“Mr. Claus, after lengthy consideration, we regret to inform you that we are eliminating your position from the Christmas season. We thank you for your years of service and wish you well in all your future endeavors.”
But, stop. Consider. Is that so crazy? Why can’t it be Christmas without Santa Claus?
Though based on numerous historical figures and traditions, Santa Claus as we understand him today is barely 100 years old. Several of the particulars were sorted and reinforced even more recently than that, by uber-traditional folks like Macy’s and Coca-Cola.
Christmas is rather older than that. And frankly, I’m wondering if it might not be time to ask Santa to leave. Pack your desk, man. Good luck. All the best.
(No, this is not part of a “war on Christmas,” though doubtless some will perceive such.)
If you are among those who would call me radical for proposing that we give Santa Claus his walking papers, then pause and consider with me. Does Christmas matter to you? Yes? All right, what’s important to you about it?
Some say the birth of Jesus Christ. OK, great. What does Santa Claus have to do with that? (Big hint: pretty much nothing.)
Others say being together with family and friends. Wonderful. What does Santa Claus have to do with that? (Well, not much there either.)
Giving? A little credit there, I suppose. Santa Claus gives. But what kind of giving does he discuss with the children who sit on his lap? You think he spends much time talking to kids about what they might do for other kids? Say, kids whose mom couldn’t bring them to see him because she needed the $2 it would have cost her in gasoline to buy a can of soup to feed them that night?
Objectively, Santa Claus is actually pretty anti-Christmas, is he not? Our Santa of current Western culture is at least as much a creation of mass market retail as anything else. And mass market retail doesn’t have much to do with the values most people defending against a “war on Christmas” claim to be protecting.
Now please, stop making torches, and don’t release the dogs yet.
So there’s a significant disconnection on priorities, but there’s also one of integrity. Parents have to be pretty thoroughly disingenuous for Santa Claus to exist, in a couple of ways.
I wrote a bit on Santa and honesty in October, in a broader context of the supernatural. We don’t lie to our kids about anything else. Why are we going to lie to them about this? Nathan was suitably angry when he learned the truth. I was proud of him for that.
How about clouding basic economics? I had a colleague several years ago with a child who wanted a Wii video game system for Christmas. When he realized the child hadn’t said anything about it in a while, he asked about it. “Oh, I decided that was too expensive,” the child explained. “So I’m asking Santa for that instead.”
Chuckle for sure, but it’s perfectly reasonable logic given what the child “knows,” is it not? It’s an amusing illustration of the material dishonesty about Santa Claus. There tends to be a strong correlation between the kinds of material things Santa brings and work. Santa defies that, and for what? Why should we wait until our children are 10 or 11 before reinforcing that correlation?
Now please, stop making torches, and don’t release the dogs yet. I do enjoy Christmas myself, and part of that enjoyment is making it an exciting time for our boys. That excitement doesn’t have to come at the expense of many more important values, however.
Aaron, 9, hasn’t said much about Santa this year, but we suspect he still believes more than he doesn’t. Surely this is the last year. We do things for the needy with the boys every Christmas, and we are this year as well. But I might like to consider some larger and more sustained effort next year; the first “real” year. We have been Santa Claus for them. Perhaps we will find something for which we all need to sweat a little bit in the interest of being the real Santa Claus for someone less blessed.
Consider what’s important to you at Christmas. See if Santa Claus survives a critical examination in that context. You might be surprised.
Editor’s Note: This column was originally published December 2013 and has been updated.