, since we raised them to know that Santa Claus isn’t real.

Before I tackle your question, I’d like to address Christian parents who tell their children Santa Claus is real, that he is the one who brings their presents, etc.

I’m sure you have the best of intentions and only want to make Christmas fun for your children, but when you tell them these things about Santa Claus, you are lying.

Santa Claus isn’t real. If you tell your children he is, or that he is the one who brings their presents, or that he knows whether they’ve been naughty or nice, you’re lying. The Bible says that lying is a sin, period. There’s no exception for jolly old elves who pass out toys (or for tooth fairies or Easter bunnies, either, for that matter). And not only is lying a sin, it is extraordinarily hypocritical to lie to your children about Santa Claus and then turn around later and punish them when they lie about something. Lying to your children about Santa Claus teaches them that it’s OK to lie (i.e. sin) when you want to or when it would be to your advantage. Excerpted from: The Mailbag: What should we tell our kids about Santa Claus?

And this reader has raised another ripple effect of your sin of lying. You’ve now put your brothers and sisters in Christ in the difficult position of figuring out how not to blow your cover when their child (who knows the truth) interacts with yours. Do they teach their child to take part in your lie, or do they risk their child telling the truth, disappointing your child and possibly angering you? And think about the pressure on a five year old child to try to keep something like that a secret, knowing someone will be disappointed if he doesn’t. You’ve created a no-win situation for people you are supposed to self-sacrificially love, encourage, and edify.

Our sin always negatively affects others.

Michelle Lesley, Mailbag: My Kid Knows the Truth About Santa. What if He Tells His Friends Who Don’t ?, December 3, 2018

Leave it to Christian Fundamentalists to suck the magic and fun out of Christmas (and Easter too).


  1. Avatar

    I think this is probably quite a subtle way of countering atheist criticism that Christians tell their children that Santa is true, then that he’s not, but never come to the stage of telling them that Jesus isn’t true either. It’s probably a subconscious approach, as I don’t think Christian psyches have reached this stage of understanding, but I sense it’s there even so.

  2. Avatar

    It’s a sin to tell kids Santa and the Easter Bunny are real but ok to tell them that Jesus and Satan are real.

    Seriously, when I talk with True Christians about difficult issues and they eventually pull out Satan and Demons, I feel like I am talking with someone who believes in Santa and then I can’t continue the conversation.

  3. Avatar

    I thought it was funny when on a train recently, a girl of about 4yo was running up and down the aisle and ignored her mother’s ineffectual, ‘Come here’. An older man, who I assumed was grandad, leaned over and said ‘I’d do as you’re told, that policeman comes round after every stop’. (He meant the train conductor of course) and she obeyed. He was a stranger..and got off…It was lying? I thought of it as teasing…we did similar things with our kids and don’t think it scarred them for life, I think they quite liked having teasing funny parents, like the snowmen they built in the garden, if left overnight, always had a bar of chocolate in their hat next morning because they went to the local shop after dark! And we were fundy back then too!

  4. Avatar

    When I was about six, one of my friends who was the granddaughter of an IFB pastor told me that Santa wasn’t real – right in front of my mom, who simply and sternly told her “yes he is.” Later, after my friend had left, my mom told me “Carrie isn’t very smart, is she?” in an attempt to make sure that I wasn’t going to listen to the nonsense that my friend was spouting. Forty years later, my mom is still mad at Carrie for trying to tell me that there was no Santa.

  5. Avatar
    That Other Jean

    Eh, we explained to our little children that Santa wasn’t a real person (any more), talked about St. Nicholas the Bishop, who gave money for poor girls’ dowries, and how the modern depictions of Santa are symbols of the spirit of giving that is obvious around Christmas, and how some people like to pretend that Santa is real. We figured that if they found out that we lied about that, they would decide that we lied about other stuff, too. That was 40-odd years ago, and they don’t appear to have been scarred for life.

  6. Avatar

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry after reading that. I do know one thing though. Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals are master liars. I have seen tons of it in all kinds of venues, including the fundie faction on the Texas State Board of Education. One of the most popular articles on my blog is this one:

    The great thing about faith is that a person needs no evidence for what they believe. People earnestly believe all sorts of thing. All that really matter is to care deeply for something and commit to it. I choose to believe in both Santa Claus.

    In 1958, at the tender age of 6, my parents felt compelled to tell me that Santa Claus was not real. My heart was broken by that for a while. Now, as a 66 year old man, I choose to believe Santa Claus is real in some capacity—and as a professional scientist who knows what the scientific method can and cannot do, I triple-dog-dare Ms. Lesley to prove to me that there is no Santa. Claus to prove to me that there is no Santa Claus.

  7. Avatar

    I teach Sunday School to three-year olds. I try to avoid the topic (I tell them to talk to their parents), but I have had two sisters over the past three years come in and proudly announce, “Santa Claus is dead!” to the bewildered little people I teach. I personally find Santa harmless fun, and I do like how my parents approached it (they grew up poor during the Depression, and did not get much in the way of presents for Christmas).

    “Santa is the spirit of Christmas. He brings one present to you and your sister. The rest of the presents come from your parents, family, and friends because we love you, and we want to share in the spirit of giving, like Santa.”

    It kept me away from the “gimmes”, and also satisfied my suspicion that Santa wasn’t real as soon as I could read the to/from tags.

Want to Respond to Bruce? Fire Away! If You Are a First Time Commenter, Please Read the Comment Policy Located at the Top of the Page.

Bruce Gerencser