Activist Wednesday: Why Santa Claus Endures
Posted December 25, 2013on:
As children of non-religious Jooz living in a largely Christian neighborhood, my brother and I were, at first, not aware of our “difference” at Christmastime. In fact, we had a Christmas tree until I was about 8. We did everything Christian children do, including making a list for Santa. What a shock when my parents broke the news to us, and replaced our early-morning December 25th goodies with Chanukkah gelt, a menorah and just one present a night! And well, let’s just say that when we found out Santa wasn’t real, we were as upset as any kids.
Fast-forward to today, and I see nothing but shows about Santa Claus today, on Christmas Eve. I have often wondered why otherwise reasonable adults go so crazy for Santa, when we all found out (at a very early age, mind you!) that he is nothing but a myth. Yet tens of millions of children are told every year that he is not just real, but has a long white beard, a red suit, and a round belly; carries a sack full of gifts in a sleigh driven by reindeer; and lives at the North Pole with an equally red and white wife and lots of helpful elves. Both the specificity and endurance of this particular myth are amazing, and I think this year, my naturally skeptical mind is starting to understand it.
I think we want to believe Santa exists because of what he represents: the spirit of true, unfettered, undemanding generosity. The desire to give without getting anything in return except the satisfaction of knowing the recipient got exactly what he or she or they wanted most…this desire is what makes human beings rise above their own concerns and achieve heroic stature. We celebrate stories of “real” Santas every day, on YouTube, on our local news, on FaceBook and Twitter. When we see this impulse in our kids, we encourage it; sharing and collaboration are what we tell them to strive for with their siblings and friends.
Yes, Santa might just be a symbol of what we all wish we could be 365 days a year, but usually manage to achieve for only a few shining moments in that year – or perhaps, for a short period in November or December. Regardless of one’s religious affiliation (or lack thereof), I think that Santa’s spirit can speak to us all if we let it. So here’s a salute to the jolly old elf who comes down chimneys and gives generously to all the girls and boys. Let’s foster that goodness within us and let it grow and flourish whenever we can. That’s our activism for today, Widdershins.
This is an open thread. (Note: The video below has over 3 million hits on YouTube.)
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