Breakfast with Santa

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

November 26, 2007


            Breakfast with Santa. What is it with having breakfast with Santa?

            This year our parish will sponsor three or four breakfasts with that merry giver of gifts and promoter of sales, Santa Claus.

            We used to have communion breakfasts --- breakfast with Jesus. Now we have breakfast with Santa.

            Don’t get me wrong. I am 100% in favor of helping needy children, especially at Christmas. I want their celebration of Christmas to be joyful. Our parish always participates in the community “giving tree.” We buy gifts for more than 200 needy children in our community, more than any other church in our county.

            But, like many parishes, we have had an increasing emphasis on “breakfast with Santa” around Christmas.

            We sponsor one for the children born through the local crisis pregnancy center. We have another one for girl scouts. This year we even hosted a breakfast with Santa for the local motorcycle clubs. There were 150 motorcycles in the parking lot. Santa arrived on a red motorcycle. Cool.

            Even the Knights of Columbus sponsor a breakfast with Santa. They give gifts to children of Knights.

            So what is my problem with all of this breakfasting with Santa? Two things bother me.

            First, we are promoting Santa and forgetting Jesus in all of this. Our children come away thinking that Christmas is about Santa Claus and getting stuff.

            We cannot lament the fact that Christ is not in Christmas, if the Churches don’t even keep Him there.  Above all, it seems to me, the Knight of Columbus should be sensitive to this. After all, they are the ones who have the “keep Christ in Christmas” campaign. How can we expect Wal-mart to keep Christ in Christmas if we don’t?

            Second, we are promoting materialism as the spirit of Christmas.

            Kids are taught that Christmas is about getting stuff. The high point of these breakfasts is a merry romp through piles of gifts. While most of the kids who come to these events are needy, some are just middle class kids who already receive way too much stuff for Christmas.

            Third, all this “breakfasting with Santa” stretches out the Christmas season. Our celebrations begin earlier every year. The “bikers” breakfast with Santa was on November 17 this year. Since when does the Christmas season begin before Thanksgiving?

            I’ve wondered what to do about this phenomenon of breakfast with Santa. I raised it with our Pastoral Council. Some people thought I was the "grinch" who stole Christmas. Others agreed with me.

            In reflecting, I’ve come up with three guidelines for children’s Christmas gift giving celebrations in our parish.

            First, Christmas celebrations must be in the Christmas season. By that I mean between the feast of St. Nicholas (December 6) and Epiphany (January 6). One month is plenty. I want no dragging Christmas into November, just because the stores already have their decorations up.

            Second, gift giving events must be focused on the needy, not the greedy. We should be inviting kids who otherwise would not be getting gifts. We have to be delicate in how we do this. I prefer anonymous giving.

            Third, every Christmas event for children must have some reference to the birth of Jesus. A manger scene should be set up. There must be a religious Christmas carol sung (not Jingle Bells). There must be a prayer said by everyone there.

            Maybe we should even require that St. Nick come dressed as a bishop. Then the children would get to see a second Christmas miracle; a bishop who gives gifts away.