Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Let's Discuss Santa and Satan before you Think I'm Scrooge
Yes, that is my three children (from l. to r.: Laurel, Noelle and Darryl) on and about Santa's lap probably about 25 years ago. They were taken to see him by their grandparents. We had no objections. We had even had pictures of the children taken with Santa ourselves. (See the bottom of this post.) We didn't encourage disbelief in Santa out of protest nor disparage those who allowed their children to experience the myth. It wasn't a cause against Claus.
It was simply a conscious decision my wife and I made together around the time Laurel was two or three that we would be honest with our children. We weren't on a crusade.
Some folks may think we robbed them of something every child should experience, but I don't think we did at all. Instead, I think we gave them something extra. I never saw any differing between my children's excitement or joy at Christmas and its wonders than that of any other child who did believe in the jolly old elf. Do my children look unhappy in the picture?
When in my last post I noted that Santa Claus is also known as Ol' Saint Nick and Satan is sometimes called Ol' Nick, I was not starting a game of guess the similarities between Kris Kringle and Lucifer. I was trying to tweak your curiosity. Yes, some do point out that Satan and Santa are an anagram of each other, but given the history of the legend and the name, this seems more a coincidence than evil intent. St. Nicholas, who is credited as being a possible source for the man going about giving gifts to children was Sinterklaas in Dutch. This got Anglicized in the America of the 1700s to Saint A. Claus. From there it apparently morphed into Santa Claus. Not that I don't think Satan isn't delighted to have the diversion of Santa around.
Is celebrating by using Santa evil? Santa is on the same level as money, sex, power, whatever. It isn't Santa that is the root of all kinds of evil; it is the love of Santa that can be problematic. It can be fun to pretend there is a Santa shimmying down the chimney on Christmas Eve to stuff stockings with candy and toys and , well the dreaded orange in the toe, but if Santa becomes more important than God, if we love Sinterklaas above the Lord, then it isn't such a good thing. After all, it is Christmas, not Santamas; although, there are those that wish it was changed to Santamas. There are many today who wish they would never hear the word Christ, except as an expletive.
Under Grace we can enjoy such things as Santa, but in moderation. We need to keep things in perspective. Who is Santa Claus today? He is no Saint filling wooden shoes of poor children. He is a marketing tool.
And as an icon to our children, Santa has a short shelf life. Even shorter than when I was a child. Which brings me to how I learned the truth about Kris Kringle.
We believed longer in Santa when I was a lad. I must have been at least 11 before the bubble popped. By them some kids knew and some would tell me, just to try and make me unhappy. But I didn't believe them and would argue there was so a Santa Claus. Why was I so sure? Because I had heard him. One Christmas eve, when we lived out in the swamp, I awoke on Christmas Eve when I heard the whoosh of Santa's sleigh go about the house, heard it thump down on the roof. To this day I don't know what I really heard. I wasn't asleep, I didn't dream it. Probably the wind and something blowing onto the roof, I just don't know. (I found rabbit tracks in the snow leading to a side window of the house one Easter morning, too.) Anyway, whatever whooshed by was proof enough to me there was a Santa.
But a week before Christmas I was playing with my friend, a girl who lived across the
street, the same one whose porch I was on when the witch came and cured me of warts (see my posts and the story "Child of Snow" in my Write On and Story Stall blogs). We went into my house and no one was home at the time. Well, a week before Christmas, nobody around, what will a couple of kids do but start snooping. We found more than I bargained for. In a closet was a stash of unwrapped toys, things I had asked for. Oh, boy, look what my parents got me, I wonder what Santa will bring. Imagine my shock when they were what Santa brought.
Oh, sure, I was disillusioned a little. It didn't cause a trauma, but it changed Christmas. My parents learned quick enough what I now knew and after that I didn't quite get as much on Christmas morning. They didn't have to supply what Santa gave me and give me their own to cover up the deception. Now they were the lone givers.
I don't think there has to be, if parents are strong in their faith in front of their children, a lost of belief in God because Santa proves to be mythic. But the possibility exists that a child or an adult can associate the one with the other. You thought Santa brought you gifts. You never saw him do it, but you did see Santa at the mall. You actually talked to him person to person, face to face, while sitting on his lap. You never sat on God's lap and did that. So if Santa is a fraud and your faith in him let you down, why can't god be a fraud as well?
That is one possible danger I see in Santa. Oh, yeah, the materialism...but that can be there Santa or no. We are living in a very materialistic society. And we already covered the other danger, loving Santa more than God.
Below l. to r.: Laurel and Santa 1978, Noelle and Santa 1985 and Darryl and...wait a minute, who let that bunny in here, 1988.