While the original Saint Nicholas provided us with an inspiring role-model by giving much-needed gifts to the poor, Santa teaches us nothing. In fact, despite his annual, hectic gift delivery, he takes away more than he gives.
Instead of “Mummy and Daddy gave you this because we love you,” parents the world over must tell their little darlings a weird lie: “A strange bearded man climbed down the chimney and gave you this. It was nothing to do with us.”
It’s not surprising that many young children are terrified of Santa. How can we teach children a consistent message about not accepting sweets from strangers or getting into strange cars when we endorse an old man entering their bedroom at night by the most suspicious method possible in order to give them some presents?
At least the widespread Tooth Fairy conspiracy has a purpose – to provide some compensation for a lost tooth and to distract from any pain or discomfort. Just don’t ask what the Tooth Fairy does with all those teeth she buys. That will just creep you out.
Most fairy stories have some moral purpose, even if it’s a twisted one driven by revenge lust and primitive notions of justice. But Santa? I have to say it. Not only does he have appalling taste in clothes and a worryingly backward approach to employment law (“Work harder elves, or I’ll cut your pay! What’s that? You don’t get paid?), but he has no moral purpose.
We could have given our children a fine example of giving gifts to others. Instead we tell them lies. We persuade them that magic is real. We freak them out and confuse them about child abuse. We teach them that Christmas is all about getting gifts, not giving. And we outsource moral responsibility to a make-believe old fart.
Did I miss the point? Or am I just taking it all far too seriously, as usual?
Pass me a mince pie and a glass of whisky. Oh yes, and a carrot for Rudolf, too.