Photography © by Andy Coan

Our nephew Noah, 7, has a real thing about Santa. Last year he was thrilled when he and his mom had breakfast with the jolly bearded fellow at the zoo in their hometown.

The photos tell the tale. The first shows Noah with a look of ecstasy on his face as he perches on Santa’s lap, explaining in careful detail exactly what he wants. The next shot shows the boy’s expression of joyous relief because he’s delivered his important message – and Santa seems to have gotten the point.

Despite such wonderful moments, many Catholic parents face a dilemma. Should they take the kids to see Santa at the mall and risk turning Christmas into a “buy me, get me” fest?

Or should they ignore the secular Santa and disappoint the children?

For many parents, Santa has become a symbol of greedy commercialism. He is all about elves, the North Pole, the reindeer – and that big pile of gifts.

There are plenty of toys overflowing from his sack, but no evidence of a Bible. In fact, the typical mall Santa seems oblivious to the real message of Christmas – and even seems to be vying with the Christ Child for attention.

There is a way out, fortunately, and Noah’s parents have found it. Last year, they located a Santa who sent the little fellow a personalized letter. In it, Santa revealed that he knew quite a bit about Noah’s life, including the names of the boy’s teacher and his dog, Buttercup.

But what really made my day was the heart of Santa’s letter:

“Of course, Christmas Day is all about celebrating… the birth of Jesus Christ… Jesus is very important for boys and girls – He gives us hope and loves us very, very much! Keep Jesus in your heart forever!”

What a wonderful concept – a Santa who tells children about Jesus! Wouldn’t it be lovely if all parents had an option like this at Christmas time?

I think many parents would be thrilled to take their kids to see a Santa who emphasizes the real truth about the season. After all, without Jesus, there would be no Christmas parties, no carols, no trees glittering with lights, no mountain of gifts – and no Santa at all.

And a wise Santa might go on to emphasize that because Christ did come into the world, children receive a present that may not be on their list, but is still the most wondrous one of all.

You won’t find this gift under the tree, of course. You’ll find it in their hearts.

Lorraine’s latest books include “Death of a Liturgist” – a wild and wacky mystery about a layman who wreaks havoc on a traditional parish; and The Abbess of Andalusia – an exploration of Flannery O’Connor’s Catholic journey. Her web site is

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