I believe it is time for our society to make Santa irrelevant. If we make Santa irrelevant with the right intention, we can replace Santa stories with stronger families, cohesive communities and an even more prosperous nation.
Where Did Santa Come From?
Washington Irving wrote about St. Nicholas (“Sinterklaes” in one Dutch form of the name, soon anglicized to “Santa Claus”). In Irving’s Diederich Knickerbocker’s History of New York, Sinterklaes rode through the skies in a horse and wagon and went down chimneys to deliver presents to children. In 1821, an American children’s book called The Children’s Friend changed Santa’s horse and wagon to a reindeer and sleigh.
In 1823, The Troy Sentinel (New York) published an anonymous poem, An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas. This poem is largely responsible for our modern image of Santa Claus as a “right jolly old elf” with a portly figure and the supernatural ability to ascend a chimney with a mere nod of his head. It helped popularize the now-familiar image of a Santa Claus who flew from house to house on Christmas Eve, in “a miniature sleigh” led by eight flying reindeer, leaving presents for deserving children. “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” created a new and immediately popular American icon.
In 1881, political cartoonist Thomas Nast drew on Moore’s poem to create the first likeness that matches our modern image of Santa Claus. His cartoon, which appeared in Harper’s Weekly (New York), depicted Santa as a rotund, cheerful man with a full, white beard, holding a sack laden with toys for lucky children. Nast gave Santa his bright red suit trimmed with white fur, North Pole workshop, elves, and his wife, Mrs. Claus.
New York merchants, knowing a good thing when they saw one, began to push the Dutch tradition of gift-giving, decorating their stores and filling their windows with merchandise designed to catch the eyes of kids. They figured, quite correctly, that the fastest way to a parent’s wallet was through their children.
Why Make Santa Irrelevant
A child wakes up to find a tree decorated with lights, a present under the tree, and a tag on the present with the child’s name. The child asks “Why is there a box with my name on it?” What do you say? What is your truth?
- In the late 3rd Century, a man called Nicholas of Myra had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of children who left them out for him, a practice celebrated in some countries still today on his feast day. We celebrate it by…
- In the early 4th Century, the Roman emperor Constantine consolidated several religions practiced in the empire into a Catholic (Universal) religion. That religion merged natalis solis invicti (the Roman “birth of the unconquered sun”), the birthday of Mithras (the Iranian “Sun of Righteousness”) and the birth of Jesus the Christ into one celebration. We celebrate it by…
- This time of year, in the northern hemisphere, is when light starts returning into the world. Agrarian societies often celebrated the winter solstice, the returning of the sun, with a festival of light. We celebrate it by…
- There is an elf who lives in a secret location near the North Pole who flies around the world one night per year on a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer and leaves presents for nice or deserving children. Evidently he thinks you worthy of a present.
One of these things is not like the other. When we explain presents with the one option of the list that is not at all true, we miss out on an opportunity to explain our heritage, our culture. We miss out on sharing why we want to give a gift to that child. “I want to give you this because…” is much more powerful than any magic fantasy that can be created by the 4th choice.
I love Christmas. I love Christmas (most) movies . I love traditional Christmas songs, but non-stop Christmas music that starts the day after Thanksgiving drives me crazy!
My amazing wife Barbara set up our Christmas tree last night. This is truly a wonderful time of year. It just has NOTHING to do with Santa. I recommend you make Santa irrelevant to Christmas, or whatever you celebrate. Experience the real joy of this season. Make Santa irrelevant and increase joy, strengthen culture? Yes!
You, child, are worthy of receiving a gift not because some mysterious elf you can’t talk to deems you nice according to a set of values you don’t subscribe to or understand. You are worthy to receive this gift because I love you. I care about you. I want you to be happy. We give gifts to people today and through the year because it is a way we participate in someone else’s joy, even if that gift is done in secret.
How to Replace Santa
Easy. Find your Truth. Speak your Truth. What is true for you? What values do you want to convey to the children in your life? Is there a time and place for secret gifts? Yes! Santa is not the secret.
Living your Truth is stress free. Ever wonder why this time of year adds so much stress to so many people? I recommend that you consider the idea of stress caused by people forcing themselves to live outside of their truth. Ask anyone in a 12 Step program. Make Santa irrelevant because Santa IS irrelevant.
Santa is not a member of your family. You don’t need pictures with him. Gifts do not come from Santa. If you want the giver to remain secret, don’t list a name, or write “Secret” or “someone who loves you”. No harm in any of this, as long as we also distinguish what we believe is story versus truth.
We do not need an anti-Santa campaign in our country. We do need a country of people knowing who they are, living their truth, supporting each other to do the same.
What is your Truth? What do you celebrate this time of year? How can other people support you in your joy? Are you willing to support others who celebrate differently?
I asked myself whether I am willing to support someone who celebrates by substituting Santa Claus for anything I consider meaningful or truth? Depends what they mean by support. My truth is that Santa is not, never has been real. I am not going to sign a gift as from Santa or anything else that would indicate to someone else I believe Santa is real. If you want to do that with your kids, I am not going to be the one telling them “Santa isn’t real”. But I am going to ask you whether that is really what you want your children to believe.