More thoughts on Santa Claus

More thoughts on Santa Claus

Kate Bluett has an interesting post about her family’s St Nicholas Day tradition:

. . . According to some of my grade-school classmates, though, my life was tragic not only because of the siblings and the handmedowns, but also because Santa didn’t visit our house.

Let me be clear: None of my classmates actually believed in a real Santa Claus who somehow skipped my house.  They understood perfectly well that Santa was something their parents did and my parents didn’t.  Just like they knew Saint Nicholas was something my parents did and most of theirs didn’t.

But wait!  Isn’t Saint Nicholas just another name for Santa Claus?  In a word, no.  See, Santa Claus is that fat guy who takes requests and brings kiddos everything they want on Christmas morning.  Or at least that was what he did to my classmates.  He was kind of like the Christmas ATM.  St. Nicholas, on the other hand, has nothing to do with Christmas except a date.  The Feast of St. Nicholas is today, December 6.  This proximity to Christmas has caused him to be linked with the latter festival, but the connection is incidental. And there are gifts given on St. Nicholas’ Day, but they have nothing to do with naughty or nice, or with wishes granted.  And they’re small. . . .

I can hear some objecting: “St. Nicholas gives gifts just like Santa Claus.  There’s no difference.”  Yes, there is.  For one thing, St. Nicholas gifts are gratuitous.  They aren’t rewards in the way that Santa gifts are.  They don’t encourage self-serving moralism.  For another, the shoes provide a limit for the size of the gifts.  It’s impossible to fit a bicycle in a shoe, for example.  And it’s even harder to fit a list’s worth of gifts in one.  Thus, there’s a limit to the amount of sheer greed that can be encouraged on St. Nicholas’ Day.  Granted, I know families who put similar limits on Santa gifts; one, for example, only puts Santa gifts in the stockings, so they can’t be too grand.  Without those limits (and similar ones on non-Santa gifts), Christmas just becomes greedy.  And in what way does that celebrate the birth of Christ?

I’m not arguing against Santa Claus, per se.  I’m just arguing against unlimited Santa.  I’m arguing against the Feast of Gimme, and I think the Feast of St. Nicholas provides some insight as to how to avoid that feast, namely by establishing gift-limits.  No, this does not make me a humbug.  A humbug wouldn’t wish you a Happy St. Nicholas’ Day.

I understand where she’s coming from. Really I do.

I am just as opposed to the crass materialism and consumer mentality that have come to be associated with Christmas and Santa Claus. But where I differ with Kate is in attributing all that is negative to Santa Claus. I say leave the jolly old elf alone.

Ok, ok. I know this is a topic that is libel to get people all het up. So let’s keep it sociable and friendly.

But when you blame Santa, you’re attacking one of my cherished childhood traditions. And I feel honor bound to put up some defence on his behalf. In short, don’t blame Santa.

Here’s what I wrote in Kate’s comment box:

Well, we had Santa and he visited on Christmas. But he more closely resembled your St. Nicholas than the Santa Claus you describe. He filled stockings with nuts and oranges and a bit of candy. He left one or two gifts to be opened on Christmas morning. But all the naughty and nice and lists and stuff we ever heard about was from television, never our parents.

We did leave cookies and milk for him though, it seemed the hospitable thing to do.

I’ve heard of families who do both. St Nicholas comes on his feast day and drops off some candies shaped like gold coins, picks up a list and returns with a gift at Christmas. I’ve heard of families in which presents received depends on acts of charity done by the kids.

I think it doesn’t matter so much what you call him or when he comes. What matters is the spirit in which you celebrate his coming. Christmas can be an opportunity for conspicuous consuption and secular materialism or it can be a time of spiritual reflection, generousity, and the celebration of the birth of the King. I’m not trying to pick a fight; but to explain things from a different perspective. I’ve seen too many people making Santa the scapegoat for the one and the stumbling block to the other. I think that’s the result of faulty reasoning. Just because the secular world has co-opted Santa, doesn’t mean we can’t take him back. Because the way I see it, Santa Claus is just another way of pronouncing St Nicholas. He was our saint first and we shouldn’t let them tarnish his good name.

There are as many ways to celebrate St. Nicholas, Santa Claus, Father Christmas, and Christmas tide (and Epiphany) gift-giving as there are families that partake in these grand and glorious traditions. All I’m asking is that we leave off swiping at other people’s beloved traditions or lack thereof. Criticize consumerism, criticise materialism, criticize seculariasm, I’m with you all the way. But don’t criticize Santa or blame him for all those evils. Because I’m living proof that you can celebrate Christmas with Santa without any of those ill effects tarnishing your understanding of the true meaning of Christmas.

My previous posts on the topic are To Claus or not to Claus? and More Thoughts on Santa and Fantasy

A follow-up post is here: Thoughts on Fantasy for the Holiday Season

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  • Actually, I meant to write that our pediatrician seconded your suggestion. Turns out you can’t trust everything you read on the net. smile

    He said that if you give the drops to a baby after she eats, it will take care of belching. But if you give them before, it should help lower gastric discomfort.

    We’ve yet to try it out on Bella. Think I’ll let her get over this bout of stuff before I perform any experiments with my diet. smile

    I’ll maybe try the Dyprotex stuff. We’ve been using Desitin, which is what my parents used with us. It works pretty well, actually. The real problem is we keep forgetting to put it on her. That and I hate the way it makes my hands smell. But probably any diaper cream will have that problem.

  • Poor Bella!  My previous suggestion wasn’t of much use to you, but if it’s available in your area you might get her some Dyprotex for her poor behind.  My son’s food sensitivities frequently turned his into a bloody mess, and nothing compared to Dyprotex when it came to comforting him and healing things up.  I once went out in an ice storm in the middle of the night and walked two miles (couldn’t get the car out of the garage) to get it for him.  It’s THAT good.

  • Ah, the memories!  I had a big tub of Desitin too, but when his rash got too weepy and wet (and bloody) the petroleum based products wouldn’t apply properly.  The Dyprotex actually comes in little mini tubs with an applicator pad.  I was never adept enough with the pads to keep from getting it on my hands, but it did help me not to contaminate the area with my own germs after we cleaned it.  If I recall correctly, Dyprotex actually smells like baby powder.  For some reason the smell of Desitin on my son or my hands always gave me unpleasant flashbacks to working on old cars.