Wednesday, December 23, 2009

There Is No Sanity Clause

I think I’ve done... pretty much everything I’m supposed to. I know I missed sending out cards to half the world. And I’m sure I forgot presents for another half. But I’m finished, and there’s nothing to be done about it.

I shan’t waste breath ranting about commercialisation, or in querying the nature of this bizarre, hybrid sort of holiday. If you’re not already aware of the peculiar origins of modern Christmas — that is, if you’re genuinely of the opinion it’s a Christian celebration recognising the birth-date of Jesus of Nazareth — I’m afraid that your ignorance is just too massive for me at this time. I’m not averse to tilting at the odd windmill, but I’m simply too tired right now to consider engaging with people who are deliberately ignorant of the history of their own culture.

Instead, I’m just gonna ask one simple question. Why ‘Santa Claus’?

Oh, sure. I know the historical roots of the character: Nicholas of Myra, sometimes called Nicholas the Wonderworker, a Greek bishop around the fourth century who became known for acts of anonymous charity and gift-giving. And it’s a nice story, and a nice concept.

What I want to know is why we perpetuate the fat bugger in the red suit?

I don’t get it. I’m sitting here typing away, thinking about phrases like ‘the magic of Christmas’ and considering how we’re supposed to fool kids with this fairy tale about the fat guy and the reindeer and the wildly improbable circumnavigation of the globe in a single night. And honestly, whose kids really believe that? I know the Mau-Mau is still too young to really understand the size of the world, but I’m quite sure that at nine, Elder Son is well aware of Santa as a myth. And I’m sure that Younger Son, who turned seven today, is equally aware.

Because it doesn’t make any sense. The smallest amount of logic applied to the story makes it fall apart. So, Santa gives gifts to ‘good boys and girls’, does he? How the fuck does he know? And what kind of gifts to the kids on the edge of starvation in the Sudan get? Or are they automatically ‘bad’ for being born in a Santa-free zone?

As adults, we talk patronisingly about not telling the children. Apparently we’re meant to think it’s somehow sweet that they are prepared to believe in a mysterious magical break-and-enter artist who flies around the world distributing gifts in a pattern which heavily favours wealthy households of putatively Christian cultures.

Uhhh... why?

That’s the bit I don’t get. Not at all. I can deal with exchanging presents in recognition of the Gifts of the Magi, no matter how far off-date Christmas may be. (For the record: best historic evidence suggests Jesus of Nazareth was likely born around September.) That’s cool. But... why are we trying to tell our kids that some magic muppet is responsible for putting ‘em out there?

Why is that sweet? Or special? Or magical? Why aren’t we acknowledging that mum and dad worked bastardly hard to manage all this? What’s wrong with saying: it’s Christmas, kid, and the custom is that gifts are given. Why do we try to hide it all behind a fictional devolution of a minor religious figure from sixteen centuries ago?

Would kids look forward to Christmas any less if the gifts didn’t come from a random, anonymous source?

I dunno. I have some suspicions. I think maybe Santa can cop the blame when kids set their sights too high, you know?

“Aww, gee... I didn’t get a Playstation 2 with Thundertronic Sound and a 52-inch plasma screen!”
“Yes. I guess Santa couldn’t fit it in the sleigh this year.”

And I can see where, in the season of giving and with all the Christmas propaganda about charity and generosity, your pragmatic kid from the lower socio-economic bracket is gonna need some kind of explanation as to why his year of good behaviour was only worth a pair of shoes and a Frisbee, while that fat bastard of a kid who lives over in the rich section of town made out like a complete goddam bandit, even though he’s the biggest shitheel in the entire school. But honestly? Santa doesn’t actually level the playing field there. In fact, quite the reverse.

So... what gives?

I know. I’m tired. I’ve been doing the Christmas Consumer Shuffle for too damned long. With three kids, one of whom has his birthday on Christmas Eve, I think I’ve finally suffered the Yuletide equivalent of shell-shock. Not only do I not like the hideous commercial side of this whole goddam time of year, but I no longer understand Santa Claus at all, if I ever did.

Help me out here, folks. I haven’t done anything either to perpetuate the Santa myth, or debunk it in the eyes of my kids. But today I’m tired and weary, and I’m pretty much at the point of laying it on the line: there’s no Santa. Your mum and dad love you, and we think that it’s nice to have a day for giving presents, and that’s all there is to it.

Is that so evil?