The first time I deposited my young daughter into the arms of a shopping mall Santa she screamed blue murder. I remember a similar moment from my own childhood.
It’s clear that the child who has not been indoctrinated into the Santa cult recoils instinctively from the figure in the red suit. Inspired by the child’s innocent act of repudiation I have come up with a radical solution to the horrors of Christmas.
But, before I share my idea, I need to expose the origins and extent of the malign effects of the Santa myth on our national psyche.
Then, as soon as we have the little darlings believing all this nonsense, we reveal the truth: Mummy and Daddy and the rest of society has been telling a giant lie. No one ever truly recovers from the revelation that society is capable of such perfidy. Nostalgia for our lost trust in other human beings is what drives our yuletide passion for sociability and the riot of gift-giving that is Christmas.
Of course it’s Jesus, not Santa who is supposed to be “the reason for the season” but Santa is the one who gets most airtime. You can sort of see why: brand-wise, God is a bit of a hard sell. He’s jealous and bad-tempered and given to unpredictable outbursts of indiscriminate violence. He visits floods, plagues, and mass executions on the bad guys. Fair enough. But he treats even loyal believers like Job, rather badly. Job gets murdered children, servants and livestock, and nasty boils.
God’s also got demonstrably poor work/life balance. Creating the universe, for example, without a coffee break until the seventh day, is not best practice - although it might explain the marsupial. To be fair, the six-day work binge isn’t a frequent occurrence. The stress of ruling the world forever is the real issue. It’s like being Permanent and Everlasting Minister of the Treasury, Environment, Health, IRD, ACC, CYPPS and Work and Income. It’s a tough job - even for a deity.
The early Christian church dithered for centuries about when (or even if) to celebrate the birth of Christ. When it finally did, it cleverly co-opted the winter solstice and a few other pagan festivals to increase the likelihood that the idea would catch on. The Church of Holy Consumption, in a similarly brilliant act of co-option, soon introduced its own bearded father figure into the mix and cash registers have been ringing ever since.
Santa is certainly much easier to like than God - a kind and jovial old gent who dishes out the presents without a side order of mayhem. Can you imagine Santa asking Abraham to sacrifice his son to prove his loyalty? I don’t think so. Santa’s a great boss, employing elves - an otherwise marginalised workforce - in his sheltered workshop. Even the reindeer, led by Rudolph the Red, are unionised. There’s a lot of overtime in December, but the elves and deer have a collective employment agreement which contains generous payment for overtime and no youth rates.
However Santa only seems a benign figure. In his name we perpetrate a cruel hoax on our children and subject ourselves to ruinous fiscal and emotional overspending every year. My radical solution to the problem of Christmas? Ban Santa Claus.
The law I’m proposing will make it illegal to tell Santa stories to any child born on or after the 26th December 2012. References to Santa will be expunged from children’s books and all carols will be purged of references to Arctic and Subarctic deer species. Any depiction, in any medium, of Santa, holly, robins and Christmas bells will immediately become illegal. Naturally those who have been subjected to Santa abuse as children will be eligible for ACC-funded counselling.
Some aspects of the new legislation will require careful drafting to protect the rights of minorities and legitimate business. For example, the right of men to dress flamboyantly should not be abrogated by a ban on red clothing or fur trim. References to elves will only be restricted in certain contexts in order to protect domestic film productions such as Lord of the Rings.
I think this legislation will have the added benefit of restoring New Zealand’s standing in the international community. We would be recognised as the plucky little nation which not only banned nuclear warships, but Santa as well.
One university holiday I worked with other women on the Mallowpuff line at a biscuit factory in Christchurch. The pace of our job was dictated by the speed of the conveyor belt which unwound an endless stream of biscuits past us. Sometimes we couldn’t keep up with it. That’s when, up to our rubber-clad elbows in molten marshmallow and chocolate, we’d jam biscuits into its mechanism and bring the whole thing to a halt. This Christmas, when you lift a chocolate biscuit to your lips, remember your inner Luddite and stop the Santa machine by signing my petition.