The Santa Clause: Lying is OK, so long as everyone else is doing it.
The Santa Claus Syndrome is the effect of societal complicity in, and/or complacency to, lies and the belief that’s ok.
Take a moment to imagine yourself an outsider and visitor to a new culture. Imagine if you will an annual global celebration so fantastic that people excitedly await it all year long. Imagine the celebration correlates the winter solstice. Imagine the celebration is so spectacular and grandiose that it spurs the sales of products worldwide and some businesses exist solely because of it. Imagine that nearly all businesses profit from it and promote it. Imagine that the main part of the celebration, for most people, aside from sparkling decorations and elaborate gift giving, is openly lying to young children!
Most everyone celebrates the holiday, but those who do not celebrate it are expected to go along with the tradition of broadly lying to children and accepting the excessive materialism out of consideration for cultural tradition.
Although some call Christmas today a ‘Pagan’ holiday, in reality it is nothing of the kind. The pagans I know want nothing to do with it.
Christmas is a children’s consumption holiday. They look forward to it the most. Well, children and the profiting corporations, of course. Children receive countless presents, rewarded for accepting as truth impossible fictions about a fat man from the North Pole, an omnipotence external being who “sees you when you’re sleeping”, who judges children, and who withholds or grants material incentives accordingly.
It is better to give than to receive, they are told.
Celebration and happiness is in the receiving, they observe.
Reward is earned by modelling behavior and suspending critical thinking, they learn.
Generally speaking, telling children fiction as fact is counter-productive to their developing minds. But children do of course eventually inquire of their parents and strangers alike about the phenomenon of the holiday and the fat man. For a period of time after that first enquiry, many children are lied to further – to prolong the “magic”. Finally, they get their answer and find that majority of adults are in on the lie. Even institutions like schools lie, and local and national news. And now they will lie, too. And it’s all okay… so long as everyone else is doing it.
And that, kids, is the magic of Christmas!
Other celebration rituals involve cutting down young trees for indoor decorations, wrapping gifts in paper from other trees and putting them under the dying, decorated tree on the last night of the celebration and saying the fat man did it. The children are told the fat man traverses the world on an inadequately sized sled powered by flying reindeer (the lead one featuring an inexplicable glowing nose) and stops by the homes of children, entering through chimneys yet staying crispy clean, having cookies at each house as he drops off plastic weapons and impossibly thin dolls.
And the fat man, old Santa Claus, he isn’t just generous, he’s mysterious. He doesn’t simply give because it’s better than receiving. He and his elf workers in the North Pole watch all the children of Earth all year long. He decides which children receive the promise of abundance based on who’s been naughty and nice.
Sounds a bit like the other Big Guy, who decides who receives the promise of abundance in the ‘afterlife’, based on who’s been naughty and nice.
The Santa Claus story is an unnecessary social conjuration of a blatantly un-sacred holiday. Those of us who grew up in in ‘Christmas’ homes were all influenced by it in one way or another; even the ‘not Christmas’ kids were openly encouraged to withhold the truth from the ‘Christmas’ kids – to prolong the magic.
Abstract and nuanced, it is the first load of garbage young humans in Christian-influenced societies have to mentally digest. For many kids, it is the first time they come to doubt their parents on a point of truth, and the first time they are knowingly lied to if their suspicions are deflected. Then, once entrusted with continuing the Santa Claus myth with younger children, it is the first time they learn that the caveat to the long held ‘no lying’ rule is … ‘so long as everyone else is doing it’.
Just play along kids, and you’ll still get the gifts.
Amid all the Christmas hoopla, which starts to build in stores as early as October, children are normally so occupied with shiny lights and the prospect of gifts that there really is no impetus to question it. Eventually, despite the enticements on offer, the lie is realized of course, for some kids much sooner than others, and the specifics and nuances come undone as a natural function of their maturing minds.
Tradition or Parody?
Regardless of any magical intention, the blunt reality is that parents, teachers, strangers, radio hosts, and local weathermen are deceiving children in perfect synchronization, steering them into immense emotional and material attachment to a collective (unnecessary) illusory figure that withholds from the ‘naughty’ and rewards the ‘nice’.
The holiday in its current formation gives us all practice at complicity, passing on cultural fictions because they were passed onto us, and because that’s what adults do. It is effectively a child-friendly celebration of the doctrines — It’s better to receive than to give, and you’re expected to lie so long as everyone else is doing it — proudly brought to you by your favorite sugary drink, Coca-Cola.
The worst part of the celebration of this vile conjuration is not the lie itself, but the results of it. Lying to kids in this way creates a parody of genuine human tradition, substituting meaningful ritual with an illusory commercial mockery. But that’s only stage one of the Santa Claus Syndrome…
Learning the Santa Clause is the the first test of adulthood. Left unresolved, the experience can manifest to varying degrees, in a number of ways.
The Santa Claus Syndrome
The Santa Clause: Lying is OK, so long as everyone else is doing it.
If you don’t question what you’ve been told, accept incomplete information, and don’t proceed with your natural impulse, you quite likely have the Santa Claus Syndrome to some degree. Quite simply, it makes people ignore serious issues.
The Santa Claus Syndrome manifests in a number of stages:
It manifests as insistence on celebrating lies posing as tradition, elaborate intent on the deception of youth including distraction with sparkling decoration and gifts, and instilling ‘the Santa Clause’ in children.
Beyond that, ;the Santa Clause’ teaches us to conform to widely-accepted untruths.
Stage two is the acceptance of adult lies, servitude to authority and unquestioning belief in whatever the ‘proper authority’ states. The childhood belief in Santa Claus and trust of authority leads to an adulthood belief that the government, corporate and religious institutions they trust do not lie.
Just like a kid sees the local weather reporter tracking Santa’s flight path, an adult with stage twoSanta Claus Syndrome will see as real other fictions in the news and media (such as chemically treated food is just as healthy as organic, or nuclear is a safe energy system).
Telling adult lies. Stage Three Santa Claus Syndrome is also indicated by people who continue adult likes, such as nuclear is safe… or cannabis has no medicinal value… or insert any number of lies here _____ that many people perpetuate on behalf of our corrupted institutions.
In Stage Four, one has all the symptoms of stages One through Three. Further, those in Stage Four are likely to lash out at those who question the status quo or expose lies (and forcing change) in anyway. Stage Four can involved the conjuration of adult lies, instituting great and broad fictions for trifle and temporary gains, often as a way to psychologically rationalize not just with others but themselves, to believe what they are doing – and who they are – is ok.
Trading why for what
It is no coincidence that around the time when young children begin to ask the eternal why, a series of ‘whys’ in regard to every subject, they are taught ‘the Santa Clause’, which teaches them, teaches us, to replace the endless series of why into an endless series of what. Where the Santa Claus fiction is concerned, knowing is less important than obtaining. It is the first true test of our ‘adulthood’; once you are entrusted with the truth of the lie, adults check that you repeat the lie to those younger than you; those who aren’t to know.
Then in adulthood, we are exposed to big and sometimes seriously dark and disturbing lies. And adult lies – lies told by authorities – are often backed up by the local news reporters and retailers, just like Santa Claus. And just like the children we were, and the children we raise, we adults too stop asking why in exchange for what.
The materialistic enticement of ‘the Santa Clause’ has contributed to a culture where understanding is inhibited, and truth undervalued. We teach our children not to tell the truth so as not to make the babies cry. We reward materialistic impulses, confusing gratification with what is right and wrong. But worst of all, we teach little people to accept that we are lied to, and to contribute to broadly accepted lies — as long as we have bright shiny things.
Evidence of the Santa Clause Syndrome is everywhere in our society. Many personal and societal problems can be theoretically traced to it, but also many institutions can be rationally broken down as disturbingly negative or outright useless when considering it. Most evidently, Santa Claus Syndromedoes not promote individuation, but conformity – at a very impressionable stage of childhood development.
Santa Claus is Dead
Christmas today doesn’t celebrate the humanity nor the amazing world around us – in other words, anything real – and that is a direct reflection of our sick society. Although I risk being accused of some ridiculous thinking here, I believe we need to heal and re-create our culture through sacred, nutritious traditions grounded in love, simplicity and gratitude.
In contrast, the fiction of Santa doesn’t encourage a sense of gratitude in children. Children “earn” gifts from Santa Claus by adhering to social norms – naughty or nice – and any innate sense of gratitude a child may feel for this annual abundance is intentionally misdirected at a magical, fictional patriarch, until a comprehensive deception is finally realized. Sadly, that realization is where, for most kids, their broader sense of magic is hindered a learned distrust of their developing senses.
Arguably the most underestimated and psychologically disturbing rites of passage for children in Christian-based cultures today, ‘the Santa Clause’ is another failing institutionalization, much like the religions that spawned it. And so, many of us are now facing the decision to keep perpetuating ‘the Santa Clause’ within our family circles, or begin the process of transforming this ritualized nonsense into a genuinely sacred, annual celebration of peace, renewal and gratitude.
This year Santa is dead to me. There will be no false idol. This year, children will learn the truth if they come around here. And with that, healing from the Santa Clause Syndrome can begin.
This holiday season, be sure to not tell your kids a pack of lies and cater only to their material desires – no matter the tradition.
Let’s create a new holiday.
Peace on Earth… only for real.