Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Church of Santa Claus

I was infuriated...no wait, inspired (yea, that's it) to write this post after reading Hemant Mehta's post, Too Soon to Learn About Santa Claus, over at his awesome Friendly Atheist site.
Since becoming a parent, I have discovered a whole "movement" of people who believe that telling your child about Santa Claus is akin to lying to them and, in essence, is a horrible thing to do. They believe that you should tell your child the honest truth about where the presents come from so they know that there is no such thing as being rewarded for gifts and that they work hard to give them said gift. It is also believed that children will grow up not resenting their parents for "lying" to them about Santa.
I hate this notion. Childhood is about harvesting the imagination, nurturing it, and letting grow. Telling stories about a magical being that comes at night and delivers presents to everyone all over the world is not lying to them. It gives children a sense of wonder and magic and goodness. They have a whole lifetime of being cynical, cranky, old people. Giving them a few years with Santa Claus isn't going to kill them. Santa is just a part of childhood, like peeing in your pants, skinned knees, your first kiss, and your first heartbreak.
On top of this, as an Atheist family, we get so much flack from fellow Atheists (and religious people alike) because we're the family with Christmas decorations and Santa, like we're supposed to NOT have any sort of imagination and make believe in our lives because we don't believe in god, gods, or any sort of creative force. No, we should celebrate Math Day or Rational Thinking Day instead. Sure, those could be interesting, but tell me what 4 year old would rather spend a day talking about integers and fractions instead of making wishes and lists for a magical fat man who promises treats and goodies for all the good little boys and girls?
We don't ascribe any religious significance to Santa and Christmas, and no one ever told me that growing up and celebrating a non-religious Christmas was "atheist illegal" why start now? And I never resented my parents for "lying" to me about Santa. What's the harm in letting your children BE CHILDREN?
No one has ever died in the name of Santa. There's no dogma in Santa Claus, or the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Harry Potter, Star Wars Universe (wait...there may be some weird pseudo/religious dogma-ish thingie there with The Force and the whole Medichlorons or whatever they're called hoodads), but I digress. There is a huge difference, at least in my opinion, in telling your children that Santa Claus resides at the North Pole with elves and makes toys and telling them that there is an omnipotent "creator" in the sky waiting to pass judgement and smite you down if you don't cater to his every whim and follow certain "rules" written in a book by primitive desert people some two thousand years ago.
Santa doesn't pass legislation prohibiting same-sex couples to marry. Santa doesn't pull a trigger on a sniper rifle outside of an abortion clinic. Santa doesn't blow up buildings with airplanes. Santa doesn't chop off limbs with machetes. Santa doesn't make women subservient by covering them from head to toe. Santa doesn't carry "god hates fags" posters. Santa doesn't diddle little boys for decades and then have Mrs. Claus over at the North Pole try and cover it up and then say it was all a "misunderstanding" and "exaggeration". Santa doesn't do any of this bullshit! He brings presents and is fat and jolly!!!
And true, while I have highlighted some of the more "icky" aspects of dogma and religion, I know that those things aren't representative of different faiths people choose to follow. But, punch me in the face if they're not slightly becoming the "norm" in our society, eh?
So what's wrong with a little magic and pretend? Dante has an imaginary Balverine friend who comes to visit. (Note: A Balverine is a wolfman-like creature from the Fable 2 video game and looks something like this:but the Balverine is a Friend Balverine and doesn't want to eat us).
Anyhow, do I quash my kid's imagination and tell him he's talking to air? Do I tell him he's not, in fact, Captain Jack Sparrow and the bathtub is not The Black Pearl? Do I tell him that we are not actually sword fighting with chop sticks and are not Medieval Knights?
What do you think I do?


Kristy said...

Oh Girl, you are not the only one with this issue. As a Christian, I am constantly being annoyed by a certain brand of Christians who insist that Christmas should ONLY be about Christ and NO mention of Santa or elves should be allowed! WHAT?!?! Why not?!? Like you, I feel that our children deserve to have a few years of magic before the real world comes along and kicks them in the figurative balls.

I have gotten into a discussion about this on our local MLM site. I pointed out to the Anti-Santa that St. Nicholas was a real guy and was inspired to give to people by Christ's example. I also directed her to the History Channel's show all about the origins of our modern Christmas celebrations.

I think Atheist and Christian alike could do with a little light-hearted magic once in a while! We aren't burning people for that anymore, are we?

Alessia said...

I agree Kristy. I think there are certain factions in both Atheist and Christian groups alike that need to invest heavily in the "stick-removal" surgery.

Sharon said...

We run into trouble on the other end. I have found that while most people can accept, or at least act civil about, the fact that we don't believe in Jesus or follow the Christian religion, they go absolutely ape sh%t when faced with the fact that we don't pretend Santa is real.
I have no problem with imagination and am fully on board with the fairies and dragons that inhabit our house at the moment, that Peter Pan comes from Neverland to visit my son in the night sometimes (but won't let him bring his mommies with him back to Neverland, so Ian won't go) and that Elijah the prophet always manages to make some mischief in our house come spring time.
But Santa is not part of our culture, religion, tradition and is not something we feel any desire to "do."
There is a class of people who do tend lose all sense of reason when they encounter this, I think because it does challenge the idea that Santa "Gives gifts to everyone all over the world." For instance, some people really do expect that a 3 or 4 year old will be able to not tell what they know and are horrified at the idea that my child might say something about Santa not being real. Of course this does not stop the same people from striking up conversations with a child they do not know by asking them what Santa brought or telling them to be good so Santa will bring them presents.
I once tried to just connect on MLM with some other families who do not do the Santa thing to talk about what that's like for their kids as they get older. And I got skewered for daring to ask the question.

ProudSingleMum said...

OH Sharon you have hit one of my pet peeves!

We go to see Santa, and all that fun Jazz, but I don't know if I have specifically said "Santa brings your gifts". None of them have labels. All my kid knows that when Christmas morning comes, PRESENTS come with it.

BUT this past year, on 2 separate occasions, when my child was having a 'public meltdown' I had people come up to him and say "Now you need to listen, or Santa will know, and he won't bring you gifts". Excuse me? How do these people know I'm not Jewish, or some other religion that doesn't celebrate Christmas at all. How do they know I choose to celebrate with Santa. And on top of that. MY child, needs to listen because those are the rules set by me, his parent. NOT because of Santa. I am the only person I know that had issues with this being said to her child, everyone else I talked to said they would have nodded yes, had some random stranger told their kid this. Well, I'm not everyone else.
And on top of this...what if he doesn't calm down. I'm supposed to withhold his gifts because you, random stranger, have told him that fit throwing = no gifts from Santa?

It's an empty and useless threat...and I can't stand it.

Sharon said...

Yes all that - plus if "good kids" get presents from Santa, then almost all the Jewish children on earth are not "good kids." I hated dealing with that assumption as a kid.
And I swear the first time some kid tells MY kid that he's "not good" so that's why he doesn't get Christmas presents, someone's gonna have to hold me back.

Alessia said...

We definitely do not incorporate the "only good kids" get visits from Santa rhetoric in our Santa-isms, because honestly, then Santa would be SKIPPING our house completely.

Sharon, it never occurred to me that Jewish homes didn't have Santa, simply because my mother is Jewish and we've always had Santa. I think, for us growing up (and now in my family), Santa isn't a representation of any sort of faith or denomination, but just as "magic". And for us, "magic" is part of everyday life. From the Balverine Friend mentioned in my blog, to elves and knights who roam our house to just simple imagination that allows the dog to hold a conversation with a fork (seriously, that happened the other day).

Coming from a "blended family" (mom - jewish, dad- roman catholic, both atheists), it never crossed my mind that a Christmas tree and a menorah and Star Wars figures all juxtaposed with a fat man bringing gifts while we screamed at eachother over a fantastic dinner was anything other than ordinary.


Sharon said...

Well, we all have our own version of ordinary :)

I don't know any Jews who celebrate Christmas. But every person I meet who wants to tell me that I am required to celebrate, it always does :)

Kristy said...

I am very careful about Santa and anything else that may freak other parents out. I can't imagine telling some strange kid that Santa won't bring them gifts if they don't act right. What kind of butt hole would??

When my kids were younger I would joke that I had Santa's cell number - like ALL grownups do - and we report back to him periodically . . . you know, keep them in line ;)

I still can't believe how nutty people can get over the winter holidays and their respective traditions! From people who sue over the term "Merry Christmas" to people who absolutely refuse to believe or accept that many "Christian" traditions are based in Paganism! Talk about taking all the FUN out of something! I also have a real hard time with the people who insist that there is a "War on Christmas" . . . As far as I can tell the only "War on Christmas" is being waged by retailers who start to shove holly up our collective asses in mid-September! I think we should protest THOSE jerk-os!

Jaque said...

My dad told me when I was really little, I don't remember how young. That there was no Santa. He said he didn't want some old fat man taking credit for the presents he busted his ass to buy. However he did tell me that I had to pretend to believe so I wouldn't hurt other kids' feelings.....haha!! That's what happens when you're raised by a Marine Drill Instructor, the messages are very, very mixed....

I wish you had raised me....LOL!!!

Anonymous said...

More haste, less speed..................................................................

Anonymous said...

Readiness is all.............................................................

Pet said...

I am agnostic with a Christian husband. We do not do the Santa Claus story with our kids. We do tell them about Saint Nickolas to whom Santa is Based off from and The Nativity story of Jesus birth. We do presents and the tree and I try to let them know how each tradition got started. I have no problem with other parents telling there children what ever they want about the holiday, I just prefer to have my kids understand where and how tradition starts and not the over commercialized BS of it. We inspire imagination every day in pretend play and story telling.I am not against or for Santa Claus, I just prefer to teach my children a different way to view the holiday.