I love Christmas. I love the celebration of the winter solstice and the auguring in of a new year; I love to honor the last official appearance of God’s son in the world as a human boy; I love to hunt for the perfect Christmas tree; I love to teach the children about giving and sharing and making the world better for the less fortunate, which is becoming something akin to a family tradition for us. I love the smell of pine and I love the gathering of families and I love the promise (or in some years the delicious appearance) of snow falling in a glittering purple night sky. I love the winter season and I love Christmas for all that it is and all that it helps us to be. When, that is, we become better souls because of it. When, in other words, we give an extra twenty or we pay a family’s electricity bill or we smile at a stranger or we slow down and hold the door open for someone holding heavy bags or we buy a toy for a kid in need—this, to me, is the essence of what makes Christmas so good.
I just touched though on what often betrays the best of Christmas—this buying of presents. For even when it’s done with charitable intent, it’s still the one thing that unites all America. Christmas in America is about spending money. For inextricably tied to Christmas in modern day secular culture is the reign of the great symbol for mass consumer culture: Santa Claus. And I dislike everything about Santa.
- Adoring Santa Claus leads us to place the focus on spending money rather than on connecting with our inner selves or with things and matters of eternal value. We worship getting and spending and we become, as the Bhagavad Gita teaches, our deepest desires, or we become that which we desire most. If we spend all of our time chasing things down on Amazon, if we traipse up and down crowded malls staring into beautifully stocked windows, we end up wanting all of THAT. It’s unavoidable. We become what we desire most and we desire most what we focus our time and energy on acquiring or becoming. If we’re shopping, we in fact become what we’re shopping for . . . whereas if we are worshiping or meditating and seeking the divine, we become THAT—that union with the best in us and the best that come OF us. To reach our higher selves, we need to disconnect from our lower selves, or the ones that crave after the material bits and pieces of our fleeting physical world.
- Santa Claus is a false idol. When we teach our children to worship him, to write him adoring letters asking for STUFF, we teach them to honor a purely imaginary entity, and they’re not even taught to honor this entity. They’re taught to fear him and ask him for favors. They’re taught, “He sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake” as if they’re in the throes of some stalker/all-powerful, omniscient entity. They’re taught to behave and be good boys and girls so this all-powerful, scary but kind and plump entity will bring them toys. Just ugh.
- We lie to our kids from early childhood about Santa. When it’s time to teach them about the real God and his son, as well as angels and prophets, why should our children believe us? After all, it’s impossible to see God or angels with the human eye. God can only be seen or felt with our souls, and yet we’ve flimflammed our kids into thinking that they can’t really trust their intuition or their senses—after all, Santa does not exist, but all adults say he’s real—which leaves children with the choice of trusting themselves or trusting what more powerful adults allege to be true. In other words, trust us because we’re older, and don’t trust your own intuition is what we are telling children to believe when we insist they believe in Santa Claus.To truly see God and to actually communicate with angels requires that we teach kids to do the exact opposite of what we teach them to do with Santa, because you can only hear or see God if you trust yourself. Seeing with soulvision or via human intuition takes practice and the first step in practicing is trusting yourself and your teachers to help you see what is and isn’t real. Santa’s not real, but adults say he is. So who should a child trust? Obviously, a child can’t trust his or her own judgment in the case of Santa. What about God? Should a child blindly believe in God just because you say God exists? But you LIE! Why should a child believe you if you lie to him or her?
- God is real. Santa is not. But we tell kids they’re both real and we celebrate the coming of Santa the same time we celebrate the last coming of God’s son—and then we try to teach children about God? No wonder religion is so impossible to teach or comprehend in the modern era. We’re confusing the heck out of our children and out of ourselves too for that matter. When a child looks us in the eye and asks if Santa’s real and we lie and say “Yes Santa’s real,” we also lie to ourselves—we say to ourselves that it’s a “good lie” because we’re using the lie to propagate a nice myth for our children. We tell ourselves it’s a white lie just in keeping with having a white Christmas, but I say that’s pure nonsense. Why is it not better to say, “No Santa is not real, adults make up nice stories to amuse you, but Mom and I (Dad and I) get you presents we think would bring you joy . . . but the real focus should be on what Christmas really means, and truly what it’s about is celebrating the birthday of God’s son, Jesus. Why not tell them THIS?
- Santa brings us stress. When we run around spending and consuming, we make ourselves miserable. We also make our children miserable. They become selfish. Their motivation is dulled even as their need for physical baubles and plastic toys is sharpened. They get stuff, and none of it is meaningful . . . so they become even more fixated on getting more, because they feel empty after they open one present, especially with ten more waiting, and this need begets more need, and none of this is any good for the soul of your child.
- Santa promises to give kids more, but this promise results in them receiving much less than is their due. Each time they contemplate Santa or see a Santa decoration, or even a Christmas tree light somewhere, a Pavlonian like response goes off in their brains, and they think not about God but about getting something from Santa. Our children get obsessed with compiling, getting, comparing, consuming, taking . . . and this brings out the ugliest side of their human nature, not the best side. Even worse, we threaten the kids. We say, “Behave, be good, or you will get nothing and Santa will be mad at you,” so we start building up shame and fear of punishment, of authority in their hearts, one leaden deadening brick at a time. All of this fear of Santa resembles the fear orthodoxy breeds in churches. We shouldn’t try to shame our kids into behaving, nor should we resort to bribery. Our children are infinitely better than this. So are we.
- The symbol of Santa makes us competitive and jealous. We realize other children get more, and we want more too. It’s just human. We all do it. We all want not so much to have more, but not for others to have too much more than we have. The more our neighbors have, the more we want, and nothing brings this ugly emotion out more viciously than “Santa brought me this” envy.
Santa Claus is easy. Everyone follows this tradition. It’s actually hard to say “No, I don’t worship or propagate this myth,” but it’s not really THAT hard to be truthful, to go a different route, to stick to what’s true and to diverge from the norm. After all, it’s been said that normal is just a dryer setting, and in the case of Santa Claus, normal also seems to me to reek of conformity to a certain form of insanity. You don’t have to hurt your children or your friends by telling the truth about Santa. You can say with grace and class, “Well, some people like this tradition and they follow it and that’s wonderful, but the truth is THIS,” and then you tell them you go a different route. No one sane is going to disparage you if you don’t teach kids that a strange man is appearing on their rooftop with reindeer carrying bags of toys.
I hope this gives you something to think about. I am grateful for the true spirit of Christmas, which I’ve seen abounding all around me in this beautiful town of Front Royal I’m now so fortunate to be living in, as a single mother of three. Over the last week especially, as I’ve recovered from a serious car accident, I’ve been treated with kindness and generosity and compassion by hospital workers, tow truck drivers, rental car agencies, mechanics, service center employees, and by souls online who’ve wished me a speedy recovery. THIS is Christmas and it’s why I love it so much. Christmas is about giving and loving in my home. What is it to you?