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in response to deathrockboy
cap, captain miss america
teaberryblue
okay, i'm not going to get into the meaning of christmas or the history of christmas because i will no doubt get something wrong and haruspexy will return my gifts and buy me a dancing hamster, but i do want to touch on santa claus.

i really wanted to respond to this last night when i read it, for a number of reasons. i wrote my college essays in high school about my feelings about santa claus.

i love santa. i love santa even better now that i know he's not a real person delivering toys in a magical sleigh. i could never identify with magic. he became more magical to me once i was "let in on the secret," so to speak.

as a child, there was a radio beacon outside my bedroom window. every christmas, i would go to the window to watch for santa, and i believed the light was the nose of a certain reindeer who will remain nameless.

when i was eight or nine, my parents let me in on it. kids had told me santa didn't exist before, but i believed. i had relatives who worked at the sun when the famous virginia letter was printed, and i was very proud of that fact.

after my parents told me, i still believed. my belief in santa grew stronger, if anything. because here are these people, giving gifts, without want of thanks, without identifying themselves as the givers, with no wish but to see delight upon the face of a loved one. and there is this construct that is so enormous within our world, the huge collective belief that there COULD be a person out there who would give selflessly, for no other reason than to see children happy. and yes, it's done through material items, yes, it's led to a lot of commercialization, but it's done for love. and for little kids, toys very much embody love. toys are the thing you have, that YOU take care of, the thing that you can love and protect and stand defiantly for, even if adults often see a child's protectiveness of toys as the onset of spoiled brat-dom, to a child, toys ARE the children, and children have to be protective of them.

i buy a lot of stuff at christmastme. i love buying gifts. i don't care if the people i get them for get me anything in return, because that's not what christmas is. santa doesn't get presents. santa gives presents. i wish i could buy a toy for every single kid in the world, and i think that's a lot about what christmas is about-- a wish to take care of our own, a wish to take care of the world. jesus supposedly did that, and it doesn't really matter whether you believe that. santa takes care of us, too, albeit with material goods, and maybe things we don't really need. but sometimes we need things we don't need. i worked for a group called film aid for a while, they bring first- and second- run movies to refugee camps and show them on the big screen. we got a lot of shit from people who would tell us we should be working on getting them food, clothes, medicines. but i think things you don't need-- toys, presents, movies-- are often the things that most make a person feel like a person, and make a person feel like people care about them, and love them. even if the love is coming from someone you don't know-- a volunteer sitting in an office arranging a projection of a movie, or maybe a man in a red suit.


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I guess this is just me being a geek, but what else is new.

I think it's interesting to look at the Santa phenomenon from an anthropological perspective. It's something that's developed in so many cultures all around the world, the idea of giving gifts from lord to servant, parent to child, host to visitor, and I think that the fact that the person in power DOESN'T expect something back really says something about the human condition.

I mean, when people groan about the secularization of Christmas, that's really what it comes down to. That's what people have seized upon, even if they don't necessarily believe in the particular beliefs we're told are associated with this holiday or might not necessary follow all the practices. Giving gifts, not expecting anything in return. That's what happens in winter -- I'd be curious to see if there are any non-winter holidays that utilize the same practice. But you give for the sake of giving, and you don't expect anything back.

I think that might explain why our current culture has created such a myth around Santa Claus. I mean, for people today, it's /not/ okay to be selfless. Stupid people are selfless. You shouldn't give things away, you should look out for yourself and your own first (which I guess is an instinctive reaction because it preserves the family group, but we don't need to get into that). But having a construction like Santa or the spirit of Christmas means we have an excuse to be unselfish, to give things away without expecting something in return, and that, nowadays, is what Christmas is about.

We don't need to sacrifice a wren so the sun will return. We don't need to pray for our deceased lord to know that spring will come again. But sometimes it's nice to have an excuse in the darkest hours of winter to do something nice for other people, because that's just the way that human beings are.

ahh now i have to extrapolate.

epiphany was the central celebration in very early christianity was because it's three kings day-- the day that three men who didn't know jesus brought a lowly son of a carrpenter the gifts associated with kingship.

in italy, the story goes that the kinds invited a woman named old befana, a poor countrywoman, to travel with them to bring the christ child a gift. but old befana was too busy sweeping-- doing a menial task that the town expected of her-- to go with the kings to bring a selfless gift to an unknown child.

but as soon as they left, she regretted it and wished to go with them. so she started on her journey, but she did not know how to find the child they sought. so, instead of trying to find a single infant, she went from house to house, around the world, giving a gift to every child she came across.

there are a few variants on the story, one where the star of bethlehem (compare to rudolph) fades before she can find christ, and so on, and i know every family tells it differently, because old befana kind of got lost in the US, but my family does it, and we find gifts by the nativity set when we come down on three kings day, and we move the three kings into the stable to give their gifts to baby jesus.

I really need to talk to Tuck and see if he'll let me write my thesis on folklore.

i guess i'm just a cynical fuckhole, really.

the modern incarnation of santa was created to sell more coca-cola. i mean, this alone states my true problem with it all. i'm sure at some point, it all really meant something, and it was really a special time of year, but in modern times all of that myth and legend is used to sell mass consumerism as a GREAT THING, and that just sort of makes me a bit sick to my stomach.

and i guess the magic inside has just died due to this new way of thinking about it. it really hurts deep in me somewhere, because i want to believe in the magic of it all... but then i remember that all of those dreams and fuzzy feelings we're merely constructs and in the end, flat out lies.

i guess in the end, my entire feeling on the subject is that of betrayal. betrayal from the spirit of the season used for profit margins, and a bit of contempt for the fact that none of it is real.

the way i see it, normal people just want to love and give to each other. it doesn't cheapen their love if they buy things to do that. and the people selling things are doing it so they can make money so they can have things or buy things for people they love, too. they're doing it so they can end the year in the black and get their christmas bonuses so santa can come to their kids. and yeah, santa is going to bring some of those kids much bigger things that other kids.

the first christmas was a time when kings (the oldschool equivalent of guys using those profit margins) brought fabulous gifts to a boy they didn't know. yes, they were probably abusing the system and people's good faith or whatever to get the money with which to bestow those gifts, but they did it. even if it's just a story, and they didn't REALLY do it, the story is 2000 years old. i don't think anyone's corrupting something old and ruining an age-old spirit. it's intrinsic to the holiday.

Wait, Santa Claus isn't real?!? What???

No, okay, I really do agree with you on a lot of this. The idea of Santa is a really interesting one, as well as an overcommercialized one. I've also been thinking a lot lately about "non-religious Christmas," so to speak.

I feel that the stuff that follows might make people feel bad or something, and I'm not sure why I feel that way, but really there's no attacks intended at ALL because I agree with peoples' points. Also, this message is really hypocritical.


I don't know. I don't like buying people presents because they don't tend to like my presents. I'm not very good at picking out presents. Like, I like making people happy and giving them things that make them happy, but I'd kind of rather that there were less material emphasis on holidays. I understand it's the thought that counts, etc., but to some degree material things are so ingrained into our culture and our perception of "holiday spirit" revolves so much around gifts that it's hard to break that trend even if you want to. So I mean, I don't know if this makes sense or not, but I kind of wish that people didn't give so many presents during the holidays, or at least gave presents that are more about the individuals' relationship or whatever than about how expensive or modern or whatever it is.

I don't mean to chastise anyone or anything and I'm not trying to attack any one person in particular. And I still do enjoy giving/receiving very shallow presents, so to speak. I just think that I like it a little better when the person tries to buy me something I'd like that when they buy me something really expensive. I know they're giving up their money for me and everything and of course they are putting effort into it and probably think I'd like it and they are definitely trying. But, I don't know. In some instances I'd like quality time or whatever more than a boom box or whatever.

Also, this is REALLY hypocritical, since what I don't like people doing is what I do all the way, completely.


I don't think you've said anything that bad, Des. I hate when people buy superficial presents for people too. I just spend a lot of money on my friends because every time I see something that I think would be a meaningful gift or something I know they'd like, I end up buying it because I love seeing the look on people's faces or hearing their response to gifts. I LOVE watching people open presents, especially if they're from me. Sara and Jess can probably both tell you how utterly silly I've been about buying presents for the other one this year-- a lot of the things I've bought them are really stupid, cheap little presents to most people, but they're all things that I think are meaningful because of things I know they like or inside jokes or whatever. I could have pooled the money I spent on each of them and bought them each some fancy schmancy present, but I think they'll like this better. And to me, the time spent opening presents is quality time. You get to sit together and see people's faces and just be happy to be together and see what different kinds of cool stuff people get each other.

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