How Do You Treat the Santa Discussion?

Note: Windows Live Writer crashed, and I'm using TypePad's WYSIWYG client. This post published yesterday when I tried to save it as a draft, so if you saw this in an RSS reader in it's unfinished state, that's why.

Note2: Merry Christmas!

Growing up, my mom was adamant though that we understand that "Santa is pretend." You would be surprised at the trouble that got us into. My dad was career Air Force. When I was about 5, he brought me to work with him. He was an E-5 at the time. His E-7 started asking me about Santa Claus. I responded as my mom taught me "Santa is pretend." This (I must use strong language) SON OF A BITCH started yelling at me and demanding that I for whatever reason believe Santa is real. This exchange brought me to tears as I had no idea at the time what I could have done to make this SON OF A BITCH angry with me. I have no idea what his problem was. What kind of low-life SON OF A BITCH makes a 5 year old boy cry over SANTA CLAUS? I imagine a person like that lives in a trailer park and spends his military retirement pay on lottery tickets and cheap beer (I think far less of lottery tickets than I do trailer parks and cheap beer. I can see a use in life for trailer parks and cheap beer). Even more disturbing was my dad's lack of a reaction, although to this day my dad remains impressed at how I stood my ground against his idiot supervisor. I realize that in the late 70's, E-5's didn't start chewing out their superior non-comms, even if they were idiots. I still can't see myself putting up with that kind of crap if somebody tried that with my boys. I don't think I'd stand for it even if that person had the ability to ruin my career unchecked like the E-7's my dad always seemed to work under. When I was an E-5 in the Navy, I let loose on E-7's over lesser stupidity than that, but I guess things changed a little in my generation. I grew up watching my dad come home frustrated at the stupidity that he worked around, but without the courage to speak up about it. I guess in his generation, you just didn't tell your boss when you disagreed; you saved up your frustrations until you got home and shared them with your family in various non-constructive ways. I decided I wasn't going to live like that. 

In any case, my wife wasn't thrilled with the concept at first. She insisted we treat Santa as "real". I asked what the point was? We know that the current figure is a combination or other fictional figures originally based on the very real Nicholas, Bishop of Myra in the 4th century. The current Santa has the attributes of the original Nicholas with the addition of an obese figure, beard, and red and white suit (which came from a Coca-Cola marketing campaign, of all things) and of course a limitless shop and flying reindeer and the ability to somehow bend or manipulate space/time. Notably absent is the Christianity that was evident in the life of Nicholas.

I don't ever remember not knowing that the whole Santa thing was made-up, but except for the brief experience with my dad's idiot supervisor above, I still had fun with the concept. It didn't bother me. I still had hopes of catching Santa leaving presents. I still had presents that were from "Santa". I sat on Santa's lap at the Base Exchange and asked for things that I knew my parents could never afford. I don't ever remember not having fun with this as a child. I watched all the cartoons and claymation movies and enjoyed them. I remember, especially when we lived in Germany, watching how on Christmas Eve, anti-Ballistic Missile RADARs were diverted from their normal mission to watch for Santa's sleigh, at least as long as AFRTS (Armed Forces Radio and Television Services, pronounced "A Farts") had a news camera around. Actually, thanks to the Internet, ICBM sites can remain on task protecting us today.

By this point in life, I'm too much of a geek to do more than have fun with the concept, and have fun I do. Before I go farther, when I think of Santa, the following ideas go through my mind:

  • Who finances Santa? Where does he get his money from?
  • Where does Santa get his raw materials from? How is his waste handled?
  • I don't think the elves are unionized. Somehow I think that would ruin Christmas.
  • When the reindeer need to eliminate during flight, how does Santa keep from getting hit in the face?
  • Why can't Santa seem to fly straight? In all the cartoons and movies, he flies like he's trying to avoid a SAM (Surface to Air Missile). Does he drink and fly, or is this really the answer to my previous question?

I am reminded of King Agrippa telling the Apostle Paul "Your much learning has driven you mad."

I've known people who were genuinely upset when they realized that
their children had known for years (we're talking like 7 and 8 year
olds) that the whole Santa thing was bunk. I also wonder how people who insist on treating Santa as some kind of theological truth reconcile telling their children "Santa will bring you your presents" with "We have to run to a crowded mall with a packed parking lot and run up thousands of dollars in credit card debt to buy presents." 

I'm willing to admit that some personal pride comes into play. When people, even famliy members who should know better, ask my kids "What did Santa bring you for Christmas?" I want to reply "Well, their daddy works really hard and had to face a lot of traffic and crowded stores to get them (insert list here)."

I did some thinking about Christmas memories from my past. One that stands out happened when I was about 8. We lived in base housing at Vogelweh, Germany. It's pronounced Fogelveh. Don't ask. It's outside Kaiserslautern, about 15 minutes from Ramstein Air Base. One year the other families in the building decided to have a Christmas party. Apartment buildings in base housing weren't exactly built with meeting rooms in mind, so we met in the laundry room. All the kids were brought in there waiting for Santa. When Santa came in, I recognized him as the man who lived across the stairwell from us, and my mouth kicked into high gear with no thought whatsover to the potential embarrasment it might cause. I shouted out very loudly "Hey, Santa's not black!" I liked the guy and his family a lot. My mouth just doesn't always ask permission before it starts running. The party was great, and I got a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book out of "Santa's" bag. I was really into those about that point in my life.

I guess I should close on that point. I'm only going downhill. Have a Merry Christmas, or a wonderful paid day off, or a great generic and unspecified holiday, or even a cultural observance, whichever you prefer!

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