santa claus

Why Santa Is the Worst

Hey, kids! I'm that saint you like!  (Russian icon from first quarter of 18th century. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.)

Hey, kids! I’m that saint you like!
(Russian icon from first quarter of 18th century. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.)

Santa is a damnable and damaging lie. There, I said it.¬†And I go about my business all like, “Well OF COURSE Andy and I are in total agreement that we shouldn’t lie to our child about a magic man who sees him when he’s sleeping, judges his inherent goodness, and then deems him to be more worthy of merit-based toys than poor kids, thereby conditioning him to believe that poor people deserve to be poor and that it’s totally appropriate to subject yourself to round-the-clock surveillance in exchange for material goods.” But then I’m reminded that Andy and I are hippies, because even when I tell my most godless pinko friends that we’re not going to encourage Charlie to believe in Santa, the reaction has never yet been, “That’s appropriate. We do the same with little Johnny.” There’s been some mild shock or disgust, but it’s generally more of “I’m confused and sad for all of you, and question your fitness as a parent.”

Let the record show that Andy & I both fucking love Christmas. It’s merry as all get out, and there’s little I enjoy more than sentimental tradition. And we’ll talk about Santa, with the main data points being:

January 3, 1863 cover of Harper's Weekly, illustrated by Thomas Nast. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

January 3, 1863 cover of Harper’s Weekly, illustrated by Thomas Nast. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

– Saint Nicholas was a 3rd century Greek dude living in what’s now southern Turkey. Our best historical records indicate that he was punk rock.
– Thomas Nast popularized the modern American image of Santa Claus during the Civil War with his illustrations for Harper’s Weekly.
Coca-Cola sealed the deal in the 1920s by FINALLY getting us to associate Santa with buying stuff.
– We put out cookies & spiked egg nog for Santa on Christmas Eve because it’s a fun tradition and mommy likes spiked egg nog. We should put out some vegetables for the reindeer too, because reindeer are adorable. (Also, incidentally, delicious. This is what you learn if you order the venison at a Norwegian restaurant.)
– The gifts are from people who love you and put thought and effort into what might make you happy
– Don’t tell the other kids. They’ll learn in their own time, and they may feel sad or betrayed when they learn the truth. You don’t want to be the instigator of anyone’s sadness if you can help it.

While I was upset to learn that Santa wasn’t real, it was nothing compared to witnessing my little brother learn the whole thing was a sham. I can’t remember how old we were; I’d put him at about first grade and me in fourth grade. We got to my grandma’s house, and Ryan got really quiet, and then a little teary. When my parents were able to get him to say what was wrong, he said that when he visited Santa, he’d asked for a puppy. He hadn’t told anyone else that he was so badly hoping for one, trusting that Santa would take care of it if he’d been good. And my brother, in my recollection, was always kind and considerate. So as he was crying, trying to figure out if he was not good enough or if something else had gone wrong, my parents took him down to my grandma’s room and had The Talk with him. I don’t remember him saying anything afterwords, but I felt terrible about letting him believe the lie after I’d learned the truth. But I was so sad when I learned myself that I didn’t want to spread the sadness to him.

We’re both fine, BTW, and know that it was a lie conceived in the spirit of holiday fun. And it was a different time. The only reason you would have discouraged your kids from believing in Santa is if it was disallowed by your cult. But 30ish years later, income inequality in the U.S. is A Thing, we seem to have a bit of a surveillance state in the works, and critical thinking skills are not valued by adults the way I’d like them to be. As such, Santa’s time is up. And I’m not going to pay $45 to get a picture of my son as he’s compelled to sit in an elderly mall-worker’s lap.

Though, I heard that there are real reindeer if you go to the Santa at Arundel Mills. I would probably pay $45 for that picture. Reindeer are magical.