Tuesday, 12 December 2006

Perpetuating Myth

Why do we really perpetuate the myth of Santa Claus?
I remember when I was in grade 3; it was almost Christmas time, and also the end of the school year. I was in my class room, talking with some school friends about plans for the coming holidays and what Father Christmas might bring us. I remember our conversation being filled with great anticipation, and our minds oozing with excitement, magic and fantasy. That is, until Nola Bennier wrestled her way into our discussion and snuffed out a magic that was reserved for children, but conspired, conjured and indulged in, by adults...
"Father Christmas is NOT real", she blabbed.
This meant WAR!
"How would YOU know?" began the rapid fire.
"Yeah, how would YOU know?"
" Yeah? "
This was largely the sum of our counter attack.
Then the unexpected reply...the reply that won the war for Nola. The reply that ultimately burst the fantastical bubble for all who heard her damning words of truth....
"My Mum told me!", she announced smugly.
Her Mum told her...
We were speechless...there was nothing left to say. Although David, with courage enough to question the words supposedly spoken by a parent, staged a last ditch effort to salvage the doubt that is really at the basis of our feeble beliefs - the what-if-there-really-is-a-Santa doubt, that ensures a child will hang onto such beliefs because they inspire the imagination, either that or for fear that Santa might not come if we were to disbelieve and announce him a fraud, a fake, a phony, or even a CONSPIRACY development by parents to control and manipulate innocent young kiddies into being on their best behaviour and help out during the flurry of Christmas preparation! Ok... not likely words from a seven year old, but I am sure you get the picture.
"Well, if Santa is not real, then who puts the presents under the tree", says David, thinking this will surely stump Nola Bennier.
"Mum buys the presents at the shop and my Mum and Dad put them under the tree when we are asleep."
And with that, the fantasies and the magical possibilities that were scripted into our child-like Christmases, were crushed and then evaporated into the plume of illusion that they always were.
Silence....Nola walked away, leaving us with the tragic wreckage of what had been our lively discussion only moments before.
Did we feel jibbed? Did we feel angry at our parents for the deception? Did we feel we had to rush home and question them about the truth and plead to know why they had conjured up this ridiculous fabrication? No, not really, but once the shock of Nola's confession had subsided, we were angry! But not at our parents, because deep down, I think we knew that the whole Santa thing was just slightly unrealistic, but then again, Santa IS magic right? We were mostly angry at Nola for repeating her mothers confessions - to us. We didn't ask HER if Santa was real - she volunteered the information. We were blissfully happy with our delusions - THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
I know I didn't rush home to confirm the tragic news with my parents, and I don't think my friends ever raised the issue again, or to anyone else....well, until now that is.
I think the real magic of the whole Santa myth is the excitement and creativity, along with the fantasy and nurturing that our parents give us through their attempt to perpetuate a similar Christmas fantasy that was perhaps theirs, when they were children.
As a parent, we start off the idea of Santa very early.usually with the child's first Christmas. We show the child Santa, perhaps in the mall. We tell the child that Santa will be visiting on Christmas Eve. As the child gets older, they start asking questions, like..."we don't have a chimney, so how will Santa get in our house"? "How does Santa know where I live?" "How do his reindeers fly?" "What do you mean the Diego Rescue 4X4 is out of stock? Santa will make me one in his workshop...won't he?"
Such questions require creative answers that fill the child's mind with possibility, magic and wonderment...or a pack of lies, as Nola's Mum would suggest. It is a tradition- right, wrong or indifferent- for parents to subscribe to the Santa myth, and nurture that sapling idea. It is not what Christmas is ultimately about, I know that. But the original nativity suggests the miraculous, a long journey made by important people bearing gifts, and a gift to the world laid out for all creatures, both great and small, to partake in, not just on Christmas Day but for always, whenever the story of hope, peace, magic and miracles is remembered within us. Perhaps the Santa myth is nothing more than capitalist inspired hoopla, or perhaps it opens the door of possibility for children, who first know magic and miracle through the idea of Santa, and are then able to adhere similarly outlandish concepts of possibility, hope and belief to both a troubled real world, and also into the realms of glorious spirit.

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