Sunday, December 3, 2006

Santa, Part II

It seems the Santa Question is a hot topic on more than one Catholic website or blog.

Here is Rod Dreher's Blog (he writes for the Dallas Morning News) where, if you scroll down, the debate continues.

So I just thought I'd expand a bit more on the topic from my perspective. Please feel free to comment below but do remember to be respectful.

There seem to be three approaches to Santa:
1. There is a man at the North Pole with flying reindeer and elves, etc. as real as you or I or the Incarnation is.
2. There is a myth of a man at the North Pole who symbolizes the spirit of Christmas or a characture of a real Saint that has been embellished but continues to capture the spirit of Christmas.
3. Santa who?
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Regarding Option 1, there have been several arguments made against it as well as several made in favor of it.
Favor:
1. It is a pleasure to believe in Santa not to be denied to a child.
2. It encourages fantasy and wonder.
3. It accents and emphasizes the Spirit of Generosity and of Christmas.

Against:
1. It is a lie and we should avoid lying to our children.
2. It distracts children from Christ - the reason for the season.
3. It isn't necessary to celebrate Christmas.

Now, I hardly think the whole thing to be a serious moral issue, so I would respect any parent's decision on the subject with regard to their own children. However, here are my comments on both arguments.
In Favor: 1. It may be a pleasure, but there are many pleasures in life. Pleasure by its very definition is enjoyable but is not a necessity nor a right. Many children and adults alike took pleasure in Christmas long before there was the modern version of Santa Claus. So, granted it is a pleasure, but not a necessary one, and the question becomes, is it a pleasure that is worth it? 2. I would certainly grant that it does encourage fantasy and wonder. So does the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. And Charlotte's Web and the Chronicles of Narnia and Bing Crosby's White Christmas and Harry Potter and playing dress up and having tea parties without real tea, Lincoln Logs, etc. ad nauseum. Santa certainly encourages fantasy and wonder, but so do many many things. So my question now becomes, is telling a child the myth of Santa is a reality worth the pleasure and the fantasy and wonder? 3. I think Santa CAN accent the Spirit of Christmas depending on how it is treated. Secular society shoves him down our throats proclaiming him the national mascot and representative of Christmas itself. By the same token, a family certainly can treat him in a way where he would accent the meaning of Christmas. But he isn't necessary in this capacity either. So my summary of my comments on the arguments in favor are, "Telling children the man at the north pole with the flying reindeer and elves is as real as you are does give pleasure, does encourage fantasy and wonder and can accent the spirit of giving, but at what price and is that price worth it?"

Against: 1. I am not going to debate if there are ever times it is okay to lie to our children, but I will say that to consider it I'd have to have a very good reason. Consider what happens when they find out I did lie. Some people are hurt. Some get angry. As for myself I felt like a gullible idiot for having believed it until I was in the 5th grade. Could a child resent their parent for having lied to them? I don't, but it is a possibility worth considering. Would they then doubt other things they have believed because this "reality" that they have held so long has turned out to be a lie? There are several risks in lying to children. Are those risks worth their pleasure and a source of fantasy for them? Depending on the parents, the family, the children and how the whole thing is handled, some might say yes, some no. 2. The reason Christmas exists at all is quite simply that the Almighty and Most Merciful God humbled Himself to become human and was born to save humanity from sin. Does Santa detract from this amazing reason to celebrate? Personally, for me, I believe it did. I don't remember any of my Christmas masses growing up. I remember wanting stuff. I remember going through the entire Pennys catalogue and writing out over 2 pages on a yellow legal pad stuff I wanted from it. In my naivite, I simply figured since Santa didn't need cash, I could ask for as much as I wanted. It was very easy to focus on stuff I wanted rather than sitting through Church for an extra long mass. Now as an adult, I see secular society working all the harder to force the Stuff angle to be all the easier and easier to fall in to. This argument really is the most crucial, for, if anyone is distracted away from Jesus at Christmas, then the entire celebration is hollow. To tell a child that Santa with his reindeer and elves is just as real as the birth of Christ is to put them both on the same level of truth as they share the same holiday. For me, this is the critical point, for I would see no pleasure, no source of fantasy or wonder, no risk to faith or trust and no accent to the spirit of the season as being worth even risking (no less putting another subject on the same level of view) the failure to gaze in relentless joy at the Christ Child and celebrate His birth and the source of our redemption. 3. I think I've already commented enough above to simply state that Santa is not a necessity but a luxury that I don't believe to be worth the cost when he is treated as a complete reality.
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Regarding Option 2:
Santa, as I stated in my previous post, is originally based on a Catholic Saint - St. Nicholas. And, as my previous post stated, I have no objection to Santa Claus as a symbol of a truth and as an embellishment of St. Nicholas, provided children know that it is a myth and a symbol and an embellishment and are not really told that there is in truth a chubby guy at the north pole with flying reindeer and elves. In this manner, the objection regarding lying ceases to exist, Santa is not placed as a reality along side Jesus but rather, as simply a reflection of the Spirit of Christmas, directs our focus not at himself, but directly at Christ, removing the second objection. In this way, he can still provide pleasure and a sense of fantasy even while the children know it to be a fantasy and truly highlight and accent the spirit of Christmas.
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Regarding Option 3:
I suppose circumstances could one day arise such that I would consider completly erasing Santa (not St. Nicholas) but I cannot say I am in them now, don't see them arising anytime soon, and, indeed, am not even sure what they would be.

I hope this post has further elucidated my thoughts on the Santa argument which seems to be a bit of a hot topic in some areas. I would certainly respect other parent's making any of the three options above and I would likewise expect them to respect our choice. As I said above, I'm certainly open to comments or discussion on the subject, but I am not sure how much more I can say on the subject. If anyone should choose to comment, please remember to be respectful. To not be so would not only be rude, it would hurt any argument you would make. God Bless and Blessed Advent!

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