This morning Leah and I were listening to Christmas Carols on the radio when the DJ invited children to call in to talk to the “real” Santa Claus. They had some guy talking through an echo machine posing at the Old Man and telling the amazed kids all sorts of specific details about their lives and how good they’ve been (their parents had obviously called in first and then handed the phone to the little tots). The kids bought this sham hook, line, and sinker but I found the whole thing terribly creepy. Santa seemed like some aging pedophile who knew way too much about little Billy’s activities in school that week. Ick. Step away from the children, Mr. Kringle. Is it possible to take out a restraining order against Jolly St. Nick?
The “gimme gimme gimme” tone in the kids’ voices was nauseating and the goods the kids were requesting were increasing in value by the second. One kid named Brian made it clear that he wanted a new computer “with a very good printer.” As opposed to all those boys and girls who want a computer with a bad printer? Of course Santa pronounced all the children good as gold and promised that everything they wanted would be under their tree Sunday morning. I wonder if some of their parents were listening to the broadcast in the next room frantically going through their credit cards to find one that wasn’t maxed out.
In all seriousness, what good does Santa Claus do? Is there any value whatsoever in keeping up this cruel charade? Most small children are terrified of this guy the first time we force them to sit on his lap (what kind of lesson is that teaching them?) until we train them to ignore their instincts and develop an unhealthy dependency on the stranger. As a Jewish little boy I never went through a phase where I believed in Santa Claus but I stood by helpless as one Christian friend after another was devastated to learn that he wasn’t real. The whole Santa Claus mythology seems like a mean trick to play on young children. Here are my biggest beefs:
1. The connection between “being good” and getting a big haul from Santa sets up such an extrinsic motivation for kids that it probably takes the Santa Believers years to develop any sense of their own goodness for goodness sake. These are the kids who get no personal satisfaction from being kind to others but only adopt a fake sweetness for as long as it takes to rake in the loot. Furthermore, they quickly learn that being “bad” rarely carries with it the threatened penalty of less gifts so even the questionable benefits of this behavior modification technique are short-lived.
2. The magical concept of all these gifts just appearing under the tree on Christmas morning wreaks havoc on any parent’s desire to instill an understanding of economics in the minds of their children. Most kids who see their parents withdraw funds from the ATM machine believe that this is “free money” that just comes whenever you press a button. It is never too early to help children understand the relationship between money and work and supply and demand and to help them appreciate the concept of helping those less fortunate than themselves. The Santa Claus ruse sets all that important learning on its ear.
3. The notion of Santa traveling the world on his sleigh distributing toys to all the good boys and girls sends a disheartening message to children whose parents are struggling to make it. If Sally’s friend Irma got everything she asked for but Sally’s out-of-work mother could only afford an inexpensive picture book wrapped in newspaper, then Sally must be less worthy than Irma, right? I guess Sally was a bad girl this year, what else is she to think? Oh well, fuck it—maybe she won’t even try to be good next year, what’s the point?
4. So many parents scrimp and save and go into massive debt to get their children everything they want for Christmas (already a dangerous practice) and then Santa takes credit for it all. As far as young Timmy is concerned, Grandpa, Aunt Rose, and even the neighbors down the street all picked out nice gifts for him but his parents gave him zilch. “I guess they don’t love me after all,” he thinks. “Maybe I should run away to the North Pole where I could be appreciated.”
5. Santa Claus is yet another powerful white male who has control over these kids’ lives. Shave off his beard and moustache and you’ll find a strong resemblance to Dick Cheney. Is that what these kids need?
Our Santa Claus had his origins in the 4th century bishop Saint Nicholas who lived in what is now modern-day Turkey. Saint Nicholas, who had a reputation for secret gift-giving, became Sinterklaas in the Netherlands which then turned into our Santa Claus. But did you know that Saint Nicholas is also the patron saint of laywers, prisoners, pawnbrokers, and prostitutes? No wonder he still operates an Arctic slave labor camp.
Say what you will, there’s no way I’ll ever allow any child or grandchild of mine to buy into this mass hypnosis. What would be next, an early introduction to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion? Why don’t we just send them to Hollywood Boulevard and let the Scientologists have at it. Is there really much difference between the Santa craziness and L. Ron Hubbard? I think the whole Santa fiasco is a travesty we inflict on the young simply because we don’t stop and think about it. On the other hand, I think the birthday boy himself is a fantastic role model for kids. Get rid of Santa and bring back Jesus—that is this Jew’s motto. And don’t point your finger at me when you see me crying over “Miracle on 34th Street”—that’s just a movie! I’m serious about this, I think Santa Claus should be abolished. If anyone can convince me that Santa helps to instill the true spirit of Christmas in the hearts of young children, then I will have a Scrooge-like conversion and don the red suit myself.