I struggle through Christmas every year. I’ve begun to realize that part of my problem lies in the concept of Santa.
I know this post will not be politically correct. I know many will not understand. I have no logical reason to dislike or distrust Santa. But then logic has very little to do with emotion, very little to do with the deep seated impressions placed within us at a very early age.
My mother said very little about Santa. What I learned was from others. By the time I was four or five, I prayed there was no Santa. Because these were his attributes:
1. Santa lived at the North Pole. I thought this was a house that looked like a barber pole that was located on top of the planet. From this viewpoint, he could see and hear everything. Elves were kept to keep score on what everyone did. No one ever told me if his minions were paid, or what conditions they lived in. But they were watching. Me. Everyone.
2. I couldn’t understand how they would be able to determine the desires of your inner heart. Why you did what you did. For instance: My father didn’t like to play games because he hated to lose. (Monopoly was banned at our house from the time I was seven. My mom and I would play in secret.) Because he hated to lose, I created ingenious ways to lose at tic-tac-toe or I Spy With My Eye, so he’d be happy. I thought that perhaps Santa might perceive this as a lie. Did that make me bad?
3. Santa dressed in a red suit, trimmed with white fur. Were rabbits and ermines sacrificed on an altar to Christmas, so that he would have fur trimmed clothing? I was horrified. Is that what he ate for Christmas dinner?
4. Someone in the family read to me stories of things Santa would leave for ‘bad’ children. Bags of coal, switches, broken toys. My over-active imagination drove me crazy picturing what would happen if I opened a brightly colored package and found any of those things. Would I immediately be beaten with the switches on Christmas morning, or would I be beaten severely throughout the year? Would Santa be present with his list of accusations?
5. I once saw a clown dressed as Santa. Thereby combining two fears into one. There is a phobia of Santa. You guessed it, ‘Santaphobia.’ It never goes away, it just gets reintroduced each year.
6. The thought of a stranger who knows everything about me entering my home while I slept was creepy beyond what my five year old mind could comprehend. Could Mom and Dad protect me from this egomaniac who claimed to decipher right from wrong? What if his concept of right differed from mine? What if he went crazy and ran amok?
7. The most damaging aspect of all this, is one I struggle with even now as I approach my 61st Christmas. What differences are there between our concept of Santa and our concept of God?
And so, the Christmas music is pumped into my brain through the speakers strategically placed throughout the Mall. Over this, can be heard the jingling of bells, Santa’s loud laughter and children crying. Our Capitalist society encourages me to drop my money into the cash register as I leave with my meager purchases. These I will wrap carefully, writing names on colorful labels. The ribbon will “zipp!” as I run the scissors blade along the edge, creating curly threads of red, green, gold and blue, decorating the packages. Will there be joy or disappointment in their eyes as they behold my small offering of love? Will the love connected to the gift seem too overwhelming, inconvenient or inappropriate?
Perhaps I’m over-thinking.
I tried for a short time to view Santa differently when my own son was four. We stood in line at the Mall for a picture all parents prize. I felt I should at least have one. Call it a Rite of Passage, for myself as well as for my son. It was the last time. We were both in tears as we left. My son was terrified as Santa shouted “Ho, Ho, Ho!” over his head, and the elf shot the picture. Terrified. I’ve never cherished the picture. A moment of trying to instill the tradition and wonder of Christmas gone horribly wrong.
Why? Isn’t there another way to survive this holiday? Isn’t there another way to connect to this large man dressed in red with white fur trim?
Santaphobia. Just keep him away from me.