Oh, mah freenz – eet eez so cold today! (Why does the temperature make me want to talk in a fake French accent? I don’t understand myself sometimes.)
So yesterday little Temple (the 4 year old I live with) pinned me down with her china blue eyes and asked me point blank, “Bernadette, do you believe in Santa Claus?” Oh, I have been trying to dodge this question! Cuz, really I don’t. I never have. My parents didn’t believe in Santa Claus, and they never tried to tell us that there was any such thing. To this day my Christmas presents from my family come with a gift tag that says “From Baby Jesus.” (I have always known, however, that Baby Jesus was working through my parents.) I have a firm belief in St. Nicholas, the good bishop of Myra, whom I believe will pray for me any time I ask, but I have no illusions that he really has much to do with the guy in a red suit that Temple thinks brings her presents on Christmas morning.
There have been points in my life where I’ve looked a little wistfully at the whole Santa Claus thing. One of my favorite Christmas movies is Miracle on 34th Street. However, in the last few years I’ve realized that beyond not believing in Santa, I don’t really like Santa. Or rather, I don’t like the way he’s used in our society to celebrate a Christian holiday without ever referencing it’s underlying religious significance. Kitschy statues of Santa kneeling to the Infant Jesus aside, the way our culture celebrates Christmas revolves around the Christmas tree and the guy in the red suit. If we’re lucky there might be a tiny manger scene half hidden at the bottom of the tree, but that’s getting more and more rare. And that’s just wrong.
So, no, I don’t believe in Santa Claus, and I don’t like supporting him either. To my mind those who push some sort of Santa as an incarnation of “the spirit of giving” are copping out. The only Incarnation I’m interested in at Christmas is the one where my Lord and God took on human flesh to redeem me from my sins. I’d much rather celebrate the real meaning of Christmas without mentioning Santa than anything like the fake, atheistic version of the feast pushed on us by our commercial culture. However, I’m not going to burst Temple’s bubble. If her mother wants her to believe in Santa, I’m not going to get in the way of that. But I’m not going to lie to her either. Maybe when she’s about ten years older I’ll tell her the whole truth. For now, however, all she has to know is “that’s just the way I am.”