NOTE: Earlier yesterday the blog started behaving strangely, so I dashed off an email to my old friends at Hosting Matters to inquire what the Sam Hill might be going on. In the course of so doing, I veered off on another of my Standard Issue, Mark 1-Mod 0 digressions which, on reflection and with some revising, I decided might be worth bringing out front here as a post. YMMV on that, as always. Be aware that what follows may offend hardcore fundamentalist Christians; this one’s about Santa Claus, not the birth of our Lord and Savior. I think Christmas is plenty big enough to easily accomodate both Jesus and Santa without undue stress or strain. It isn’t a competition, or at least it needn’t be. But again, YMMV.
Still can’t believe my ex told our daughter there was no Santa Claus at a very early age, because, and I quote, “I’m not gonna lie to her.” My recently-deceased mother in law did the same with my late wife Christiana, saying she didn’t want her child growing up all resentful and unable to ever trust her mom again from the trauma of having been “lied to” about Santa as a little kid.
I never understood the killjoy thinking which underpins that notion, and hope I never will. These are both extraordinarily intelligent people we’re talking about here, one of whom can casually converse in Ancient Greek, the other of whom was fluent in seven (7) languages. So one would think they’d be capable of grasping a distinction as simple and obvious as this one is.
I mean, there are lies and then there are lies, right? The Santa myth is hardly a “lie,” not in any meaningful sense. It’s a wholesome fable passed on from parents to children not for purposes of harm or malicious deception, but to broaden a sense of imagination and wonder, of there being marvelous possibilities in this wide world which we pitiful humans can neither see nor comprehend.
Well, that, plus it’s a heck of a lot of good, clean fun for everyone involved, be they old, young, or young at heart.
I Believed© as a child myself, and will readily attest that, after I’d figured it all out on my own, far from losing trust in them or feeling betrayed, I actually felt deeply grateful to my mom and dad for making the effort to bring me the magic of the North Pole’s First Citizen every Christmas, for at least the short while it lasted. In fact, even after I’d outgrown my own childhood faith I nonetheless went on insisting to my little brother that Santa was real for a few more years, just to keep that beautiful magic alive in him. Lord knows every innocent child will have to face the cold, hard realities of life quite soon enough, thanks.
To this day, some of my happiest, most cherished memories are of my brother and me dashing off to bed no later than 6 or 7 on Christmas Eve during those precious Santa years, to the barely-suppressed amusement of the grown-up contingent. The two of us would lie there sleepless half the night, now and again whispering urgently to each other: “What was that? Did you hear a noise? Was that reindeer hooves on the roof? Were those sleighbells jingling? Is Santa coming, is he (gasp) HERE?” Now and then one of us would stealthily rise, press his face to the bedroom window, and expectantly peer through the frosted panes for some hint as to what was happening out there. Finally, as the hands of the clock crawled towards midnight, we’d drop off to sleep, those visions of sugar-plums dancing in our heads.
No Santa, eh? That necessarily means:
- No meticulously-composed letters addressed to him at his North Pole toy-manufactory, with the attached Christmas list
- No lying on the sitting-room rug poring over the Sears Wish Book, scrawling down item after item from the catalog’s delightfully lavish toy section to include on said list
- No sitting on Santa’s knee at Woolworth’s, telling him what you most hoped he’d bring for you this year
- No intellectual discussions with the other neighborhood kids on all the imponderables: whether reindeer really can fly; how was Santa going to fit all those toys onto the sleigh; how could he manage to visit every Good child across the entire planet in a single night, etc etc
- No anxiously X-ing out each December day on the wall calendar before going to bed, waiting on tenterhooks for the Big Day to at long last dawn
Ahh, but is that all, you ask? Sadly, no; not by a long yard, it ain’t. If those were the only things lost by it, perhaps ruining your kids’ Christmas via murdering their belief in Santa—forever depriving them of those happy childhood memories before they even get to experience the making of them—might be at least arguably comprehensible, if still not entirely forgiveable. The preceding list is nowhere near complete, there’s still lots more losses to be tacked on. To wit:
No setting out the traditional plate of oven-baked cookies and a tall glass of cold milk for good St Nick’s refreshment just before turning in for the night, to find the cookies eaten and the milk-glass empty in the morning—this discovery taken as proof beyond debate of his existence.
No jolting wide-awake at 4AM Christmas morn and sloooowly tiptoeing down the hall to the living room to find out what was under the tree, stifling your happy giggles to the best of your ability every step of the way so’s you didn’t wake up Mom and Dad. Should you unintentionally interrupt their hard-earned slumber despite your most earnest effort not to, your exhausted parents—plumb tuckered from the long night’s labor of retrieving all the presents cached in the attic, inside locked closets, the trunk of the family car, and/or other Secure Undisclosed Locations, next arranging them under the tree according to intended recipient (mine on the right side, Jeff’s on the left in our house)—would gruffly order you back to bed to await what they considered to be “a decent hour.”
THEY consider. Not you. And count on it: you will NOT agree with their views on the matter.
The splendidly trimmed tree, for just this one supreme night of nights, would have been left plugged in (by “Santa,” natch) and twinkling through the hours of darkness, gayly greeting the family upon each one’s arrival in the living room. The multicolored C7 bulbs would shine all through Christmas Day, their soft glow seeming no less bright or in any sense diminished by the daytime sun streaming through the parted curtains.
No establishing the line of demarcation between My Side and Your Side of the tree, before finally just giving up and deciding to share each other’s Santa Claus bounty without rancor or recrimination. No Christmas stockings a-bulge with candy canes, fresh fruit, and incidental stocking-stuffers such as Matchbox cars, kazoos, or harmonicas, either. After all, if there ain’t no Santa Claus then who’s gonna stuff ’em?
No ANY of those fine and wonderful things. The wrapped, labelled boxes that had been sitting under the tree for weeks, the pile steadily growing as the gift-wrapping chores neared completion? They could wait. Who really cares anyway? Those damned boxes always turned out to contain new school clothes or notebooks or pencils or some other equally dull and useless object. No, the unwrapped Santa Claus presents left atop and around the gift-wrapped rectangles were Priority One for us.
And my God, our house didn’t even HAVE a chimney, either—presenting another impenetrable Christmas-morning conundrum for us bewildered kids to ponder and discuss. Had Santa broken in, picked the lock, forced his way in someotherhow like a cat-burglar without anyone detecting the agreeable incursion? Had my dad slipped him a key on the sly after we’d clambered down off Santa’s lap to tear around the store like wild Injuns, whooping, laughing, crashing full-tilt-boogie into the legs of tsk-tsk-ing shoppers in our mad celebration of another Christmas mission well accomplished?
Who really knew? Perhaps, perhaps not. In any event, the doors were all closed and locked, as were the windows. Nothing seemed to be amiss, nothing at all, yet Santa had contrived to enter our small-town sanctum sanctorum nonetheless. Phillip Marlow himself would find it tough sledding indeed to unravel such a tangled skein of mystery, as would the Continental Op, the redoubtable Sam Spade, and Nick and Nora Charles. The overrated Frog Hercule Poirot? Gedouddahere, you make me laugh.
My poor kid was pre-emptively robbed of the anticipation, wonderment, and enduring pleasure the Santa Claus myth creates in the memory of every child not so thoughtlessly denied them. Daddy’s opinion on the topic at hand was neither solicited nor welcome. Kinda sucks, if you ask me. In fact, it seems downright cruel to cheat a young ‘un in such a fashion, solely for the gratification of one’s own sanctimony, ego, and cynical self-regard.
“Honesty”? “Truth”? “Not gonna lie”? Yeh, yeh, yeh; pull the other one, it has a bell on it.
But hey, maybe that’s just me, I do admit. That admission made, though, in my view answering what we might call the Santa Question© in the peremptory, knee-jerk negative amounts to projecting an insipid, half-baked ethical imperative onto an issue possessed of no ethical involvement whatsoever, the injection of a fallacious assumption of ill intent (or, at best, unsophisticated, outdated habits of mind, however well-meaning they may be) into a stillborn “debate” when no such intent actually exists. All this nonsense, mind, predicated on a wholly hypothetical claim of psycho-emotional damage—a spurious claim for which there is not the thinnest, flimsiest shred of documentary evidence to support it.
They’re making mountains out of molehills, and I say it’s the bunk. The opening ‘graphs of the NY Sun’s timeless editorial response to young Virginia O’Hanlon’s 1897 (!!!) letter express the sentiment quite well, I think.
VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
There, put THAT in your little pipe and smoke it, whydon’tcha. If you haven’t read the whole story before—which I find incredible, frankly—there’ll never be a better time than now to rectify that sad lapse in your edumacation.
No Santa Claus? Forbid it, Almighty God! There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.