Is Santa Claus real?

(Spoiler Alert: I’m going to reveal that Santa isn’t actually real.)

Most of us have told our young children that Santa Claus is real. But is that so bad?

Child psychologists say that an active imagination is a normal part of human development. It helps enhance creativity. What child hasn’t had an imaginary friend at some point in their lives? And what fundraising professional hasn’t imagined a world where donor acquisition and retention results are improving dramatically?

But I digress.

So what about believing in a plump guy who is pulled through the sky in a sleigh by airborne reindeer — one of which has a shiny, red nose — and can visit every home in the world in one night?!

The roots of the Santa Claus tradition — or, as the Dutch call him, “Sinterklaas” — are found in the real-life adventures of St. Nicholas, a Greek Bishop in the Orthodox church. Known for his kindness and generosity, he helped strangers in need. Nick’s story eventually grew into what we know today as the myth of Santa Claus.

As children grow older, they eventually realize that dear ole Santa is not real. Just as I did, my children figured that out on their own. At the same time, the Santa Claus fable is important. It teaches our children the value of bighearted generosity, good cheer and belief in miracles. Christmas certainly embodies those ideals.

What can we do with Santa Claus?

In spite of the commercialization of Christmas, we can use Santa Claus as a springboard to teach our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews about the true meaning of Advent — Jesus, who gave us the greatest gift of all.

I think Keri Wyatt Kent said it so well in a recent Christianity Today blog, “While Santa is not a Christ figure — that must be clear — the Santa myth is not the problem. The problem is that we have let advertisers hijack Santa, turning Christmas into a retail event.”

As marketers, we often find it hard at this time of year not to focus on year-end results. And who could blame us? When you start thinking about Christmas in August — as I have for the past 30 years — by the time the holidays actually roll around, they can become no more than a postscript at the end of a crucial fundraising season.

But this year, let’s all try to not bemoan the fact that Christmas can be this horrendous, harried, secular holiday, with overcrowded stores and traffic jams.

Rather, let’s embrace the true reason we celebrate Christmas: On this day, a Savior was born!

Rory Starks

P.S. Don’t forget: you have only three shopping days left until Christmas. I’m kidding!