No, this thread is not about St. Nicholas, the holy wonderworker of Myra.
This is about the jolly old elf, the fat man in the red suit; the creation of Thomas Nast and Coca-Cola; and of Clement Clarke Moore - as well as Virginia O'Hanlon and Francis Pharcellus Church (Google them). He of the "Miracle on 34th St." He who caused so many of us as children to have sleepless nights late on December 24, long after we laid out our milk and cookies by the stockings over the fireplace.
I have to admit that since I've become an Orthodox Christian (and more recently a father), the notion of Santa Claus has been causing some problems for me. It's not just the bumper stickers of confused and cynical people who say "God is Santa Claus for Grownups". It's that for so many people (adults and children) Santa Claus is bigger than Jesus Christ - and even bigger than the Beatles!
The problem is that Santa Claus is the ultimate American - he is the smiling man that brings everybody lots of goodies for free. Which is a message totally, absolutely at odds with the Incarnation - that oft-forgotten reason for the season. That Incarnational message is one of THE ultimate power of the universe humbling Himself to be born as a puking, crying, not-potty-trained infant in order to save His ungrateful creatures who only wanted to put Him to death - beginning with King Herod.
And so now that I am a father, I'm asking myself: Do I want my child becoming familiar with the something-for-nothing message of Santa Claus? Will he crowd out any room for Jesus Christ in my child's heart? If we don't have a visit from Santa, surely my child will hear about Santa from his friends at school. And his grandparents (not Orthodox nor understanding of Orthodoxy) would be bewildered if we told them not to address any gifts as being from Santa. They would look at us like those parents who never allow their kids to taste any candy.
So...for all of you other Orthodox Christian parents...whither Santa Claus? Is he allowed to plop down your chimneys? Do you tell your kids that it's all a lie, like Will Ferrell? If so, what happens if they spoil the fun for other kids?
Or for those of you who allow Santa, how do you keep him in check instead of his becoming a symbol of the base materialism that pervades the fallen human heart?