the status of santa

i hope everyone had a feliz navidad, a cool yule, a happy holiday. on this, the greatest day of short tempers, long lines, and buyer's remorse, i stumbled across the following: Of course santa is real, even NORAD tracks him. With large corporate sponsors and a long list of b-class celebrities (except for Mickey Rooney), how could any child doubt that santa exists. How can mass societal lies be any good for children? Does it teach them that everyone lies and is it the reason that most adults do? posted by Mr_Zero at 10:38 AM PST ...and check out the comments. so, what is it? a harmful lie? an innocent attempt to get kids to believe in the supernatural? a mythological cover for a deeper truth? Is it interesting to you that Lewis used Father Christmas as a literal figure in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe?


Blogger John McCollum said...

This is going to get me into trouble with some of you, I'm sure...

I'm much less judgmental about this sort of thing than I was as a child, but I've always struggled with feeling like the Santa story is a plain old lie.

I mean, if I told my kids anything else that I knew to be false, no matter how good my intentions, most people would object. But if I tell my kids that some obese, elderly man breaks into their house every year and puts candy in their socks, it's not really dishonest, just cute.

I mean, I could tell my children that I'm actually heir to the Romanoff throne, that I'm also an undercover operative for the OSS, and that their mother can fly. It might make them feel better about themselves, and give them some beautiful fantasy they can nurture throughout their childhood. But I can't imagine them not being pissed when it all turns out to be some elaborate facade.

All that having been said, we strenuously warn Chien and Pak about disabusing their friends of their notions about old St. Nick.

12/26/2005 8:58 PM  
Blogger Andy Whitman said...

Scrooges, one and all.

First, I'm a fan of elderly(ish) fat men with gray beards. That may bias my response. But I also remember Christmases as a small kid, and the excitement leading up to the big morning. And Santa Claus was a big, big part of that. I remember struggling to fall asleep on Christmas Eve, because I was so excited, and being bummed out because Santa knew when I was sleeping and when I was awake, and whether I'd been bad or good, etc. So I tried my best to be good for goodness sake. And to fall asleep, damn it, so he would come. Really. Except I didn't say damn it, because then I wouldn't have been good.

Those Christmases were magical. Would they have been as magical if somebody had told me at age 4 that Santa Claus was a myth, and that all of those presents were from mommy and daddy. Nope. No way.

Upon learning the truth, did I instantly metamorphose into a cynical, nonbelieving twat who transferred his cynicism about Santa onto Christmas in general? Nope. That took years, and didn't really take hold until I was an adolescent.

Seriously, I don't think the Santa myth did irrevocable damage to my psyche. I adapted just fine when I heard the truth, when I was maybe age 6 or 7, at which time I could better make the transition to the "real" world of rent-a-Santas at shopping malls and good old fashioned American materialism.

But I'm glad I had a couple of magical years. They are among my fondest memories. And no, they wouldn't have been the same without Santa.

12/27/2005 8:45 AM  
Blogger John McCollum said...


Since I never 'believed,' and since my kids never 'believed,' it's difficult for me to picture Christmas as more 'magical' with Santa.

I've heard a lot of people express fond memories of belief in Santa. I've also heard a few people tell of feelings of betrayal and loss when, after years of telling them Santa gives them presents, their parents finally fess up.

For me, the Santa thing always seemed like a somewhat cruel hoax. We came from a lower-middle class, blue-collar income type family. Every spare cent my parents had went to putting us into 'better' schools than those in my neighborhood. I remember telling my friend Tim, "Look. We're nice kids. We get crap for Christmas. Shawn's a jerk, but his dad's a doctor, and he gets a snowmobile. If Santa DID exist, he'd be a real creep."

As I said earlier, I really try to not be judgmental about this sort of thing. The way my friends raise their kids is really their business, but for me, I guess I'm just not sure I can justify actively deceiving my child.

When our kids were very young, we employed euphamism and other diversionary tactics to avoid talking explicitly about sex. But we never told them they were brought by storks. Because they weren't.

I guess I'd simplify Erik's question: Is it lying to tell your children that Santa Claus exists and brings them gifts?

12/27/2005 9:32 AM  
Blogger John McCollum said...

Andy, did you just say, "twat?"

I laughed outloud when I re-read your comment.

12/27/2005 9:33 AM  
Blogger Andy Whitman said...

I will say that, even as a small kid, I had my doubts. For some reason I bought the Santa story. But the Easter Bunny never made sense to me. I had seen rabbits. They ate our flowers. And the idea of a giant, basket-toting bunny who spread chocolate worldwide just never did sit right. Same with the Tooth Fairy. At one point the Fairy, after years of leaving quarters, only left a dime under my pillow. And it was traumatic. What had happened? Were some of my teeth more valuable than others? Which ones? Etc.

I don't know how to frame the Santa "betrayal" in the proper context, I guess. I don't remember being particularly traumatized by it. And looking back on it, I do remember some magical Christmases, and they were ones in which Santa figured prominently. I guess I see it as a harmless "tall tale," that, at least in my case, led to a couple years of delight. But there were more serious betrayals in my family. Maybe if Santa had been the great or the only deception I would feel differently.

And yes, I am fond of the word "twat."

12/27/2005 10:41 AM  
Blogger John McCollum said...

Potty mouth.

12/27/2005 11:19 AM  
Blogger Seth said...

When I first read Lewis use of Santa in 'Wardrobe' it made me chuckle.

12/28/2005 8:43 PM  

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