Author’s note: Originally posted at FPR on 12/17/2010.
Starting today we will have a number of posts about Santa Claus. If you have something that you would like to add to this series, let me know in the comments. Here is my attempt. Merry Christmas.
I like Santa Claus. He is not real, but he has spiritual significance for me. In this way, Santa is like Job. I do not think that Job was a real person, but I do think that Job is one of of the most powerful books of the Bible. Symbolic meaning sometimes has the greatest impact.
Watching A Christmas Carol (the George C. Scott version…of course) last night, I realized that, for me, Santa Clause is the Ghost of Christmas Present. Now, I am not an expert on Dickens as a literary figure, but I have always loved this story and I have grown to appreciate it even more in recent years.
The Ghost of Christmas Present (GCP) focuses on two things: the merriment which we have as family and friends at during the holidays. This is symbolized by the joy which nephew Fred has with his wife and friends. It is also symbolized by the joy which the Cratchit family has despite the their poverty and worry about tiny Tim. Yet, they are together.
The GCP also draws attention to those who are suffering. Not only are they suffering at Christmas, they are suffering while Scrooge has much. He also introduces this suffering to Scrooge to show the cruelty of his own comments about the poor and disadvantaged. Ebenezer Scrooge is the embodiment of 19th century Social Darwinism. Christmas is the cure for this vile outlook.
What does this all have to do with Santa? Santa Claus is the symbol of holiday cheer and giving. While he has become the symbol of Christmas consumerism, it is not Santa Claus that is the problem. Our society is the problem. It is our greed that is the problem. The mall has ruined Santa in the way the it has ruined Che t-shirts. But, we must not give in.
Santa has also been given the God role of deciding who is good and who is bad. I reject this view of Santa…much in the way that I reject this view of God. What about those children who receive nothing for Christmas because of poverty? Well, let us do away with poverty.
Like the story of Job, I think that the meaning and principles, not the myth itself, is what we should preserve. The best part about my children getting older is that the older ones now get to be part of the fun. They know that Santa does not come down the chimney. However, they now realize the joys that can come from being Santa in the lives of others…particularly their little sister.
I am reclaiming Santa. He is about giving to family and friends, He is about connecting with our fellow humans at the coldest time of the year. Now we could probably do these things without the symbol of Santa Claus, but I think that symbols are useful in bringing us together. They are also worth fighting for.
Who will you be this year? Ebenezer Clause or Santa Claus?
Does Santa distract from the Christian themes of Christmas? If you serve the Cratchits and the family living under the viaduct, you understand Him who came. That is what Santa Claus did. That is what Jesus Christ has taught us to do. Go and do likewise.