Wednesday, December 11, 2002
(warning: spoilers ahead!)
I think by now, we all know that there is no Santa Claus. Well, at least I don't think there is. If I end up with a SHeDaisy album in my stocking, I'm going to know that I was wrong and that Santa's slightly displeased with me.
I'm not really in favor of parents pretending that he exists, either. It's easy to forgive your parents if they tell you something wrong that they thought was true, but it's a lot harder if they admit to you that they've been lying. I've known people who never forgave their parents for that lie. Besides, while your seven-year-old may be mature enough for the revelation, what happens when he tells his little brother? It's best to be up-front about the whole thing, and preferably not to even bring it up.
I bring this up because some muddy-thinking vicar in England has told children in his congregation that "Santa Claus is dead." That might normally be dismissed as just a slip, but he then went on to tell them that the reindeer would burst into flames if they had to travel as fast as would be required. Predictably, the parents are upset. However, it's their own fault. Can't you just see it now?
Mother: "Tommy, he was wrong. Santa Claus isn't dead."
Tommy: "I thought the Bible says no one could live more than 120 years."
Mother: "Well, yes, but that's different. What matters is that Santa is alive."
Tommy: "So the vicar lied to me?"
Mother: "Um...well, no, but...in a matter of speaking, I...look, Tommy, there are going to be presents under the tree this year from Santa."
three years pass
Tommy: "So, mom, Santa doesn't really exist, then. Didn't you tell me that he did?"
Mother: "Well, yes, but that was because you were young and we didn't want to spoil Christmas."
Tommy: "Didn't you guys get really mad at that vicar for telling the truth, when it was you who was lying?"
Mother: "Um...that's different. He didn't understand Christmas."
Tommy: "Isn't Christmas supposed to be a time for giving and to celebrate Jesus being born?"
Mother: "Ask your father."
Look, the minister made a mistake by telling the kids that Santa Claus is dead in the way that he did. I would also think it poor judgement to explain all the gory details of how crucifixion kills a person to kids as well. However, that doesn't mean that he's entirely in the wrong. Ideally, he would've said something like this:
"Children, do you know Santa Claus?[pause for "Yes! Yes! I do! Me too! No you don't! Yes I do!" from the tykes] Yes, that's right, the man in the red suit who give presents. Well, let me tell you a secret: Santa Claus is really Saint Nicholas, a very good man who lived many years ago. He would give presents to poor children and be nice to everyone. He died a long time ago and went to heaven and is looking down on us from up there, but do you know what we can do?["Yes! No... What? He hit me!"] We can remember him by giving to those we love and people less fortunate than us. Jesus said that we are to be nice to people, since we like it when people are nice to us...."
He could go on from there, and I doubt there would be much of an outcry from the parents. This entire situation has, as typical of the Anglican church, been very poorly handled, and I hope everyone can learn something from it.