A stachue of santa claus

A statue of Santa Claus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BW Media Spotlight is about traditional storytelling but a recent article from the UK’s The Telegraph is something I can’t ignore. Yeah I started a Tumblr for stuff outside the BW norm but this is something that demands the attention of the larger site and you can connect it to storytelling because Santa Claus (or Father Christmas in the UK) is at the heart of most Christmas stories not about Jesus or just a Hallmark romance story that just happens to be set at Christmas. He’s been spoken of in song and verse, there is an actual accreditation for would-be Santas (for those who take their mall Santas serious), and he shows up in every Christmas sale ad not involving talking toys selling themselves.

And yet the psychological community seems to have this growing hatred of the jolly fat man. “They shouldn’t make obesity something to cheer on is one” argument you hear, but another is one I also hear from some Christian scholars as well, that kids will feel lied to and question everything their parents tell them from now on. Now I think they’re being overreactionary and I’ll get to that as we go on, but this article we’re tearing apart bugs me for two reasons. One is that there is no counterargument, making the article feel one-sided in an anti-Kringle perspective. The other takes a shot at anybody who enjoys fiction if I read this correctly. And that’s when this article turns stupid.

Spinning stories about Santa risks undermining a child’s trust and is morally suspect, according to two experts.

Psychologist Professor Christopher Boyle and social scientist Dr Kathy McKay also condemn the idea of a “terrifying” North Pole intelligence agency which judges children to be nice or naughty.

Well, the NSA isn’t going anywhere, is it? Fun fact: Zemanta is giving me a Wikipedia entry for a Angelican bishop named Christopher Boyle. I do have to wonder how these folks think we teach kids how to be nice and avoid being naughty? And let’s be honest: we know plenty of naughty kids who got everything they wanted from “Santa” because their parents are rich enough and plenty of nice kids who got nothing unless Toys For Tots or some other charity helped their broke parents get them something. Oddly this is not used as part of their argument but my point is no matter what we tell our kids they’re not getting coal in their stockings no matter how many times they glued their sister’s pigtails together. But it does keep them calm during the Christmas shopping. Now if we could just convince their parents to be nice to fellow shoppers.

Writing in the respected journal The Lancet Psychiatry, they argue: “If they (parents) are capable of lying about something so special and magical, can they be relied upon to continue as the guardians of wisdom and truth?”

. . . .

In an article entitled A Wonderful Lie the authors write: “Perhaps the biggest moral breach of the Christmas lie comes with the fact that one day, the truth comes out.

“Children must all find out eventually that their parents have blatantly and consistently carried on a lie for a number of years. Children may find out from a third party, or through their parents getting bored of the make-believe and making a mistake; both might affect the trust that exists between child and parent.

“If adults have been lying about Santa, even though it has usually been well intentioned, what else is a lie? If Santa isn’t real, are fairies real? Is magic? Is God?”

My parents did the Santa thing. So did my aunts and uncles. Some of them are better Christians than I am, go to church regularly, and tell THEIR kids about that guy who delivers presents to all the world using a nine reindeer sleigh that flies. Heck, one of my cousins has a regular game she plays with her daughters using one of those “elf on a shelf” things as a kind of scavenger hunt. “What’s Andy doing today, girls?” It’s called fun. It’s calling adding a little magic to Christmas. Or right, these two don’t believe in imagination. Like, at all.

In addition they suggest parents may not be motivated by thoughts of their children but a selfish desire to re-live their own childhood.

Defending the claims, Prof Boyle, from the University of Exeter, said: “The morality of making children believe in such myths has to be questioned.

“All children will eventually find out they’ve been consistently lied to for years, and this might make them wonder what other lies they’ve been told.

“Whether it’s right to make children believe in Father Christmas is an interesting question, and it’s also interesting to ask whether lying in this way will affect children in ways that have not been considered.”

One day I asked my mom if Santa was real. She said “no”. I shrugged and went to watch TV or something, and that was the end of that. This kind of existential crisis is usually above your average seven-year-old. Oh, but it does get worse. See, parents tricking their kids like this makes them horrible parents and we all have Peter Pan Syndrome. Because we watch Doctor Who. I’m not even kidding.

Dr McKay, from the University of New England in Australia, said there was clear evidence from the world of make-believe in movies and TV that adults looked for a chance to be children again.

“The persistence of fandom in stories like Harry Potter, Star Wars and Doctor Who {emphasis mine-SWT} well into adulthood demonstrates this desire to briefly re-enter childhood,” she said.

. . . . 

They conclude: “Many people may yearn for a time when imagination was accepted and encouraged, which may not be the case in adult life. Might it be the case that the harshness of real life requires the creation of something better, something to believe in, something to hope for in the future or to return to a long-lost childhood a long time ago in a galaxy far far away?”

English: Thomas Nast's most famous drawing, &q...

English: Thomas Nast’s most famous drawing, “Merry Old Santa Claus”, from the January 1, 1881 edition of Harper’s Weekly. Thomas Nast immortalized Santa Claus’ current look with an initial illustration in an 1863 issue of Harper’s Weekly. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, you are a horrible person who wants to force Father Christmas on your kids because you’re man/woman children who reads Harry Potter tales to become kids again. You’re not doing it because you want to bring a sense of magic, imagination, wonder, and play into a child’s life but because you had that as a child, which your parents pushed on you because THEY were horrible kidults who should never believe in anything. Watching movies, reading books, and all those other things that aren’t about real life? You have a problem and we want to make sure your kids don’t have that by taking away Santa. Because imagination is for the mentally ill.

This is the part that went from “you underestimate children” to “you can kiss my jingle bells”. First off, Star Wars and Doctor Who aren’t just for kids, although the latter started out that way. (Have you even watched new Who? There are some very un-kid things there. Granted Torchwood is far worse but that was meant for adults while it’s parent show has gone into family programming, which means kids AND adults. It’s all-ages–depending on who you ask. And the same is true for Star Wars while the Harry Potter books were meant to grown with the kid audience and the current spin-off movie Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them are all-ages at best.

I may not be one to talk since I watch Paw Patrol on occasion but sometimes adult shows in this day and age are dark, depressing, philosophical but with a conclusion already reached that may be about telling you that you suck at person even when you don’t, bloody, filled with gore and poop jokes, and as much swearing and boobs as they can get away with. Happiness is a rarity and smiles are few and short. Maybe these two “smarties” think that’s what life is and the sooner kids learn that the sooner they can be as miserable as they are. I refer you to my “jingle bells” comment.

Life DOES have it’s fun side. Imagination is responsible for every advancement, including the positive ones, that the human race has ever had. If necessity is the mother of invention, imagination is the baby daddy because if you can’t imagine it then it will never happen. We need to believe in a better world, see the good that exists, and all the wonders being alive has to offer. “Life sucks and then you die” is a horrible way to live, and I AM one to talk because I’ve been through a lot of crap in my life. Santa, more upbeat fiction, and happy kids are good things that the human race needs to become better people and fix the problems of our society rather than rage and complain. There’s too much rage and that’s not another Christmas shopping joke, although the magic of Christmas being gone is why the Grinch seems to be winning.

Kids need to learn to see the good things in life, and dream of wonderful things to act as a defense against the LIES the so-called “real world” seems to be pushing on the rest of us. It’s a barrier against people like Professor Boyle and Doctor McKay to discourage play and imagination. Escaping the real world is actually healthy so long as you don’t become a prisoner of the fictional reality, like people who get addicted to World Of Warcraft, which I’m betting they wouldn’t if (like the majority of players) the outside world was a better place. Anger can be healthy, but when properly directed, like Jesus with the counting tables, the one time in the New Testament we see Jesus get mad at something other than a fig tree, and that was only a lesson for his disciples. And yet we have rage as a default with some people. The world sucks at times. AT. TIMES! There’s also beauty in the world and rather than assume Santa is going to make kids see parents as a bunch of liars (when in truth we only get that when they’re teenagers…and we did the same thing) or some psychological scar that none of us had when we were kids (heck, my scars came from peers, not parents) maybe we should be looking at the positive things Santa Claus can teach us.

How to love others and give out of that love is something Saint Nicholas (the base template for Santa Claus/Father Christmas) was rather big on, and why he is an actual Catholic saint as well as standing up for his faith when the Romans at the time were run by someone who hated Christians. Jolly Old St. Nick spends his entire year getting presents together for one ride to give every good boy and girl something that will bring them happiness, a shard of which will stay with them until they’re adults. And what the heck is wrong with wanting to hold on to that shard and seek out a reminder of that happy time if it makes us implant a happy shard into our own children, giving them a time of joy in their lives that they can carry on to the next generation? Isn’t making our kids lives better something a good parent should strive for anyway?

So remember your own childhood, how you reacted to Santa Claus, and the happy points in your life. Bring that to your children and teach them how to be good for goodness sake. Let them imagine a better world and encourage them to CREATE that better world to the best of their abilities. Show them that life isn’t all misery, depression, and rage, and convince them to bring that happiness to others, including their own kids and kids who never see those good things. Santa isn’t a threat to your kids, he’s a symbol of how your kids should act. That’s a good message, and one today’s adults seem to be missing out on. There’s no degree or title for that and none needed. To quote The Powerpuff Girls “being a genius doesn’t make you a smart guy”.


About ShadowWing Tronix

A would be comic writer looking to organize his living space as well as his thoughts. So I have a blog for each goal. :)

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