Before the hate mail begins, please hear me out. There has been some confusion regarding my Luke 2 post last week (here), and I want to clarify. If you thought I wanted to "kill Santa", then either I missed the mark, or you missed the point.
I am Pro-Santa. My EC and I have been dragging our kids to the mall for 24 years to see the jolly old elf, and get a photo. Santa visits our house every year. He leaves wonderful presents. He eats the cookies and drinks the milk we leave for him. One year he even left a roll of wrapping paper on the roof where the kids just "happened" to see it.
Santa is awesome.
My complaint? I do not like the current efforts to use Santa as a metaphor for Christ in books, paintings and figurines. I also don't like the image of Santa praying at the manger. Why? Stick with me, and I'll try and explain it.
We live in a world where very loud voices tell us that there is no Christ, and that he is only a mythical figure created by man. (Think Korihor - Alma 30). I know that these voices are wrong, that there is a God, that there is a Christ. Personally, I don't like using a mythical person (Santa) to represent a real person (Jesus). I don't like the mash-up of myth and reality. My concern is that blending myth and reality dilutes and distorts the reality. Eventually the myth will be exposed - will it diminish the reality when that happens?
I am more for letting the reality and myth co-exist for the holiday season. Independently. I also don't think that we have to find a religious parallel to justify every single Christmas tradition. I have heard stories about how candy canes, Christmas trees, yule logs, bells, poinsettias, pumpkin log etc. all represent some religious aspect of Christmas. (OK, I made up the pumpkin log thing) I think Santa can be a fun tradition without straining to find symbolism with Christ. Mostly because I know that the symbolism has all been conjured up after the fact. The tradition of Santa doesn't stem from symbolism of Christ - never has - either anciently or when Clement Clark Moore wrote "A Visit From St. Nicholas."
Yes, Santa exemplifies the spirit of giving. But comparing his red suit to the Savior's robes? Please.
I prefer leaving Santa in the realm of fantasy, like Spiderman, Transformers, and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Magical powers, kind and caring, helping people. They can all display Christlike attributes without directly being compared to Christ. Thankfully, you don't see books about Spiderman stopping by the temple at Lincoln Center for a quick session before he goes off to fight crime.
It seems to me that some people feel the need to "deify" Santa, and fabricate Christlike comparisons in order to justify participating in a commercialized tradition, and to ease a conscience that says "you are lying to your kids!" Personally, I don't sweat that part of it, but some people do. I see it as the whitest of all white lies. Does it damage the kids? Apparently scientists have been looking into this for over 100 years. Here is some research from a few years back: http://www.sciencedaily.com.
The scientists conclude with a fascinating rhetorical question that I think comes into play:
"If children attribute the same supernatural powers to Santa as they do to God, why do they stop believing in Santa, but continue their belief in God?"
To me the obvious answer to their question is that one is real, the other myth, and the kids are able to tell them apart. Let's not make that harder for them.
One is God, the creator of our universe and Savior of mankind. The other is a mythical elf with word of wisdom issues. Please don't confuse the two. Jesus deserves better.
Now let the hate mail begin.