Thursday, December 10, 2009

Why We Do the Santa Claus Thing

Most men and women, before they embark on the glorious journey that is marriage, have necessary and important conversations. The most important, possibly, is the “are we gonna have kids?” conversation. Such a talk might go something like this:

“So, how many kids do you want?” she asks.

“Two is good,” he replies.

“I want five,” she says.

“Three it is,” he compromises.

“Fine,” she says. “So are we gonna do the Santa Claus thing or what?”

“I really could care less.”

“All right, then! Let’s do this thing!”

At least, that was pretty much the conversation John and I had. And then, ha ha to him, we had twins.

I don’t ever remember ever believing in Santa Claus, although my younger brother and sister did, and I do recall delightly in the consumption of the cookies they left out for Santa after they went to bed. After they grew up, I couldn't wait to do the Santa Claus thing with my own kids, and now I delight in eating the cookies they leave out for Santa. It is good, clean fun. A little fattening.

As I got older, it seemed every parent or parent-to-be had opinions about the jolly old white-bearded man with the wicked cool red winter suit. Some believed he distracted from “the true meaning of Christmas.” Others didn’t like lying to their kids. We all know I have no quandaries about lying to my kids, so that brings us to “the true meaning of Christmas.”

As fellow blogger Michelle recently pointed out, Christmas did not begin as a religious holiday and nowhere in the bible does it indicate Christ’s birth should be celebrated. (Let’s put Christ back into Christmas really doesn’t make sense- he was never there in the first place.) Christmas was initially a holiday that celebrated winter solstice; Christmas as we know it today is simply Christianity’s reaction to a popular pagan holiday. (Jesus was actually born in the fall.)

Santa Claus, on the other hand, is based on a bishop lauded and subsequently sainted for his extravagant gifts to the poor. (This was before the Reformation.) The idea of Santa Claus actually has roots in Christianity. Christmas, um, doesn’t really so much.

I love Christmas. I love the carols, I love the story of Jesus’ birth, I love nativity scenes and lights on the houses and the smell of Christmas trees and decking the halls and all that stuff. I applaud Christians for turning Christmas into their own celebration of the greatest event in the history of the world.

I also love to spur my children’s imagination. Is there a greater gift than a really good, really primed, imagination?

One of my favorite books is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The main character is a poor little girl who lives in the Bronx. No, I’m kidding. She lives in Brooklyn.

See? I have a compulsion.

Anyways, she is a “storyteller” and these two paragraphs illustrate her parent’s differing opinions about spurring on their daughter’s fledgling imagination:

Lately, she (Francie) had been given to exaggerating things. She did not report happenings truthfully, but gave them color, excitement and dramatic twists. Katie (her mother) was annoyed at this tendency and kept warning Francie to tell the plain truth and to stop romancing. But Francie just couldn’t tell the plain undecorated truth. She had to put something to it.

Although Katie had this same flair for coloring an incident and Johnny (her father) himself lived in a half-dream world, yet they tried to squelch these things in their child. Maybe they had a good reason. Maybe they knew their own gift of imagination colored too rosily the poverty and brutality of their lives and made them able to endure it. Perhaps Katie thought that if they did not have this faculty, they would be clearer-minded; see things as they really were, and seeing them loathe them and somehow find a way to make them better.

The next chapter, noticeably, begins with: Christmas was a charmed time in Brooklyn.

Caleb is slowly putting two and two together. He was pretty sure the Santa Claus we saw on the street last week isn’t the same one that made an appearance at his school. He asks me strange questions, like:

“When Santa sees a reindeer in the woods, does he grab it so he’ll have even more reindeer on his sleigh?”

“No. I think he’s happy with the eight he has.”

“But wouldn’t more reindeer make him go even faster?” Caleb asked.

“I really couldn’t say.”

“Nine, anyway.”


“Nine. There are nine reindeer. You forgot Rudolph.”

“Yes. I guess I did. Nine, then.”

I’m so prepared for the day Caleb no longer believes. I'm prepared for the inevitable accusation that I, ahem, lied. I have a great book to recuse myself of any responsibility: it is called, Santa? Are you for real? The answer is happily non-committal.

In the meantime, I’m truly enjoying watching Caleb work it out for himself.

The Possible's slow fuse is lit
By the Imagination
Emily Dickinson

How do YOU feel about the jolly old white-bearded man with the wicked cool red winter suit? I won't be offended if you think I am totally off my rocker... it's been known to happen before.


Toaster said...

Just be sure that you wrap the gifts for your kids in different paper than you wrap the gifts for the rest of your family--apparently, that's how some of our nephew's friends caught on!

Woodswoman Extraordinaire: said...

Meh. No harm in telling kids tall tales. I still chuckle about all the things my Dad got me to believe when I was a kid! I love to see kids' minds figure out truths using basic logic. So often their logic is clearer than an adult's would be.

My favorite story of a trick parents played on their kids to enhance the Santa story is as follows: Have the kids leave out a plain white bowl of sugar for the reindeer. After they've gone to bed, empty some of the sugar out, and run a maraschino cherry through the rest to create a red smear. The proper explanation in the morning, of course, is that the red was left by Rudolph's nose.

I say enjoy warping the kids while you still can. :)

Michelle said...

Well... this is what I think. You are not off your rocker. I think sometimes for me, since I'm the anti-Christmas junkie, it's about personal conviction.

For us and our little ones (which are too little to know anything) it's about what Santa represents. We feel as Christians that Santa is more important than Christ. What Santa represents is worldliness and materialism. I read an article recently stating if you want to celebrate Christmas with the world, do just that, but keep Christ out of it.

We had that exact conversation before marriage and it led to an ENTIRE change in religious beliefs for us as a couple.

Thanks for the plug! :)

Anonymous said...

the 2nd most anticipated & celebrated Event in all of God's great story is the Incarnation. In fact the Sacrificial death & resurrection of Jesus would be meaningless without the Incarnation. When we come to the New Testament narrative, we find that Jesus coming is all about Celebration. Before He was born the Angels celebrated their revelation with Mary & Joseph. Mary celebrated with Elizabeth. When He was born the Angels celebrated with the Shepherds. The Shepherds celebrated with Mary & Joseph and anyone else they could find. A short time later when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple, They were greeted once again with the Celebration of Simeon & Anna. At least a year later while they were still residing in Bethlehem, the Wisemen arrived to share in the celebration.
God's people ought to celebrate the Coming - Birth of Jesus, because that is what God's record emphasizes. It is only gross literalism that would only justify what God directly prescribes. The NT does not proscribe this particular celebration. But that's the nature of God's revelation. It does not merely teach by prescription. The Scripture does show us throughout the OT that God yearns for His people to celebrate His intervention in history. Therefore we should celebrate this the Greatest Intervention in God's Great Story.
So I must argue that Christ fully belongs in Christmas or Immanuel's Day as I have preferred to call it.
Yes, we could debate the season of these events, but DOES IT REALLY MATTER? Yes, much of what has been included in this celebration has a number of troublesome & questionable sources. Therefore Families need to discerningly choose what traditions do they want to use to teach their children God's great Story! What will most effectively train them for life as Followers of Jesus Christ?

Love, Pastor Dad

Holly said...

Thank you Pastor Dad.

Let me clarify. I certainly didn't mean to suggest that the bible says we shouldn't celebrate the Incarnation. Jesus' birth should of course be celebrated, as well as his life and his resurrection. I meant, of course, that the bible never mandated an annual holiday in recognition of the occasion.

The term Christmas first appeared as follows: Xpes, I think a form of Oldish Middle English, in 1123. So Christ WAS always in Christmas, the Christian's term for the celebration of the nativity. And I guess, also, we shouldn't get so offended when people write out Xmas instead of Christmas.

This was simply supposed to be a lighthearted post poking some fun at people who hate Santa Claus, who is actually based upon a historical Christian figure, but are unaware that December 25th was originally a pagan holiday.

Gift-giving and gluttony are a part of the pagan tradition of the celebration of winter solstice, which Christian incorporated into the Christmas holiday. Christmas caroling is actually derived from the Romans going house to house singing songs honoring the god Saturn.

The worst of all? Hollyberries were thought to be a food of the gods.

Christmas trees, mistletoe... pagan roots.

I personally don't care and don't intend to give anything of those things up,especially the smooching under the mistletoe, but do feel that Santa Claus, A CHRISTIAN ELEMENT OF THE CHRISTMAS TRADITION, gets a bad rep from the Christian community.

the end

Anonymous said...

My wife and my father are firing broadsides at each other and breaking out references to Oldish Middle English. Surely this will turn out well!

I think Holly was simply attempting to point out the irony when folks freak out about Santa being included in the overall celebration of Christmas (because they firmly believe that Santa has nothing to do with Christmas or Christianity), while they sanctimoniously go about their caroling, then return to their home with their Christmas tree, holly wreaths, and other trappings of the holiday (that all have roots in various pagan practices).

Certainly, we must be discerning to ensure that the primary focus of our celebration is the birth of our Savior. And certainly, the world has used Santa to crowd out any spiritual significance of the holiday and turn it into an obscene consumerist greedfest.

That being said, it is pretty funny (and a little sad) when believers turn a wonderful celebration into an oppurtunity to judge others by the manner in which they celebrate. ESPECIALLY when the aspect of the celebration that they disdain and use as a cudgel is one of the few purely Christian traditions out of the bunch (obviously the most important tradition is, of course, the celebration of the incarnation itself).

In closing, Sabres rule.

Anonymous said...

Also, I basically would have said anything to get Holly to agree to marry me. If she said that she celebrated Christmas by going house to house and singing songs to the Roman god Saturn, I probably would have gone right out and turned my bedsheet into a toga.

And figured that my dad would set her straight eventually.