Why I Don’t Like Santa
This may shock some of you, but I don’t like Santa Claus. I have never liked Santa Claus, and never believed in him, even as a wee little child. I’ve never written a letter to Santa, and never sat on Santa’s lap. The whole idea of Santa is distasteful to me, and always has been.
In theory, Santa is a wonderful idea. A jolly, generous man who travels around each Christmas giving presents to children. I’m not even opposed to the part about having to be good to get a present. I’ve been a good girl, and that’s why there’s an orange in my stocking – fine.
What I have never liked is the claim that Santa visits every child in the world and gives them whatever their heart desires. Ever since I was a tiny child, this claim has struck me as obviously spurious. Not because of the physical impossibility of it so much – when you’re little, you don’t make much of a distinction between the magic of fairy godmothers and the magic of microwave ovens. For all I knew, it was perfectly possible to visit every house in the world and give a gift to every single good child. The problem was that I knew it didn’t happen.
For one thing, plenty of children in the world don’t celebrate Christmas. Obviously they’re not getting a present. Is this because Santa Claus doesn’t care about little heathens, no matter how good they’ve been? Or is it an attempt to convince them all to celebrate Christmas, a sort of marketing ploy to sell Christianity? You see how the whole goodwill toward men thing falls down?
Even for those kids who do celebrate Christmas, Santa mythology makes extravagant claims that simply don’t stand up to scrutiny. Whose idea was it to have children go to a department store, sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what they want for Christmas, and then expect to get what they asked for? The department stores’ idea, obviously. But what a recipe for heartbreak that is. How many kids even have some gift in mind that they want for Christmas, and what are the chances that they’re going to get it? 50 percent? 25 percent? Should we teach our kids to think up some toy or something that they simply must have and demand it like that?
And what about the fact that rich kids get a lot more from Santa than poor kids do? What kind of a monster is he, anyway?
My mother tried to take me to see Santa when I was very small – 4 years old, I think. I refused to do it, threw a fit (which wasn’t like me – honest). Santa creeped me out. The tenseness of the parents taking their kids to see him creeped me out. There was something fishy about the whole story.
The very worst piece of Santa mythology is The Miracle on 34th Street. I don’t mean that this is a bad movie – it’s a charming movie, and has some lovely quiet beauty to it. But from the first time I saw it, I thought – How could they raise children’s hopes with a movie like that? If you haven’t seen it, it’s about a little girl who learns to believe in Santa when he gives her what she really wants for Christmas. What does she want? A beautiful house in the suburbs with a swing in the back yard and a happy, harmonious family. That’s all.
Santa is cruel. Santa stories are a reminder that some kids get what they want, and some don’t, whether or not they’ve been good or bad.
I hasten to add that not believing in Santa Claus in no way ruined the magic of Christmas for me. I woke up on Christmas morning thrilled to find our living room transformed into a scene of sparkling abundance, all made possible by my mother staying up till all hours arranging it. There’s plenty of magic in that.