Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas, Santa, and Jesus

As a parent, two stories I would like to tell better are the story of 9/11 and the story of Christmas. With the former, I’m still trying to get it “just right.” Both my children were born after 9/11 (my older one just nine months after). They are also still very young and na├»ve. People are still “linear beings” to them. There is a distinct line between right and wrong, good and bad -- And good things happen to good people, and bad things to bad people.

The notion always reminds me of this article I read in the UTNE Reader a long time ago. It was called something like “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” It presented interesting thoughts about our perception of good behavior and reward and what happens when the rewards don’t pan out.

I’ve told them about 9/11 but only in vague isolated terms. To them it is just another chapter in a social studies textbook (and in many ways that is OK with me for now). I’ve told them that sometimes people want things so bad that they forget about who gets hurt in the process. And I’ve also told them not to give up so quickly on broken objects, sometimes the pieces can be brought together and put together into something just as great. But getting older, they will need more than my detached philosophizing.

Christmas is the other story I would like to tell better. The recent reaction to a teacher telling her students there is no Santa Claus, got me thinking about the importance people have placed on him as a symbol of What? Giving? Christmas? Innocence? Childhood?

That’s where I hit a snag. When that teacher said there is no Santa Claus, parents rushed to protect the belief they’ve nurtured in their children about Santa Claus – But what does Santa Claus mean? Or what is he supposed to mean to them?

Francis Church’s editorial comes to mind:

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Is this the “Santa” that the parents are protecting?

At the Manataka American Indian Council site there is an essay by Floyd Looks for Buffalo Hand on the history of Christmas among American Indians. It’s an interesting document of how a foreign faith appealed enough to the existing peoples to be adapted into their beliefs and customs.

It’s also a reminder that Christmas is a Christian holiday. It’s the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, who is believed by Christians to be the Son of God. My favorite retelling of the birth of Christ was done by Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas:

I should probably have more issues than I actually do with the “modern spirit” of Christmas. In fact, part of the meaning of Christmas for me is its commercialization. I like the colored lights, mistletoe, and shopping mall Santas.

As for “Christ the Lord,” I’ve decided liking what the religion stands for (charity and goodwill) does not necessarily mean liking its followers and the harm they’ve caused in its name.

Jesus Christ Superstar is streaming on Netflix. Because it is set at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, it’s usually referenced during Easter. I’m going to mention it here because it’s a well written story about a man whose celebrity gets the best of him and because it’s his birthday that inspired the holiday regardless of whether you choose to celebrate it as a religious occasion, a commercial event, or simply as a part of Western custom.

*Originally posted at Cranialgunk.org.

2 comments:

bigWOWO said...

"As for “Christ the Lord,” I’ve decided liking what the religion stands for (charity and goodwill) does not necessarily mean liking its followers and the harm they’ve caused in its name. "

As Jesus Christ himself might say, "Hallelujah!"

Vincent Young said...

Hey bigWOWO! Belated thanks for reading and for your comment. Hope your holidays and New Years' were good ones.