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Separation of Santa and State

By ajkohn in Culture
Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 01:58:12 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

Or is that Church and Santa? Or Church and Economics?

The following two articles made me revisit Old Saint Nick:

Teacher Banned for Spilling the Beans on Santa


Santa Allowed Back For Tree-Lighting Ceremony

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comments (24)
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The first news item deals with an Australian substitute teacher who told her primary school class that Santa Claus did not exist. This was a public school, and though no formal rules existed there were guidelines for teachers to follow revolving around Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. Parents were outraged and though the teacher was not disciplined, she was counseled.

The second news item deals with the town of Kensington in the state of Maryland. A few residents asked, based on religious grounds, that Santa not be included in the annual tree-lighting ceremony. At first the town council acquiesced but later, after a larger backlash, Santa did participate, causing a few scuffles to breakout among townsfolk - some decked out in full Santa regalia.

"Santa is a tradition in our town and across the country," Mayor Kitty Raufaste said. "At least for me he doesn't have any religious significance."

So, is Santa a religious figure or an economic figure? To be fair I didn't really know the origins of Santa, but a google search never fails to turn up the goodies.

Santa seems to be a melting pot of a number of beliefs, traditions and cultures. But my sense at the end of my reading was that Santa may at one point have been religious in nature, but had been co-opted by economics. However, upon reaching this conclusion I had to rebut myself by noting that people of other faiths had no real bond with Santa - indeed would have to suffer his Ho-Ho-Ho (quietly if you're in New Zealand) for nearly two months.

Yes two months, decorations and the like now seem to appear right after Halloween - since Thanksgiving is a loser holiday economically except for travel, food and beverage industries. Santas spring up at Malls earlier and earlier, heralding the economic boom businesses bank on each year. Think of Santa as the brand name for Christmas.

Further noodling about made me fully realize that even some Christians aren't in love with big red guy thinking that he's upstaging Jesus and obscuring the true meaning of the holiday. This particular Lutheran Pastor wishes to separate Santa from Christmas, moving Santa to December 6th instead.

Still others seem to think Santa is just a thinly veiled ruse for none other then ...Satan.

In the end, I come down to this: Santa isn't real.
Santa is a tradition that many kids world-wide grow up loving.
Santa is not religious but is tied to a religious holiday.
Santa is religious because it is tied to a religious holiday.
Santa is a capitalist idol.
Santa is not Satan.
Santa should be taken in moderation and without such seriousness.

So what of the Australian teacher? Well, I wouldn't have burst the bubble for a bunch of kids and I might even be upset if it were my own kid but ... what can you really do? She's telling the truth.

And the town of Kensington, well this is a place where the county council 'voted to impose fines of up to $750 on smokers in private residences if their smoke-rings crossed private property lines and bothered neighbors. The county executive eventually vetoed the measure.'

Perhaps if coal was handed out to the naughty things would be different.


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Related Links
o Google
o Teacher Banned for Spilling the Beans on Santa
o Santa Allowed Back For Tree-Lighting Ceremony
o turn up the goodies.
o quietly if you're in New Zealand
o some Christians aren't in love with big red guy
o Satan.
o Also by ajkohn

Display: Sort:
Separation of Santa and State | 79 comments (78 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
Move Santa? (4.29 / 17) (#2)
by Happy Monkey on Mon Dec 17, 2001 at 06:42:34 PM EST

Everyone knows Xmas is Dec 25. If they have to move one, move Jesus' birthday, since nobody knows the correct date for that event. Besides, Jesus would thank us - it sucks to have your birthday on Xmas.
Length 17, Width 3
i know that one... (2.00 / 2) (#17)
by Prophet themusicgod1 on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 02:18:49 AM EST

my birthday is on new years eve...that's a very valid point...great idea. keeping in mind, coming from an atheist, support of an idea productive for christmas is a statement
"I suspect the best way to deal with procrastination is to put off the procrastination itself until later. I've been meaning to try this, but haven't gotten around to it yet."swr
[ Parent ]
Support of an idea (4.00 / 2) (#57)
by Tatarigami on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 09:18:56 PM EST

Personally, I'm sick of examining my own behaviour to see what kind of message I'm sending. Actually, that's a lie: I've never examined my own behaviour to see what kind of message I'm sending, but I'm sick of being told I should. So I loudly claim the privelege of not being interpreted unless I go ahead and state that I'm making a statement.

Maybe that makes me a hypocrite the rest of the time. If so, it doesn't bother me.

Oh, and just to keep it relevant:

My birthday - December 25
My name - Chris


[ Parent ]
Europe (none / 0) (#67)
by dabadab on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 06:35:13 AM EST

Here, in Central Europe we have Santa coming on Santa's Day, dec. 6. In our tradition, Santa has nothing to do with Christmas - at dec 24. the little Jesus comes and brings the gifts. Point is, Santa's coming and Christmas does not have to be the same. And - I think - it should not be.
Real life is overrated.
[ Parent ]
Traditions (2.75 / 4) (#3)
by svampa on Mon Dec 17, 2001 at 07:07:11 PM EST

Santa Claus is a tradition, when a lot of people in a society accept it, then it is a good tradition, when people dislike it, then it turns into an ugly and boring duty

Problably we are slowly shifting from one side to the other, this tradition is lingering, and we are more cynicals.

Bad boy, you won't get gifts this Christmas ;-)

Strangely enough... (4.18 / 11) (#4)
by UncleMikey on Mon Dec 17, 2001 at 07:17:15 PM EST

<div mode="RANT">

...as a Jew, I find that I could probably cope a lot better with America's pre-occupation with Christmas if it actually had something to do with Christ, still. But for most Americans, including many who would tell you they're good Christians, it doesn't. It's all about presents; and to disguise that fact, they've invented someone to bring those presents, rather than admit that what it's really all about is money.

Worse, the pre-occupation with stuff has infected Chanukah, a Jewish holiday that occurs at the same time of year, and that had virtually no gift-giving tradition associated with it until it was Americanised.

Drives me nuts, really. If you want to give people presents...give them presents whenever you bloody want to, and don't bother to hide behind poor old Nicholas, who would probably be appalled at the corruption both his name and his reputation have undergone.

[ Uncle Mikey | Radio Free Tomorrow ]

It's not Santa's fault. (none / 0) (#7)
by demi on Mon Dec 17, 2001 at 07:59:18 PM EST

It's all about presents; and to disguise that fact, they've invented someone to bring those presents, rather than admit that what it's really all about is money.

Well, Santa Claus as a cultural phenomenon has been around for a long time, long before there were late night December 24th Toys 'R' Us battles for remainders of the season's hottest toy. All of this commercialization got in gear after WWII, after the baby boom, when there were suddenly huge numbers of kids and they all wanted pretty much the same knick-knacks. 'They' didn't invent Santa to peddle the toys, in the sense that Valentine's Day was invented. Christmas used to be a religious holiday, but now it's being eclipsed by its secular component. Labor Day used to be about paying tribute to the American worker. Now we head to the beach or to the shopping mall, whatever.

Some people like to buy each other presents at Christmastime, and spend money, and waste it too. It makes them happy. So what's wrong with that?

[ Parent ]

Christmas (4.00 / 1) (#9)
by Matrix on Mon Dec 17, 2001 at 09:06:29 PM EST

Some people use Christmas as a time to give gifts and generally celebrate things with our family. Yes, we could do this all year round... But all year round isn't a government-legislated holiday. Its nice to have garunteed time to get together with family and celebrate.

And contrary to what you may believe, some of us do actually enjoy giving gifts more than getting them. To the point of spending hours searching for the perfect gift for a loved one.

"...Pulling together is the aim of despotism and tyranny. Free men pull in all kinds of directions. It's the only way to make progress."
- Lord Vetinari, pg 312 of the Truth, a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett
[ Parent ]

What's wrong with it... (3.66 / 6) (#12)
by UncleMikey on Mon Dec 17, 2001 at 11:00:58 PM EST

<div mode="RANT">

...is that it's become compulsory. No matter how generous I am with my friends and family the rest of the year -- and I like to think I'm no Grinch -- I must at least consider giving presents to them, all at once, whether I really have anything good in mind for them or not, whether I can afford it or not, whether it has anything to do with my holiday or not, because it's Expected(tm). That's the bloody problem with it.

<div mode="RANT">
[ Uncle Mikey | Radio Free Tomorrow ]
[ Parent ]

Coca-Cola? (3.25 / 4) (#5)
by wji on Mon Dec 17, 2001 at 07:47:55 PM EST

IIRC, and according to a TV documentary I saw on the Coke-Pepsi wars, the concept of a fat, red-wearing bearded Santa Claus was a Coke marketing tool. The previous 'Santa' was skinny and wore green, I think. Anyone know more?

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
Correct! (4.00 / 1) (#6)
by ajkohn on Mon Dec 17, 2001 at 07:57:01 PM EST

It's mentioned in a couple of the links provided, though buried.

Believe it or not, the Coca-Cola company also contributed to the modern Santa Claus. Beginning in 1931 and for 35 years, Coke ran advertisements that featured a human-size Santa (not elf-size) drinking Coke. These ads contributed much to the modern image of Santa Claus (and the drinking of coke!).

Frankly, I'm surprised we haven't altered Santa into some hyper bow-flex romeo.

"Just because something bears the aspect of the inevitable one should not, therefore, go along willingly with it." - The Transmigration of Timothy Archer
[ Parent ]

Butchy Claus (4.75 / 4) (#11)
by sigwinch on Mon Dec 17, 2001 at 09:14:53 PM EST

Frankly, I'm surprised we haven't altered Santa into some hyper bow-flex romeo.
I personally favor the butch leather Santa approach. With scantily leather-clad twinky boy elves. Correction, make that sweaty scantily leather-clad twinky boy elves. With whips. And hot oil. And assorted "toys". Enough toys to make a billionaire turn green with envy. A billionaire like Hugh Hefner. And every time somebody says "Santa's little helper", they have to wink knowingly. And the part of Mrs. Claus would be played by Divine.

Quick! Bring me John Waters! We have to start filming before the magic fades!

I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

Urban legend. (3.66 / 3) (#37)
by Ken Arromdee on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 01:03:56 PM EST

No, Santa is not a creation of Coca-Cola. See the urban legends reference pages.

[ Parent ]
Santa is an anagram of Satan (4.75 / 4) (#8)
by wiredog on Mon Dec 17, 2001 at 08:03:49 PM EST

Living, as I do, in the DC area, the Kensington Santa story was big local news. Marc Fisher, a Metro columnist for the Post, had stuff on it such as Th is and this.

Peoples Front To Reunite Gondwanaland: "Stop the Laurasian Separatist Movement!"
Saint Nicholas (3.66 / 3) (#10)
by Neuromancer on Mon Dec 17, 2001 at 09:09:32 PM EST

Saint Nicholas is a real saint. The tradition of gift giving comes from his generosity (he had inheritted a large sum of money). The most popularly known story of this has to do with him giving money to a prostitute.

This link has more info.

True but... (4.00 / 2) (#42)
by decaf_dude on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 01:59:16 PM EST

Disclaimer: I was raised in an agnostic family; I am not Christian and have very little knowledge about Christian religion. I know something about Christmas because the whole hoopla fascinates me. At first I though this was a strictly North American thing, but apparently our friends south of the border have once again managed to export the hysteria all over the freaking world.

Isn't St. Nicholaus' day on Dec 5th or thereabout? I can't be bothered looking up the actual reference, but IIRC American Santa Clause originates from Dutch Sinter Claas holiday that the Dutch celebrated in their New Amsterdam colony on Dec 5th, including giving gifts to honor this kind-hearted, gift-giving saint.

When the British took over, they stopped the celebration because Protestants don't celebrate saint days. However, to keep kids happy, they started the tradition of giving gifts on Christmas, mid-winter pagan holiday Christians hijacked earlier in history, and invented Santa Clause (morphing Sinter Claas and Saint Nicholaus). Today's Christmas is a truly sickening mix: a brainfart of a semi-creative marketing droids of Coca-Cola and Toys-R-Us, with generous serving of mind-corrupting dogma from the Church.

The other day I saw a beggar with banner "Give me spare change or tell me to fuck off!" so I did, and some passers-by wondered why would I tell the beggar to fuck off! I guess Christmas spirit didn't get through to me...


[ Parent ]
Close (none / 0) (#71)
by Drone X on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 11:34:58 AM EST

Sinterklaas is a holiday here in Belgium (not all parts though) and the Netherlands in which children are bought presents for (no day off though), it is celebrated on December 6th.

Appearantly he went back to spain and he's asking us to be nice :). His latest sponsor seems to be LEGO! There's a goodbye note for the Dutch children too (note the black guy in the right top, he's one of Sinterklaas' helpers: zwarte piet).

Cool eh !

Monkey sense
[ Parent ]

Telling the Truth (3.00 / 6) (#13)
by elefantstn on Mon Dec 17, 2001 at 11:31:17 PM EST

So what of the Australian teacher? Well, I wouldn't have burst the bubble for a bunch of kids and I might even be upset if it were my own kid but ... what can you really do? She's telling the truth.
I'm not sure what I think of the incident, but "She's telling the truth" is a pretty poor excuse. If Ms. Teacher tells little Johnny she's been having sex with his father, is it ok if she's telling the truth? Obviously not. There are a lot of truths we shield children from; the question here is not of the veracity of her statement, but whether it's a truth to which the children should have been exposed.

Worldly Facts, Not Personal (5.00 / 3) (#14)
by Lethyos on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 02:06:24 AM EST

You make a false analogy here. CLEARLY you would not tell children you're having an affair with one of their parents. That is a personal fact. Facts about the world, society, nature, etc should never be distorted, however. The silly idea of "Santa" should be expressed in truth: it's a myth derived from the tale of a man who gave toys to poor children. That's the fact. It's not personal, and it applies to everyone.

earth, my body; water, my blood; air, my breath; fire, my spirit
[ Parent ]
Hm. (1.00 / 1) (#38)
by misterluke on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 01:17:28 PM EST

Santa was pretty damn personal to me when I was little. Better to shatter that illusion with a little more tact than the teacher in question managed.


[ Parent ]
Thank god... (none / 0) (#31)
by dachshund on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 10:41:31 AM EST

... she didn't tell the kids that the Earth was not created in a week, but was actually the result of superheated gas-clouds coalescing and cooling down over millions of years.

She probably would've been imprisoned for that one.

[ Parent ]

Parental logic (3.80 / 5) (#15)
by Skwirl on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 02:12:46 AM EST

Could somebody please explain to me why parents even get off so much on lying to their kids about stupid stuff like Santa anyways? It seems like the logical train of thought a growing kid would have is: They lied about Santa, so why should I trust them on the topics of God, sex, drugs, etc...? Seems like a pretty big price to pay for a few extra months of being able to say "be nice or Santa won't bring you any presents."

"Nothing in the world is more distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to himself." -- Herman Hesse
Ah, but that's exactly it. (3.50 / 4) (#16)
by UncleMikey on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 02:18:17 AM EST

Modern America is all about passing the buck. Never accept responsibility for anything you can pin on someone else.

So, not wanting to be seen as 'bad' or 'mean' or, heaven forfend, 'abusive', parents prop up a 'jolly old elf' who will punish them facelessly for bad things they may not even realize they've done until they get coal in their sock.

Wow, this topic has really cranked up my cynicism generator, hasn't it :-)

[ Uncle Mikey | Radio Free Tomorrow ]
[ Parent ]
Logic? What's that got to do with it? (4.16 / 6) (#19)
by strepsil on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 02:51:29 AM EST

I was talking about this with my partner the other day. Next year, our daughter will probably be old enough to really get into the whole Chistmas thing. We need to decide if we're going to go along with the whole Santa thing or not.

At the outset, it looked like a simple idea. We just put "From Mummy and Daddy" on all the presents, and Santa is just a funny story. "People dress up like that because it's fun, sweetheart."

Then it started getting hazy. What about friends and relatives about her own age? Are we going to be doing her any favours if she's the one telling the other kids that Santa is a myth? Will we have other parents knocking on our door asking why our little girl ruined the fun for their child who just came home in tears? That story about the schoolteacher illustrates the point perfectly. It's not up to us to make the decision to reveal "the truth" for other people, no matter how silly the whole business is.

Right now, I'm tending towards going along with the Santa business - it's not like it's hugely important. Sooner or later, her and her peer group will figure it out as a collective entity. If she asks me straight out then I will not lie to her, but in the meantime I'll help her write letters to the dude in the red suit. I think that's fair.

[ Parent ]
Parents lie (none / 0) (#59)
by Tatarigami on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 09:51:39 PM EST

Lying is part of a parent's job. The average four-year old isn't equipped for dealing with a world where people kill each other over trivialities like whose god is bigger. We have to ease into it gradually, first by realising there's no tooth fairy, then by realising we can't really all grow up to be president, etc, etc.

Besides this, letting a tubby guy with a long white beard claim credit for the presents under the tree is a pretty innocuous bending of the truth. If there's a scale for how evil lying is, Santa is near the bottom. Blowing it out of proportion is a sign of poor judgement or a lifetime in local government.

[ Parent ]
Existential angst (none / 0) (#68)
by Skwirl on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 06:51:57 AM EST

Certainly the Santa question alone isn't a big deal. However, I'm beginning to think that the subtle buildup of cultural perfidy has contributed much towards my current crisis of existential angst and postmodern doubt.

Take Family Ties, for instance. At more or less age seven, I had no idea that Family Ties was a satire where 1960s idealist parents are forced to grapple with their 1980s consumerist children. All I knew was that it was about an affectionate and communicative family and I was supposed to pretend to laugh whenever there was a laugh track.

I think I probably assimulated more morals from family sitcoms than I did from real people. I certainly learned prayer from TV, since I don't remember any other examples being available to me. How am I supposed to feel about that ethical code now that I know that sitcoms, no matter how well-written, or well-meaning, are just Nielsen-driven bunk?

Santa Claus has a similar cultural role, in as that, he's a fictional portrayal of morals that is used to suppliment the real thing--a house built on sand.

Of course, a little existential angst is probably a good thing. I doubt Jean-Paul Sartre ever tried to kill anyone in order to prove whose God was bigger.

"Nothing in the world is more distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to himself." -- Herman Hesse
[ Parent ]
Existential bang (5.00 / 1) (#74)
by Tatarigami on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 04:18:21 PM EST

A man who was capable of great wisdom when he'd been drinking once told me that life is full of contradictions, and the secret to staying sane isn't in resolving them, but in learning to live with the fact.

I don't know if that helps, but it's early in the morning, and I'm still on my first cup of coffee, so it's all the coherency I'm capable of.

[ Parent ]
It also helps to have a sense of humor... (none / 0) (#76)
by Skwirl on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 12:44:26 AM EST

I found this link after posting and thought it was worth sharing.

"Nothing in the world is more distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to himself." -- Herman Hesse
[ Parent ]
Sense of what? (none / 0) (#77)
by Tatarigami on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 05:51:27 AM EST

[blank look]

Hmm, got my wallet, got my keys... doggone it! Where did I leave that sense of humour?

[ Parent ]
Trees, taxes, church and state (4.40 / 5) (#18)
by Macrobat on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 02:19:43 AM EST

Wouldn't a tree-lighting ceremony itself violate separation of church and state? After all, why should my hard-earned tax money support the continuation of what is essentially a pagan tradition?

"Hardly used" will not fetch a better price for your brain.

Don't let it bother you too much... (none / 0) (#25)
by aragorn on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 08:34:57 AM EST

First of all, I'm sure your tax dollars (and mine) are being spent on even less useful things. Like the pink sidewalks they just put in around here.

Second, although the tree is originally a pagan tradition (and a fine one at that), you'll notice that the idea is completely lost. The tree has become yet another fixture of consumerism.

[ Parent ]
Lost tradition (none / 0) (#40)
by abdera on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 01:34:17 PM EST

although the tree is originally a pagan tradition (and a fine one at that), you'll notice that the idea is completely lost.

And the original idea of Santa Claus hasn't been?

#224 [deft-:deft@98A9C369.ipt.aol.com] at least i don't go on aol
[ Parent ]

Yes! (none / 0) (#26)
by theR on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 09:19:08 AM EST

You are exactly right, and that's why this whole thing in Kensington was blown out of proportion (on top of being skewed in almost every report). The reason given for not allowing Santa at the tree lighting was because they had decided to make it a secular event since it would be impossible to include everybody if it was not secular.

I'll get into that when I have time to post a longer comment, as well as a few more items which I think need to be addressed.

[ Parent ]
I don't quite follow you (none / 0) (#39)
by abdera on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 01:31:57 PM EST

The reason given for not allowing Santa at the tree lighting was because they had decided to make it a secular event since it would be impossible to include everybody if it was not secular.

I think that Macrobat's point is that a tree lighting is an intrinsically religious tradition (dating back to pagan solstice celebrations), and therefore cannot be considered purely secular.

I fail to understand excluding the traditions of some equates to utter inclusivity. Were yarmulkes forbidden? Traditional brown Franciscan robes? The head covering of Islamic women? Wedding rings?

#224 [deft-:deft@98A9C369.ipt.aol.com] at least i don't go on aol
[ Parent ]

Nothing was forbidden! (4.00 / 1) (#53)
by theR on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 05:49:35 PM EST

A perfect example of why the slanted coverage of this event irked me:

Were yarmulkes forbidden? Traditional brown Franciscan robes? The head covering of Islamic women? Wedding rings?

Absolutely nothing was ever forbidden (barring that which was illegal), including people showing up as Santa! The town of Kensington decided that a representative of the town would not arrive on a fire truck as Santa, which had been the tradition. There was nothing that would forbid other people from dressing as Santa, they just decided that Santa would not show up as a representative of the town, just as a no town representative would arrive on the fire truck with some symbol of any other religion or representing some other specific part of society.

[ Parent ]
Society and Certain Needs (3.16 / 6) (#20)
by Jonathan Walther on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 04:57:44 AM EST

When a brutal, repressive, and greedy society masquerades as humane, and propagandizes its civilization as the peak of human social evolution, it has to have a Saturnalia or it just won't work.

The more human a society becomes, the less emphasis you see on holiday drunkeness and gift-giving at specific times of year. I find it telling that the spirit of Saturnalia not only took over the Christian feast holiday of Christmas, but the Jewish Channukah; and that Christmas with its trappings of Santa Claus, sleigh-bells, snow, and lighted trees have been taken up avidly in places such as Japan, the Philippines, and Africa, where snow is unknown and our northern lifestyle isn't appreciated.

These are not good times for individual humans.

I was going to say more, but I'm not sure how much madeira I've had :-) Anyway, I think Santa looked better in his original green suit. And the original version of the Canadian flag, with a GREEN maple leaf, looked much better too.

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")

You forgot other burning issues ... (3.25 / 4) (#21)
by Tezcatlipoca on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 05:14:30 AM EST

Like the imperialistic, cclonialistic nature of Santa.

I will tell you that it is very hard to understand when you are young that while everybody around you has brown skin this Santa guy (that to begin with, Santa refers to a woman in my language. A guy calling himself with a woman's name? In macho country? Bad, very bad.) comes from far North and is white and of course he is generous beyond measure. My logic, correctly I thought in those tender days, told me "this guy is USian". Many years later I was going to learn that he lived in the Pole (South? North? who cares! It is equaly cold).

Nobody in its right mind believed this white guy would come and leave presents comming through the chimneys (we have not fscking chimneys in my tropical country) so it was pretty clear all was a fabrication.

On top of that, this guy dresses a ridiculous outfit, driving a snow carriage (in country of truly yours most people will never see snow in their lifetimes) pulled by animals one has never see before, bar one or two unhappy in a zoo.

No wonder in country of truly yours the presents were delivered by little Jesus and just for good measure the real children festivity is 6 of January when the three wise men deliver the toys for the children (OK, they came in a camel, an elephant and a horse. But it is so much easier to believe in three wise kings than in Santa, specialy if those three wise kings are more diverse, one is even black).

I hope I have probed beyond reasonable doubt that Santa was born as an irrelevance in some places were it was introduced, surprise surprise, by marketoids that very often can't differentiate between a hot-dog, a taco and a spring roll.


Santa Claus (4.40 / 5) (#43)
by epepke on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 02:33:05 PM EST

Santa Claus is Saint Nicholas. Nicholas was a real person, or at least as probably real as anbody who has been mythologized from those times. He lived some time in the 3rd century, and his birthday was supposed to be December 6th or December 8th, depending on whose calendar you like. (Reasonably, Christmas should be on the 27th or 28th, to coincide with the Winter Solstice. The ancients were very good at astronomy, so they would have known, but they were pretty lousy at invening annual calendar systems that kept track.) St. Nicholas was well known for running charities, and people remembered his "saint's day" (the birthday of a saint) by giving gifts.

So, the Bishop who wants to move the St. Nicholas stuff to December 6th has a point. On the other hand, by the same token, the birthday of Jesus should be moved to some time in the spring or summer. Shepherds would not have been watching their flocks by night in the middle of winter in the Mideast. Christmas was only declared to be in December to compete with a festival commemorating the birth of Mithras, who was supposed to have been born on December 25 from a bolt of lightning striking a rock. Because Christmas is so obviously an appropriation of a non-Christian holiday, many Christian sects such as the Quakers and the various Puritan sects refuse to celebrate it.

In any event, it is clear that the practice of giving gifts in December owes more to St. Nicholas than to any Christian element.

St. Nicholas is remembered throughout Europe in many ways. In England, he is Father Christmas and wears a sort of heavy red robe trimmed with white fur. In several countries in Northern Europe he is known as Sant Niklaus or San Niklaus and wears a bishop's or monk's robe, usually black. The name "Santa Claus" is simply the way English-speaking Americans transliterated the "San Niklaus" of immigrants from Northern Europe.

Incidentally, many otherwise unremarkable people believe that Santa Claus was invented by the Coca Cola company in the late nineteenth century. This is not true. However, they did give him trousers. Also, while "North Pole" is a bit of a theatrical exaggeration, many of the people who have remembered Nicholas as Niklaus do come from north of the Arctic Circle.

I know that profound ignorance is de rigueur and a matter of pride amongst people who toss off terms like "USian" and "imperialist,", but enough is enough.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
Winter Solstice occurs between Dec 21 - 22nd <n (none / 0) (#55)
by keenan on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 07:22:45 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Where is your sense of irony? (none / 0) (#66)
by Tezcatlipoca on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 06:12:02 AM EST

Is it lost with your sarcasm?

I am not resentful, it is the festive season and I gave you a big 5 because your comment is very informative. Now, if you don't think that a white man distributing presents to brown skinned children has imperialistic undertones, well, good for you. I do believe so and I tried to present it in an ironic way.

And for USian, well, it is too late now. USians are USians and they can't do nothing about it appart to call something else themselves (like A*******s. I refuse to call them A*******s, because I am American but I am not a citizen of the US and I don't think it is nice to hijack the full name of a continent. Sorry, I forgot to put the irony and sarcasm tags around this paragraph.

Merry Xmas.


[ Parent ]
Saint's Days (none / 0) (#79)
by telosphilos on Sun Dec 23, 2001 at 02:04:03 PM EST

Just a little aside on saint's days. Traditonally, a saint's day is actually the day they died. The emphasis being on when they went to meet the ultimate judge and we hope were found worthy to enter heaven. For this reason, the celebration of Christmas was controvertial when it was first introduced, but was really used more to celebrate the Holy Familly than just the birth. The Catholics (of the Roman sect) celebrate about four to six saints per day at mass. The mass is the "feast" that is used to celebrate the saint's "feast" day which is the same as the saint's day. All Souls Day, Nov 1st, is the catch all day for the saints that don't have a named feast day or whose death day is unknown. (I'm a catholic with bit of an interest in church history and apologetics.)
-- Peace and quiet is a sleeping baby.
[ Parent ]
Where to draw the line? (4.00 / 3) (#22)
by Yoshi Mon on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 05:54:26 AM EST

This time of year seems to bring out the rabid atheist in me. Normally I'm a pretty liberal atheist, only showing my colors when questioned or someone try's to pass judgment, but as the christen sect revs up for it's big event of the year, (Yes, I know that some consider Easter to be the big event of the year, but they seem to get more mileage out of this one.) I just can't help myself from putting my 2 cents in wherever I can.

I'm your typical American atheist, born Roman Catholic and after never finding any satisfaction in the mythology that it offered, turned to philosophy. After studying a goodly bit, and finding the courage in myself to identify myself with a group that is viewed about one step above homosexuals in the US's public eye, I call myself an atheist.

What does that have to do with Santa? To be honest, I don't think a whole lot. Looking at all of they mythology that surrounds the Santa myth, it would seem to be a pretty separate from the christen aspect of December 25th. Yet, the church seems to take full advantage of this time of year in reminding everyone of it's mythological significance.

So were does that leave me in regard as to what Santa is? While I would like to say that I'm ok with the whole Santa thing, I just can't seem to validate my refusal to take in one set of mythological rules and disregard another. The fact that it has gotten wrapped up in popular culture makes it no more significant than any of the other hallmark holidays that I refuse to support.

Really, I know what I'm doing...Ohhhh, look at the shiny buttons!
Belgium, Holland,...: Santa =/= Saint Nicholas (4.50 / 2) (#23)
by looksaus on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 06:55:29 AM EST

Where I live (Belgium), Sint-Niklaas is dressed in bishop's clothing. He has a black helper, called "Zwarte Piet" ("Black Jack" :-). De kerstman (Santa) is some import thing we only started seeing more frequently about at most 10 years ago. You have VERY little children who write letters to Santa, but so many who do to Sint-Niklaas. You seldom see two Sint-Niklaasen meet. There's supposed to be only one. You see a lot of Santa's, even in groups, in the streets now. Not so many, even little children believe in him. To a lot of people here, Santa feels VERY commercial and artificial. Sinterklaa, to the contrary, is is a Tradition. In the student house where I live, we were all very happy seeing some typical Sint-Niklaas chocolate, speculoos and other cookies, and mandarins. In some regions in Belgium, we have Sint Maarten (Saint Martin). His day is november 11th. No dec. 6 Sinterklaas. There, Santa feels even more like cheap import.
http://MusicaLiberata.org Towards a Free Classical Music Library
Same in the Netherlands (none / 0) (#69)
by hughk on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 08:09:17 AM EST

Just a short note to say that it is the same in the Netherlands. I note that the names appear to be Flemmish which is almost the same as Dutch.

[ Parent ]
Not lying to your kids (4.25 / 4) (#24)
by pw201 on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 07:22:12 AM EST

strikes me as a good idea. Interestingly, the Christians in the UK seem to be more likely to tell their kids that Santa isn't real.

My girlfriend told me about some people at church who'd decided that they were going to tell their kids that Santa was really just their parents giving them presents. (This is quite common among Christian parents in the UK, I think: if the kids find out you've been lying to them about Santa, they'll think you've been lying about God too, right?)

So, one day, one of the kids comes home from school and says "Mum, why did you lie about Santa? Everyone at school says he does exist after all." Priceless :-)

Truthfulness overrated. (4.20 / 5) (#30)
by jolly st nick on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 10:22:29 AM EST

This not lying business is somewhat overrated.

  • The reason your team lost is that you totally blew that pass.
  • The other kids are picking on you because you are fat and unattractive.
  • Daddy left because he doesn't love us anymore.
  • There's no guarantee that terrorists won't blow up your school -- it's just very unlikely.

When a lie is appropriate, or even needed is a question of a child's development. People who are dogmatic about this sort of thing are thinking about their experiences as teenagers. Teenagers have an urgent need for the truth, and not coincidentally have very well developed bullshit detectors. Smaller children have different needs.

Of course, the Santa fabrication doesn't fall into the same category of necessity as the why Daddy left situation. Personally, I had no intention of doing the Santa thing, I just didn't feel the need. But it turns out you really can't NOT do it unless you make a political stand of the situation. You have a serious and persistent task of debunking to do, and you really can't leave other parents in your family or close circle to make their own policies. There is precious little middle ground: you either go along or take a stand.

So, like everything else you do as a parent (which by definition makes a busy and very tired person) you weigh the consequences. Is Santa harmful to children? I don't think so. Sometimes overgenerous parents are, but this is a separate question. Does it harm the relationship with the parents? I don't think so either; kids find out when they are cognitively ready, a point at which they are ready to question their parents. Does it do any good? Probably not much, except this: it gives children pleasure -- a great deal of pleasure and delight.

Faced with the pleasure Santa brings and the lack of harm he poses to children at the believing age, I like most parents choose to go along. I will be sad when it is over, not because of any fondness for Santa, but because an chapter in my child's life will have come to a close.

People who are insistent on the debunking of Santa have their own reasons. Perhaps they aren't parents and don't understand the kind of pleasure/harm calculus that we go through daily. Perhaps their own parents weren't sensitive to that time when a young mind is on the cusp of adulthood and desparately needs to know what is true. If a parent felt the need to debunk Santa for their own children, and this affected my children's belief -- I would support this. As I said, the Santa thing is not intrinsically important to me.

However, an adult who decides to debunk Santa for other people's children is seriously out of line. It's just none of their damned business. Personally, I would support disciplinary action for any teacher who felt it was his or her perogative to be a high-horse riding Schadenfreude.

[ Parent ]

honesty. (3.00 / 1) (#48)
by Icehouseman on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 04:22:53 PM EST

You know about the first story, when I was 10 I told a bunch of 1st garders that santa wasn't real on the school bus. They didn't kick me outta school.
Bush's $3 trillion state is allegedly a mark of "anti-government bias" on the right. -- Anthony Gregory
[ Parent ]
God (4.00 / 1) (#50)
by CokeFiend on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 05:15:11 PM EST

I remember the day I found out Santa wasn't real. It was the same day I stopped beleiveing in God. It was exactly the reason you mentioned. I figured 'if everyone has been lying to me for this long about Santa then they're probably lying about God too'.

In retrospect I'm glad I came to that conclusion that early. In fact, maybe it is a good lesson to teach your kids -- Don't Trust Anyone!

[ Parent ]
Father Christmas (4.00 / 3) (#27)
by davidmb on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 09:36:43 AM EST

I'm not sure how common this is, but I was brought up here in the UK to call him "Father Christmas." My parents got really irked at the use of the name Santa Claus, I think they saw it as a sign of American influence.

Incidentally, most of my friends still use Father Christmas more often than Santa Claus, but the use of Santa is increasing noticeably each year.
Santa leaking into other religions (3.00 / 2) (#28)
by JonesBoy on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 09:59:50 AM EST

I live in a rather diverse town, with a high jewish population. It is kind of funny, but some of the rather liberal jews have adopted the "Chaunakah Bush" and "Chaunakah Harry". Essentially a renamed Christmas tree and Santa. With all of the advertisements and the pushing of Christmas celebrations, I really cannot blame them for wanting to participate in popular traditions. Espically when those traditions have no relation whatsoever to the religion that practices them.

Speeding never killed anyone. Stopping did.
Yeah, I know... (none / 0) (#34)
by UncleMikey on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 11:27:40 AM EST

The whole 'Chanukah Harry' and 'Chanukah Bush' thing was around when I was growing up as well.

Frankly, even as a child, it disgusted me. These trappings have no place in a Jewish home, and have nothing whatsoever to do with Chanukah.

Not that I'm a particularly zealous Jew, mind you. Just that I find the adoption of such pagan->Christian->retail trappings hypocritical.
[ Uncle Mikey | Radio Free Tomorrow ]
[ Parent ]
Most people dont like it (3.00 / 1) (#72)
by JonesBoy on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 12:04:51 PM EST

Yeah, the people that do it are usually reffered to as "bad jews". More often than not they are families of mixed religions, where the jewish faith took precedence, but the secondary religion is preserving traditions. Still, what a feaky mix.

I have even heard of people celebrating the "Athiest-kids-get-presents-too" day. I think santa, chaunakah harry, and AKGPT are of the similiar denomination of the Capitolist faith. In this religion debt is God and savings accounts are satans tools.

Speeding never killed anyone. Stopping did.
[ Parent ]
My parents never lied to me... (4.25 / 4) (#29)
by ronmon on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 10:18:58 AM EST

And it got them and me into trouble with my friends' parents.

When I was around 5 years old (early 60's), I remember telling some of my friends what my mom and dad had taught me. Santa Claus (not to mention the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny) did not really exist, but was a personification of the spirit of the holiday. It wasn't long before the phone started ringing with other parents complaining how my brother, 2 years older, and I were being corrupted from the acceptable norm, and were spreading this heresy among our peers.

We had a sensible family talk and agreed that while our folks would continue to be truthful to us, we kids would keep it to ourselves and not rock the neighborhood boat. The fact is that most people are much happier with their fantasies than facing reality.

The world would be better off with more plain speakers teaching our youth, but it is not a realistic expectation at this point in human evolution.


Want to tackle the root of the human problem? Start Here.
Happy Retail Day, everyone! (4.00 / 4) (#32)
by tailchaser on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 10:44:36 AM EST

*shrug* I'm personally convinced that the Christmas holiday exists in the form it does now for no reason other than supporting retail sales.

I worked for a while for a large nationwide multimedia retail company. The store I was a manager for did fairly well (we ran with a profit for most of all year), but a nearby branch was MUCH smaller, and ran at a loss for 10 months of the year. In November and December, that small branch would make enough money from Christmas sales to come out with a net profit for the year. Kinda depressing, in a sense.

Christmas, for my wife and me, is essentially just an excuse to take lots of days off from work and go spend time with her family. => I buy gifts and trinkets and toys for my friends and family all year long as I find things that catch my eye; I don't see any reason to wait until a "special day" to let people know you're thinking about them.

Here's a thought: Y'think the teacher in question would have gotten in trouble if she told the class that Barney wasn't a real dinosaur, or that Pokemon thingies weren't REALLY real pets? I'd like to know who thought that these kids will really grow up with permanent emotional damage because a teacher explained the difference between mythology and reality.

   -tc rambles...

Santa Update from Canada (4.00 / 1) (#33)
by mushanti on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 10:58:26 AM EST

On a related note...

Santa Falls Foul of Canadian Anti-Terrorism Laws


"Telepathy was the first wireless telegraph and telephone service ever known to the world."
- Swami Sivananda

I like the discussion this has generated ... (3.50 / 2) (#35)
by ajkohn on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 11:45:35 AM EST

I myself am ... an atheist on my bad days and an agnostic on the good ones. I grew up without much in terms of organized religion but what I now think of as Humanism, the kind espoused by the likes of Kurt Vonnegut. My mother is Christian and my father Jewish, and neither are overly religious, just good people. I could go on and on about religion but will stay on topic.

What Santa sparked in me was a whole host of questions which thankfully have been better explored by those commenting:

Has Santa, even Christmas, become nothing more then a retail device? As others have commented, why narrow your generosity to this time of the year? What does it say that we have almost legislated a time where we should play nicely with others?

Seeing how Santa has eclipsed the real meaning of Christmas for many, it's become a type of virus spreading to other religions, most notably Judaism. Is this a retail trojan horse? It makes me think to the US in the 80's, and the speech by Gordon Gecko in Wall Street: 'Greed is good.'

Imperialism. I must admit I was unaware of the expanding nature that Santa has taken in the world - particularly of late. I thank those here for educating me on this topic. Santa seems to be just another export, along with McDonald's and Pizza Hut. But again is it a retail export or a religious export, or both, one hiding behind the other - always able to point to the other when convenient.

Then Santa gets mixed up in the 'State' - with Santa popping up all over, and perhaps not only heralding a retail bonanza, but religion and also Americana. Even the ACLU hasn't taken Santa to task, creches - all over it, but Santa gets a free pass. It's the paradox that Old Saint Nick is both religious in nature, yet not, all at once.

Lastly, and more interesting and important perhaps is how this effects children and parenting issues. How do you deal with such a myth steeped in religion? How do you explain the mass delusion that we inculcate? Where are the boundaries of truth and trust in relation to Santa and other imaginary fellows? I think it often sounds easy, and many don't have screaming fits of "you're a big fat liar!" But ... you quickly careen into society's norms - something I have a distate for given the homogenization it causes - and suddenly parents are boxed into a corner, going along with the myth, or leaking them the truth but telling them to lie or at minimum keep their mouth shut. Quite a burden for a 4 year old!

"Just because something bears the aspect of the inevitable one should not, therefore, go along willingly with it." - The Transmigration of Timothy Archer

I wonder what would have happened if... (4.00 / 1) (#36)
by SIGFPE on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 12:58:11 PM EST

...the teacher had suggested that Jesus isn't really listening when they tell lies and that their dead pet cats aren't gamboling across the fluffy white clouds of heaven?
Listen buddy (5.00 / 1) (#41)
by wiredog on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 01:54:33 PM EST

Telling kids the unvarnished truth is a hangin' offense in these here parts.

Peoples Front To Reunite Gondwanaland: "Stop the Laurasian Separatist Movement!"
[ Parent ]
Excellent point (4.00 / 1) (#44)
by Anonymous 242 on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 02:40:43 PM EST

You demonstrate very well exactly why a public school teacher should not teach that Santa Claus does not exist. Doing so, crosses the proper boundaries seperating Church from State.

IMO, public school teachers should not be teaching religion, but rather be teaching about religion. In other words, saying that Santa Claus doesn't exist is out of bounds, but teaching the origins of the traditions about Santa Claus is not.

The same should go for any religion or religious figure from Jesus to Buddha to Jack O' Lantern. I've no problem with my daughters getting a pluralistic religious education as long as it takes the form of teaching about different religions and beliefs. (Group X teaches abstract idea Y. The idea Y has its roots in Z.) I do have a problem with schools teaching religions and beliefs. (Abstract idea Y is (not) true.)

I also have a certain amount of toleration for notions that are pervasive and indisuptable such as "murder is bad". (Although when it comes to questions as to why murder is bad, the best that a public school can do is teach ethical theory about exploring what makes an idea right or wrong, without saying that theory X on morality is true.)


Lee Irenæus Malatesta

[ Parent ]

How old do kids have to be before you can... (none / 0) (#47)
by SIGFPE on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 03:33:34 PM EST

...get into the subtleties of a proposition being someone's belief rather than the truth?

But otherwise I think that the teaching of comparative religion is an important part of preparing children for the world we live in.
[ Parent ]

Easy. . . (none / 0) (#56)
by Anonymous 242 on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 09:18:07 PM EST

Teach about religions like this:
Christians believe X. Some Christians believe Y. Others believe Z.

Buddhists believe Q.

Muslims believe M.

Some people believe that Santa Claus lives at the North Pole and . . .

And even better, the teacher can put the whole thing into historical perspective.

Christianity is about 2000 years old. Jesus was born around the year 4 BCE. His followers were at first persecuted by the Roman empire as a heretical sect of Judaism and after a few brief centuries took over the Roman empire.

The current North American tradition of Santa Claus first has its roots in the early twentieth century poem 'Twas the Night before Christmas'. Prior to that time, Santa was seen as. . .

Just present the facts. Let the kids sort it out. Most of them are smart enough to read between the lines. If the parents lied to them and have a problem, that's their problem.

I've yet to meet any child that can grasp an abstract idea and not understand the difference between a belief (a truth claim) and the way things are (the truth). Of course, YMMV.


Lee Irenæus Malatesta

[ Parent ]

Eh? (4.00 / 1) (#52)
by brion on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 05:30:27 PM EST

Find me a religion in which it is actually claimed that Santa Claus brings toys to children on a regular basis in the present and maybe you've got a case. (ie, believing in the existence of the historical St. Nicholas doesn't count, nor do adults who just tell the kids Santa stories "because it's fun" but themselves know it's hooey.)

Unless you'd care to argue that deliberately lying to children is a form of religious expression?

Chu vi parolas Vikipedion?
[ Parent ]
Belief in Santa IS the religion (none / 0) (#58)
by Anonymous 242 on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 09:44:55 PM EST

Find me a religion in which it is actually claimed that Santa Claus brings toys to children on a regular basis in the present and maybe you've got a case. (ie, believing in the existence of the historical St. Nicholas doesn't count, nor do adults who just tell the kids Santa stories "because it's fun" but themselves know it's hooey.)
We're not talking about only gifts from Saint Nick lying under the Christmas tree.

We're talking about an organized religion that venerates an mythical and supernatural figure replete with formal prayers, claimed visitations, devotional literature, a code of ethics with a system of rewards and punishments, and so on and so forth.

We're talking about parents willing to commit physical harm on people that tell their children the truth about the big lie.

We're talking about a pervasive and widespread religion. Honestly, what is the qualitative difference between the Santa mythos and, say, the old Roman or Greek pantheons?

Feel free to differ.


Lee Irenæus Malatesta

[ Parent ]

Mysteries... (5.00 / 1) (#61)
by brion on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 10:24:09 PM EST

The difference should be pretty clear: the existence of Santa Claus is *known* to be false by those who propagate the myth, and those who it is propagated to (children) are *expected* to stop believing the harmless lie after a certain amount of time and join in on the next generation of deception.

However you could very easily call this Santaism a mystery religion, in which those who have been initiated know the secret of what the religion is all about while new recruits and the public are told something else altogether.

Whether this is a "valid" and protected form of religion is another question altogether. After all, if I were to declare myself the messiah of a new religion that requires gun-running and the selling of crack cocaine to children as the path to true enlightenment, I don't think the 1st amendment would protect me from being put up on weapons and narcotics charges*. Why treat simple fraud differently? I say we stamp out Santa-worship! (Or not.)

*Disclaimer for law enforcement officers reading this message. I have not engaged in, nor do I have any intention of engaging in gun-running, drug-dealing, or the creation of new religions for tax evasion purposes. This was solely a hypothetical situation.

Chu vi parolas Vikipedion?
[ Parent ]
Not a difference (none / 0) (#63)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 12:45:41 AM EST

The difference should be pretty clear: the existence of Santa Claus is *known* to be false by those who propagate the myth, and those who it is propagated to (children) are *expected* to stop believing the harmless lie after a certain amount of time and join in on the next generation of deception.
This is not a difference. By late antiquity, the old Roman and Greek pantheons were commonly thought to be falsehoods necessarily propagated to keep civil order.

I could go on and on. What about some of the Jewish Kabalist groups that state that the torah has little (if any) literal truth and only serves to initiate the enlightened in hidden deeper truths? What about groups like the Masons? The Nation of Islam?

I also think that you misunderstand the mystery in mystery religions.

Whether this is a "valid" and protected form of religion is another question altogether.
Ironically, in the US it is a religion that is protected in a unique manner. The only religious holiday observed by the US federal government is Christmas. Cincinnati attourney Anthony Ganulin (sp?) recently lost a lawsuit against the federal government to no longer observe Christmas as a federal holiday. (But this is really tangential to the discussion at hand.)

Back on topic, my daughter's teachers feel free to teach Christmas carols concerning the big red lie, but I have a feeling that 'Come all ye faithful' would be right out. I also doubt that my daughter will be coming home with a menorah or creche made by teacher's instruction in art class, while she does come home with teacher instructed santa paraphenelia.

After all, if I were to declare myself the messiah of a new religion that requires gun-running and the selling of crack cocaine to children as the path to true enlightenment, I don't think the 1st amendment would protect me from being put up on weapons and narcotics charges*. Why treat simple fraud differently?
Your new religion is disanalgous. Selling of crack cocaine and illegal firearms are both illegal. Lying to one's children (in most cases) is not. I doubt that the big red lie can be construed to be fraud in the legal sense of the word.


Lee Irenæus Malatesta

[ Parent ]

Not illegal, but it jes' ain't right. (n/t) (none / 0) (#65)
by brion on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 04:13:55 AM EST


Chu vi parolas Vikipedion?
[ Parent ]
agreed [NT] (none / 0) (#75)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 09:30:14 PM EST

[ Parent ]
That's part of the quandary (none / 0) (#45)
by ajkohn on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 02:52:34 PM EST

Because you do run into religion and theology. You bump into Church and State. That is if you qualify Santa as religious. Which in my conflicting opinion - he is and is not all at once. It's a tough distinction.

"Just because something bears the aspect of the inevitable one should not, therefore, go along willingly with it." - The Transmigration of Timothy Archer
[ Parent ]

Religious or secular? (4.00 / 3) (#46)
by stewartj76 on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 03:11:35 PM EST

"Santa" was a religious figure that has been absorbed into an economic one. Kind of like pumpkins or turkeys, he has become a symbol of the holiday itself. How the holiday itself is treated is more related to the society that is celebrating. The story of Santa seems to vary from country to country (Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, Saint Nicholas, etc), but the basic idea of some nice guy giving stuff away seems pretty common. Are there any traditions that didn't have a religious origin? Since religion was such a large part of people's lives it stands to reason that all traditions would either have a religious origin or a religious tie-in.

The origin of Christmas as a religious holiday is just like most other major Christian holidays - set at dates to coincide with pagan rituals. Spring, winter solstice, fall. Yes, we don't know when Jesus was born, but he was conceived on December 8. Well, that's when the feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated (with more pagan overtones), so Christmas should be in July or August.

Read this for a deduction of Jesus's true birthday and other Christian holidays if you're interested.

Immaculate Coneption (none / 0) (#73)
by cyberbuffalo on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 01:25:17 PM EST

Actually the Immaculate Coneption isn't what you think it is. It was when Mary was conceived.

[ Parent ]
Whatdoyoumeantheresnosanta? (3.80 / 5) (#49)
by the scooter king on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 04:55:11 PM EST

(lip quiver)

(runs crying out of the room)

The secret is not to try and bend the .sig. The secret is that there is no .sig.
Christmas vs. X-mas (3.00 / 3) (#51)
by Office Girl the Magnificent on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 05:26:32 PM EST

Personally, I believe in Christmas as such -- The Mass by which we remember Christ -- as well as as the secular holiday, often abbreviated "Xmas." (I am, in fact, aware that the etymological roots of this word are in the abbreviation for Christ, X; however, modern Christians rarely use this abbreviation for Christmas and it has been widely adopted by commercial entities, making its connotation stronger than its actual meaning.)

In my mind, there is a distinct separation between the religious and secular holidays. I celebrate both -- Christmas by the lighting of advent candles, observation of holy days, and devotion to the reading of scripture and contemplation on the meaning of the mysteries; Xmas by gathering together with my family and friends to exchange gifts and eat large quantities of ham. One is very serious; the other is fun and playful. I am not offended by Santa's commercialization; I plan to "play along" with the "Santa issue" with my kids the same way my parents did. We all knew it was a joke; there was an unspoken understanding that Santa was not real. However, I knew better than to spoil it for other kids. When I was very young, I half believed, and half-disbeleived. I was good for a month, "just in case." And it was a beautiful illusion. I'd hate to rob my kids or anyone else's of that. When I realized there was no Santa Claus, it wasn't too much of a shock. There was no trauma, and I didn't start questioning my parent's teachings on religion, sex, drugs, or rock and roll. (I questioned those things later, for other, darker reasons.) So I think, Santa is a perfect representation of a secular, secularized, and distinctly American holiday. Those of us who are deeply rooted in our faiths can separate the two. And there's always 3 King's Day, for the purists.

"If you stay, Infinite might try to kill you. If you leave, the FBI definitely will. And if you keep yelling, I might do it myself."

There arose such a clatter. (4.00 / 2) (#54)
by Apuleius on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 06:26:57 PM EST

This article from Common Place goes through how Clement Moore's poem The Night Before Christmas created the Santa Claus myth as we know it. It's pretty freaky.

There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
Sympathy for Santa (3.00 / 1) (#60)
by kb575 on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 10:13:07 PM EST

Ponder this.

It's 40 degrees Celsius outside (inexcess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit) and your standing outside for roughly 8 hours, as xmas shoppers pass you their sweaty dribbling kiddies. No add to that you're wearing a warm coat and long pants with a fur trim a big fake white beard and possibly a wig, a hat and boots. And tada... Xmas in Australia.

Just goes to show that we follow the traditions of other countries without really thinking about the poor sod who is going to have to perpetuate our xmas dream....

My 2 bob

You're all getting lumps of coal this Christmas! (3.00 / 1) (#62)
by Tatarigami on Tue Dec 18, 2001 at 10:36:43 PM EST

I think we're taking what is essentially a bit of light-hearted fun too seriously. True, Santa Clause has been press-ganged into marketing campaigns to sell things no-one needs to people who don't really want them -- so has every other icon in Western culture. True, he represents ideas and beliefs that offend the doctrines of a number of large and pervasive spiritual movements -- like every other real or imaginary figure in human history. True, he embodies the values of a culture whose philosophies and social institutions are strange and uncomfortable to many of us -- but then, so does the technology we're typing out out complaints on.

But never mind the kids, I get misty-eyed and sentimental when I think of flying reindeer, polar toy factories and a portly old man shimmying down the chimney to leave loot under the tree for me.

And I pronounce you all to be a bunch of grinches!

God, I hate Christmas (4.00 / 4) (#64)
by weirdling on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 02:37:05 AM EST

Being an atheist, I will never get 'the spirit of Christmas', although, truth be told, I didn't get it when I was Christian, either. I guess the 'deep feeling of goodwill for the whole world' part of me is broke. Oh, well.

What does Christmas mean to me? Long bloody lines at the post office. Not finding a parking space at the mall. And, unlike the average Joe, I'm not out to buy presents; I need a power supply for a friends machine and need to send a money order for a VRM I bought on eBay. Get out of my bloody way.

Also, get over it: every stinking tradition of modern Christmas was invented by marketers. Santa, Rudolph, the universal need for a tree, and even the universal observance of Christmas is a result of marketing. Early Americans did not often observe Christmas, as few of them were Catholic, and most separatists/protestants wouldn't do anything that even smelled Catholic.

Of course, the Catholic church invented the whole bloody ordeal as a marketing ploy to attract the heathen, who, to their eventual and obvious detriment, fell for it. See, there's absolutely no way any historic Christ was born in December in Palestine.

Of course, since Jesus Christ is largely a fabrication, anyway, why worry about the fabrication of Santa Claus, which is actually based on the somewhat historical legend of St. Niklaus, will damage the belief in the fabrication of Jesus' birth in Friggin December?

According to my personal research, it seems this Jesus guy was born around 60 BC, if there was actually a real Jesus. Jewish histories speak of a Jesus born around 60 BC to a prostitute by way of a Roman soldier. Of this man, little is known. Iraneus, one of the early popes, wrote that it is a certifiable heresy to believe that Jesus was crucified. He died of old age. The Gospel of Thomas has many of the same elements that show up in the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark, Luke) but, because clearly cruder, is obviously an earlier work. John is much more refined, therefor later. A earliest date for John would be 170 AD, making it obviously not eyewitness. Since the earliest that Mark could have been written is 60 AD, and since Jesus died anywhere from 27 AD to 35 AD, depending on whether you use the Synoptic chronology or John's, and where you place the birth, which is, actually, impossible to do, as extant records do not allow the combination of kings that the Synoptics insist were extant. Throw in the fact that most of the prophecies used to support Jesus as the messiah mean nothing of the sort or are sorely misinterpreted and the fact that there are no extant reliable, external references to any Jesus or, indeed, any Christians until around 270 AD, and the whole thing becomes one giant fish story.

So, why worry? Neither Jesus nor Santa can withstand any serious scrutiny. It just means two solid months of bad muzak and saccharine well-wishing, not to mention what I expect quite a lot of from this post: being named a curmudgeon and a Grinch. So be it. I intend to hibernate and drink.

I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
USSR/Russia (4.00 / 1) (#70)
by hughk on Wed Dec 19, 2001 at 08:21:38 AM EST

The system under the Soviets was as follows:

They hated religion so they had a Father Frost or Ded Maross and the Snow Maiden or Schnee Gortichka. The celeberation was on New Year. There is no religious link.

It should also be noted that Russia didn't move to the Gregorian calandar until after the Russian Revolution. The Russian Orthodox church maintains their original calendar, so Christmas is on the 7th January as the calendars are about 2 weeks out.

After the end of the Soviet Union and now that religion is no longer deemphasised, ther are Catholics and Protestants celebrating on Dec 25th (not a public holiday in Russia), the main celebration over New Year (Jan 1st/2nd are holidays) and the Orthodox on Dec 7th which is also a public holiday. End result, not much is done in Russia except partying between Dec 25th and Jan 7th.

In the Dreamtime.... Santa Exists!!! (none / 0) (#78)
by mushanti on Thu Dec 20, 2001 at 10:16:12 AM EST

A friend of mine's comments on a shamanic journey that she had:

"I think everyone should know that I once I met Santa in a journey for someone around this time of year. He said "Ho, Ho, Ho. Merry Christmas," and then gave me a wrapped present. I think it was for my client, buy I don't know what it was. Just so you know that Santa Claus is real. Be good, that's all I'm saying."


"Telepathy was the first wireless telegraph and telephone service ever known to the world."
- Swami Sivananda

Separation of Santa and State | 79 comments (78 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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