Putting Santa on trial

As the weekend draws to a close and we prepare for Christmas Eve, what more fitting time to look at a modest proposal from Dante Chinni at the Washington Post. The author is struggling with one of the perennial debates facing parents around the world… what to do when the kids become unsure about Santa Claus. The proposed solution can be summed up in the title.

Instead of leaving cookies, let’s give Santa the Boot

First, Santa leads to unfortunate parental contradictions. Children do not fully understand reality. They fear that there are monsters in their closets and goblins under their beds. As parents, our job is to explain to them that those things aren’t there. When you turn off the light, it’s the same bedroom — just darker. We teach them to understand and to reason.

And yet, with Santa Claus we carve out an exception large enough to fly a sleigh through. We tell our kids to turn off logic and embrace magic. They just have to believe. But why? Why is some of what they believe silly and unfounded — such as ghosts — while Santa is noble and true?

This line of thought then devolves into the inherent unfairness of Santa Claus and the poor example this sets for the children. After all, as the argument goes, why would Santa bother keeping a list of who is naughty and who is nice if everyone winds up getting presents anyway? And why do the rich kids get more than the poor kids? It’s just not fair!

This brings us to the conclusion of this airing of grievances, wherein we learn that there’s really no need for the jolly old fat man anyway, and it’s time to give hm the old heave ho ho ho.

And that brings us to the third and most important reason I’m over Santa. We simply don’t need him. The world, the real world, is an incredible place all by itself. It is big and complicated and fascinating, and Santa Claus and magic cheapen it. This is something we grasp when children ask us questions like “Why is the sky blue?” or “What’s it like on the other side of the world?” The answers are amazing, thought-provoking and illuminating.

Sit down and talk to your kids about space. Try to explain how it all works. It’s more incredible than a magical fat man in a red suit.

Look, everyone is free to raise their own children as they see fit within the confines of common decency and the law, but this is just sad. After reading this piece I tried dredging my earliest memories up and I confess that I no longer even remember precisely when it was that I made the shift from believing Santa was bringing me gifts every year and negotiating with my parents. Whenever it was, it clearly didn’t leave too much of a mental scar on me and I know that I continued to enjoy Christmas with the family for years to come.

Is there some compelling reason to not continue the tradition of Santa Claus with children in the 21st century? Are we truly heading toward that much of a sterilized society? There’s plenty of time for them to grow up and discover the natural wonders of the universe without robbing them of the joys of the season. Perhaps the author should revisit the story of Virginia O’Hanlon..

Merry Christmas to you all.