The Purpose of Santa

January 3, 1863 cover of Harper's Weekly, one ...

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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!

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Kick Santa To The Curb?

English: Santa Claus with a little girl Espera...

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I just read The Case for Keeping Santa by Lynne Griffin (@Lynne_Griffin).  She discusses the positive values promoted by the stories surrounding Santa Claus.  For example:

Joy

Create some joyful childhood memories.

Generosity

“Santa’s biggest legacy is his desire to give without receiving.”

Wonder

“How does he get around the world in one night? Do reindeer really fly? Learning to question and make sense of the unbelievable is an important skill for a child. Just thinking about this Christmas tale encourages critical thinking and reasoning skills. Join your child on the quest to understand.”

Faith

“Santa is your child’s first experience believing in something he cannot see. Believing in Santa is a beginning step toward teaching your child about faith. Spirituality is based on learning to trust in a higher power, in God.”

Hope

This lesson keeps us all going.  Utilizing this story bolsters a child’s desire for better days to come.  Of course, as Lynne points out, it can be equally dangerous if not tempered.

She also gives some tips for answering the inevitable questions that will come as children mature.  “Don’t lie just to keep the myth alive.”

I recently participated in a discussion with others about what and when to tell a child about Santa and the Christian position on Christmas.  Ted Torreson authored the post Why I Won’t Be Teaching My Children About Santa Claus.  As a pastor, he makes the case that perhaps we do our children a disservice by not telling them about the reason for the season and the real story of St. Nicolas.

As parents, we want to teach our kids about faith, love and life.  But, we also want them to maintain vivid imaginations and grow up with the values we cherish.  The many positive characteristics of Santa seem worth perpetuating.  Especially, that of the cheerful giver!