Do you believe in Santa Clause?
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. A time of family, fun, and holiday cheer (hey that rhymes) and, I might add, a time when the world celebrates the existence of someone they know is not real but would love to believe he is real anyway. (Sorry, Pete. I really hate to be the one to break the news to you). Yes, I am sure you know by now who I am talking about. He is the man with a belly full of jelly and a heart full of cheer for all the good little boys and girls around the world (at least the ones born in Christian countries who have heard of his existence, believe it or not, they actually celebrate Christmas in some Muslim countries too).
Santa must have a full time publicist working overtime during the month of December because never does this jolly fat man get so much media attention than during this magical month that the world refers to as the “Christmas season” (or..should I say holiday season?). I’m referring specifically to what is now a permanent part of American culture…the Christmas movie. I’ve seen almost all of them. Well, at least the ones that have to do with Santa Clause- films like Polar Express, Miracle on 34th Street, Elf, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Every year my poor mother puts herself through watching the movie “Prancer.” Why my mother cries every time when actor Sam Eliot ,who plays a gruff, macho, overworked father down on his luck, gets in touch with his inner child by actually believing that a reindeer can fly is quite beyond me.
Then again, maybe it’s not so beyond me. For I myself after watching Polar Express wanted to write a letter to the director and say “I’ll have you know that I am not one of those adults who has forgotten about Santa Clause. I still believe.” Knowing that this would not look very good on a psychiatric evaluation, I declined.
Believe it or not. I actually have a point in all this. The question I have is this: Why does our popular culture exalt the value of child-like faith even when it is a faith in something known to be false? Perhaps the “believing is seeing” lines in these films are an attempt to pander to evangelical Christians. But if that is the case, then we are really being patronized and laughed at behind our backs. Although I think this can be a part of the explanation (hence the emphasis on faith in Polar Express), I would like to think there is something deeper going on here. After all, it is primarily non-Christians that make such a big deal about Santa Clause. Many Christians, at least the evangelical ones that I know, are rather miffed at S.C. overshadowing J.C. during the holiday season. Certainly we know that it is not only Christians that watch these movies and shed a few tears when an innocent child or a cynical adult discovers that there really is a Santa Clause.
Could the answer to this strange paradox be that there is something within all of us that wants to get in touch with our inner child? If this is true, then the question becomes why is this the case? Who or what put it there? For what purpose? There was a Jewish rabbi that lived 2,000 years ago that said a few crazy words about “entering the kingdom of God as a child.” Could it be that Jesus, the real reason for the season, knew that as long as there were humans, then their would always be a need for child-like faith? If this is the case, then I suspect that this humble carpenter from Nazareth may have a few more things to say about reality that we need to know about. After all, truth is very difficult to escape no matter how hard you try.