Other information about Santa Claus
Theology. Telling children.
How Santa saved Christmas vacations.
The theology of Santa:
Santa, as taught to most children, has most of the attributes of God:
||He is virtually omnipresent. He can visit hundreds of
millions of homes in one night.
||He is omniscient. He monitors each child; he is all-seeing
and all-knowing; he knows when they are bad and good.
||Although not omnipotent, he does have great powers. He can
manufacture gifts for hundreds of millions of children, and deliver
them in one night -- each to the correct child.
||He is all-good and all-just. He judges which children
have shown good behavior and rewards them appropriately. Bad children
are bypassed or receive a lump of coal.
||He is eternal.
||He rewards good and punishes bad behavior. 1
However, there are negative aspects to Santa's behavior that can damage
a child's self-esteem:
||In practice, children are not rewarded with gifts according to their
behavior; they receive presents according to the amount of money that
their parents are willing or able to spend on them at Christmas time.
A child may receive little or nothing from Santa because his/her
parents are poor. Unfortunately, the child has probably adsorbed from
the media and their friends only bad children get nothing from
Santa. He/she might begin to look upon themselves as a bad
person. This may well damage their self esteem.
||Most children in Muslim, Jewish, Jehovah's Witnesses or some other faith traditions do not
receive gifts from Santa. But when they go to school, they see that
their Christian contemporaries have been given presents. They might
feel that they are less worthy than their friends, or that their
religion is inferior to Christianity.
Cartoon courtesy of AtheistCartoons.com. Visit their website
for other cartoons that you may or may not find hilarious
What should children be taught about Santa Claus?
A "Santa Truth Poll" on familyeducation.com
shows that, in the estimation of adults, most children stop believing in Santa Claus
between the ages of 8 and 10. 2
There are many opinions on what we should teach children about Santa
||Santa Claus is an important part of childhood: Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M.,
LCSW believes that "all children have the right to be
fascinated and enchanted by the nurturing, age-old myths and fables of
their culture. Santa Claus, and yes, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth
Fairy engage a young child's sense of wonder." He implies in
his essay that parents should originally teach their children that
Santa exists. He suggests
that when the children develop doubts about the reality of Santa, that
the parents refrain from admitting the truth. Rather, they should stand by to support their kids when his/her
"fantasies and myths grudgingly give way to more mature,
confusing realities." 3
Belief in Santa Claus is dangerous: The Rev. John Eich suggests
that teaching a child about Santa can backfire. "When a parent
says 'Yes, there really is a Santa Claus and his reindeer can fly,' he
is no longer playing a game. The parent is lending his personal
authority as a parent to the myth, giving it the ring of truth."
When the child later finds out that there is no Santa Claus, then
she/he might also doubt other parental teachings. In particular, the
child might believe that that another man is also a fake: Jesus Christ
who also is said to have miraculous powers, knows when everyone is sleeping and awake,
knows when each person is bad or good, and who brings the gift of
salvation. Moral, ethical, behavioral and other parental teachings may
be similarly suspect. 4
support Eich's assertion from my personal experience. As a young boy,
when I found out
that Santa Claus did not exist, I was initially relieved. The
universe made a lot more sense when I found out that reindeer didn't
fly, that it was quite impossible for a man to visit all of the homes
on earth on Christmas eve, etc. Unfortunately, the concept of a God
who could suspend physical laws, perform miraculous acts, be aware of
each human's thoughts and actions, etc. seemed equally improbable.
During my childhood, I had abandoned belief in the Easter Bunny, tooth
fairy, and Santa. God seemed like just one more magical figure. I
became an agnostic, and have remained so for over six decades.
Belief in Santa is useful: Gary Grassl believes that children can grasp the concept of Santa Claus much more easily
than they can comprehend God. At a young age, they can understand a
quasi-deity who can make presents, and deliver them under magical
circumstances to all of the children of the world. Santa is a type of
simplified God. Once children understand how Santa works, it is a
relatively simple step to abandon him and accept an omnipotent,
omniscient, all-loving and all-just God. 5
||Teaching about Santa as a myth: Parents can teach the
historical legends associated with St. Nicolas. They are great stories
which discuss the importance of generosity and sharing even if
they are based on events that never happened. At the same time,
parents can teach Santa Clause as
a modern secular/cultural myth. Children can still enjoy the story
without actually believing that Santa exists. Families can still
pretend that gifts arrived from Santa. Since the child has always
considered Santa to be an imaginary person, he/she will not be disillusioned
at their parents when their friends tell them that Santa does not exist.
How Santa saved Christmas vacation for federal employees:
The 1st Amendment of the U.S. constitution,
as interpreted by the
U.S. Supreme Court, requires a wall of separation between church and
state. This means that federal, state and local governments cannot establish an official
religion; they cannot impede religious expression; they cannot promote
religion as superior to secularism or vice-versa.
The United States Code, section 5 USC 6103 declares ten national,
legal, public holidays. Nine are secular; only Christmas has significant religious
content. Cincinnati attorney Richard Ganulin filed a lawsuit on
1998-AUG-4 in U.S. district court, 6 asking that the
federal government be required to not declare future DEC-25 holidays.
His goal is not to terminate Christmas; he wants Federal Employees to be
able to take DEC-25 off if they wish as an extra vacation day. He feels that "Christmas is a religious holiday and
the Congress of the United States is not constitutionally permitted to
endorse or aid any religion, purposefully or otherwise, or [promote]
entanglement between our government and religious beliefs." Judge Susan Dlott
dismissed the suit. According
to ReligionToday for 1999-DEC-8, Judge Dlott decided "that
Christmas can be observed as a federal holiday
because non-Christians also mark the holiday by celebrating the
arrival of Santa Claus. Since nonreligious people
also observe the holiday, giving federal workers a day off for
Christmas does not elevate one religion over another." Presumably, the
Federal government is now free to declare a holiday at Easter, because so
many Americans celebrate the secular Easter bunny fertility symbol. Ganulin has promised to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Santa Claus has at least temporarily saved Christmas, both for Christians and for others!
"Santa Claus," at: http://www.nuc.net/~joe/santa.htm
"Santa Truth Poll" at: http://www.familyeducation.com/
Carleton Kendrick, untitled essay re belief in Santa Claus at: http://www.familyeducation.com/experts/advice/0,1183,
John L Eich, "How does Santa Claus fit with Christmas?"
Gary Grassl, "Does Santa harm children?" at: http://www.california.com/~rpcman/santa.htm
"Ganulin files latest response in Christmas lawsuit,"
Copyright © 1999 to 2010, by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1999-DEC-24
Latest update: 2010-NOV-01
Author: B.A. Robinson