Wondering About Santa
Since I was a young adult with children of my own, I have wondered (and worried) about the effects on children of the phenomena of the American version of Santa Clause and Christmas. I have wondered about the effect on children of being sold a story, that they would realize later in their lives, was a fraud.
A fraud offered and promoted by the people that they trust the most. Then to find out later, through others usually, that they had been duped. A story that when they got old enough and begin to see holes in the story, adults will double down and gaslight them for just a few more seasons.
What caused me to start thinking about this whole phenomenon again today, was that I received the news about a young girl. A girl, who I know well, who for the first decade or so of her life (some would argue, the formative years) innocently had bought totally into the whole Santa Clause mythology, not realizing it was a myth or metaphor. An innocent one that so ardently believed in the myth that had included Santa Clause and all things Christmas. She was one who had experienced years of unbridled joy at Christmas time. Until she discovered it was not true. She was devastated.
Fast forward a few years. She has no interest in and seems averse to having anything to do with what our culture has turned in to the ritual and celebration of Christmas. Not interested in decorating the house. Doing the Christmas tree thing. Nothing. She wants absolutely nothing to do with it all. Could be it is just a developmental stage. I wonder if it is the effect of realizing she had been lied to for so many years. Embarrassed by her gullibility, as we all are when we have been taken in?
As a young father I wondered about the effect on my children of perpetuating the entire Christmas mythology. I wondered what the effect on my children would be when they found out that I had been promoting a lie. I wondered what the effect would be when they would realize that I had played a trick on them.
I wondered and worried about that so much that I never once overtly promoted or reinforced the whole idea of Santa Clause, and all things related. Not a big problem for them. I was just one person in a million strong choir. I wasn’t singing, they didn’t notice. I also didn’t offer a counter message. I didn’t want to spoil “it,” whatever “it” is, for them. I kept my silence, which made me as culpable as the promoters.
I am wondering why we do this. Do we believe we need to do this to our own children? As a culture, why do we promote a lie that we know we will be caught in? Do we not even consider its effect? Do we believe it is an innocent lie? In the realm of fibbing a little bit when someone asks us how we like their new coat?
Do we think it is a way of toughening them up so that they won’t be taken in quite as easily by people who would take advantage of their innocence later on in life? Do we believe that the pain and despair and disillusionment that this young person experienced is a type of vaccination that is necessary for her to enter our adult world?
I wonder if she will feel the pressure of what to do with all of this when she has children.
Couldn’t we just use the story of Santa and Christmas, to make a point, (whatever that might be), without deceiving them? We don’t pretend that there is a birthday fairy who brings presents and birthday celebrations seem to be functional.
When they begin asking questions, couldn’t we teach them about metaphors? Are we afraid of spoiling “it?” Couldn’t well tell them that the person the season is named after wasn’t actually born this time of year? Couldn’t we let them know when they ask about Christmas that the holiday season is actually based on pagan rituals? I wonder what the cost is for not doing that. In one young lady’s life, I see the cost.
I know that I am asking questions about a very sacred cow. I’m interested in what you think about all of this. Also, I would be interested in what you do.