With Christmas just around the corner, numberless customs and habits are on our minds. We have to remember the real meaning of the holiday: yet one element has taken far too much precedence.
No, it’s not commercialism that’s too important. For centuries before there were big retailing and merchandising circuits, there has been the problem of too much attention on Santa Claus. Though St. Nicholas really did exist in the early Middle Ages, in time civilization has exaggerated his importance, to the extent that not enough time, energy and hype is focused on Jesus and His birth. Instead we propagate Santa Claus far too much and in doing so, mislead our children as to what Christmas is all about.
We must consider that the holiday is named Christmas after Christ. It is not called Nicholmas, Santamas, or Santa Clausmas.
In over-glorifying and overrating Santa Claus, we make him a false god, in violation of the First Commandment “Thou shalt have no other gods beside me.” We are also guilty of many inconsistencies, which contradict virtues and morals we teach and expect our children to have.
We teach our children not to lie; yet we deceive them about Santa’s existence. Numberless parents are guilty of deceiving their children – lying to them, though the parents deny that it is lying – when parents would not tolerate their children telling lies. We were deceived by our parents, who did not tolerate our telling lies: we knew better than to lie as we grew up, but then we willfully repeated the fraudulent pattern. We always make the excuse “It’s just a little white lie,” but we must remember that another of the Ten Commandments forbids lying, and in a minimum of words. This Commandment does not make exceptions for what civilization terms white lies.
We involve our children in fantasies like Santa yet we say the children should be concerned only with reality. We make Santa a compulsion, not an option, for our children: we coerce them into believing in Santa and other established fantasies like the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. But after a while, we turn the tables. We object to our children imagining things like imaginary playmates, heroics, journeys, etc.: yet we impose fantasies like Santa passing them off as reality. There is a difference between self-devised fantasies and outwardly-imposed fantasies that are fostered as reality. Imposition of fantasies as reality in not only dishonest on grownups’ parts, but also inconsistent when they coerce the children to go for reality only. I was such a victim of this pattern of brainwashing followed by table-turning. I was not allowed to read comic books, humor magazines, watch TV sitcoms, or write fiction because all those entities were not the truth, not real. I was bullied by other children, as well as by grownups, to be concerned with reality only. Because these zealots were never scolded or punished for their actions, I didn’t see anything wrong with preaching against fantasizing or deceiving children about Santa when I – and goodness knows how many other people! – had been bullied and manipulated against the use of the imagination.
We make our children sit in Santa’s lap and confide in him, yet we also teach children , “Don’t talk to strangers,” (which is what the Santas are) and ”Don’t let strangers touch you. Santa Claus is not a family member or anyone else children interact regularly like clergy, teachers, doctors, etc. Because we market Santa as unseen but omnipresent behavior monitor who keeps records (You better watch out! You’d better not cry! He’s making a list and checking it twice… who’s naughty or nice… He knows if you’ve been bad or good…”), he becomes an entity to be reckoned with not a “jolly old elf,” but an authority figure like the school principal who can intimidate children, and who we expect our children to come into physical contact with!
We tell children that Santa brings presents on Christmas Eve, but we do not allow children to witness his arrival. We say, “Santa comes only when children are asleep.” Since Santa does not deliver the way we say he does, we forbid our children to stay up so that we will not get caught in a lie.
We have our children sat out snacks for Santa, yet we frown on snacking and obesity. We say Santa is a fat man. ABC World News once remarked that if Santa ate all the snacks left out by the millions of households, he would gain several tons overnight – a lethal health risk! And we are a society obsessed with dieting, loosing weight, and feeling guilty if/when we overindulge during the holidays!
We coax our children into writing letters, or other direct communications, to Santa when we do not push them into doing likewise with other fictional characters like Mother Goose, the Good fairy, cartoon characters, fairy-tale characters, etc. We push our children into many customs and habits focused on Santa that we do not push them into involving other themes.
We finish our Thanksgiving and Christmas parades with Santa rather than tableaux representing what these holidays are really about. We do not give Pilgrim-Native American or Nativity entries (if/when there are any in these parades) anywhere near the hero’s welcome, red carpet treatment, or media coverage that we give Santa Claus. Such misdirection of attention and priorities misleads the children as to what these holidays are really about.
We perpetuate Santa in numberless ads, publications, toys, and especially motion pictures and do not give equal time, energy or hype to Jesus.
If we expect our children to be virtues, we must stop that fraudulent patterns of previous generations; refusal to do so will mean penalties we must pay.
We must stop overuse of Santa in Christmas themes.
If we can afford to preach “reality only” we must show Santa the way the real St. Nicholas dressed – in a church bishop’s religious habit. We must tell only the real story, and not propagate a multitude of lies.
We must not impose customs and habits focused on Santa, when we do not do likewise with other fictional entities, on our children.
We must focus more time, energy and hype on Jesus that Santa. Though the unwritten rule seems to be to separate religion and state, we must remember other people whose birthday we celebrate as holidays, even though those people were not divine.
I have suffered greatly for the deceit, ordeals, and bullying at the hands of other people I was taught to love, respect and obey. If it could happen to me, it could happen to numberless other people for goodness knows how many generations. This is the twenty-first century; we must reform now or pay heavy penalties!