The deal with Santa Claus
When I was a child, my parents never introduced Santa Claus to my sister or me. We went shopping with my parents during December, so the source of people’s presents was perfectly clear. As the gifts were purchased, they were wrapped and placed under the tree throughout the month, and it was exciting to see the bounty of packages build up. Stockings were our one concession to popular Christmas lore, and we received things like travel-sized lotion, Chapstick, and floss in ours. This mythical Santa Claus was more of an “other people” concept; my sister and I simply accepted that other kids and other parents told each other this story, even if we didn’t do the same at our house, kind of like eating Lucky Charms. Mom warned us not to broach the subject of Santa Claus at school, lest we interfere with this familial conversation, so we didn’t let it slip that we didn’t believe in Santa Claus.
As an adult, the perpetuating story of Santa Claus still mystifies me. When I went to my first Thanksgiving with JG, I unknowingly opened a can of worms with the college-aged cousins by asking, “So, what’s the deal with Santa Claus? Is he a fairy, or what?”
“He’s not a fairy!”
“He’s a magical person!”
“Haven’t you ever seen The Santa Clause?”
“You were such a deprived child!”
Despite wild gesticulation, passionate rhetoric, and high volume, I was unable to grasp the childlike wonder that people associate with a belief in Santa Claus. Because I had never bought in, I was branded a cynic. The idea that Santa would watch over kids and mark down wrongs and rights was downright creepy, and no one seemed to mind that the North Pole has no viable landmass for a factory. Isn’t it at least understandable that an overweight, sweatshop-owning, speed-limit-breaking, cookie-stealing trespasser is hardly a comforting image, regardless of the quantity or quality of presents? Granted, I have a certain bias against breaking and entering because our house was burglarized when I was four, but still…
Outside of the “magic of Santa Claus” — which I interpret to mean breaking the sound barrier in a non-FTA-approved vehicle — my greatest conundrum regarding Santa Claus is that adults continue to insist on his existence among each other. My particular confusion excludes any type of child-storytelling, though that is a mystery on its own. What is it about Santa Claus that provokes twenty-year-old cousins to stand up, shake their fists, and cite Disney movies as proof of their beliefs? What is it that makes me have to thank Santa Claus when I know that the gift was from my mother-in-law, despite what the gift tag says? Is it an effort to recapture some idyllic time of innocence when “magical people” in sleighs were possible? Or is Santa Claus simply something to debate, like the echoes in “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” or how exactly Frosty could ever come “back again someday”?
Frankly, my world was less complicated before I contemplated the existence of Santa Claus, thank you very much.