A number of journalists have called recently to ask 1) whether I think children should be told that a jolly old elf named Santa Claus is the giver of all/some of their Christmas gifts, and 2) how and at what age parents should tell a child there is no Santa Claus.
Notwithstanding that I think there exists a more pressing issue concerning Santa Claus, which I'll get to in a moment, I thought it appropriate to share my thoughts on these two questions with my readership:
1. I don't think it matters one way or another whether children are told there's a Santa Claus; however, given that most Christian children are being told that Santa brings toys to little boys and girls on Christmas morning, I'd suggest that parents who eschew this myth at least inform their children of its prevalence.
In my view, the Santa myth is harmless, whimsical and can serve the purpose of letting parents off the hook when one or more of the more expensive items on a child's "wish list'' don't show up under the tree on Christmas morning. For those reasons, especially the third, my wife and I caused our children to believe in Santa.
2. Contrary to what most journalists apparently assume, the mere fact that parents cause a child to believe in Santa does not require them to inform him someday that Santa doesn't really take corporeal form. I put it thusly because I happen to still believe that Santa exists. To me, the ageless elf is the spirit of Christmas.
Please don't get me wrong: Jesus is the meaning of Christmas; nonetheless, Santa is its spirit. He is a symbol of unconditional love and selfless charity.
When our kids finally complained that some cynical playmate had told them Santa didn't exist, we simply replied, "Well, that's unfortunate for your playmate, because if you don't believe in Santa, he stops coming to your house on Christmas morning.''
We said this with a wink, you understand, and our children seemed to understand instantly that this was a ruse with a redeeming purpose.
Now to the more pressing issue: I've been informed that a number of feminists feel Santa is an agent of the patriarchy and conveys the insidious message to little girls that they 1) must rely on men for all the good things that come their way, and 2) must seek approval from men if they are to expect favor.
These feminists are demanding that Santa be neutered. They are also petitioning publishers of children's books to rewrite such classics as "The Night Before Christmas'' to portray Santa in a way that "acknowledges gender equivalence.'' They also insist that Mrs. Claus - soon to be Ms. Claus - be portrayed as a "person of power.''
This should surprise no one. It was, after all, only a matter of time before the same sort of busybodies who brought us the politically correct Bible would get Santa in their cross hairs. Soon to come: Frosty the Snowperson.
Copyright 1995, John K. Rosemond
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