Saturday, 21 December 2013

The Ghost of Christmas Presents

Hello, dear readers. It's getting closer and closer to Christmas, isn't it? Four more days from my perspective (perhaps a little more for those of you on the other side of the world). So, I want to give all of you guys a gift. See, I have a schedule for the Duke and a selection of chapters that I'll write, and my next one involves an alien planet (I'll say no more, there are spoilers to consider). However, as December approached I realized that Doctor Who often does something special for Christmas (a Christmas Special, if you will). So, for a little while I've been working very hard, with some inspiration from my Beloved, to create a Christmas Story for the Duke, since it to purports to take place within that Whoniverse.
It's my little gift for you! I hope I can get it written before or by Christmas, but either way it will definitely be up here before the season's out, so watch this space. However, in so doing, I've been considering this season . . .
See, last year I talked about how my family celebrates Christmas. It's basically a feast, I don't bother with Santa or Jesus - hell, my latest post was a story I wrote trying to come to terms with the Santa Claus myth - but a lot of people do seem to enjoy this Santa Claus myth and they tell this lie to their children, despite the fact that the kids will find out the truth later; it is a ridiculous lie after all, not something they can perpetrate for the child's whole life. So why do they do it? Well, I want to talk about this and, since 'tis the season, there's no time like the present! The Word of the Day is: 'PRESENT'

Present1 /prezənt/ adj. 1. Being, existing or happening at this time; now. 2. For the time being: Clothes for the present use. 3. Being in attendance (opposed to absent): To be present at a funeral. 4. Being in a given place. 5. Existing in a place, thing, combination, etc. ♦n. 6. The present time. 7. GrammarPresent Tense.

Present2 /prə'zent/ v.t. 1. To provide with a gift, etc., especially by formal act. 2. To bring, offer, or give, often in a formal way: To present a message. 3. to provide (an opportunity, possibility, etc.). 4. To hand or send in, as in a cheque. 5. To introduce (a person) to another. 6. To introduce to the public: To present a new play. 7. To come to show (oneself) before a person, etc. 8. To show; exhibit. 9. To bring before the mind. 10. To set forth in words. 11. To level or aim (a weapon). ♦n. 12. A gift.

I don't believe in Santa Clause, and I don't think I ever did. At least, if I did, I don't remember that time at all. I mean, the myth was too ridiculous; magic man, delivering presents worldwide on a single night, using flying reindeer?
Just look at, well, every Christmas movie that has attempted to prove Santa is real, they have to come up with all kinds of nonsense to explain how it all works, and none of them get it right because, of course, most of the presents under the tree come from our parents. It's stupid.
Most parents don't do it these days, they don't lie to their children; and let's not mince our words here, it's an outright lie. Yet, some parents still perpetrate this farce, but why? I don't get it at all. So, I've been looking into it.

The Nostalgia Critic of ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com brought this up in an video editorial aptly named "Why Lie to Kids About Santa?". In the video he suggests that we lie to kids because the inevitability of revealing the lie means that kids learn to cope with life-changing realizations. The implication here being that we lie to children because we want them to come to terms with the fact that their beliefs will be challenged and occasionally proven false.
I don't think this is true. We're talking about why we do it. I mean, some kids may learn a life lesson from this, although I don't think they do; but assuming they did, I still don't think that's why people do it.

In the same video, he also suggested that the fun is "being the magician", and creating the fantasy for the kids. Despite the fact that we lie to the kids, when they learn the truth they're not as bothered by the lie because they then get the chance to keep the "magic" alive for the younger kids that don't know any better.

Now, this is true, but I don't think it explains it all. See, this isn't why we started with the Santa Claus myth. I think it all started because parents believed in the idea of giving, and after the Christianization of Yuletide, this was just a bible story to go along with the ritual, the story of Saint Nicholas. As time went by, the story has warped and changed, but the essence of a man giving presents has stayed.
Look at the different variations of Santa in different countries. He doesn't always ride a sleigh (I remember one version has "every vehicle imaginable" so he can get everywhere he needs to); he doesn't always wear red (some have blue, purple & even black) & he doesn't always live on the North Pole (many people say he's in Lapland, or lives locally). But they all have him giving gifts, because this is a season of giving and the original story - whether true or not - was about giving to the needy.
As I said in my Christmas post last year - I think Christmas is, and should be, about making people feel like someone cares about them.

So, I don't see the need for Santa Claus.

Although, there are some fun theories. One that I'm particularly fond of is one theory suggested by Terry Pratchett, in the Hogfather. - SPOILERS! This is from the final act of the film, if you haven't seen the film or read the book, do so! To avoid spoilers, skip to the next paragraph now, you've been warned - In this clip from the film, Death himself explains that we lie to children so that they get used to believing in lies and fantasy, because fantasy is what makes us human. After all, concepts like love, morality & justice don't technically exist at all, in the same way Santa doesn't exist, so it's a way of teaching kids about humanity and learning to come to terms with ethereal concepts of human invention.
Personally, I still don't agree with this theory. Because, as much as it has a lot of heart in it, there are many many other myths we use to teach this. Whenever children play games like tag, they learn about arbitrary rules and how by not following them the game doesn't work. And there are books. Every book a child reads helps them to understand that something doesn't have to be real in order for it to matter. So this alone does not justify lying about Santa, in my view.

I don't like lying about anything, so I do not approve anyone who lies to their children in this way. Even if it seems harmless at the present moment, I don't think it's justified, so it's just dishonesty for dishonesty's sake.
That's not to say I'm some Scrooge, I don't think you need to go telling every child "Santa doesn't exist!" that's nasty, and likely to get you slapped. But what I truly believe is that, you should tell kids about Santa and the story and keep the myth alive; but don't go implying that it's a real story or that Santa is a flesh and blood story. Most importantly, if your child ever asks you "is Santa Claus real?" you should be honest and say No.
If you like, you can tell them about St. Nicholas, who may or many not have given coins to needy orphans. If it were up to me, I'd also tell them:
"But because Santa isn't real, it's up to us to do his job. Everyone does their part to buy presents for the ones they love and they spend time together, that way everyone can have a Merry Christmas."

Of course I don't believe in Santa Claus, but I do believe in the Spirit of Christmas. Of giving to the needy and spreading joy and love. That's the part I hate most about this Santa Claus lie!
We pretend there's a magical, bearded stranger than sneaks into our house to give presents to our children? Isn't there so much more meaning in telling the truth? I bought this present for you, because I care about you; you're my family; you're my friend and I love you.
I want you to think about that the next time a child asks you if Santa Claus is real. Because the answer is - he doesn't need to be.

My next post will be the Duke Forever Christmas Special, my present to you - I hope I get it done before Christmas! - and then I'll be on blogging break. So I'll take this opportunity now to say:
I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and I wish a Merry Christmas to all of my readers, Merry Christmas to my Beloved and her family, to my family & everyone else . . .
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

2 comments:

  1. My only concern about not encouraging children to believe in Santa Clause as a real figure is because of the Guardians of Childhood series by William Joyce, which become Rise of the Guardians on the screen. It's not just because my younger brother is entranced by the Santa equivalent, Nicholas St. North, but also because of what North represents before he changes from a bandit to an innovator.
    North in the movies explains that as a Guardian his center, his focus is "wonder" and in creating the impossible. He can make toy trains out of ice and moving robots in the first Guardians book, not giving up even when it's "too late" to fight the Boogeyman and coming up with ideas to counter pitch. There's something blunt about disbelieving in the spirit of wonder.

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    1. St. North is a good interpretation of the myth, but I still prefer the man as myth. The beauty of stories is to inspire the imagination, but we don't think "belief" in order to imagine. So I hope you can put your concerns to rest, Priya, by saying that you and your brother can still enjoy the wonder of Santa Claus, even as a fictional character.
      Many of the lessons I have learned in life have been taught by fictional characters, and knowing that they're not real does not change my respect for those lessons learned - not one iota - so I hope it doesn't change it for you or your brother either. Merry Christmas, from the Absurd Word Nerd.

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