I’ve been thinking about this Santa subject a lot. I wrote this about the Psychology Today post (The Case for Keeping Santa) and also commented on this post by Ted Torreson’s (@ted_torreson) via his blog Faith in Motion. Bottom-line, like most issues, there are shades of interpretation.
One of the greatest gifts (and burdens) from our Creator is free will. A burden because the choice is left to each of us whether to follow the teachings of Jesus or not. It seems the purpose for this gift may have been to ensure that humans came to God out of choice. Choosing freely makes the choice more genuine. Have you ever felt pressured to say something nice when someone is fishing for compliments? “Don’t I look great in this outfit?”
I believe this also encourages us to think (a lot) about everything from what apple color is best for maximum taste satisfaction to the purpose for human existence. Over the last 200,000 years we learned, shared and collaborated with humans across the globe, which brings us to this unique place in time. While we are no smarter than the first humans, we are more knowledgeable. In order for us to go beyond survival we learned to thrive by finding ways to simplify our needs so we can concentrate on higher function desires, which led us from tribes to civilizations.
The basis for our western society stem from some shared beliefs. Whether Believer or not, Judeo-Christian moral and spiritual beliefs form the basis of our society, just as do Roman and English Common Laws. But, that is written history. Before humans began to write and before they painted on rocks, they shared around camp fires. We tell stories about historical and fictional people to help us make sense of the world, as well as to pass on critical information to our descendants. From myths, to parables to oral and written histories; humans tell stories through word or image that they hope will be the glue that binds a community together.
The Christmas stories we love to hear, tell, watch and sing ensure that our progeny cherish our values. Humans seek out ever more creative stories to spark curiosity about the morals being conveyed. Did you ever have an uncle that told the same story every Thanksgiving? Did you start tuning out after awhile or begin to mock him? However, if that uncle was instead telling new stories each year that while different involved the same characters you might be more prone to listen…especially, if he had some oratory skill. This creative license allows humans to continue refining our stories while sharing the same values each time.
I think the stories about Santa Claus fulfill that same purpose. While the story shouldn’t be a substitute for the Christmas story of an immaculate birth, it can nevertheless provide a vehicle to share important facets of the Good News. The life of Jesus provides a model life for Christians to follow. While no one is praying at the altar of Santa (well, besides Macy’s), the story gives us a shared cultural reference to promote giving, joy, family and faith. The farther we travel down the evolutionary road the farther from fact stories becomes until they are almost all fictional. However, hopefully we retain the morals and values that we cherished.
Humans evolved into great story tellers. Think about those Lascaux cave paintings in France compared to National Geographic TV. Same fascination with wildlife, but richer image. I think while the Santa stories moved away from the historical basis the best parts remained. Merry Christmas!