Thursday, December 10, 2009

Why I Believe in Santa Claus

Despite continual claims to the contrary, there is little, if any doubt among able-minded people as to what Christmas is all about. We don’t need to drag old Linus out of retirement to provide us with another reminder. Christmas is (and always will be) a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus and general goodwill toward men. However, like Charlie Brown might lament, Christmas is often disguised as a crass commercial entity in which goodwill is tossed out the window like last year’s stocking and one does the best they can to deal with relatives they only have to tolerate once a year (usually involving extra egg nog). In the midst of all the good, bad and insane aspects of Christmas, there sits a jolly rotund man dressed in red making a list and checking it twice. For some, Santa Claus can be as controversial as the phrase war between “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays.” For all the joy he brings to children around the world each year, there are many who question whether people – especially the young should believe in someone who may not exist at all. Santa’s residence, the North Pole, has been the subject of intense scrutiny by scientists. Is it possible for him to stay warm up there or is Santa’s house turning into a sauna?

Though many skeptics question the believability and possible effects of telling children that an overweight, immortal man flies around the world on Christmas Eve on a reindeer-driven sleigh to deliver presents to all good boys and girls, I, for one, do not. Think for a little bit about all the preposterous ideas we thrust upon children as they grow. Kids are taught from a young age that America lives in a democracy where we elect our own leaders fair and square, by the people for the people. Numerous political controversies and scandals have shown this ideal to be nothing but a sham regardless of ideologies. The right thinks the left is corrupt and vice versa. If one was to analyze the massive amount of political polling conducted on an almost daily basis, the one solid conclusion available is nobody trusts the government. Yet we tell children and ourselves it is our right and responsibility to participate in it. I think it’s safe to say politicians will disappoint more people than Santa.

Children are also taught that they should work hard when they get a job, spend and invest their money wisely and the economic system will reward their efforts. However, many people work too hard for too little and have seen their effort at work turn into an unexpected pink slip. Money saved from week to week in hope of providing a college education for their kids and a well-earned retirement vanished quicker than Santa’s ascendance from the chimney. Despite all evidence to the contrary, we still tell our kids this is the way to go. Are we not setting them up for an avalanche of reality later in life? Though economic collapses do pass and get better, they are still as annual as the seasons of the year. Santa Claus doesn’t fire you or lose your retirement in a ponzi scheme to build a better sleigh that never flies or has any presents.

Adults idolize athletes and pass their enthusiasm unto the young by taking them to games, buying posters and sports cards and encouraging them when they join a team. Many parents love sports and athletics so much their kids will do anything to reach a common interest with them. It is sad to say but 99 percent of all kids will not grow up and become the next Brett Farve, LeBron James or Joe Mauer. Yet this idolatry is encouraged by many as it does help one’s own performance to analyze the masters of the craft. Nevertheless, injuries, cuts and disappointments happen more often than they do not. If a child believes for years that they can really “make it” only to have that dream shattered, is this not a disservice to their concept of reality? When their heroes are discovered to be less than the image believed, whose fault is it for perpetuating the fallacy? No parent wants their child to become a cheater, a drug addict, an adulterer or a criminal yet pictures of athletes guilty of these faults adorn their rooms, lockers and Facebook pages. Santa doesn’t need steroids to enhance his sleigh, all he requires is belief.

Our children love rock and roll, movies and the culture of celebrity because we love it too. Is it really possible to play your kids a Rolling Stones concert and not talk about how cool Keith Richards is? Can we watch “The Dark Knight” and not discuss the death of Heath Ledger? We watch reality shows because it is fun to watch a train wreck but do we want out kids to aspire to such greatness as getting on the cast of “The Real World” or “The Hills?” If these are integral parts of our cultural mythology, then why do we shun Santa Claus?

Santa Claus is a pretty cool cat. He never disguises who he is or what he does. He watches over the good and bad in all of us, always choosing to side with the good. On one night, he transforms the scares we have in the dark into something magical. He gives presents even if we don’t deserve them. He sticks candy in stockings despite being diabetic. Santa is a hero in a world that won’t believe anymore. Yet he is still here, this December night, making his lists. Santa Claus is still here, despite all our cynicism. He is here for those who believe not just in him, but in the belief of us towards each other. I’d rather see my kids on Santa’s lap when they’re teenagers than encourage their belief in the other, more obvious fallacies of our society. They are more fake than Santa ever was or will be. I encourage everyone to tell their children to keep believing in Santa Claus, maybe even reignite that childhood spark of wonder within you. In a society with so few heroes and role models, we need the magic of Santa now more than ever.

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