You can read my post The War On Christmas: Part 1 – The Case For Happy Holidays.
There’s a new war on Christmas and you won’t believe who the belligerents are.
A question was posted in a Facebook group that I am a member of. It’s one for parents of children that attend the school my son goes to. The mother who posted the question asked if anyone else’s child came home this week saying that there is no Santa. And who told the child this?
The child’s Catholic Scripture teacher.
For my readers outside of Australia and those who aren’t in the know, Scripture is the name given to the 30 minute religious study class that is conducted weekly within the school. That’s public schools, not religious based schools that I’m talking about. Now let me give you a little bit of background on religion in public schools.
At the school my son attends they have the children segregated into five groups for Scripture; Catholic, Anglican, Hindu, Punjabi and Non-Scripture. Too bad if there are any Jewish children at our school. Sure they only make up 0.5% of our population, but we don’t offer any Jewish kids their own class. Too bad if there are any Buddhist children. They’re 2.4% of our population, but we don’t cater for them. And the Muslim children; Islam has grown to 2.2% of our population but we don’t cater for them.
Interestingly, Hinduism is only 1.3% of our country’s population but we have enough Hindus at our school to justify a separate class for them. Punjabi which isn’t even a religion is listed in the “scripture” classes. Punjabi is the language and culture of the people of the Punjab region which is between India and Pakistan. The Punjabi people have four main religions; Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Christianity. According to another parent at the school they teach Sikhism and we have enough Punjabi children of that faith to justify this class.
I’ll come back to this later…
The New War On Christmas
If I asked most kids to list things that they love about Christmas they would say they love the gifts, Christmas trees, the lights on every other house, and Santa Claus. Santa is just as much a part of Christmas as the nativity scene and the whole birth of Christ story is. So then, why must some religious people attack him?
Now in light of the comment made by comedian Kitty Flanagan on the television show “The Project” on Tuesday night, some might assume that it’s not just the Christians attacking Santa Claus, but the Atheists too. Kitty described Santa as “a man that doesn’t even exist” which had parents who were watching this show with their children up in arms.
That’s not true. I ran a poll in a few Atheist groups to see what they thought of Santa. In one group, seeing that I allowed those answering to add their own answer, one of the respondents wrote “Santa was harmless fun and a lesson in critical thinking” and that was by far the top response (why didn’t I think of that when writing the question?) but generally the answers that were favourable to Santa received the most points collectively.
In another group the top response was one that I wrote “I like him and let my kids believe in him knowing they will grow out of it” and again the ones in favour of him were collectively the highest result, but the second highest individual response in both groups was “We don’t do Santa in our house”. Adding the favourable and non-favourable responses together from both groups and the collective total of respondents, from my small survey there were more than 4 out of 5 Atheists in favour of the jolly old fat man.
Still, Santa has been caught in the crossfire.
Forget the Cola Wars
When Christians attack Santa they are doing so to protect their product. It’s Coca-Cola versus Pepsi, that’s what it is. It’s that old story that I was told years ago (possibly an urban legend) that Coca-Cola successfully challenged through the courts in the United States that when people ask for a “Coke please” they mean Coca-Cola and “nothing less”. According to the (possible) urban legend, that is the reason why when you go to a restaurant or fast food outlet and ask for a “Coke” and they don’t sell Coca-Cola branded cola they must ask you if you are happy to have Pepsi instead. For most people it’s Coca-Cola and nothing else, but for some, when they think of cola, they’ll take any brand as long as it is a cola flavoured beverage.
So how does this relate to Christmas? Well I see it like this;
“Can I get a true meaning of Christmas please?”
“I’m sorry, we only have Santa here. Will that be okay?”
“No. I need a nativity scene and nothing else thanks…”
But just like the Cola Wars, there is room for both. For some people it will be Santa and The Birth of Christ, for some it will be just Jesus as the reason for the season (especially those who don’t have kids, or those who don’t have young children around any more but are religious), and for some, like me, it’s Santa.
Even though I am an Atheist I still enjoy what I call the pomp and ceremony behind the Christmas tradition including those Christmas carols and songs that I grew up singing which mention the mythology of the virgin birth of “the Christ”. It’s a bit like me being in favour of Australia being a republic but enjoying the Royal Family of England and their weddings and news of pending children.
Santa is more inclusive
As I mentioned in my opening, we have children from all manner of religious and non-religious backgrounds at our school, but there’s one thing that most can generally agree on; Santa is a pretty cool dude. For many, Santa has his origins in the religious icon Saint Nicholas. For others his origin lies with other traditions throughout Western Europe including Sinterklaas or Kris Kringle (remember the Rankin-Bass television special called “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town”)?
But as Santa Claus doesn’t have any ties to any particular religion even though he does represent a celebration favoured by the Christians, he is open for everyone to enjoy without pissing off their own god or gods.
The stories of Santa Claus are not dogmatic
No one is asking anyone to believe in or promote Santa Claus and he is not the enemy of Jesus and “His” followers. There comes a time in every child’s life when they work out that mum and dad are actually Santa. They are the ones who bring the other gifts after the kids fall asleep on Christmas Eve, and they are the ones who drink the milk or beer and eat the cookies or chocolate. Once the jig is up, once the parents have been busted it is only natural that parents tell the truth. If it’s the eldest child who discovers the truth first, it is also fun for them to join in on the charade.
So lay off Santa. Let those who want to have him in their celebration of Christmas have him. And if you are less than impressed by those who don’t believe in Jesus going around telling others that he doesn’t exist, if you do the same to Santa and tell a child who is sitting in a religious class and whose parents are willing to let you indoctrinate their child into your faith that Santa is not real, then you really aren’t a very nice person. I think that sort of behaviour is very unchristian.
W.W.J.D? Yes, what WOULD Jesus do?
He’d embrace Santa, that’s for sure…
So do you do Santa Claus in your household? If not, tell me why not. And if you do and you want to share a Santa story, I’d love to hear it.