My sister in law mentioned yesterday how Santa Claus and Jesus kind of fall into the same category for the unbeliever—bearded guys in the sky with magical powers. That got me thinking about this Santa myth we tell our children. I’m not a Santa hater (though Santa is just one ‘n’ away from Satan), I love stories, eggnog, and presents. But as a parent who believes in the second bearded guy in the sky and wants to teach that belief to his children, the way we trick our kids into believing the Santa story gives me pause.
The cynical interpretation of the story is that wonderful and spiritual things are naive and should only be believed until the third grade. Parents tell their kids something the parents know isn’t true and in third grade (or highschool for me) the kid wakes up to find Mom and Dad stuffing the stockings. Most kids aren’t traumatized by this realization, that’s not the problem. But this process of discovery and loss of faith sets a precedent in relation to other spiritual things. Since Santa and Jesus share the same holiday and profession (judgment and joyspreading), does the death of one weaken belief in the other?
An alternate interpretation of why we tell our kids the Barbie and Legos under the tree are from Santa is that we want them to believe that powerful forces of justice and good, though invisible, are at work in the world. We want them to experience firsthand the tingly feeling of wonder when you’re connected to something bigger than yourself, and to understand the concept of anonymous giving. It’s a myth that asks us to question what our parents tell us, but since it is such a benevolent deceit, we can accept the allegory without feeling betrayed.
So, is Santa a faith-sucking tool of atheist capitalism, or a friendly pagan prophet and type of Christ? I think he likely is somewhere in between, but it was sweet to hear Ingrid ask last night if I could tell Santa to be quiet so he wouldn’t be too loud and wake up Henry.
Here's a video of our friend Has trying really hard to believe in Santa: Hectic Hobo.