Image from Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
“Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.” –Dr. Seuss, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
As it is now Christmas Eve, Little Man and I are in the final day of our new “30 Days of Christmas” tradition. Over the course of the last month, we either did or watched something “Christmassy” each day in order to fully celebrate and appreciate the beauty of the season. Initially, this seemed like a great idea, since it’s often such a blur and leaves us feeling as if we’ve missed much of the experience. However, throughout these 30 days, we have come to notice some truly bizarre messages about the jolly old King of Merriment. Below are just a few of the highlights:
1) Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Somehow, this was lost on me as a child, but while watching it this year with Little Man, it occurred to me that Santa had a proclivity for being a real bigot. As the story goes, Rudolph was born with a unique physical trait that distinguishes him from his fellow reindeer. And, rather than accepting or even celebrating this difference, Santa tells Rudolph’s parents that he’d better grow out of what Santa evidently sees as a deformity if he ever wants to be part of Santa’s sleigh crew. When Rudolph is a little older and it’s discovered that he did not, in fact, grow out of it, Santa tells Rudolph’s father he ought to be ashamed of himself, while the rest of the reindeer proceed to name-call and ostracize Rudolph. Worse yet, Santa later only asks Rudolph to join his crew when he learns that Rudolph’s “deformity” is the only thing that will save Christmas. Santa never even apologizes for being a complete douchebag. What message is a child supposed to take from this, exactly?
2) Santa Baby. WTF is with this song?? The whole premise of this disturbs me. A presumably grown woman purposefully sounding like a spoiled brat, materialistic 12-year-old Lolita who attempts to seduce Santa for yachts and Tiffany’s decorations seems to me a rather strange message to send about what makes Santa happy.
3) Six to Eight Black Men. I have to admit that this particular Christmas observation by genius David Sedaris had me laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe (Six to Eight Black Men). It also gave me some excellent “best behavior” leverage with Little Man. Still, and I mean no disrespect to the Dutch, this tale of a would-be violent Santa roaming the streets and terrorizing little kids with his kidnapping posse of six to eight black men is pretty messed up.
4) I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. Now, adults know that Mommy is really kissing Daddy, who is dressed up like Santa. Or maybe it’s the neighbor she’s kissing…. Whatever. The point is, it’s not the real Santa. But for kids listening to this song, not only is mommy depicted as a total tart, Santa now seems like a philandering, home-wrecking dickhead.
5) Elf on the Shelf. Just. No. Does anyone actually think this thing is NOT the epitome of creepdom?
6) THE WHOLE CONCEPT OF SANTA. Santa is widely considered to be the ultimate seasonal symbol of cheer and selflessness and good will. This jolly giver of gifts and candy to children is trusted unquestionably. But, when you stop and think about it for a moment, we are sending some very contradictory and confusing messages to our youngsters. In a time where we simultaneously teach our children about “stranger danger,” we essentially encourage them to sit on the lap of a stranger in a furry red suit who has been surreptitiously watching them all year without our knowledge or permission. And, rather than call the cops on said stranger as he creeps around from neighborhood to neighborhood in the middle of the night committing serial acts of breaking and entering, we simply tell our children to go to sleep. And what about the sweat shop he has packed full of tiny indentured servants? Really? This is the story we’re telling our children?
Needless to say, Little Man has become a bit confused about the whole concept, and I’ve been trying to help him reconcile it all. I reinforce the good traits of Santa and downplay the weirdness as a matter of inaccurate historical representation or some such thing. This seems to satisfy him. I also remind him that while Santa is no doubt a popular figure during Christmas, his role is probably much larger than is warranted.
I love the idea of the sweet-natured, do-gooder Santa who just wants children to be happy and healthy. Yet, really, when I think about my own childhood Christmases, I have very few memories of Santa, himself.
I couldn’t tell you what Santa brought me for Christmas when I was eight. No, what I remember most are the first snowfalls of the season. And decorating the tree while the smell of baking cookies filled the house. I remember taking neighborhood drives to see the homes aglow in outdoor Christmas lights. I remember giggling with friends in anticipation of Christmas break. And the magic of waking Christmas morning to the smell of coffee and the sparkle of bows on presents. And, of course, the seemingly endless plates of food. Not one of those memories included Santa.
There is something about Christmas that seems to make everyone just a little sentimental, providing you are nowhere near a mall, and it’s that warmth and good will and joy that truly makes it special. These are the things I carry with me, and the things that can still get me through a random shitty Wednesday in July. And these are the things I hope Little Man carries with him long after Santa has become just a story. Well, that and maybe my kickass snickerdoodle recipe.
Santa or no Santa, I wish all of you happy Christmas memories…and awesome Christmas cookies!© Racheal Lee Bradford