As many will already know, today is the day that we of the Eastern Tradition celebrate Christmas, the birth of our Lord, as per the Julian calender. I really wanted to, on this occasion, turn my sights to topics of a lighter nature than esoteric doctrines or economic theory, something that might bring a smile to people’s faces. After all, it is a time of celebration.
Alas, when I decided I wanted to talk about the trappings of our modern holiday season, like a viper this age coiled around the issue and refused to be ignored.
In the West there is an apparently long-held religious practice that people almost universally adhere to, and that is the ritualistic lie of the jolly fat man who brings presents to girls and boys all over the world in a single night. Attack Jesus Christ all you like, but don’t dare attack old Kris Kringle. There has been a lot of bomb-throwing in the ‘war on Christmas’, but very little has been of an explicitly Christian nature. It has instead been over ridiculous things like the color of coffee cups, whether towns are allowed pine trees on public property, and of course how the whole thing is racist because Santa is white. Regardless of this, people who do not participate in the magic of weaving this fantastic tale to their children are met with weird stares. Why wouldn’t you lie?
I may be attacked as some kind of scrooge for this, but I think there is a compelling case to be made that this ‘event’, this hype of Santa Claus that we bring to young ones year in, year out, is in fact damaging to their future. Let me explain.
1) We want our children to believe in the omniscient God of the universe who accounts for their every moral infraction, the arbiter of justice, Someone whom they will not (baring miraculous circumstances) see with their own eyes during their earthly life, Someone whose powers are extraordinary.
2) We tell our children about a character with very similar properties every single year, whose bounty they await with anticipation on Christmas Eve. Santa Claus of course separates the naughty from the nice, and is very damn lenient on who qualifies as ‘nice’.
3) Our children grow up, and one day, somehow, they find out that we were lying to them. There is no Santa putting presents under the tree, there is no workshop in the North Pole, and the closest thing you’d ever find to an elf is Warwick Davis.
4) Even after this betrayal of trust, we expect our children to never suspect that we lied about God too, that the Church lied about him, etc.
This is a tragic calculation we make because we are so attached to the cute ignorance of children. We enjoy tricking them, we like to describe everything more wonderfully than it really is. I am by no means blaming the rise of atheism on Santa Claus. There are much bigger factors in play than that, but this is one of those things that sets in at a very early age. Other Christians have, in recent years, also voiced concern about this potentially religiously damaging habit.
I don’t want to kill the fun of Christmas. It’s a wonderful holiday, but does it need the Santa Claus tale to still capture the imagination? It marks the birth of the incarnate God! And the real St. Nicholas is hardly a damp squib. A miracle-working bishop who gave comforting aid to the destitute children of his region? And let us not forget the legend of Nicholas’ presence at the Council of Nicaea, during which he apparently struck Arius across the face for heresy. It would seem prudent to level with our children from the beginning, that at Christmas time, we choose to give to them in order to honor Nicholas’ work in Myra, and consider his commitment to Christ.
It’s cliche to say that Christmas in the Modern world is representative of a degenerative consumerism, and there is some truth to it, but if done correctly we can bring a lot of joy to the children of our people through the giving of gifts, and all without this bizarre practice of pretending an immortal health crisis gives presents to every child before they wake up on Christmas morning. Consider also that the tradition is a distinctly Modern one. As late as two hundred years ago, Christmas was actually a rather contentious holiday, and some have in fact argued that Santa was a New England Protestant creation to remove the saintly aspects of the original legend, which they found objectionable.
Food for thought, especially when we have such a problem of youth apostasy from Christianity.
Merry Christmas to the Reactosphere. And of course a happy new year. I have a good feeling there will be a lot to cover in the months ahead.