Hoax Hoax Hoax, Merry Christmas!
Posted on December 13, 2010
There are so many ways I could go about starting and introducing this article… An anecdote perhaps. Or maybe a quote? A picture from the news, or an old painting. I could be extra technological and even insert a podcast, or a video clip. (That is very technological for me!). Pondering about this subject whilst eating my dinner a few hours ago I couldn’t make up my mind. I have a topic, I have a structure (I lie, of course. The structure is born out of the writing, or at least that is my hope!), I know exactly what I want to say, and I know when I want this to be finished. Every box is ticked, except how to introduce my article. I know some may be saying “this is an introduction, doofus!”, but I more specifically want to introduce the topic. Sitting at my desk this evening I was, as usual, listening to Bruce Springsteen when one of his lyrics literally jumped out of me – it was as though the words were supposed to. The song is My Father’s House from arguably his most haunting album, Nebraska. At that moment, I found my introduction.
“Last night I dreamed that I was a child out where the pines grow wild and tall
I was trying to make it home through the forest before the darkness falls”
Anyone who knows that song will realise that it is telling a story not related to mine. However, those two lines alone just hit me as the perfect way to start my article, but also to provoke thought along the lines of dreams, childhood, pine trees, and darkness.
If you are like me, you will always be too late to buy far too many presents for far too many people in the run up to Christmas. If you are even more like me then you will end up buying practically every present on the 23rd or 24th of December. What can I say? I am a great procrastinator where shopping is concerned… I really hope I am not the one to break it to you, or to bring it to your attention, but it is Christmas Day in 11 days. Yikes.
My house is lacking drastically on the decoration front, my Christmas Spirit even further behind. I am not a Scrooge, just a person who has trouble switching off when life is as hectic as it is for my family and I just now. (I have a feeling those words will resonate with many of you?!). If it wasn’t for the odd Christmas song on the radio, the never ending stream of cards coming through the letter box (Funny this, I currently have a constant flow of Christmas Cards coming through my letter box, which is lovely. Day after day they come, and my heart is warmed by the evident presence of Human love and kindness. However, where the bleeding hell is my Bruce Springsteen compilation album which I ordered for a friend no less than 3 weeks ago?! Sorry – rant over.), the ever more pronounced presence of Christmas Trees in house windows, or the great abundance of Christmas food in shops, it could quite as easily be February for me. I have tried my best to ignore the festivities for the time being, until a few nights ago when I was struck by an article written around the Christmas of 2007 by a Psychologist, the blog of whom can be found at the end of the article.* I take great pleasure in reading this blog, as an aspiring Clinical/Child Psychologist, however upon reading her Christmas article from those years ago I was struck with an intense feeling of sadness. For that was the article in which she talked about Father Christmas as not being real.
My heart sunk, and was replaced with sadness. I just wondered how anybody could write such a thing with such conviction on any grounds… I liken it to atheism. I’ll explain this as we go on.
However, in her article she stated that there was maybe actual sociocognitive benefits for children to believing in Santa, including fostering traits of kindness, cooperation, generosity, reciprocity, and creativity.
This got me thinking about when I was a young child. My little sister and I would leave out the usual treats by the Fireplace, Mince Pie and Turnip included. We’d eagerly go to bed as in our young and innocent minds that way Christmas would arrive just that little bit earlier, and, we thought, if we get up extra early, we might just see the Big Man himself. (Say Big Man to me now, and I immediately think of Clarence Clemons. Coincidence? I think not!). At the earliest moment we could possibly justify entering Mum and Dad’s room – much in the style of the Police initiating a drugs raid – we would awaken them and demand present opening time. This was usually around 5am. To put things into perspective I am now on the other end of the scale where it becomes a drag to wake up at anytime before 11am. When our parents finally mustered the physical and emotional energy required to get up (two screaming and hyperactive children can do a lot to the mind) we’d all rush down the stairs and dig into our stockings and then our presents. No children could be happier. Christmas’ came and went, as the years slowly ticked by. Toys went from being Scaletrix to Playstation, and my sister and I grew up. The funny thing in this story is I never remember the day I decided or was told that my beloved Father Christmas was not real. He is as real to me now as he was when I was just a little ‘n.
I am not Psychotic, so I do realise that in all probability there isn’t a big old man who spends all year round living in the North Pole with elves and reindeer making presents for kids who he then travels to every home in the world to make happy… Although there is a small part of me which still holds on to that modicum of what can only be described as the ‘maybe there is’ sensation. That puts a smile on my face. Father Christmas is, in reality, the spirit of Christmas. That is being kind, caring, loving, generous, giving, and cooperative. Father Christmas to me is all that makes the world good.
My parents never said to me that old Mr. Claus didn’t exist, and for this I shall be eternally grateful. Had they said to me “Son, we think now is the time to tell you that Father Christmas doesn’t exist. We buy your presents and hide them under the tree for you, not him… Sorry son, but now is the time for you to learn that” I would have probably been absolutely crushed, and would not only reject Father Christmas himself, but I would maybe have also dispelled all the feelings of love and good I had previously associated with him, and Christmas. That way, I wouldn’t have been sitting here today writing this, and I sure as anything wouldn’t have had such magical experiences in the beautiful time since.
Unfortunately, the scene we just imagined of me being told the big fat whopper of ‘news’ which so many children are, is a pandemic. Year in, year out kids all around the world will spend their first Christmas Eve with tears in their eyes gazing into the sky which had for so long promised a man who spread only love and happiness wherever he went. This results very often in kids seething with anger, how could such a lie have been fed to them for so many years? They might go out into the world and spread that message, but a diluted message. Rather than the relatively simple message of “Father Christmas does not exist” other children might hear “Our parents lied to us, they always said Santa was real, but he isn’t. It is just stupid, only a baby would believe that he is. I hate them for lying to me. Why should I be good when nobody else is?!” and so that message will be relayed again and again, until any child who has heard it either succumbs to an aching and prolonged sense of sadness, or bursts into a hate filled rage. I say this, as the topic of Father Christmas still remains raw on the souls of many people I know.
Growing up I saw many kids upset in the way I described at the hands of their parents, or other kids who had said those haunting few words. Christmas to them became a time of greed, and possession orientated fun. Indeed I heard those messages of disbelief, but I didn’t accept them. My parents never told me such a thing, and I was sure and stuck in my belief that old St. Nick really did exist. Because of this Christmas’ remained fun, but also magical. To this day they do, as I never expelled the part of my soul which held that love and magical curiosity which Father Christmas represented to me. I fear that for the majority of other people, Christmas does not hold such emotion.
Why do we do this to our youngsters? It surely is not beneficial to their health or souls? To people who relay the same messages of ‘lack of proof of his existence’, we can’t prove the existence of God, but yet a 2005 study by the University of Cambridge deduced that 88% of the World’s population ‘Do Believe in God’. There are about 6.8 billion people in the world. As the American’s would say - you do the math.
To a young child the story of Father Christmas is far easier to grasp than the story of Jesus, or such a religion. The message at least is far easier to understand – give, love, understand, cooperate. Those properties make for good children, heck they make for good adults too. We can neither prove the existence of Father Christmas, nor the contrary. A bit like God. Yet we persistently insist to young children that God does exist, yet Father Christmas may actually inspire them to be better Human Beings from the offset of life, but we are quick to deny his existence.
We ought to – we need to – encourage Children to embrace all the qualities that Santa Claus represents. It is not only a really easy way to instil such qualities into our kiddo’s, but it is also a magical and fun way to do so as well. We would not only give them the Christmas’ they deserve, but we would also ‘breed’ better people. And lets face it, our World is in dire need of such people.
At the start of this article I quoted a line from a song by Bruce Springsteen. Following that I asked you to think along the lines of dreams, childhood, pine trees, and darkness. I propose to you that we give our Children Christmas memories comprising of dreams, and pine trees and innocent childhood. Whilst dispelling the darkness of being told something so heartbreaking as “Santa is not real”.
Because lets face it, he is.
Bruce Springsteen also sings as a part of Further On (Up The Road) from The Rising;
“Let’s take the good times as they go
And I’ll meet you further on up the road”
Need I say more?
I shall leave you with those thoughts… Heck, I’ve got Christmas Decorations to put up. Not long now…
*Notes from the School Psychologist: http://studentsgrow.blogspot.com/