As a new Mommy, the Santa question has crossed my path more then once. You know, “We can’t decide whether to raise our kid with Santa. We don’t want to mess with the whole Naughty or Nice thing.” My response is always an emphatic, “REALLY?!?!” Here’s why:
Disclaimer: I’ve never bothered to explore the history of St. Nicholas. Today is no exception.
In our society, Christmas seems to have been stolen by the consumers. Like Lucy van Pelt, the holiday is about presents–the ones we will receive. I do confess to buying myself gifts and wrapping them to make sure I have something to open on Christmas. But, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you, Dear Reader, that I am unashamed about being a consumer. I see it as the American Way.
Because the consumers have absconded the holiday, religious groups have responded with calls to put the CHRIST back into CHRISTmas. Apparently, religion and culture can’t coexist? But they can–this is the backbone of America’s identity. That whole separation of church and state thing.
Santa falls into the consumer category. He brings gifts to all the girls and boys, which translates to the parents try to get their kid awesome toys for Christmas as “Santa gifts.” Usually these are big ticket. Santa never brought clothes in my house.
If you’re Nice, maybe you’ll receive the new game system. If you’re Naughty, maybe you’ll get a lump of coal.
Santa, as an American myth (there are different Santas in different cultures. The basic myth remains the same), is not about presents, behavior modification, or consumption. Santa is the embodiment of the light needed during the winter months. He is the Spirit of Love, Kindness, Generosity and Giving. It’s no accident that his holiday follows the Winter Solstice. (Pagan rituals not withstanding.) When we are at our darkest, Santa helps light the way, and fill our hearts to hold us over until Spring.
All religious celebrations at this time of year that I know about are all festivals of light. The same point. But we don’t sit on the lap of Baby Jesus and share our wishes for the year. Santa is both grandfather and confessor. He nurtures and comforts when we need it most. The suicide rate goes up this time of year. If only we all had Santa!
I don’t really think Santa will come into my house to drop off gifts, but I am happy to embrace the Santa Myth because it fills my heart with happiness at this time of year. I may not have the Leave It To Beaver family Christmas I covet, but at least I can have a happy one.
We will have Santa in my house, and Caterpillar will leave not milk with the cookies, but coffee to keep him awake while he delivers gifts. Conveniently, the coffee will be dressed the way Mommy likes it…