Monday, December 28, 2009
Christmas and Fantasy
'Tis the season to consider what we as Christians feel about Santa Claus.
Now, I know this isn't exactly a classic fantasy discussion here, but it does bear examination. I myself have held a varying opinion on the topic in my lifetime, due mostly to a re-examination of the condition of my soul and how that colors my opinion about Santa.
When my firstborn was very little, we were vehement that we weren't going to perpetuate a "lie" to our children, only to have to tell them that we had been pulling the wool over their eyes, building up the false hope that Santa Claus did indeed show up and leave presents every Christmas eve. As the years have passed and subsequent children have arrived in our family, we've stepped back from that position to a degree, mostly because I felt like it smacked of legalism. Granted, we've never actually said anything about Santa Claus coming to our house, and the kids know full well that mom and dad shop for Christmas presents. We talk about the real Saint Nicholas and other historic figures that inspire the idea of Santa Claus.
And yet, somehow the magic of Christmas has still had its way. My boys still wonder if Santa is real. They look at the red suited man in the mall and ask me if he's the real deal. Me, I just shrug and say, "What do you think?" While I'm not using Santa as the nebulous threat or motivator that I know some parents laugh at themselves for doing, I'm also not squashing the little ones' imaginations on it either.
This all brings me to the point I'm trying to make. Where does imagination begin to supplant faith? Can Santa and Jesus inhabit the same holiday without an appearance of hypocrisy?
I heard a speaker recently on just a snippet of the radio program Family Life Today, and on that show they talked about how the story of Santa Claus points to the giving love, the living out of the Christian life that Saint Nicholas and subsequently, Santa Claus can represent. As long as we frame Santa Claus in the bindings of Christ's love, and how giving is an act of love, I think we can leave some room for some fun and imagination.
However, should the pretty boxes under the tree begin to supplant the most important Gift of Christmas (which it is easy to have that happen) much is suddenly lost. Joy becomes replaced with the much more nebulous "happiness." (Think of the root of that word, and how it shares meaning with "mishap" or "happenstance.") Agape, giving love gets pushed out of its seat by materialism. These are the issues of Christmas I want to avoid, and I've come to the conclusion that Santa isn't at the heart of them.
So, readers, tell me: What do you think about Santa Claus? Does he have any place in a Christian observance of Christmas?