Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Santa God

In the recent holidays, my wife and I were confronted with one of our first challenges in the religious upbringing of our kids:
On the other hand, Santa is fun, and not all that different from other fictional stories that children engage and enjoy. The key element, it seems, is to make sure that children come to an understanding that Santa is a story, and to be enjoyed as such. My five-year-old has no trouble talking about dragons, and getting into detailed discussions about the habits of dragons. Eventually, he asked me: "Are dragons real?" "No, they're just in stories." "Oh . . . So, tell me more about Smaug."
One story I thought did an excellent job of gently communicating this position comes from a very old Richard Scarry book of Christmas stories. It tells of barnyard where a bunch of little chicks are getting excited at the prospect of Santa coming to visit on Christmas. Now, the grown-up animals know that Santa doesn't visit barnyards, and there are some who want to tell the chicks that they shouldn't get their hopes up. Others decide that it would be fun for the chicks and everyone else if one of them dress up like Santa and bring them presents. All the animals go to great lengths to find presents for the chicks and to assemble all the props for a good Santa appearance, and it obviously brings everyone together, and even leads to the pretend Santa (a goat) bringing presents for the other adults.
What I like about it is that it never explicitly debunks Santa. It doesn't say that he's not real. But it shows the child all the reasons why parents would pretend Santa is real, and all the good things that come out of the game. So, if the child should find out that Santa wasn't real, he wouldn't immediately perceive it as a nefarious plot.


Blogger leila_ananda said...

Your title struck a nerve w/ me because I credit Santa with being one of the main reasons I have trouble identifying w/ Christianity. Sure, it's the religion that's probably most influenced my culture, aesthetics and worldview, it's the religion of my ancestors, and it's the religion I most identify with, and some of the most mystical experiences I've had have been in response to Catholic rituals or texts, but I cannot (and probably will never) be able to call myself Christian. I haven't been able to since I was very young (9 or so), not even when I very much *wanted* to be Christian (when I was 12 or so) and flirted with Mormonism and the First Christian Church. And I think at the very bottom it has to do with how I used to pray to Jesus and to Santa. No one ever told me to pray to Santa, but it fit with the whole idea of "if you want something, you pray to God for it," and because to me Jesus and Santa were both cartoony figures I could find in coloring books and could relate to in the same kind of way. Eventually Santa became in some aspects for me what the Virgin Mary is -- someone who was easier to talk to and who could intercede with me to God/Jesus. When I guessed or found out that Santa wasn't real, so went Jesus. And it's weird, how in later years, I really respect and resonate with Catholicism and a lot of Christian writings and metaphors etc etc, but no matter what sermons I listen to or books I read on deeper interpretations of Jesus, I cannot make him anything more to me than something to color in in a coloring book -- he's THAT much of a cartoon figure to me. And intellectually I get this idea of this something bigger Christ thing and how that relates to the Krishna thing and the Buddha thing, but I can't say or think "Jesus" without thinking "cartoonish." Also, wanted to link to another friend's blog, where he talks about a different God/Santa thang: http://www.viciouscyclone.com/blog/blosxom.cgi?_start=3 All of which is not to say that if I had kids I would make the choice not to have gifts that "Santa" brought or to read the Night Before Christmas or talk about Rudolf, because all of those are lovely childhood magic things I wouldn't want to deprive my kids of. It's just....

11:18 AM  

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