Santa Claus may be coming to town, but a new study says half of American adults believe the big guy in the red suit takes something away from the religious significance of Christmas.
According to an Associated Press-GfK Poll conducted earlier this month, 57 percent of Americans think that Santa Claus plays an important role in holiday celebrations, as opposed to the 43 percent who said the opposite was true.
But when asked, “Do you think the Santa Claus tradition does more to...?” 48 percent of those surveyed said Santa detracts from Christmas' religious significance, while 37 percent said it actually enhances its religious significance. About 13 percent said neither of those answers is true or said the tradition has no effect on religious significance.
The survey, which was conducted Dec. 8-12, consists of answers provided by 1,000 Americans age 18 and older.
Jeremy Schweyer, senior pastor of The Movement Church in Barberton, Ohio, told The Christian post via email on Friday that he also believes the Santa tradition takes something away from the holiday's religious significance, although he “can see both sides” of the issue.
“We perpetuate Santa Claus with shopping holidays such as Black Friday, which is incidentally the day where thousands of retail stores move from the red to the black, at the expense of millions of Americans moving from the black to the red. Christmas is simply about Christ, not consumerism,” said Schweyer.
Of those interviewed in the survey, 84 percent of people said they believed in Santa as a child, and 8.8 years old was the average age they stopped believing in him. About 16 percent said they never believed in Santa as a child.
Schweyer, who has four children under the age of 10, says Santa Claus can be a part of Christmas as long as parents teach their children about the true meaning of the holiday.
As his kids begin to grow up and start questioning what they've learned about Santa, he says, he and his wife Fran will decide whether or not it is time to have the talk.
“If we feel that one of our kids are ready to know the truth, we sit him down and explain to him that Santa was a real person (Saint Nicholas) and that he was a Christian who loved Jesus and because of that was very generous,” said Schweyer.
“We explain that the spirit of Saint Nick continues every Christmas, but ultimately Jesus is the best gift-giver, because he gave us his life in exchange for our sins, which was why he was born.”
The study also says 77 percent of Americans said they believe in angels, as opposed to just 22 percent who said they did not.
Among those surveyed, 38 percent identified themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians. Twenty-seven percent said they are either Protestant or don't belong to a particular religious denomination, 23 percent said they were Catholic, one percent identified as Mormon, two percent said they are Jewish and 19 percent are of some “other religion.”
Of those who identified themselves as being of some “other religion,” 89 percent said they consider themselves to be Christian while 11 percent said they weren't.