Should we be perpetuating the Santa myth?
All of us in the United States and most other western civilization countries have grown up with a Santa awareness and many of us raised our own children with the Santa tradition. I have pictures of all of my children at various stages of their lives sitting on Santa's lap. I recall taking them to the old Miller and Rhodes Department Store (now faded into history) in downtown Richmond, Virginia for the top of the line "real" Santa with primo priced pictures. Other pictures are with dorky Santas at the nearby mall. But sure I did it. I told my kids there was a Santa and I guess they are none the worse for it. And I grew up with it and, sure my dreams were shattered, but I survived.
Let's be honest. Santa has become just another commercial scam artist lining his pockets with our hard-earned dough while we tell our kids that this kind hearted soul is going to bring them a bunch of material goods for them to get tired of after a few days. And who exactly is paying for all this?--certainly not Santa Claus. It's bad enough that our own kids don't give us credit for things we do for them and now we even have to give some bearded guy in a red suit credit for giving them all their presents at Christmas.
We weave a web of deceit trying to perpetuate the myth of Santa Claus as we teach our kids unscientific principles such as Santa living at the North Pole with a bunch of elves and traveling throughout the entire world in a flying sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. Even the kids start questioning the logistics of the whole operation. What do we do? We make up another story about how and why it all works. We know it's not true, but we tell our kids as though it is. If it's not true then it must be a lie. We have to lie in order to keep the myth of Santa alive in their little minds.
And what about the stress we must be causing our children? As they hear about the current global warming conference and all of the threats to the polar regions, surely the kids must be starting to get worried sick about Santa's habitat and how the lives of all the elves and reindeer must be threatened to extinction which would mean that one day there would be no one to distribute material possessions to all of the world's children on Christmas eve.
On the other hand, the man and his story is a beloved tradition. Think of all those happy Santa songs we start hearing at this time of year--don't they just brighten your mood? Or the beloved "twas the night before Christmas" poem when the family is visited by jolly old St. Nick (oh-oh Old Nick is another name for Satan-- but let's not go there). All of the familiar Santa imagery festively festoons our yards, cards, and fireplace mantles. There's not much more smile inducing as a big red plastic Santa with ligthts inside to make it glow happily at night. We can't let go of Santa, he's been around for generations.
Also, there are the Santa players themselves (they must number in the thousands)--these guys are playing a gig that helps them put food on the table and pay a few bills. It all adds to the economy. I could go on and on about the economic influences but that would take far too long. Let's just say that if Santa were a real person who owned a license on his name and image, he'd be a gazillionaire.
I guess the real case for Santa is the magic of the character. When you see the wonderment in a child's eyes as they see Santa and dream of Santa's Christmas eve visit, it's heartwarming. In their innocence they are not thinking greed, they are thinking sugar plum fairies and Red Ryder air rifles ("you'll shoot your eye out"). It's dreams and imaginations and a time of our lives that lasts for a few fleeting years. It is magic that is real and imaginary characters that live for a time in our lives and live on later in our hearts and minds. Is Santa a lie? When we read a novel or any fiction, it's not real--is it a lie?
So I leave it to you. I've tossed out a few ideas to you. What's your opinion of Santa Claus? What do you tell or have you told your children? Is the myth harmful? Is there another way you would like to see the Christmas season handled?
Oh, and by the way, have a very Merry Christmas!