Monday, December 26, 2005

Santa Ain't Satan, but He Sure Ain't St. Nick, Either

I was just reading Anne's post and I enjoyed it. I take her point -- myths and stories have a powerful effect on us and can teach us well, they need not be true (its why Jesus used parables -- sorry, couldn't let that pass). Anyway, the problem is that one never knows what that message is.

Anne points out that her DD picked up from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas that the Grinch can't steal Christmas because Santa will always bring more presents. So, it kind of misses the point about good cheer and the triumph of the human spirit. But thats okay, because many have missed the point of more important stories, like many of those in various holy scriptures. As an unschooler, I'm certainly not going to tell anyone what they should get from something.

But, its the child's interpretation of Santa and Christmas as being gift-getting free-for-alls that makes me so cranky about it all. The Washington Post ran a couple of articles about Santa and the business of Christmas and all that that really spoke to me. Suffice it to say, Christmas is out of hand and Rudolph was the product of a marketer at Montgomery Ward. Dunno, but that sort of sums it up for me.

The Washington Post was running articles about the "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays" dispute. This really makes me scratch my head -- excerpted from here

It is an emotional campaign -- a petition against Target for not including Christmas" in its advertising drew more than 600,000 signatures -- but it is also an easy one. Virtually all of the stores that conservative groups have targeted have quickly changed their advertising to feature "Christmas" more prominently, as have many of the groups that had "holiday trees."

Okay, I did a stint as an evangelical (though not conservative) Christian. I'm sorry to see Christ taken out of Christmas -- but I'd be pretty happy to see Christmas taken out of advertising circulars. Does anyone remember Jesus getting upset about what was going on at his father's temple? I will admit that I think 'holiday trees' are a bit ridiculous, but, again, what is the significance of the Christmas tree? Its not in the Bible. It comes from Europe and was probably passed down from pagan celebrations. I have nothing to back that up, but I still don't see how the tree got tied to the religious celebration. I'll concede that the evergreen may have symbolic significance to Christ, but as a Christian, I see symbolic significance in nearly everything no matter how mundane.

Another excerpt from a different article about the same subject:

The Church created Christmas in 4th century Rome to compete with a December Saturnalia that had become increasingly focused on the veneration of Mithras, the sun god. Faced with what appeared to be the emergence of a competing monotheism, the Christian fathers countered with a Feast of the Nativity to be celebrated, strategically, on Dec. 25, in the very midst of the Roman revels. That Christmas survived for centuries after was due to the fact that it made ample room for the profane.

Basically, I see today's Christmas to be a cultural celebration. Christ was taken out of Christmas a long time ago. Why are we just noticing now?

Io Saturnalia.

Disclaimer: if this post is disjointed, and I know it is, please forgive me and understand that my house is cluttered with toys and my kids are driving me crazy. Please feel free to comment or ask about anything that doesn't make sense. And, for some good books (be sure to read the second customer's review of this one) about Christmas, check out these by Gail Gibbons.


Anne Zelenka said...

I know my own account was incomplete, in that I wrote it with a complete ignorance of how the Santa myth developed and how he relates to St. Nick.

I think of Christmas as a secular wintertime celebration and not a religious holiday but I'm not religious so that's no surprise.

I'm personally feeling quite ambivalent about Santa Claus after yesterday. My house is awash in stuff we don't need. Christmas is indeed out of hand.

Marjorie said...

Well, my post didn't even address its title. I sort of figured my reference to the Gail Gibbons books would cover it.

I took your point, that Christmas can be a signal to think about bringing light to darkness and hope to those without. BTW, have you read The QuiltMakers Journey? Its the sequel to the Quiltmakers Gift which you've recommended before.

I'm religious (though confused) and completely agree with your conclusion that Christmas is a secular wintertime celebration!


Anne Zelenka said...

Oh, no, I haven't read that. I'll have to look for it. The Quiltmaker's Gift is my favorite picture book.

I've been feeling sheepish that I wrote about the meaning of Santa without knowing his historical meaning and his relation to St. Nick. I think I'll address it next year. Right now I blissfully don't care.

clanlally said...


I'm a bad reader. I know. Two comments come to mind.

First is that I read in my local paper this weekend a list of the favorite element of 2005. They asked a bunch of kid said the best thing that happened was the release of the xbox 360. It breaks my heart.

Second....I am going to start a petition for a new Holiday....Santa Claus day. Take the religion out of Christmas or just celebrate the commercialism. Doesnt matter how you look at it. Think about it. No more debates. No more guilt. No more faking your way through the holidays. Happy Santa Day! Christmas gets returned to the Christians. Hallmark gets ANOTHER Holiday. Everybody wins.