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Other information about Santa Claus

Theology. Telling children.
How Santa saved Christmas vacations.

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Sponsored link.


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The theology of Santa:

Santa, as taught to most children, has most of the attributes of God:

bulletHe is virtually omnipresent. He can visit hundreds of millions of homes in one night. 
bulletHe is omniscient. He monitors each child; he is all-seeing and all-knowing; he knows when they are bad and good.
bulletAlthough 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.
bulletHe 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.
bulletHe is eternal.
bulletHe rewards good and punishes bad behavior. 1

However, there are negative aspects to Santa's behavior that can damage a child's self-esteem:

bulletIn 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.
bulletMost 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.

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cartoon about Santa

Cartoon courtesy of AtheistCartoons.com. Visit their website
for other cartoons that you may or may not find hilarious

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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 Claus:

bulletSanta 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

bullet

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

Author's note:

I can 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.

bullet 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

bulletTeaching 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.

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Sponsored link:

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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!

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References:

  1. "Santa Claus," at: http://www.nuc.net/~joe/santa.htm
  2. "Santa Truth Poll" at: http://www.familyeducation.com/  
  3. Carleton Kendrick, untitled essay re belief in Santa Claus at: http://www.familyeducation.com/experts/advice/0,1183, 
  4. John L Eich, "How does Santa Claus fit with Christmas?" at: http://www.wels.net/sab/nl/x-santa.html 
  5. Gary Grassl, "Does Santa harm children?" at: http://www.california.com/~rpcman/santa.htm 
  6. "Ganulin files latest  response in Christmas lawsuit," at: http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/ganul2.htm 

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Site navigation: Home page > Christianity > Personalities > Santa > here

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Copyright 1999 to 2010, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 1999-DEC-24
Latest update: 2010-NOV-01
Author: B.A. Robinson

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