Is Santa A Christian?

by Roger Barrier & Julie Barrier

Dear Roger,

My kids are asking all kinds of questions about Santa, including whether or not Santa was a Christian! They’re old enough to understand Santa isn’t real, but I think they hope all the stories are true. Will you help me answer this tough one?



Hello, Sara, what a wonderful question! I love getting a glimpse into the minds of children—they see the world with such openness and curiosity. My wife, Julie, and I prepared a little bit about the history of Santa Claus for you, as well as some biblical truths you can share with your kids.

First, is Santa a Christian?

Yes! The story of Santa Claus has been around a long time, and it’s based on the life of Saint Nicholas of Myra. He was born near Anatolia, Turkey, and served as a fourth-century church bishop (minister, for you Protestants). Nicholas was born to Christian parents who left him an inheritance when they died. He became well-known for giving all of his money to the poor. Historical documents reveal that he loved Jesus from an early age and devoted his entire life to compassionate, generous giving.

Saint Nicholas had a reputation for giving gifts anonymously, and he would throw bags of money into people’s homes (and sometimes down their chimneys) under the cover of night to avoid being spotted.

According to tradition, he gave his first gift to a family who had three daughters. They were to be sold into slavery (actually prostitution, but don’t tell your kids!). Nicholas, brokenhearted to see the plight of these innocent girls, paid the family’s debts and provided money for them to have a better life. The Catholic Church named Nicholas a saint and the protector of seamen, merchants, archers, children, pharmacists, lawyers, pawnbrokers and prisoners. St. Nick loved them all!

We know that Nicholas passed away on December sixth, sometime around the 340s or 350s A.D. The day of his death became an annual feast in which children would put out food for Nicholas and straw for his donkey. Catholics often taught that Saint Nicholas would come down from heaven during the night and replace the offerings with toys and treats—but only for the good boys and girls.

Santa has been given many other names all over the world. Martin Luther, a famous German pastor, introduced ChristkindlChristkindl means “Christ child,” and it originally referred to Baby Jesus. In time, stories developed about Christkind or Kris Kringle delivering presents to well-behaved Swiss and German children. Then, the “Christ child,” Christkind, became known as an angel-like figure accompanying Saint Nicholas on his holiday missions. In Scandinavia, a jolly elf named Jultomten delivers gifts in a sleigh drawn by goats. English legend explains that Father Christmas visits each home on Christmas Eve to fill children’s stockings with holiday treats. Pere Noel is responsible for filling the shoes of French children.

Most boys and girls around the world have names for Santa. So, what can we learn from his story?

Santa loved children.

Every “Santa” story describes a man who gave generously to little ones. His attitude towards kids always reminds me of Jesus’s love for children. My favorite Bible passage about Jesus and children is Luke 18:15-17:

People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” NIV

Next, Christmas is about giving, not getting! 

Jesus taught in Luke 6:38, “Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back—given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity” (MSG).

It’s easy for children—and adults!—to become focused only on what we receive. But our tradition of giving at Christmastime can be a way of honoring Jesus. When we give, we show our love for others. You might choose to involve your kids in an activity centered around giving, such as providing toys for underprivileged children, making a special Christmas offering to your church, or volunteering together.

Finally, the greatest gift we can ever receive is Jesus. 

John 3:16 is the most beloved verse in the Bible, teaching that “God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” Our children need to know that Christmas is about Christ … not just His birth, but His purpose for coming into the world. He came to give His very life for you and me. And we can have eternity with Him, if we accept His gift and believe.

You can tell your children about Santa, but get your story straight. Saint Nicholas loved Jesus. Teach your child to love Jesus, too.


Roger and Julie

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