WE ALWAYS groan that there is too much commercialism at Christmastime. But we have never considered another entity that we overemphasize: Santa Claus.

We squander infinitely more time, energy and attention on Santa Claus than we do on Jesus.

We make Santa a compulsion, not an option, for our children.

We lure them and get them hooked on Santa before we've taught them the first thing about God or Jesus, let alone about the Nativity.

By involving our children in the obvious trappings, we are guilty of multiple inconsistencies:

* We tell our children they mustn't lie, yet we deceive them about Santa's existence. * We involve our children in fantasies like Santa, yet we say they should be concerned only with reality.

* We make our children sit in Santa's lap and confide in him, yet we also teach them "Don't talk to strangers, " - which is what the Santas are! - and "Don't let strangers touch you."

* We say Santa brings the presents on Christmas Eve, but we don't allow our children to stay up and witness his arrival, mostly because we can't afford to be caught in a lie.

Years ago, the TV game show "Family Feud" posed the question "Name something grownups do that they tell children never to do."

Another question, similarly worded, was "Name something parents do which sets a bad example for kids." One of the answers to both of these questions was lying.

A third question was "Name something parents lie to their children about." The very first answer to that question was Santa Claus!

Alicia Eaves, Delran