Eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the New York Sun, printed September 21st, 1897, as follows:

“DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
“Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
“Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

The reply, penned by Francis Pharcellus Church, has since become history’s most reprinted newspaper editorial. He stated, in part:

“VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds…

“Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS…”

It may seem innocent and harmless to convince the little ones that Santa Claus is real, but scripture teaches otherwise. Referring to “the devil”, Jesus said, “When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). Lying makes one a child of the devil. Furthermore, it is written, “all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

However, it’s not only the damning effect on the soul of the one perpetrating the lie that matters, but also how that lie shapes the mind of the child receiving it.

Think how a young, impressionable mind is affected when taught that Santa Claus “sees you when you’re sleeping”, “knows when you’re awake”, and “knows if you’ve been bad or good”. Are not these the attributes of the Divine (Psalm 139:1-12; Proverbs 15:3; Hebrews 4:13)? Who is actually “making a list” to “find out who’s naughty and nice”, but the Almighty (Revelation 20:12-15; 2nd Corinthians 5:10; Matthew 25:31-34)? Is not the greatness of God diminished if He shares these qualities with a Jolly Old Elf? What must a child think who simultaneously believes in a Father in Heaven and a Father Christmas?

Eventually, inevitably, children learn that Santa Claus is not real. How can this realization not cast a shadow of doubt on the entire breadth of their parents’ credibility? After all, if Mom and Dad lied about the existence of Old Saint Nick, what guarantee is there they spoke the truth about the Ancient of Days, God Himself?

No, Virginia, Santa Claus is not real, and shame on Mr. Church for perpetuating the lie! Shame on every parent who so deceives children.

To be sure, regarding Santa Claus as the fictional character he is is basically harmless. Including him in seasonal stories, songs, and decorations is no different than including Buzz Lightyear, Cinderella, or Spider-Man in other children’s stories and decorations, provided he is treated just the same: as a pretend figure. To do otherwise, to elevate him to God-like status and teach children to believe in Santa is harmful for parents and children alike.

Bryan Matthew Dockens

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