Sunday, December 20, 2009

Santa Claus Is Creepy.

More than any magical innocence or whatever it is you're supposed to get out of it as a child, I vividly remember a couple years of confusion as it began to dawn on me that some kind of deceit was happening but I couldn't figure out yet how it all worked. I don't remember the magic. I remember being worried. I remember being lied to. I remember how embarrassed I felt when I learned the truth.

The "children need magic and wonder in their lives" argument is bullshit. Children find the whole world magical. Seems to me that playing an elaborate practical joke on them at such a young age might actually corrode their sense of real wonder and real mystery.

"You better be good or Santa won't come." Don't you think a great percentage of December behavior problems are actually caused by the manic anticipation of Santa Claus and piles of toys? The ability to blackmail your kids into good behavior for a few weeks (and, really, does it work?) is not a benefit, it's just a desperate effort to break even.

Santa Claus is like circumcision. "Everybody else does it, and we don't want our kid to feel out of place." It's just another thing that we inflict on children because nobody wants to be the first one not to.

3 comments:

ep said...

Sorry, don't buy it.

The whole world is magical to kids. They want to belive in Santa, Rudolph, the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, etc. Kids don't live in a bubble. At five my daughter and her friends are already deeply discussing whether Santa, etc. exists. Some are trying to convince her otherwise. I'm in the he's real camp until she shows signs of not wanting to believe anymore.

I remember coming down on Xmas morning when I was about 5 and finding a deluxe crayon set in a long flat box with hundreds of crayons in it. It was amazing. The tag said "from Santa" - in my mom's handwriting. I showed it to her and she just smiled back at me. I remember feeling a moment of betrayal, but then it passed. Xmas was still wonderful, as were the crayons. And I wasn't going to blow it for my younger brother.

Not sure when he figured it out. I do remember years later the two of us asking to sleep in the same room on Xmas Eve. My mom said sure. Our master plan was to stay up and either catch Santa (or most likely) my mom in the act of putting out the presents. We were going to bust the myth wide open. We had been searching the house all week for hidden presents and never found any. We fell asleep eventually of course and the presents were magically there in the morning. Still not sure how mom pulled that one off.

Santa was never used as a serious threat to get good behavior. Folks are kiding themselves if they think that will work.

Kids, when they're young, need to compare notes, "fit in" with each other and the world. They get the reality of the dangers of the real world thrown at them constantly through all the rules they have to absorb to learn how to move safely through it. Santa and the few other child fantasy figures are there to add a little extra magic.

An maybe adults perpetuate such stories because they wish they still had some fun things like Rudolph to believe in.

p.s. thanks - I think I've just started my Xmas eve post ; )

jdjb said...

I had a VERY vivid imagination growing up, and even believe (still believe it to this day) that one early morning as I woke up in my Nana's den, I saw Santa emerging from the fireplace right before my slightly opened eyes. I held them only slightly open because I knew I wasn't supposed to see him.

I never felt betrayed by the Santa myth, but I don't think much of Christmas anymore, more so because of my religious convictions (or lack thereof). It's as important to me as President's Day, and usually "celebrated" in the same way, meaning not at all. Well, I will probably take some hours off this year and go to a restaurant and then to see "Nine" with some friends, but I might be convinced to do such a thing on President's Day if invited.

Oh, and ep, the presents were probably in the trunk of your parents' car...

ep said...

jdjb - that's what I figured, years later, but why spoil the mystery? I guess that's really my point. Some kids actually like being "fooled." My daughter's favorite ting right now is to "hide" in pretty obvious places. She's trying to foll me and is much happier the linger I rake to find her, even if she's talking to mr from where she is under the table...

Your holiday sounds pretty good, too. Enjoy!