Santa Clause and Ellen G. White

By Robert K. Sanders


Adventist have taught that we should not teach our children fairy tales such as the Easter Bunny with colored eggs and Santa Clause because it was fiction and we would be deceiving our children. Ellen White was always sited as an authority for not teaching fiction or reading fiction. So as a loyal prophet believing Adventist, we did not have fictional books in our home neither did we teach Santa and the Easter Bunny to our one child. Neither was it taught in Sabbath School or Church School. I was shocked to later find that Ellen plagiarized some of her material for her books from fictional books and had the seat of honor by the Christmas tree with Willie White her son, dressed as Santa in her home each Christmas.

Why did the Adventist leaders hide the fact that Ellen enjoyed the Santa Clause tradition? What Bible prophet ever promoted fictional characters?

This document is a transcript from a tape by Geraldine Hess. It was presented at Sabbath School Program, December 7, 1991 at the Seventh-day Adventist Walker Memorial Church, Avon Park, FL. My family and I attended this service. Look for Willie White as Santa.

Introduction: This morning we have a very special treat for you. This is Geraldine Hess, and she is from Orlando. She is a friend of Crystal Bishop, who called me a few days ago and asked me if I had planned my Sabbath school program. And I said, "Well, not in its entirety," and so she told me that Mrs. Hess had a very special thing she does about Christmas at the White home. And so this morning let her share with us. OK? Thank you.

Geraldine Hess: Good morning. Are you looking forward to Christmas? I am. And would you like to know how the family of Mrs. White spent Christmas? I always wondered, because you see for so many years I read everything that Mrs. White said in such a negative vein. Let me tell you. In Adventist Home, the chapter on Christmas, this way I read it: "'Christmas is coming,' is the note that is sounded throughout our world, from east to west and from north to south. With youth, those of mature age, and even the aged, it is a period of great gladness." And then I went on, and I read all the things that you shouldn't do, and I felt very mixed feelings when Christmas came.

Then we moved to California and got involved in the restoration of Elmshaven, Mrs. White's home. Like now, we are with William Miller's home in New York. But in the process of it I got to meet and become friends with, and talk, and talk, and talk with Grace Scott, Mrs. White's granddaughter. She is still living, and she is going to be 93 and is still telling the stories very clearly. But she is the only living person that remembers. The descendant that remembers Mrs. White.

She was 15 years old when Mrs. White died. So what I am telling you is about the last 15 years of Mrs. White's life and first 15 years of Aunt Grace, and you remember how much you remember of your years up to 15 and your Christmases.

Well, I was cynical, and I would ask her questions, wanting to know, and she would tell me. She is such a delightful person. She would just put you at ease with her clear laughter.

….How many of you have ever been to Elmshaven? Ah, quite a few. How many of you know what the building is that is now called Rosehaven? Right above it there is now a nursing home. A few of you do. That was Willie White's home, built just above her home. So what I'm telling you took place up at their place, not down at Elmshaven; and I asked Aunt Gracie. I said , Why?" She said, "Well, Grandma was old by then, past 70, and she was so busy. She didn't have any children. She was always a part of all the family celebrations, but she wasn't a part of the preparation in doing it for them at that age." They would put tables out under the trees and have their Thanksgiving dinner out there, and all enjoyed being together.

Now, what happens after Thanksgiving? Now you hear about it long before Thanksgiving, don't you? Well, this I was anxious to hear is "what did you do?" She said, "Well, my brothers, her twin brothers, they had looked all over their 69 or 70 acres to find the perfect Christmas tree. So the first time after Thanksgiving that Willie was home, and that wasn't often, because he traveled a lot with his mother, he would go out with the twins, and they would cut the Christmas tree and bring it home." She said, "I thought that would be such fun until one year I went with them. I found out it was nothing but hard work, and after that I figured that they could do it without me.

"So they'd bring the Christmas tree home, and they would take it up and put it in the third floor room, which was the boys' room."

"You didn't want it in the parlor, because people would come and see "it then?" I asked her. "Oh, no! The parlor was small, and people were always going and coming there," she replied. "We had all of our family celebrations in the third floor room."

"The boys had pushed their beds off to one side. We had this great big room. There was room for everybody. We couldn't have all gotten into the parlor. So they had planned and they had measured. You know how your top room is like this. They measured so the tree could be clear up there. Then they started decorating it. What did they decorate it with? I told you that they had taken the walnuts and opened them carefully. Then you glue them back together with a ribbon or a string or a wire and paint them various colors. Then you have Christmas tree ornaments.

"And of course they made colored chains, and they made popcorn strings. Along with the popcorn strings they had a berry in it." What kind of berries did they have? I expected that, and that is a trick question. Cranberries are East Coast; they couldn't have afforded to put cranberries on a string on a tree. They used wild red mountain berries. So you use what you have near you. And they cut pretty pictures and you know, like the origami, and they made all kinds of ornaments and decorated the tree. The last thing they put on the tree was the old candle, and they were ready to go. Well, they made presents.

She said her sister was very artistic, and she said, "I wasn't, and I couldn't do pretty things like she did." She said one year she made a pillow for grandma, grandma being Mrs. White, a black velvet pillow with a pink rose painted on it. We used to see those a great deal. You can sometimes see them in antique shops or maybe down in Mexico, but that was quite a popular thing for a while, painting on velvet, and that is what her sister Mable did for grandma.

The boys, what did they do? "Well, you know, with all the traveling that grandma and daddy, which was Mrs. White and Willie, did, they sent home what? Postcards, of course. And the boys would take these postcards, and they'd put them on wood and burn around them., and we would call that decoupage. That was some of the gifts they made. They were busy making things, hiding things, having lots of fun getting ready for Christmas.

Christmas was Christmas Eve. That's when they celebrated. They came up to the room interesting, to the upper room and they had their dinner first." And I said, "What did you have for dinner?" "Well," she said, "oh, lots of things. Four things." Three things she always remembered for Christmas. She said, "Mother made dainty sandwiches a lot, but three things were always for Christmas. One was dates, stuffed with nuts. The other was fruitcake that was left. They made enough for Thanksgiving to have some for Christmas, and it was always glazed." You have to be as old as I am or older to remember glazed fruitcake. "And the third thing was divinity candy, with a piece of nut in it, a half of walnut."

I said, "Divinity? That's all sugar." She said, "Sure." Oh, I was horrified! She said, "We only got it maybe two or three times a year, and maybe one or two pieces at the most for that." She said to have it for something special was all right. It's just that nowadays we could have it so much that it's gotten out of hand.

I thought, Hmmm. Maybe I need to think some things through and make logic out of it instead of taking whatever is said and magnifying it.

"After they ate, they cleared away the table of everything. They sat down for their Christmas program, and grandma always had her rocking chair right by the tree. It was her seat of honor, so she could see her whole family. She loved to be with them, and to hear them, and to know what they were saying and doing."

I said, "Well, did you have to carry her upstairs? That's up to the third story. "She said , No, until she broke her hip just a few months before she died, she could go up and down steps as well as anybody. So then they had this Christmas, a typical Christmas.

"The boys, with dad's robe and cane and mother's dish towels, became instant shepherds. Right? And they said their poems, sang their songs, and glorified God in their little program. Then, after the program, everything kind of got still, and then you heard, 'Ho-ho-ho-ho. And Santa Claus came and, "I about fell off my chair. I said, "No, not Santa Claus!"

She said , "Of course. It's just a harmless old tradition. We knew who'd get the gifts; we'd made them for each other. We knew that. It was just a fun way of delivering them.

"Who was Santa Claus? Daddy, Willie White. Red bathrobes, pillows, cotton beard, toys, coming in with his eyes twinkling, just like you could imagine, pointing to say, 'Little boy, I know you don't get anything for Christmas. You just get colds, 'cause you weren't good.' And they'd all laugh."

I said, "What did grandma give as Christmas presents?" She said, "She always gave books. She loved books, and she gave books." And I said, "Her books?" "Oh no, not her books to us. She didn't write children's books. She gave us children's books that we would like." "Very practical, lovely lady. "Eloe, the Eagle," "Uncle Ben's Cobblestones." Some of these you can still read. Those were favorite books when she was little, and Mrs. White loved having them in her library to lend to children. After the Christmas presents were given away, everything was settled on the tree. They would then very carefully light the candles and sing Christmas carols until time to go home."…

What I find amusing is the fact that some SDAs have a website denouncing Christians that observe Christmas, the Christmas Tree and Santa Clause because they believe it is worshipping pagan gods.

Now that the supporters of Ellen White know that she celebrated Christmas each year with her family and with Santa Clause and the Christmas tree, will they condemn her for what they perceive as pagan actions?


Is the Christmas Tree Pagan?

Those that oppose the Christmas tree use this text from Jeremiah as their proof? When God was speaking to Jeremiah he was not talking about a Christmas tree. God was talking about those that cut down a tree and worshipped it as a god. Jeremiah pointed out these tree idols had to be carried because they cannot walk and not fear them because they cannot talk.

Do you fear your Christmas tree because it some kind of a god and might do you harm? I have never seen or heard of any Christian bowing before a CHRISTMAS TREE and worshipping it as a god.

Jer. 10:3-5 (NIV) For the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good."

Some Christians will have nothing to do with Christmas because of some pagan element attached to it. But so does the calendar and the cross. When Christians celebrate Christmas they are not worshiping idols, but celebrating the Lord Jesus Christ's birth. Many people have accepted Christ by attending a Christmas Pageant. Christmas is a biblical event that took place 2000 years ago. Getting together with family and friends at Christmas is a great why to uplift our Savior and to those that have not accept Christ as their Savior.

Robert K. Sanders, Founder and Editor of Truth or Fables, 1997–2012
Life Assurance Ministries assumed ownership of Truth or Fables in 2012
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