Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Santa Situation

When I was a kid I loved Santa. I was one of the very last among my friends to stop believing, and I only accepted it after my Mom basically flat out told me. I even think she had me wrap some of my own presents. I don't remember being upset by the fact there really isn't a Santa, just kind of resigned to it. It was like "okay, that part of my life is over. Bring on the anti-depressants." I don't think believing in Santa harmed me in any way, but nor did it make me a better person, or instill a sense of optimism that I wouldn't have had otherwise. However, while I may have fond childhood memories of Santa, and no psychological scars from the revelation he isn't real, I worry about other children, especially those who are growing up today. And that's why I think we should get rid of Santa.

My anti-Santa platform began forming a little over a week ago. I was out with my book group doing shopping for Sub for Santa. Four women in their 30's, most of us without kids, shopping for two families that we didn't know. Sure, they had written down what they wanted, but it was really up to us. One of the little girls wanted make-up, which we decided was inappropriate. Another wanted Teeny Pupini, which, besides being obscene, was definitely out of our price range. After all, we also had to get them clothes and shoes. And that's when it hit me. There was really no way these children weren't going to be disappointed -- and it is all Santa's fault.

I am not saying that kids shouldn't get gifts on Christmas. They should. But those gifts should come from their parents, not some magical man who judges whether they have been good or bad. After all, good or bad really has nothing to do with it. Household budgets, and the inventory at stores are the real keys. We are setting kids up for disappointment, and self-doubt, when really we could be instilling in them thankfulness and familial bonding.

Is Santa a "noble lie" though? Something kids need so that they aren't thrust into the cold harsh reality of adulthood too early? So in the weeks before Christmas they can believe anything is possible, and not just possible if Dad or Mom happens to get a bonus? I don't know. I do know though that looking back on my favorite Christmas, the one where I got a Cabbage Patch doll when we thought they were all sold out, I prefer to remember my Mom as the giver, rather than the mythical Santa. Yes, it was supposedly from him. But knowing that my Mom spent hours going from store to store, just to find some dumb doll, is more touching to me than any fairy tale.

Looking at it now I see Santa and Jesus, the two prime figures of Christmas, at opposite ends of the continuum. Jesus is on the spiritual, charitable side, talking about love and acceptance, while Santa is on the other end, basking in commercialism, and promising gifts if you do exactly what he says. I think the mid-point is giving gifts to family and friends, but not hiding our efforts behind a jolly old elf. We can keep Santa around though as a gimmick though. After all, he's cute. The sitting on the knee thing has got to go though. That is just creepy.


Rachel said...

I agree one hundred percent! My kids write a santa letter which we pass on to the various grandparents..but we've always had major gifts be from the actual sender so that the kids are appreciative of family...stocking stuffers are from the jolly old elf though.

Tara said...

I think you are not taking into consideration the "Fear of Santa" element - It's like fear of God, but more immediate. I used it on my younger sisters to great effect for years. Don't want to brush your teeth? Well - what would Santa think? Think it's too eeeaaarrrrly for bed? Hmmm - that's going on that List...

Lorrie Veasey said...

Oooooo Tara is sooooo right! The looming threat of The Big Man keeps my Spawn in line a whole 24 days and nights. Then january comes and we have to wait another year.

I vote we make the Easter Bunny more punative. Whose with me?