Say No to Santa

December 20, 2004 | 31 comments
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It’s time to get rid of the old fat guy in the red suit. I have five good reasons why Santa has to go.

One: Santa is a big fat lie. Let’s face it. Not only is he a lie, but he’s essentially a nation-wide secret combination of parents. It’s a lie to say he exists when he doesn’t, but it’s a whole new level of deceit to have your kids write letters to the North Pole, or to eat the cookies they leave out on Christmas Eve, or to jingle sleigh bells outside their window, so they believe Santa’s on the roof. “Thou shall not bear false witness,� is still one of the big ten. Don’t we bear false witness of Santa all season long? Can we really justify it by saying it’s all in good fun and the kids get a bunch of free toys? Do we even need the Santa excuse to give our kids gifts?

Two: Santa leads to a betrayal of faith. This is an issue close to my heart. I believed in Santa until I was like eleven and it would lead to arguments all the time at school. People would say that Santa was your parents giving you stuff and I’d say you’re so stupid, that’s not true, he’s real. Fisticuffs would ensue and being a lover, not a fighter, I’d get my butt handed to me. But what hurt worse was that I became a wizard at Santa apologetics. Close analysis of Santa’s handwriting revealed startling similarity to my mother’s handwriting. I reasoned it was coincidence. I noticed Santa wrapped his presents in the same gift paper we had in our closet. I assumed it was just very popular. The lowest point came when I found an empty box from something I had gotten for Christmas in my backyard. I actually, and this is true, told myself it must have just fell out of Santa’s sleigh.

Eventually, wracked with doubt I confronted my mom and she gave me that essay, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.� Santa’s the Spirit of Giving, it said. What?! That sucked. I wanted my literal Santa back.

Atheists and agnostics frequently compare Christ to Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and I can understand why. Is there any reason we should encourage our children to put faith in something that is false and give them the inevitable experience of realizing their believes just don’t hold up to rational thought? Many people grow up prone to doubt just fine without any help from their parents. Is it so far-fetched to say that the ritual realization children go through that Santa’s not real encourages skepticism and discourages faith later in life?

Three: Santa is a corporate tool. The urban legend that our modern version of Santa was created by the Coca-Cola Company is inaccurate, but there’s no question their advertising department defined what we think of when we think of Santa today. The evolution of Santa in this country is inextricably linked to commerce and the marketing of material goods. Here’s an informative link on the subject.

The truth is Santa sells. What’s the easiest place to find the fat guy? A shopping mall. Parents take their kids to sit on his lap, snap a photo, and find out what the children want purchased in the conveniently located shops nearby. What a fun tradition, you say. Allow me to direct you to a site Steve Evans found that documents the psychological damage these visits have on children. It’s pretty funny, actually, but my point is we need to open our eyes and see how many times the fat guy in the red suit is cheerfully using products. He’s a pitch man, not a symbol of giving.

Four: Santa distracts from the celebration of the birth of our Savior. This is so painfully obvious I don’t intend to discuss it at length. As wonderful as gift-giving is, and as neat of a way as it is to commemorate Christ’s gift to us, we don’t need Santa to do it. Imagine an alien race digging our civilization up thousands of years from now, who are they going to think this holiday is about, Christ or Santa? I estimate images of the fat guy with black boots outnumber the Savior four to one.

Finally, number five: Santa is intolerant. That’s right, I said it. He’s a nose-ist. Sure, when the fog rolls in he needs Rudolph to lead the sleigh, but where was Santa when Rudolph was marginalized from the reindeer games. Santa’s a white male, isn’t he? Need I say more? The man has something against noses of color. And don’t get me started on the labor camps where elves without health plans slave day and night. No wonder, Herbie wanted to be a dentist.

Can Santa be saved? I don’t know if he can be. In my opinion it’s time to give Santa the heave-ho ho ho.

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31 Responses to Say No to Santa

  1. Aaron Brown on December 20, 2004 at 3:43 am

    Here, Here.

    And then there’s the patently discriminatory pattern of gift-giving that Santa apparently indulges in, and that parents presumably must justify (at least mine did).

    And then there’s the fact that Santa’s elves were manufacturing all the toys themselves, yet strangely, they seemed only able to manufacture toys that were already available in stores. Why couldn’t they take custom orders? For example, I really wanted a set of G-Force action figures, along with that Fiery Phoenix spaceship they flew in in “Battle of the Planets.” I mean, if Santa can make figurines of Princess Leia, Boba Fett and Greedo, surely the elves can make me a Mark, Jason, Princess, Tiny and Keeop! But noooooooo! Mother assured me Santa wasn’t going to be able to come through on my request. “Why not?!,” I demanded indignantly. What’s the big deal? Tell Santa and his elves to get off their *sses and get with the program!

    I think I’m still pissed off about this all these years later.

    Aaron B

  2. David King Landrith on December 20, 2004 at 8:43 am

    I used to feel this way. It was very troubling, and I really didn’t feel like there was anyone I could talk to about it. Santa was such a part of my life, I really didn’t know how I’d adjust without him.

    Then I read some of the stuff that FARMs has published on Santa. It answered all these terrible anti-Santa accusations for me, and I’m now quite happy to believe in Santa. (Thank you, Lou Midgley!)

  3. Jason on December 20, 2004 at 9:31 am

    Finally, number five: Santa is intolerant. That’s right, I said it. He’s a nose-ist. Sure, when the fog rolls in he needs Rudolph to lead the sleigh, but where was Santa when Rudolph was marginalized from the reindeer games. Santa’s a white male, isn’t he? Need I say more? The man has something against noses of color. And don’t get me started on the labor camps where elves without health plans slave day and night. No wonder, Herbie wanted to be a dentist.

    OK … you should have left it at 4 if you wanted to be credible … or maybe it’s all a joke. Can’t tell to be honest … I’ll blabber on anyhoo ….

    I believed in Santa and at some point, came to understand it was my parents, but honestly … I don’t remember when, how or whatever. And some folks will say I turned out OK. Here’s my reasons/rationalization/whateverYouWantToCallIt for keeping Santa in my kid’s life.

    1) He’s a more digestable example of Kids of ‘the spirit of giving’. There’s a reason kids learn from games better than ‘sit down and read for 5 hours’. Not that it should all be sugar-coated.

    2) He provides too much easy leverage on the kids that believe in him but are difficult to get to bed/behave! ;) And no, I’m not afraid to follow through. Neither Santa nor I are into appeasement.

    3) We plan to transition our kids into “Santa’s helpers” after their 8th birthdays and bring them into the inner-circle so to speak. It’ll probably blow up in our face and we’ll have to console one of our Children. But the same would probably happen if we told them upfront. hey would tell their friends their wasn’t a Santa … arguements … fisiticuffs … still a bad result (well .. except that they’re good size and would be trained in martial arts :P).

    We know parents who have told their kids there is no Santa and have proceeded with Christmas all the same. We considered it, but decided not to. One benefit of the sans-Santa Christmas is getting the after Christmas deals on gifts (one family exchanged at the New Year).

    Should someone inform our children before we do? … we’ll deal with it and come out of it OK.

  4. danithew on December 20, 2004 at 10:01 am

    I used to sometimes have cynical feelings about Christmas until I lived in the Middle East for three years straight. Jewish and Islamic traditions are wonderful and interesting but coming back after that and seeing Christmas traditions from a new perspective made me realize what a great holiday Christmas really is. I wouldn’t want to part with any part of it, even the commercialism.

    For Christmas this year my wife and I took our family on the Heber Creeper Polar Express train ride. At one point on this ride, the kids get to see Santa from the train and then Santa boards the train and goes through each train car to visit with each kid personally and give each kid a bell (that is supposed to be from the harness of a reindeer).

    We have two little nephews who are about two and four respectively and their reactions to seeing Santa were so much fun to watch. They were so excited, so enthralled and so happy to see Santa and talk to him a little. Little Brandon couldn’t stop talking about how his bell was off of Rudolph’s harness (that’s what Santa told him). And after seeing Santa from the train little Ethan was jumping up and down over and over again screaming “I saw him! I saw him! I saw him!” He was so ecstatic about the experience. It didn’t hurt either that both these boys love trains.

    Calling Santa a lie is a bit heavyhanded to me. I think he’s got to represent something that is true and right with the world if he makes little kids that happy. Of course someone will point out next (as I have witnessed myself) that some kids become quite terrified in the presence of Santa. It’s as if they are beholding the face of God and can’t bear the pressure.

  5. Curtis on December 20, 2004 at 10:16 am

    Some valid points, Shannon and Brian, but this is a tough one for me… you see, Santa is my dad.

    No, really, he is.

    For the past decade-and-a-half, my pops has spent a goodly part of the winter dressing up as a right jolly old elf… and making kids’ Christmasses. He does it well. He does it the way I want my kids to someday see it done.

    Yeah, sure, he wears all the gear, and he ho-ho-hos, and he brings candy and gifts and the like. But in addition, whenever my dad works as Santa, he actually turns the occasion into a memorable mini-sermon about the birth of Christ. He talks about the Christian symbolism of various seasonal ornamentations. He gets very quiet, and the kids listen. He has their ear, after all, more than any Primary teacher ever could. It sounds strange, perhaps, but he does it just right — he creates an atmosphere of reverence with these little munchkins… not about the man in the red suit, but about the Baby in the manger. There are families who have had him come back every Christmas for their kids and grandkids for a dozen years. Next Christmas will be our first with a child, and that kind of Santa is welcome at my house. (Not to mention that he’s Grandpa, of course, and we couldn’t keep him away from a new grandchild if we tried!)

    Oh, and I think that my parents told me that there was such a thing as the Spirit of Saint Nicholas, or something like that, when I started to ask questions about the validity of Santa Claus. I don’t even remember thinking that it was a big deal, but then again, nobody ever kicked my but about the issue, either. =)

  6. Glen Henshaw on December 20, 2004 at 10:30 am

    When our daughter was born we decided that we would tell her the story about St. Nicholas giving presents to the children in his town, and that now we pretend to be Santa Claus for each other by sneaking presents for the other members of the family under the tree and labelling them “From Santa”.

    That worked well until she started telling her cousins that “our Santa is dead.” Caused quite a few raised eyebrows over Thanksgiving.

  7. Jonathan Green on December 20, 2004 at 11:41 am

    We have never done anything to encourage belief in Santa Claus, but kids pick up a lot at school and in primary, and our four-year old has become a true believer. A few nights ago someone ding-dong-ditched a basket full of Christmas presents outside our door–and they were pretty good, I have to say; I was there in three seconds, but they were already gone–and the aforementioned four-year old said, “Look! Santa brought us presents!” Now that this objective proof has made his knowledge perfect, our position of Santa agnosticism has become less tenable.

    Aaron, the patent superioriority of “Battle of the Planets” over today’s Pokemon and Yu-gi-oh is one more sign of precipitous decline in our civilization. Although my mother thought it was a terrible show, I recognized it as a transcendant, timeless epic, nothing at all like the shows I try to discourage my kids from watching today.

  8. Geoff Johnston on December 20, 2004 at 11:51 am

    “I really wanted a set of G-Force action figures, along with that Fiery Phoenix spaceship they flew in in “Battle of the Planets.â€? I mean, if Santa can make figurines of Princess Leia, Boba Fett and Greedo, surely the elves can make me a Mark, Jason, Princess, Tiny and Keeop!”

    So true, Aaron. Those guys missed the financial boat by not merchandizing better. Sort of a pre-cursor to Power Rangers. (BTW — I somewhow link G-Force with the band Cheap Trick in my mind… I think it is the two long-hair frontmen with more misfitty team members tagging along… Is it just me?)

    Wow, Brian. Believing in Santa ’til you were 11? That takes some real doing for a smart kid like you. I’m only marginally tolerant of Santa belief in my family. I play along in the early years but at the first question of the reality of Santa I spill the beans. My oldest two girls have made it to 5 before getting the truth. (Ask and ye shall receive).

    I just can’t stand the idea of telling my kids that the Father, Son, Holy Ghost, and Santa are all real. As the PBS show used to sing “One of these [unseen individuals] is not like the others” (Was that Sesame Street or Electric Company?). But at the same time I don’t want to be the religious freak on the street who thinks Santa is Satan spelled wrong — that’s not particularly useful to our efforts of sharing the gospel. I figure this approach allows me some moderation on the subject…

  9. Julie in Austin on December 20, 2004 at 12:04 pm

    Amen, Shannon and Brian and thank you.

  10. David King Landrith on December 20, 2004 at 12:04 pm

    I’m shocked, shocked at all of these “Santa screwed me over” stories! How can you in good conscience ask for a sign?

    Santa’s ways are not man’s ways, and I’m sure that their is some greater wisdom reflected in Santa’s refusal to accommodate your eclectic taste in action figures, Aaron Brown.

    And why doesn’t ding-dong ditching count as objective evidence for Santa? Do you really know who ding-dong ditched your wondrous deposit of Christmas bounty?

  11. Aaron Brown on December 20, 2004 at 12:55 pm

    Some years after the G-Force phenomenon subsided, it was resurrected on some television channel, but with a different name, different character names, and a whole new redubbing into English. I don’t know why someone decided to redo it, but the new version was DREADFUL! I was really upset. In fact, I don’t even think George Lucas’ awful computerized special effects in the re-released Star Wars irritated me as much, and that’s really saying something.

    Aaron B

  12. Greg on December 20, 2004 at 12:58 pm

    “Is there any reason we should encourage our children to put faith in something that is false and give them the inevitable experience of realizing their believes just don’t hold up to rational thought?”

    Here’s the discussion we had last year on the topic. I liked Russell’s answer.

  13. Kevin Barney on December 20, 2004 at 1:27 pm

    Being pro-Santa, I must say I like Russell’s answer, also.

  14. Greg on December 20, 2004 at 1:31 pm
  15. Adam Greenwood on December 20, 2004 at 1:37 pm

    What a fun discussion that was! Check out Greg Call’s list of things he believes in. Good stuff.

    And, as always, Huzzah Russell Fox!

  16. JL on December 20, 2004 at 2:29 pm

    I don’t care for Santa one way or the other. I just wanted to give all you enlightened parents a heads-up on depriving your children of belief in Santa Claus. My grandfather told my mother and her siblings there was no Santa. He wanted to spare them the betrayal he felt, so my mother said. More likely he just thought it was a stupid tradition. He was a professor of dairy cows. My mother told me that she always begrudged him for that. She thinks she missed out on part of some mythical magical childhood. I only met my grandfather once in my life. You’ve been warned.

    Well, he did other things to piss her off that were much worse than Santa Deprivation but I think that was the beginning. She told me the story when I asked her if Santa was real because I didn’t think he was. I was 5 or 6 and figured things out for myself. We didn’t even have a chimney. A fat man in a sleigh, whatever the hell that is (we lived in miami) had no way to get into our house. Especially with the burglar alarm. We didn’t have snow either.

    I’d guess it depends on the nature of each child whether Santa Deprivation or Santa Falsification is more traumatic.

  17. danithew on December 20, 2004 at 2:49 pm

    Wow, Russell’s response about Santa was a work of genius. I thought I didn’t believe in Santa but my long-lost belief has been renewed from here on out.

  18. Arwyn on December 20, 2004 at 2:59 pm

    I think I believed in Santa once, but he was the Santa of long letters to the North Pole and a phone call to a special hotline where an answering service was set up as though it was Santa’s house so you could leave him messages.

    But my parents had a policy of always telling us the truth — or, at least, of never openly lying. So when we asked, “Mom, is there really a Santa Claus?” we always got an answer in the negative. But we still got presents “From Santa” for years. The explanation? These were always the bigger gifts for the whole family — the ping-pong table, or our first stereo.

    The result is that we always knew there was no Santa Claus — I don’t remember ever actually thinking he was real. But we did believe in the hypothetical Santa Claus, so that even at ages 13 and 11, my big brother and I tried to figure out how best to get him inside the house without our having a chimney.

    I don’t feel that I missed out on any integral part of the Christmas holiday for it, though — what mattered most to me about Christmas as a child was the other traditions that my family instituted — small things, like a scavanger hunt on Christmas Eve and sleeping underneath the Christmas tree the night before Christmas Eve, or oatmeal in the morning at my grandparents’ house with red and green sprinkles in it. And being with family. Guess that was enough magic for me.

    And along a completely different vein of thought…who cares who actually brings the presents as long as there are presents?! Let’s be honest: it’s the getting that really matters. Right? Right?

  19. Kim Siever on December 20, 2004 at 3:06 pm

    Amen! Amen! Amen!

  20. Janey on December 20, 2004 at 4:24 pm

    My best friend told me the truth about Santa when I was 7 years old. I must admit, after the initial shock wore off, the truth about Santa solved the biggest dilemma of my young life. I knew that Santa only brought presents if you were good. And I knew that my best friend was not as good as I was. (She threw temper tantrums where she actually kicked the floor and screamed at her mother; such behavior never entered my mind.) I couldn’t figure out why Santa always brought her more presents than he brought me. Once I knew the truth about Santa, I figured out the answer.

    I’m not sure how many more years I could have handled the evidence of Santa’s misplaced favoritism. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” from wondering if your best friend really is better behaved than you are, all evidence to the contrary.

  21. The Only True and Living Nathan on December 20, 2004 at 5:48 pm

    Curtis:

    I’m in your boat. My grandfather is Santa Claus. No, he never works the malls (he’s miles and miles away from the nearest mall), but he’s round, he has a white beard… and he spent the second half of his adult life making wooden toys.

    I don’t believe in Santa anymore… but I do believe in my grandfather.

  22. Bryce I on December 20, 2004 at 9:52 pm

    It’s true — I’ve seen pictures of TOTAL Nathan’s grandfather. Plus, he lives in Canada, which is in the North Pole, right?

    /(I’m a product of US public schools)

  23. Adam Greenwood on December 20, 2004 at 10:02 pm

    You forget, Janey, that Santa Knows the Heart.

  24. Bryce I on December 20, 2004 at 10:27 pm

    Apropos of nothing, there’s a terrific This American Life on “Kid Logic” in which a contributor relates the experience of discovering the true identity of the Tooth Fairy. Her best friend told her that she caught her father taking the tooth out from under her pillow the night before, so for years, the contributor claims she believed that the Tooth Fairy was her best friend’s father. When she told her own father what she had learned, her father told her that he knew the secret, but not to tell anyone else, as her friend’s father was a bit embarassed about having to take a second job (or something like that).

    As for Santa Claus, I’m not crazy about him, but then again, I’m not crazy about the whole gift-giving scene at Christmastime. That said, I’ve come to appreciate the magic of Santa in my own children’s lives, and I don’t have a problem perpetuating a lie that exists to bring some joy into our children’s lives (trauma and betrayal notwithstanding — my kids are all of believing age still, so I haven’t had to deal with this aspect yet).

    We took our kids to a Santa train that our local science museum puts on as a fundraiser — the train takes the kids to the North Pole to meet Santa, and they get to look for Rudolph, who is lost in the woods. We had great fun as a family, and the kids had as much excitement in anticipating the event as they did on the trip itself.

    Things we don’t do: No holding threats of no presents over our kids heads, no telling kids that every Santa they see is somehow the real Santa, no pictures with Santa against their will, no presents with tags that read “from Santa”.

    The Easter Bunny — that’s another matter entirely.

  25. Mo on December 21, 2004 at 11:40 am

    “Finally, number five: Santa is intolerant. That’s right, I said it. He’s a nose-ist. Sure, when the fog rolls in he needs Rudolph to lead the sleigh, but where was Santa when Rudolph was marginalized from the reindeer games. Santa’s a white male, isn’t he? Need I say more? The man has something against noses of color. And don’t get me started on the labor camps where elves without health plans slave day and night. No wonder, Herbie wanted to be a dentist.”

    I understand that the above statement was written in a spirit of jest and light-heartedness, but it is a stereotypical slur against white males. Just substitute “Jew” or “black man” or “homosexual” for “white man” and see what lovely responses you’ll receive. Not all white men are Nazis. I feel certain that you know that, but as Latter-Day Saints you ought to be respectful of all God’s children–even those “evil” white men. I thought we were a little more enlightened than that here. Alas.

  26. Brian G on December 21, 2004 at 5:56 pm

    Mo, I feel really bad. After all, some of my best friends are White males. I’d like to apologize to all White males, especially those that are also Santa Claus. I hope all other White males will not be offended, and if so, that they’ll take comfort in all their money, power, and influence.

  27. G. Jones on December 22, 2004 at 12:10 am

    I talked with Santa today. He was a patient in the hospital I work in. He shared with me his life story – 30 years in the Marine Corps, fought in Korea and Vietnam (4 years in the Hanoi Hilton) and when he came back in 1972, he went to the all with his wife and saw a Santa. He watched the joy on the kids faces as the talked with Santa and he told his wife that this was his new goal – to be Santa. After he retired from the service in the 80′s, he grew his beard and hair, had them bleached white and began his Santa life. He works at a local big box store and kids all year round come up to him and talk to him about their love of Christmas. They will say “we know who you really are” and he’ll tell them that he is incognito or looking for new toys to give away.

    He spends the year collecting cans and bottles, turning them in for cash and buys toys every Christmas. He takes them to the local childrens hospital and gives them out to the kids. He told me he gave out over 6000 toys this year to kids that are disabled or sick. He doesn’t accept any kind of reimbursement. He just wants to bring some good into the world and his wife of 53 years helps him do it.

    He gave me his Santa business card a while back. So when I am asked if there is a Santa, I know there is. He lives in my hometown and understands what the Spirit of Christmas is all about.

  28. Derek Lines on December 23, 2004 at 11:57 pm

    Since Brian seems to always be attacking my heroes, he forces me into the role of apologist once again (remember our nice BC discussions?)

    So here’s a point by point response to how he has got it all wrong with the Big Jolly ol’ Elf.

    1. Lies aren’t always bad. We use necessary deceptions all the time in life. Context is everything. Lying about stealing the last cookie from the jar—bad. Conspiring to bring happiness, hope, love and presents to children—good.

    2. Santa leads to a trial of faith, not a betrayal. Big difference. The scriptures tell us that we don’t even have real faith until it’s been tested. The sweet fantasy of Santa gives children the perfect opportunity to realize that some symbols are myth but the meaning behind them still has value. And yes, sometimes these trials do leave us battered (sorry about you getting beat up and all) but hopefully stronger in the long run.

    3. Everything is a corporate tool these days. Even the Gospel itself is cleverly packaged, commentaried, and turned into cutesy kitsch for popular consumption on deseretbook.com (among others). Santa is merely on a long list of noble and good things turned into marketable mush in our godless capitalistic society.

    4. Santa actually saves the true celebration of Christmas. Recent court decisions have made it clear that Christian holiday displays (nativities and such) cannot be put in public-owned places unless they are paired with secular displays like Santa and his reindeer. Thus, no Santa equals no baby Jesus on our courthouse steps.

    5. Santa does teach important lessons other than love and kindness. A few years back my teenage brothers decided to switch the milk and cookies left for Santa for dog biscuits and left-over turkey grease. Needless to say, Santa taught them about justice and punishment by hiding their presents in the garage until they apologized to Santa the next morning. So even if Santa seems intolerant to you or hands our vindictive retribution for slights in my house, there are important lesson to learn there.

    So, stop bashing on poor Santa. Otherwise I will be forced to report you to http://www.naughtylist.com where Santa encourages us believers to let him know about those whose behavior does not merit the “nice� list.

  29. Juliann on December 24, 2004 at 12:48 am

    Santa is an elitist. All the big ticket items seem to end up under the Christmas trees of rich kids.

  30. Mike Parker on December 25, 2004 at 2:40 am

    Interesting thougths. I have three children (8, 5, 1) and have struggled over how to gently let them down from the Santa myth. My oldest was wavering, but has since renewed his faith after seeing “The Polar Express.”

    The thing I dislike the most about Santa is that there is no one to whom children can express gratitude for the gifts they receive. If they get something from their parents, they can thank their parents. But Santa throws in gratitude-free giving. And I think that gratitude is one of the most important attributes to nuture in a child.

  31. Weston C on December 27, 2004 at 1:19 pm

    Why would Santa Claus have to “go”? Why not simply persist his association with Christmas while telling the truth about him?

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