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Dec 24 2012

Santa and God have much in common

Kevin Smith (of CFI-Canada) contributes to an Ask the Experts piece on Should parents allow children to believe in Santa Claus?

It’s a short stretch of a child’s imagination to blur the legends of Santa and the Christian god. They have much in common.

That’s why allowing for a belief in the magic of Santa Claus is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give their little ones at Christmas. While it may seem irrational to perpetuate a myth about a jolly old man who slides down chimneys delivering gifts, it encourages a child’s development in critical thinking.

Unless the adults block it!

Well I suppose I didn’t go on believing in Santa Claus until I was 17 or anything. But the blocking still annoyed me. It seemed like breaking an implied agreement – you don’t lie to the child when the child asks a serious question.

It’s funny in a way though, because I can’t for the life of me remember ever really believing in god. I remember tv shows from early childhood, but not early childhood mental pictures of god. Maybe tv got in the way of god – which is why idolatry is supposed to be a bad thing, isn’t it: the image or statue gets between you and the…fantasy.

Santa Claus awakened my skeptical mind. After the age of eight, I began to question how it was possible for a sleigh to carry so many presents, and why did he use the same wrapping paper as my parents?

The gift of Santa comes with a due-date. It promotes a critical assessment of the world; teaching us to seek evidence rather than accepting something on faith. Why this doesn’t extend to other supernatural super-heroes is beyond my belief.

Exactly. I argued in the other direction – I was in the back seat of the car on summer vacation, age about 5 or 6. Santa Claus is real, I told myself sagely, so maybe god could be real. You see where that would have led in a few years.

7 comments

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  1. 1
    Nathair

    it encourages a child’s development in critical thinking.

    Turns out to be a very short step from rational to rationalize, eh?

    The hypothesis is this; Lying to kids about Santa teaches them critical thinking. Here’s an idea, why don’t we spend a generation or two lying to almost all the kids in North America about Santa and see how effective that is at promoting universal critical thinking skills! Hey, wait a minute…

  2. 2
    leebrimmicombe-wood

    I agree that the revelation probably doesn’t do anything other than piss the kids off and initiate them into a grand conspiracy against the next generation of tinies.

    I confess, at this point, to moral cowardice. Under peer pressure I have been perpetuating the Santa myth with my kid. So that yesterday here in Sweden, where they do Xmas on the 24th, we even had a slightly beery ‘Tomten’ come around after lunch and hand out prezzies which made the kids literally jump for joy. I think I’ll hold off disappointing him for a year or two yet.

  3. 3
    Tim Harris

    Satan Claws… I wonder why no fundie has noticed: they seem to pay attention to 666 etc.

  4. 4
    Argle Bargle

    why did he use the same wrapping paper as my parents?

    Santa Claus makes a pre-Christmas visit to households to give things like wrapping paper and the bow that Aunt Juliet used on her present to you last year.

  5. 5
    colluvial

    I can certainly appreciate the potential for a developing brain to compare the two mythologies. As a young child, in the build-up to Christmas one year, I remember asking my mother who was more powerful, Santa Claus or God. While those with a certain tendency may drop both mythologies like I did, the God one seems less specific and more likely to escape the scrutiny of critical thinking. Santa falls because the specific claims about his activities can be examined. God, on the other hand, vanishes into the woodwork like a cockroach when the light is turned on. A large and diverse priesthood, whose livelihoods depend on it, work tirelessly to make sure that God has enough gaps to hide in.

  6. 6
    markmanning

    Thanks to you all- for the post and the comments.

    Sitting here and enduring for the sixth time the continued indoctrination of the Santa myth into my beautiful grandchild’s beautiful mind, I am again torn. Obviously the tearing is in my soul and is kept silently within for the sheer need to prevent my alienation from the family, thereby losing my future great times with said grandchild.

    Many times I have written about my own clash with Santa and the debilitating disappointment felt at the age of seven, and always I have agreed with the comments about the illogic (and dastardly practice) of lying to our young. And though all of you make good points here, this is the first time some little spark of encouragement has settled upon me – the thought that this whole Santa misery will be eventually aborted in my grandson’s capable mind and may even cause the rejection of god concepts along with it. And if I am allowed to be an ongoing part of his development, my cautious answers to the queries he is bound to direct toward his Papaw over the coming years should assist his freethought capacity.

  7. 7
    mildlymagnificent

    the thought that this whole Santa misery will be eventually aborted in my grandson’s capable mind and may even cause the rejection of god concepts along with it.

    The way to ease this transition is to invite the littlies of the family to ‘play’ or to ‘pretend’ being Santa or elves when handing out gifts or cards to others while they are still little, preschoolers themselves. So, just like other such activities, as little ones grow they see the transition as one of becoming a grown-up who is generous and thoughtful to little children. Another I’m a big kid now moment. They move to the other, adult, side of the magical mirror.

    I think we underestimate how much of ordinary life is magical, near-impenetrable, mystery to very small children. Electricity? How does that happen? Even when you tell “the truth” you’re talking about invisible people (who you’ll most likely never ever see for yourself) doing various peculiar things in a remote, invisible, location that you may never ever see. A lot like a mythical figure at a North Pole really.

    The one thing I object to in the Father Xmas stuff is the ‘better watch out’ someone’s keeping count of you being naughty or nice stuff, much like god is said to do. I see this constant threatening of children with rewards and punishments coming out of nowhere as both pernicious in itself and an opportunity for malice. Father Xmas was never that kind of figure in our household. He was just a jolly, kind and generous figure who loved little children just as they are. An imaginary ideal parent figure (- who had the good fortune never to be around when they were driving their flesh and blood parents to distraction).

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