I started this post during Advent, set it aside until a February revision, and I’m finally posting it now. Maybe we can discuss this without the emotion of the season.
We don’t “do” Santa. Calah of “Barefoot and Pregnant” has a lovely post up at Ignitum that could almost convince me otherwise, but our family is where we are, with no plans to shift.
Perhaps I don’t share Calah’s and G.K. Chesterton’s optimism about the good sense of the average person in equating Santa with happy magic and the beginnings of a search for a higher power. Maybe I’ve heard too many sneers, “Christianity? Yeah, I quit believing in that shortly after I quit believing in Santa and the Easter Bunny. Grow up and get serious!” It seems to me that Santa is more likely to be training to dismiss, not seek, a higher power. And he’s a little too easy: by the time we get into the really serious sins, Santa isn’t taking us on his knee every year to remind us to stay out of drugs, be honest on your SAT’s, and avoid premarital sex. Being corrected for errors becomes a childish thing; adults do whatever they feel is right, and anyone who dare say to an adult, “That isn’t the wisest or holiest choice,” gets shouted down as “judgmental”. The serpent still whispers that growing up means making your own decisions about what is good or evil, with no regard to God, and we often fall for it.
Personally, I have a family member who adores Santa. He has a huge collection of figures, some, I will admit, quite nice. As a crafter, Santa is great; I gave this person two different nautical Santas and a somewhat medieval Santa that looked like the Ghost of Christmas Present setting up his feast hall in front of a shocked Scrooge. You can project whatever you want on Santa. Which, unfortunately, is precisely what this family member does: Santa is his tenuous connection to a rare spot of joy from his childhood, and, therefore, something of an object of worship. He felt obliged to roll his eyes at my sprawling nativity scene with a, “I prefer a simple, small set,” but you should see the sprawl of his Santa collection. If Santa’s ok to take up effort and space, shouldn’t Jesus be allowed at least equal treatment without derision? I mean, we don’t call it “Santamass”, right?
The world, I have tried to explain to my children, is magical. Watching birds and clouds and trees and our little lake, I told them, is incredible; the insane number of variables and coincidences that happened to make life possible here are mind boggling. God made so many things that science can explain (or tries to), but that we normally just look at with awe. The spread of the stars when you can see the Milky Way. The rice and wheat sprouts first coming up in the spring. The latest silly antic of the baby brother. The huge list of “coincidences” that brought us all together as a family.
We don’t need to invent magic and pretend it’s real; we’re surrounded by wonder every day. We so seek the new, the different, the fantastic, that we miss the wonder of the normal. The question is whether or not we appreciate the wonder and magic we’re given, or go looking to invent new ones, somehow dissatisfied with, or even oblivious to, the gifts in front of us.
I’ve been a bit preoccupied this year, what with two weeks in China and a new member of the household. (I know, excuses, excuses… I’m getting slack in my old age.) I totally forgot about St. Nicholas Day. We did, however, manage to be diligent about each child choosing and putting out a nativity figure or accessory each day. The very pregnant Mary, perched on her donkey, guided by a somewhat anxious looking St. Joseph, moved a bit closer to the stable every day. Past ordinary sheep and fields, chickens getting fed, olive pickers, buyers and sellers crowding the market place, women hurrying home with water, just lots of everyday life going on.
And, I will remind my children, the most incredible thing ever was revealed in Bethlehem that first Christmas night… and most people missed it.